Mom's remark flushed out old memories

Dear readers: I’ve had a week full of appointments, so I’m resurrecting a column from 2006. Forgive me.

About a year ago, while my mom was in the hospital after suffering from two heart attacks, an incident occurred that I was delighted to hear about. My mom, God rest her soul, was 90 at the time, and even though she was greatly distressed by the heart attacks, she was able to retain her sense of humor. Because she was so weak, Mom asked my dad, also 90, to help her into the bathroom and to stay with her while she did her duty. So Dad took a chair into the bathroom and sat next to her.

Mom said it reminded her of the old days of the “two-holer” out behind the old log house.

When my sister told me this story, I was transported back into the “golden-olden” days of my kidhood. Boy, how that place stands out in my memory!


Oh, to be a Packers quarterback!

I have been a Packers fan since I was a little kid, and believe me, I was a little kid for a long time! I go back to the days of Packers blue and gold. I idolized the Packers that I read about in the Press-Gazette and listened to on the radio.

I played a lot of imaginary football games, too. I was Tobin Rote at quarterback, and I’d throw the ball as high as I could and run under it; Tony Canadeo or Billy Grimes, very sure-handed, would grab the pass and zig-zag across the yard for a record-setting season for the Pack.

I was Jug Girard, the punter, and my object was to punt it over the house. I was Ted Fritsch, the place kicker, kicking field goals over the clothesline poles. Straight-on toe kicker, no soccer style for me. (What did I know about soccer?)


VanHaren column: Are you a soap-saver like me?

Note: Because of the busy-ness of the season, I’m taking a break and re-running a column from May of 2004. Happy New Year to all my readers.

What happens at your house when the soap in the shower shrinks down to a paper-thin sliver? You know, that little wafer of Dove or Dial left after the rest of the bar has been rubbed away. At our house, the Super-Senior Soap-Sliver Saver (that’s me!) springs into action.

Never one to waste things, I take it upon myself to carefully meld that slippery little sliver to a new bar. I hate to throw it in the trash; it’s just as soapy as a regular bar. I can’t stand to see the once-proud sudsmaker, now a pinched, tenuous, slightly twisted form, relegated to sharing its temporary home with a new shiny bar, losing all attention and respect.


VanHaren: Christmas really does last 12 days

When this column hits print, it will be the “Second Day of Christmas,” the second of 12, right? We’re all familiar with the irritatingly repetitious song of that name, but what do we know about the 12 days of Christmas? I did a little research, just for the fun of it, so here are a few things for you to think about, and some reminders about the song.

Dec. 25 – the first day of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Christ. (A partridge in a pear tree.)

Dec. 26 – the second day, also sometimes called Boxing Day (Two turtle doves). It’s celebrated in only a few countries, mainly ones historically connected to the U.K. (such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand). During the Middle Ages, it was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Also, the Feast of St. Stephen, a martyr. “Good King Wencelaus went out on the Feast of Stephen.”


VanHaren: Farm magazines were a part of learning to read

I started thinking the other day about what kind of stuff I read when I was a kid, because I saw an item on the internet about the value of having reading materials in the home if kids are to grow up reading.
Well, when I was a kid — I’ve said this before — we were basically “poor.” I’ve said this before, too; I didn’t really know we were poor at the time, but we were! We were like a lot of other farm families at the time. We kind of lived off the land. We never went hungry, but we didn’t have much money.


Roger VanHaren: Funny 'Pearls Before Swine' can be somber when necessary

I am a big fan of Stephan Pastis’ quirky black comedy comic strip, “Pearls Before Swine.” The title for the strip most likely comes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:6): “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” I interpret that to mean “don’t offer what you hold dear to someone who won’t appreciate it.”

The strip “Pearls” uses dark humor, at times involves topics such as death, depression, and human suffering — not funny topics, usually, but Pastis’ treatment of them can deflate the seriousness of many situations. I said it was “quirky,” didn’t I?


Lorna Marquardt: Christmastime brings up memories of past holidays

We live in the present and look forward to the future, but we hold our memories from the past dear. Sometimes I sit quietly and allow my mind to reminisce.

Earlier this week, I decided to spend some time thinking about Christmases past. I have many to remember.

The memories of a variety of Christmas trees float through my mind. I fondly remember the Robenhagen family tree of the late ’40s and early ’50s. The tree was only lit for short periods of time. Grandma’s tree had real candles on it. It had pine cones hanging on it too. There were also some candle lights that bubbled. Grandma tied frosted gingerbread cookies on the tree. Grandpa always had the honor of placing the star on top.


Column: Forever isn't what it used to be

Do you ever say, “I never do that” after you’ve just done something dumb? Yeah, me, too!

Case in point: Last summer as we were loading stuff into the car to head up to Oconto Falls for a Class of ’57 (We call ourselves “the Great Class of ’57!”) get-together, I stupidly laid some stuff on the roof of the car — my phone, my high school yearbook, and a booklet I’d spent hundreds of hours putting together for our 50th year class reunion.

Well, sure enough, we started our trip up north with these valuable items riding on the roof of our Prius. When we got to Oconto Falls, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find them! So I had to get a new phone, but I thought my yearbook and my “memory book” were lost forever.


Column: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The holiday season is really settling in, isn’t it? Thanksgiving is past, and for me that’s always the start of the Christmas season. There’s a lightening of spirits that seems to infuse the days at this time of year, no matter how much commercialization there seems to be. (I refuse to acknowledge “Black Friday” as a part of this season.)

The schools and churches have their Christmas concerts. There are church bazaars and meals for the less fortunate among us. People happily share their time and talents to make the season brighter. The mailbox begins to fill with Christmas cards, and email “green cards” begin to arrive almost daily on the computer.

Traditional favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “Rudolph,” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” take over the television programming.


Column: Is it possible to give more than 100 percent?

There’s a commercial on TV in which a window manufacturer claims that its windows are 2,000 percent more airtight than their nearest competitors’ windows. Wow! 2,000 percent!

What is a 2,000 percent increase? I’m not a mathematician, but it seems to me that an increase of 100 percent in a quantity means that the final amount is 200 percent of the initial amount (100 percent of initial + 100 percent of increase = 200 percent of initial); in other words, the quantity has doubled. Does that make sense? So, for example, an increase of 800 percent means the final amount is nine times the original (100 percent + 800 percent = 900 percent = 9 times as large), right? So, if you agree with that, does it seem right that 2,000 percent means that the final number is 21 times the original (100 percent + 2,000 percent = 2,100 percent = 21 times as large)? Right?


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