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Tag Archive: Emily Dickinson

Nov 04

November—gray and bleak with lots of weird holidays

“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”—Emily Dickinson

November isn’t so bad, I suppose.

Its gray and bleak days seem to be more Icelandic than Norwegian in my view. Colorless, cold, stark.

“No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease. No comfortable feel in any member. No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees. No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – it’s November!”

Ah yes, those words of Thomas Hood, 18th Century British poet and humorist, ring true.

On the other hand, November has weird holidays, and what’s not to like about that.

For example, the November calendar tells me that Plan Your Epitaph Day has come and gone already and so has National Deviled Egg Day.

I missed them. Did you miss celebrating them, too? At the very least, I could have made an egg sandwich.

However, we should not be dismayed because, dear readers, we can still celebrate today’s exceptionally weird November holiday–Waiting for the Barbarians Day, which deserves no comment.

Or, if that isn’t enough to get you in the mood to celebrate, you could await with high anticipation Marooned Without a Compass Day, which happens on Saturday.

Makes me want to rent a Tom Hanks movie.

Then, there is Vote for Dimpled Chad Day, and I have absolutely no idea why.

When I learned that Nov. 12th is National Pizza With The Works Except for Anchovies Day, I had an “ah ha” moment. That’s my brother’s birthday and our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding anniversary.

Pizza without anchovies sounds like a perfect gift for them. I may celebrate this holiday every year myself since I am not a big fan of anchovies.

We’re not done yet. There are a few more peculiar November holidays to mention.

Around the time of our daughter’s birthday later in the month are a bevy of holidays she could honor—National Cashews Day, Use Even If the Seal Is Broken Day (I really like that one), False Confessions Day and National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day (I really don’t like this one).

And at the bottom of the list of holidays, I found that it is once again National Write a Novel During the Month of November Month. I tried that last year, and never got past page one.

I don’t have time this year. It will soon be National Bundt Pan Day, and I need to start baking, soon to be followed by National Flossing Day and Name Your PC Day.

I’m busy.

And besides, I have to rest up for Nov. 30th—Stay Home Because You’re Well Day.

I love November.

Apr 01

Judging a beauty pageant in search of “Helen of Troy”

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” –from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

According to Greek mythology, Zeus gave Paris, a mortal, the Herculeon task of deciding who was the fairest of goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera, or Pallas Athene.

I am certainly glad I did not have Paris’s task, but I had one nearly as weighty, at least for me.

Last weekend, I was honored to be one of five judges at the 2010 Mrs. Missouri America Pageant in Branson.

Tell you more about who won the crown in a minute, but first, let’s get back to Greek mythology because it has a lot to do with my story.

As the mythological tale goes, Zeus hosted a big dinner party and for some reason did not invite Eris, the Goddess of Discord. Big mistake. Not a good plan to ignore a Goddess of Discord.

Feeling snubbed, Eris arrived uninvited and angrily threw her magical Golden Apple of Discord into the festivities. An inscription on the apple read: “For the Fairest”, and thusly all three goddesses immediately wanted that apple.

Zeus was understandably reluctant (more likely scared to death) to judge these fiercely competitive beauties and afraid to award the apple and title to “the fairest”. Therefore, since he was a god and since he could, Zeus tossed the hot potato problem to Paris, a mortal known for his fairness.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

As you may recall from your history studies, things got a bit dicey after that. Hera offered Paris wealth and power if he chose her. Pallas Athene promised him honor and glory, but Aphrodite trumped them all with her promise of Helen, the most beautiful mortal on earth, as Paris’s wife.

The only problem was that Paris must steal Helen from her husband King Menelaus of Sparta, which, as you may recall, resulted in the famed Trojan War.

Thankfully in real life, judging beauty pageants is not as difficult or dangerous as in Greek mythology.

The Mrs. Missouri judges this past weekend were privileged to meet a bevy of astoundingly beautiful women who happened to be equally as smart, talented, philanthropic, volunteer-minded, articulate and strong as they were beautiful.

Seventeen women ranging in age from 22 to 56, all beautiful inside and out, participated in the pageant representing a myriad of life experiences and professions.

Such as, pharmacist, cosmetologist, minister, eye doctor, Deputy Chief of Staff for a U.S. Congressman, legal assistant, paramedic, singer, student, mother, volunteer, businesswoman and savvy entrepreneur.

As Jane Austin once noted, “It sometimes happens that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before.”

How did we choose a winner from among these exceptional ageless beauties you may ask?

Partially by the numbers and points assigned for each category, or simply put, by the spreadsheet. Often we hear that the answer to nearly everything is “in the numbers”, right?

Perhaps, except for that one indescribable, intangible quality that makes “cream rise to the top”—the “it” factor.

Emily Dickinson once noted, “Beauty is not caused. It is.”

And we know it when we see it, don’t we?

Therefore as promised and with no further adieu, allow me to introduce Mrs. Missouri America 2010 and her top four runners-up. (Incidentally, they each possess the “it” factor, in my humble opinion.)

Please meet, Mrs. Missouri America 2010–Dr. Carrie Hruza, 38, of Ladue!
First runner-up, Melissa Roe, 32, of Kansas City who will serve if for any reason Mrs. Missouri cannot; second runner-up and Most Photogenic, Stephanie Gaines, 26, of Smithville; third runner-up and Congeniality winner, Tina York, 34, of Lee’s Summit; and 4th runner-up, Rebecca Brand, 28, of St. Charles.

My thoughts go back to Paris though. Why did he not use a tally sheet to choose “the fairest” goddess instead of abducting Helen of Troy, the fairest of them all?

Had to be the “it” factor that made him do it. I am just saying.

Dec 17

Where are the magically decorated cedar trees that once adorned I-70?

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me…” —Emily Dickinson

For more than 20 years, starting immediately after Thanksgiving Day, I kept a sharp eye out for decorated little cedar trees that would appear magically along I-70 in western Missouri.

In recent years, they are no longer anywhere to be seen, and I miss them.

To my delight and to that of thousands of highway travelers back in the 80s and 90s, the sweet and simple decorations would appear overnight.

As a result, the otherwise lonely little trees, especially those that stood on steep, abrupt banks, suddenly brought pleasure to the traveler’s eye.

One day those little volunteer cedars were just part of the ordinary scenery. The next day they were magical, adorned with paper ornaments or paper-chain garland. Sometimes wrapped packages appeared underneath them, and once in awhile some of the trees wore shiny, glittery garland.

Thousands of motorists watched each December for the first sighting of the decorations; thousands wondered who was responsible.

Newspapers wrote stories about the little decorated trees, and television stations filmed them. Everyone speculated about who did this.

Was it a sad widower who decorated the trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who trimmed the trees just for the fun of surprising others?

Regardless of such theories, most passersby thought it was indeed Santa’s doing because, after all, who else could possibly accomplish such a feat.

To decorate the trees, one must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, and then somehow circle the garland around the trees, all in the dark of night. One must do this, incidentally, without being seen by car headlights.

Impossible. Yet, it happened year after year.

But, where are those decorations now? Who decorated the sweet little trees anyway? Santa? Who quit decorating and why? Did some regulatory authority stop the stealth decorator in his tracks? Did one person trim all of those little cedars, and then perhaps died suddenly?

Yes, indeed, curious and inquiring minds want to know the answers to these questions and more.

The appearance of the decorated trees along the highway signaled the beginning of the Christmas season on the west side of the state. It was indeed an important event.

A sense of mystery and anticipation surrounded the little trees, and local residents began to expect to see them. Some motorists knew their locations by heart, and I am guessing still watch, as I do, hoping they will once again appear.

During the Christmas season, the bright little cedar trees brought joy to those hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

And at the very least, they made us smile. Ah, yes, how we miss them.

But it isn’t Christmas yet. I wonder…

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