This Week’s Wisdom

Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.

–Bradley Whitford


This Week’s Words


For the first couple of decades of my life, I said “Oh, dear!” a lot.  I think I picked it up from my maternal grandmother.  She had other expressions, such as “My land!” (for surprise) and “Oh, my aching back!” (also for surprise).  My grandmother was 70 when I was born, but she lived to be 104 and was a huge influence on my life (do the math: until I was 34).

Oh, dear, I’ve lost my train of thought.  Actually I haven’t–I just wanted to show how the expression might be used in a sentence.  I was cured of saying “Oh, dear” during a breakup with a girlfriend when I was in my 20s. In the litany of my many faults she painstakingly enumerated was this final one (in what was possibly the first use of All Caps in a face-to-face breakup): “. . . AND ONLY MAIDEN AUNTS SAY ‘OH, DEAR!'” (OUCH! It was all I could do to keep from exclaiming “My LAND!”)

I hate to think what my life might have been like had I not stopped joining “Oh” with “dear.”  I might never have married and had children.  I might have spent my entire life in a meticulously kept house where teacups and doilies were prominently displayed–a house with cats, embroidery in progress, and a cabinet of collectible crystal (certainly with one or more African violets and maybe a secret stash of wine.)

But I’m stereotyping maiden aunts.  The only thing for certain is that they are someone’s unmarried sister.  These days they are more likely to take up skydiving than collecting crystal.

But that’s NOW!  Forty years ago when I was admonished for using the expression, maiden aunts didn’t have all the thrilling life options they do now.  They were teacups/doilies/cat people, and I came this close to being one of them.

I’m just glad I’ve lived long enough to find some humor in “. . . AND ONLY MAIDEN AUNTS SAY ‘OH, DEAR!'” My best recollection is that, at the time, it wasn’t funny.  And my grandmother from whom I got the expression?  SHE lived long enough to have 13 children, 48 grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren than she could count.  SHE was never in danger of becoming a maiden aunt, and SHE used “Oh, dear” for about 100 years.

This Week’s Words

Despite Vladimir Putin’s illegal takeover of The Crimea and his machinations in attempting to subvert democracies everywhere, the average Russian people on the street are not our enemies.  When you get right down to it, they are a lot like us.  I wrote this a few months before the Berlin Wall fell:

The Red Scare

Russian children fear the dark;
Russian parents worry;
Russian lovers fall in love
(their parents think too early).

Copyright © 1989, 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

This Week’s Words


It was the first week of high school.  My fellow students from our Catholic grade school were joined at the central Catholic high school by students from grade schools up and down the river valley.  I quickly guessed that the boys from one of those schools must all have nicknames for each other.

One of them started calling me “Bugs” every time he saw me.  That’s “Bugs” for “Bugs Bunny.”  That’s “Bugs Bunny” because of my protruding front teeth (which, because they were never straightened, I still have as an adult).

I was horrified.  I would like to say that I confronted the kid and threatened the status of HIS teeth if he didn’t stop calling me that, but I wasn’t that brave.  Instead, I just dreaded running into him in the hallway.

“BUGS!”  I faced the prospect of getting stuck with that nickname my entire life!  Most people hearing it wouldn’t suspect it had something to do with my facial resemblance to a cartoon character.  Most likely they would think that it had something to do with my personal hygiene.

It wasn’t long, though, before he called me that nickname in the presence of another kid from his school, named John.  As soon as he heard me being called “Bugs,” John said something like, “I don’t think we’re going to do that.”

And there it stopped.  The reason that I am not now known by that nickname in my 60s is that John intervened with just a few words.  This told me two things about John: (1) that he was a compassionate kid and (2) that he carried a great deal of moral authority with the kids from his school. I considered John one of my closest friends from that point on.

I attended the 50th reunion of our high-school graduation a month ago, and John was the person I most hoped to see there, because after fifty-four years, I finally wanted to thank him in person, even though he probably wouldn’t even remember the incident.

He wasn’t there.  I asked the organizer of the reunion to give me John’s address, and I sent him an advance copy of this post.

The bottom line that IS the bottom line:

You will never know when a few kind words can change a person’s life.

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