What’s this all about?

From Joe Zentis: Welcome to my blog. It’s mostly about my family and me. But I’m rebuilding it to be a part of my mission in life: to help good people feel better about themselves. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy what you read here.

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Happy Birthday, Michelle!

In a way, saying or singing “Happy Birthday”  is quite silly. Wishing someone you love to have a happy day once a year seems extremely lame. Whether I express it or not, I fervently hope that everyone I love has a great day every single day.

And congratulating people on their birthdays is the same as congratulating them for being born, something for which they don’t deserve much credit. Once that has happened, birthdays come automatically, so counting them is nothing more than a statistical exercise.

However, people do deserve credit for the great things they have done since they were born. A birthday is a great time to call to mind that person and those great things. And, of course, to honor and thank them for what they have accomplished.

With some people, such as our first daughter Michelle, there are so many great things that listing them is utterly impossible. So I will mention only one – but one that she repeats in myriad variations every day of her life.

During one of our countless “conversations” while Michelle was in high school, I said that although good grades and other such accomplishments are important, there is only one thing that is really, truly important: how you treat other people. She took that to heart and has surpassed anything I could ever have imagined or hoped for. And for that, Michelle, I am so very proud of you. Prouder than I could possibly express.

So Happy Birthday, Kitten, and Happy All the Rest of the Days of Year.

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Happy posthumous 82nd birthday, Brother Bob

I wrote this post last year for my brother Bob’s birthday, slightly edited and expanded to bring it a year forward. 

Ray, Joe, Bob, Gina in 1940

Ray, Joe, Bob, Gina in 1940, seven years before the birth of Joanne

Today is the 82st birthday of my brother Bob, my oldest sibling (of four: Bob, Gina, Ray, Joanne). He was born on June 23, 1935, and passed away on October 26, 1996, at the very young age of 61 from complications resulting from AIDS. Continue reading

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In honor of Hattie Agnes, again

I wrote this last year on my sister Joanne’s birthday. I’m reposting it for those of you who missed it:

Mom and Dad, 1945

Mom and Dad, 1945

The early 1940s were a rough time for my mother.  I was too young to remember most of it, but I know she was very sick for a couple of extended periods of times. It was particularly difficult because Dad worked two jobs. During the day, he ran the McKean Farm Service, a feed mill right next to our house in McKean. At night, he was a machinist at Lord Manufacturing Plant ten miles away in Erie. When it came to the point that he couldn’t do his work, spend time with Mom, and take care of us, we kids lived with other families for a while. One year our Christmas tree remained up until March.

Then in the autumn of 1946 we learned that Mom was pregnant again. There was some trepidation, because she had suffered two miscarriages since my birth in 1940. But my siblings and I were excited at the prospect of having another brother or sister. Continue reading

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Old Siblings

I mean nothing disparaging with the title of this post. The title is an allusion to a song written by Paul Simon titled “Old Friends.” That was on the album “Bookends,” released on April 3, 1968. Paul was 27 at the time; I was 28. In that song is this line: “How terribly strange to be 70.”

I can remember when I was ten or so (about 1950) thinking about how old I would be in the strange, far-off, sci-fi year of 2000. I couldn’t picture being 60 years old. So I’m sure that 27-year-old Paul Simon thought it would be strange to be 70. I was 28 and loved the song, so I must have agreed.

Of course, I have a far different perspective now. My seventieth birthday was on March 9, 2010. Never during the 2660 days since then (if I calculated correctly) have I felt strange because of my age. I have felt strange for other reasons, but not because of my age.

joanne on swing

Just another picture of a kid on a swing

On the other hand, the thought of my little sister Joanne being 70 is very strange indeed – almost inconceivable. Tomorrow is her 70th birthday. Joanne, I hope it doesn’t feel strange. I hope that you’re excited about all the great, exciting things that you will do during the next decade, and beyond.

I am quite fascinated by the portrayal of older people (particularly women) in movies from the 1930s and 40s. Sixty-year-olds were OLD and often feeble. Seventy-year-olds were ancient and decrepit.  That’s not surprising, because life expectancy for American men born in 1940 was 60.8 years; for American women, 65.2. Today they are 20 years more than that. I guess it’s quite valid to say that 70 is the new 50.

So, Joanne, how does it feel to be 50 and retired? Have not just a great birthday, but a great two decades (or more).

(Don’t we live in a great time and a great place?)

Posted in Family, Life, Tributes, Ye Olde Days | 7 Comments

Retreating to move forward

tave-and-i-at-computerThis blog is about nine months old – time to give birth to something more dynamic and exciting. I started it with a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish with it, but with no blogging experience and therefore no knowledge about how to accomplish it. All that I’ve managed to do is to shoot away in the dark, succeeding only in wounding the original idea. So it’s time to turn on some lights, put the shotgun away, reassess, redesign, refocus, improve my aim, and redefine the target.

I would appreciate your comments, telling me what you like about the blog, what was a waste, and what you would like to see more of.

More specifically, what do you think of:

I thought about suspending the blog while I work on improving it. Instead, I will resurrect some of my favorite posts – and yours, if you let me know what they are. That would also help my assessment of the blog as a whole.

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Let’s Write a Story 4: Completed

Booksigning

Famous author signing his books

I didn’t receive any additions to Let’s write a Story 3, so I guess it’s time to end it already. Here are the original sentence and all that you added:

The hill was very steep.
This made the boys wonder, because just yesterday it was only a slight incline.
The grass also seemed to be a bit more blue than it had yesterday.
They stood at the top, thinking that it would be the perfect hill to roll down.
But then they spied the elephant! It was a bit giddy, having just rolled down the hill, too!
As they watched, the elephant started flapping her enormous ears, slowly lifted into the air, and began flying from flower to flower.

Here’s what I did with it: Continue reading

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Life Story: Esther Templeton Jones Boyle

Every Monday, I post an excerpt from one of the stories in my Lives of Quiet Inspiration series of books. 


Esther Templeton Jones

In 1940, seventeen-year-old Hickory High School junior Esther Templeton fell in love with a guy named Bill Jones and quit school to marry him.

“My mother cried when we walked in and announced that we were married,” Esther said. “She was broken hearted. But I shrugged it off, thinking she’ll never miss me because there were still seven more girls and four brothers at home.”

During her first year of marriage, Esther would have laughed if anyone had suggested she would become a contestant in a Mrs. America contest some day. Or more likely, she would have cried.

“After we were married a couple of months,” she said, “the honeymoon was over. Continue reading

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Let’s write a story – 3

My grandson Connor Young

My grandson Connor Young

You and I are writing a story, one line at a time, for kids maybe ten to twelve years old. Here’s what we have so far. I invite you to add another sentence. You can also suggest SUBSTITUTING a line that has already been added: just let me know in a comment what you would like deleted, and what substituted for it. Or simply comment on the process: how can we improve it?

Can you name and describe the boys?

 The hill was very steep. This made the boys wonder, because just yesterday it was only a slight incline. The grass also seemed to be a bit more blue than it had yesterday. They stood at the top, thinking that it would be the perfect hill to roll down.

But then they spied the elephant! It was a bit giddy, having just rolled down the hill, too! As they watched, the elephant started flapping her enormous ears, slowly lifted into the air, and began flying from flower to flower.

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Let’s write a story – 2

My grandson Connor Young

Grandson Connor

You and I are writing a story for kids maybe ten to twelve years old. I started with a sentence: The hill was very steep. Four people suggested additional sentences. Anyone can suggest another sentence. Just submit a comment with the sentence in it.

My original plan was to pick one of the sentences to continue the story. But the four sentences I received fit very well together, so I put them all in. We’ll continue to do this and see what emerges. 

Here is the result:

The hill was very steep. This made the boys wonder, because just yesterday it was only a slight incline. The grass also seemed to be a bit more blue than it had yesterday. They stood at the top, thinking that it would be the perfect hill to roll down. But then they spied the elephant!

Thanks, Jenn, Jen, Joanne, and Michelle!

You can also submit pictures of kids reading or being read to. Connor shouldn’t get all the glory!

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In the Presence of Heroes

George in high school

Young George Lowe

“Being in the presence of my father and his contemporaries is to be in the presence of heroes,” said Tamara Lowe, daughter of Dr. George Lowe of Farrell, PA.

The heroism was not achieved by fighting in war or playing on a sports field, although he did both. It came through overcoming difficulties in life that conquer many other men.

In 1929, his father, Henry Lowe, was seriously injured in a steel mill accident in Aliquippa, PA. He was black, so no hospital in Aliquippa would treat him. By the time he arrived at a hospital in Pittsburgh, it was too late to save his life.

That left his wife Fannie as a black single mother of Ruth, a seven-year-old daughter, and George, a five-year-old son. Continue reading

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