Thursday, June 23, 2016

Back in Pennsylvania

Sitting in Perkins, Grove City, yesterday morning, one of my friends noticed evidence she was back in Pennsylvania:  Nestled among the grape jelly packets were apple butter packets. Other friends who have lived in a variety of states chimed in with more signs we were in PA.

We drive on the other side of the road. Just kidding! We’re only trying to pass an Amish buggy. 

Heinz, not Hunts

We have 100 varieties of pasta, but no grits. 

We have 50 varieties of cole slaw, and half of the varieties are spelled cold slaw, but that’s a blog for another day.

You can’t find New England Brown Bread, except in a little can in the grocery store.

You may be addressed as yinz in Pittsburgh, and you’ins in Snyder County, but never as y’all. Come to my home state to be called you guys.

Our state animal is the passive aggressive human. Exhibit A:  The tee shirt featuring a bullet hole and blood with the motto “I’m fine.”

There are hitching posts at Dollar General, because, hey, Amish need to shop, too.

Sauerkraut has a rich, full life, not limited to topping a hot dog. It simmers for hours with pork until they absorb each other’s flavors and then it lands atop a mess of mashed potatoes. And you’d better eat it on January 1 or your happy new year will be over before the confetti settles. 

There is no Wa Wa. Waaaah!

There is no pork roll. You have to cross a state line to get it.

Shoo, fly! isn’t something you say to a pesky insect. It’s a pie.

What have you noticed, enjoyed, or hated that is particular to Pennsylvania? Share in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer Bucket List

     The preschool teacher at my school put up a bulletin board called “Our Bucket List” with a beach pail and shovel for each little tyke to express his/her summer plans. says a bucket list is “a list of things a person wants to achieve or experience, as before reaching a certain age or dying: a bucket list for a terminally ill patient” and notes the expression comes from the idiom “kick the bucket,” meaning to die. I started to track down why “kick the bucket” means to die, but decided not to follow that bunny trail today.

     I have never formally compiled a before-I-die bucket list, but if I did, Visit Israel would be number one. However, the bulletin board inspired me to compile a summer bucket list. We can all check back in August when school starts to see how I did.

   Here in no particular order are the items on my summer bucket list.

  • Attend St. Davids Christian Writers Conference in Grove City, Pennsylvania, June 22 - 26. This is a no-brainer.
    How many people can you tag?
    I attend every year. You can, too. And you should. Where else are you going to hear a live performance by St. Davids Sanctified Ukulele Band?
  • Go to Edith’s Kitchen in Danville, Pennsylvania to jam with the other ukulele players. Apparently this is possible every other Wednesday night from 6 to 8.
  • Visit my friend in Olean, New York.
  • Go on a Hiawatha River Cruise. I haven’t done that in many years.
  • Go to the beach. That’s always on my summer bucket list. And my fall and spring bucket lists.
  • Finish my novel, Surviving Graduation. I should have put that first, but didn’t I say the list was in no particular order? I need to get from 20,000 words to 50,000 words and get Laney and friends out of high school. I need to get Daddy home from the Middle East. I need Laney to choose between Calvin and Joshua. I need to choose between Calvin and Joshua. Or find a way to concoct a believable accident that merges the two flawed boyfriends into THE ONE PERFECT BOYFRIEND. If you have read Surviving Meemaw and Surviving Jamaica, feel free to express your opinion of the boyfriends. If you haven’t read them, put them on your summer bucket list.
  • Buy new drapes for my bedroom. This really should happen.
    There will be a public bonfire
    to dispose of these beauties.
    The same gaudy, ugly drapes have disgraced the bedroom windows since we bought the house sixteen years ago. Their continuing presence speaks both of my finances and my ability to ignore what is right in front of my face.
  • Declutter my house. (Cue hysterical laughter.)
  • Clean my house. (Cue frenetic, desperate laughter.)
  • Attend Montrose Christian Writers Conference for the first time.

  • Go to a Williamsport Crosscutters baseball game.
    A flying Crosscutter
    Eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor and at other people.
  • Visit any or all of my siblings in their foreign locations:  New Jersey, Ohio, California, and Pure Michigan.
            Meanwhile, today’s to do-list includes posting this blog. So I shall.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Buzzy Cohen

Buzzy Cohen’s winning streak on Jeopardy! was interrupted first by the Teacher’s Tournament and then by Power Players week, and I was happy to see him back on Monday night. I like Buzzy. I like his appearance—tall, slim, dark hair, captivating smile, and round glasses, which give him a cartoonish appearance, like a character my youngest son would draw. I like Buzzy’s persona—intelligent, witty, charming, and bold in teasing Alex Trebek. Buzzy works in the music industry in Los Angeles.

A week of Buzzy's smiles
As faithful Jeopardy! watchers know, after the first commercial break Alex chats with the contestants. After five days of chatting with Buzzy, Alex finally got around to asking him about his real name. It turns out Buzzy is Austin, so named because his parents liked to watch the Six Million Dollar Man. Buzzy’s sister is Lindsey, because they also liked to watch the Bionic Woman.

But it was the way Alex asked that stunned me and had me yelling at the TV. (Actually, I yell at the TV a lot during Jeopardy! I yell the answers.) But Monday I yelled because Alex said to Buzzy, “Surely you weren’t christened with that name.” I was amazed by Alex’s gaffe.

I discussed this with my Cults & World Religion students today (because they are a captive audience) but the youngsters were clueless as to just what I was so passionately reacting to. So I asked them if they knew what “christen” means. Someone mentioned champagne and a yacht, while a few others thought it might have something to do with a baby dedication. So I explained “christen” pretty much the same way does, emphasizing the first two definitions:

verb (used with object)
I'm a Baptist. We wait until they're much older
and then hold them under water until they bubble.
to receive into the Christian church by baptism; baptize.
to give a name to at baptism:
They christened her Mary.
to name and dedicate:
to christen a ship.
to make use of for the first time.

The students still didn’t understand my reaction, so I explained, “I can’t believe Alex Trebek asked a Jewish man about his christening.” 

And my students said, “How do you know he is Jewish?”

How do I know a man named Cohen is Jewish? 

I proceeded to tell them pretty much everybody named Cohen is Jewish, and possibly even descended from the Levitical priesthood. I couldn’t believe they didn’t know the first part of the previous sentence. (I would have been stunned had they known the second.)

But then I remembered how mystified I used to be when my mother would tell me the ethnicity or nationality of a person just by his or her last name. I would mention a kid at school and she would say he was Italian or Polish or Jewish. How did she know all the Levines were Jewish? 

Then as I grew into adulthood, I developed the same mysterious gift. In college, I knew the Ferrara boy I dated for a few months was of Italian heritage without anyone telling me. The Reinertsen boy? Some kind of Scandinavian. The Brosius boy? I couldn't figure that out, but I married him.

May the odds be ever in your favor.
May you surpass Ken Jennings.
So I realized I must give my students a break and appreciate, maybe even celebrate, their youthful naïveté. 

As for Buzzy Cohen, I was relieved to celebrate another victory with him. I have a tender spot in my heart for Cohens.