Recently I have been getting lots of emails that are reminiscent of life back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.   They really call attention to the amazing changes that have occurred in the last 50+ years.  I can’t believe that I have seen telephones go from crank up wall phones with party lines to pocket sized smart phones that can answer questions, surf the Internet and send verbal messages via the Internet. These smart phones can take photos and videos so you are never without a camera or a video recorder. They can house your daily calendar and your address book and in an emergency, you can even open your car door if you lock your keys inside via Onstar.  Last week I attended a presentation on droid delivery that is already happening in Canada.  Imagine going to your front door and receiving a package, groceries or a meal delivered to you by a flying machine? How about driverless cars? That is hard to imagine too after fighting the dense traffic on our freeways any time and any place.  It is projected that all we will have to do is call a service, a driverless car will arrive, pick us up and deliver us to our desired destination then leave and come back to pick up us when we are ready.   No hassle with car maintenance, parking and visits to the gas station. It blows my mind! 

 Every day I hear about something else that will be coming from new technology, but I really wonder if all these incredible advancements are truly making our lives better.  I must question the value of our complete dependence on computers when I observe a group of high school students at MacDonald’s enjoying time together but not talking, just texting back and forth on their smartphones. Do they know the importance of making eye contact when talking to each other or modulating their voices to show excitement, joy, or sorrow?  It reminds me of the robot existence we joked about when I was in high school and reading “Brave New World.” Perhaps it has really come to pass.

 I am also concerned when I see a child at a restaurant with his family that is not involved in any human interaction but is only amusing himself by playing a simple game on his electronic tablet. Whatever happened to teaching the art of communication that included speaking, listening and not interrupting when others are talking?  And how about basic table manners?  Have they disappeared as well by allowing the tablet and smart phone to be at the dinner table?  And my mother made us turn off the television before we sat down to dinner…humm!

Along with the inability to communicate correctly and effectively, the smart phone poses a serious danger when used while driving.  We were almost broadsided last week by a driver texting. He was completely oblivious to the cars around him, not paying attention and was swerving into the other lanes. Driving requires complete focus and concentration, especially when driving on our crowded freeways.  Even with numerous fines and warnings, people continue to text and talk on handheld phones while behind the wheel of their cars.  That isn’t very intelligent even with a Smart Phone.  It is just plain stupid!

These are just a few examples of how I believe technology has changed our lives and not always for the better mostly due to human behaviors and the misuse of the technology.  I am concerned about the loss of communication skills, both written and spoken.  I am concerned about the loss of respect for the law caused by the constant need to socialize via smart phone even while driving a car as well as the lack of concern for the wellbeing of others on the road.  Is checking Twitter and Facebook really that important? I am concerned about the inability of people to read books for information and enjoyment rather than rely on their smart phones for instant answers and immediate gratification.  What will happen to the libraries, books and other print materials?  I guess they will eventually disappear as more and more information on all things will be instantly available via the Internet and no research is needed to find the answers.  That really makes me sad as I have always enjoyed reading and writing. There are special feelings associated with these activities.  There is still nothing quite like turning the pages of a good book and shedding a tear or two when a story tugs at your heartstrings or experiencing real heart stopping  excitement from an adventure story.

 I believe that technology is making us lazy when it comes to learning and studying.  It makes us lethargic as we sit in front of computers rather than get outside and walk or exercise.   It makes life too easy so we do not have to struggle to complete that research project, find the answer to a crossword puzzle, communicate with a friend or stay in touch by letters sent over the miles.  Even sending e-cards is easier than hand writing a note for a birthday greeting. I guess I am mourning some of the basic pleasures from my earlier years and fear that my grandchildren will be losing out on some of life’s most meaningful experiences. But who knows, perhaps their meaningful experiences will come from the advancing technology that I won’t be around to experience.


Heads Up!

The History of Thanksgiving


Heads Up!


Sue Stauffer

Have Things Really Have Changed For the Better?

For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. This holiday celebration feast dates back to November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration, an event regarded as America’s “first Thanksgiving.” But what was really on the menu at the famous banquet, and which of today’s time-honored favorites didn’t earn a place at the table until later in the holiday’s 400-year history?

Few would be surprised to learn that the fanciful story of the first Thanksgiving is mostly a myth. The romantic idea that the Massachusetts Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors broke bread together in 1621 to celebrate the bounty of their harvest reads like a tale for children. In truth, the Pilgrims do not deserve the sentimental image created for them by Longfellow and his contemporaries in the 19th century, when the name Pilgrim itself finally began to catch on. They had to be, and were, considerably tougher to surmount the brutal odds threatening their survival—one aspect of the myth that has not been exaggerated. During the first winter, cold, disease and famine cut their number in half—13 out of the 18 wives who came on the Mayflower died.  The bounty of that first ‘Thanksgiving’ meal is still historically significant, for marking the end of a period of deprivation–even if the Pilgrims never called it Thanksgiving. The 1621 Thanksgiving celebration marked the Pilgrims’ first autumn harvest, so it is likely that the colonists feasted on the bounty they had reaped with the help of their Native American neighbors.   It is reported that the Native Americans killed five deer for the celebration that lasted more than three days with feasting and games.  Local vegetables that likely appeared on the table include onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas all grown in their gardens. Corn, which records show was plentiful at the first harvest, might also have been served, but not in the way most people enjoy it now. In those days, the corn would have been removed from the cob and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick corn mush or porridge that was occasionally sweetened with molasses.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and, of course cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye. The Pilgrims might have been familiar with cranberries by the first Thanksgiving, but they wouldn’t have made sauces and relishes from the tart berries.. That’s because the sacks of sugar that traveled across the Atlantic on the Mayflower were nearly or fully depleted by November 1621. Cooks didn’t begin boiling cranberries with sugar and using the mixture as an accompaniment for meats until about 50 years later.

While no records exist of the exact bill of fare, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow noted in his journal that the colony’s governor, William Bradford, sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the three-day event. Wild—but not domestic—turkey was indeed plentiful in the region and a common food source for both English settlers and Native Americans. But it is just as likely that the fowling party returned with other birds we know the colonists regularly consumed, such as ducks, geese and swans. Instead of bread-based stuffing, herbs, onions or nuts might have been added to the birds for extra flavor

Turkey or no turkey, the first Thanksgiving’s attendees almost certainly got their fill of meat. Winslow wrote that the Wampanoag guests arrived with an offering of five deer. Culinary historians speculate that the deer was roasted on a spit over a smoldering fire and that the colonists might have used some of the venison to whip up a hearty stew.

Culinary historians believe that much of the Thanksgiving meal consisted of seafood, which is often absent from today’s menus. Mussels in particular were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested because they clung to rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese. Lobster, bass, clams and oysters might also have been part of the feast.

Whether mashed or roasted, white or sweet, potatoes had no place at the first Thanksgiving. After encountering it in its native South America, the Spanish began introducing the potato to Europeans around 1570. But by the time the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower in 1621, the potato had neither come to North America nor become popular enough with the English to be considered a serious dish.   New England’s native inhabitants are known to have eaten other plant roots such as Indian turnips and groundnuts, which they may or may not have brought to the Thanksgiving celebration..

Both the Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe ate pumpkins and other squashes indigenous to New England—possibly even during the harvest festival—but the Pilgrim colony lacked the butter and wheat flour necessary for making pie crust. Moreover, settlers hadn’t yet constructed an oven for baking. According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated in both Canada and the United States.  In Canada, Thanksgiving is now celebrated on the second Monday of October. The reason for the earlier date has been attributed to the earlier onset of winter in the north, thus ending the harvest season earlier. Much as in Canada, Thanksgiving in the United States was observed on various dates throughout history. From the time of the Founding Fathers until the time of Lincoln, the date Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November had become the customary date in most U.S. states by the beginning of the 19th century. Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln when he proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster a sense of American unity between the Northern and Southern states.  Because of the ongoing Civil War and the Confederate States of America's refusal to recognize Lincoln's authority, a nationwide Thanksgiving date was not realized until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s.  On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Two years earlier, Roosevelt had used a presidential proclamation to try to achieve this change, reasoning that earlier celebration of the holiday would give the country an economic boost by increasing the Christmas shopping period.

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables this year, we need to reflect on the history of this special holiday and count our many blessings. We are so very fortunate to live in a country that gives us freedom, to choose our lifestyles, opportunities to learn and security. We can worship as we please.  We are protected by our Constitution and afford many freedoms from our Bill of Rights. We are proud of what our country has to offer us.  We are a nation of blessings for which we all must be thankful, appreciate and always fight to protect.  My God Bless America on this Thanksgiving day and always.

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Heads Up!

By Sue Stauffer

 “Christmas Crazies!”

The holidays are definitely here!  Even if you love the frantic craziness of the season, you can expect the level of stress in your life to rise.  The need to entertain, buy presents, prepare festive meals—in short, to make everyone happy—can add a heavy layer of tension to an already heavy schedule.  My mother used to say, “ Christmas is a conspiracy against mothers.”  We all know that the main burden of Christmas falls upon the women who seem to be the keepers of traditions and who shoulder the responsibilities for “making the season bright and merry!”  When holiday stress is added to the other pressures, it can become overwhelming.  Something going wrong with Christmas dinner or putting up the tree can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  Here are some simple strageties to help you cope with holiday stress. 

1.  Don’t compare. Many people make their lives miserable by falling to the trap of measuring their holiday preparations and gift choices against those of others.  No matter how rich or creative you are, there will always be someone who gives better gifts or does more elaborate decorations.  To compare is to play a losing game.

 2.  Forget about good intentions—Let other things slide during the holidays.  Your family will survive if you dust less or do the laundry less frequently.  Definitely, don’t go on a diet as you will only get frustrated and fail adding to your stress.

 3.  Stay within your budget.  Economic stresses are the ones most likely to affect everyone.  When you raise the cost of giving to unrealistic levels, you also raise the stress stakes causing you more unneeded worry and concern.

  4.  Give yourself credit. Most of us are capable enough, yet under stress we tend to focus on our failures, lack of creativity, and disorganization.  We end up turning 90% of our energy inside instead of turning it toward completing the tasks at hand. 5. Laugh, don’t cry.  People who laugh in the face of stress tend to cope with it much better.  Go to your sense of humor and seek the fun of the holidays without taking the entire folderol too seriously.

6. Share your load.  Remember that Christmas is a family holiday but too often everyone but mom has the fun because she is stuck doing the grunt work. Get everyone involved in wrapping, shopping and cooking. Don’t bail out anyone once you have assigned the tasks.  Everyone needs to be involved at some level.

7. Share your feelings.  Talk about your frustrations with a spouse or friends.  Ask them for ideas, recommendations  and solutions to different situations.  Follow their good advice and take their suggestions.

8. Rethink your values. Most of us rarely question basic assumptions. Yet, stress can grow from unconsciously accepting a status quo with which we don’t truly agree. Examine situations with a new eye and re-evaluate.  When you pin down what’s really important to you about the holidays and plan your season accordingly, large amounts of stress will evaporate.  Following your true beliefs can give you a renewed sense of purpose.

9. Just say no.  Women take on Christmas because it is expected of them.  We “should” ourselves to death.  The only person on their list of “should’s and ought to’s” who gets short –shifted is themselves.  Be assertive and don’t take on more than you can handle. Assertiveness isn’t being selfish, it’s being protective.

10. Plan ahead for next year.  It will give you a sense of control, which is a key bulwark against stress. Make some early decisions after the holidays about what you want to avoid in the future and what new tactics you can take to avoid holiday stress from getting you down.  Shop early, buy your cards, wrapping paper, ribbon in post holiday sales, create a folder for Christmas hints, decorating tips, and recipes to use next year. Put your Christmas card list on the computer making additions and subtractions as well as address changes so that you can print labels instead of hand writing envelopes.  All the little organizational techniques you take now will pay off for Christmas 2018.  Planning can be everything when stress reduction is concerned. The less stressed mom is, the more fun Christmas will be for everyone.  Organization is really the most important key to successful holiday stress reduction.