Somewhere in the world there must be a person turning ten years old on this day, perhaps even someone actually born at 10:10 in the morning. Happy Birthday to you! It’s a special one.
In honor of this day, here is a page from my daughter’s first grade homeschooling main lesson book, Numbers. I don’t know about you, but I am perfectly content to be living in a base-ten number world, with the ten represented by a one followed by a zero. And it was not a foregone conclusion. We could be living in a base-twenty world, like the ancient Mayan, Aztec, Celtic, and Germanic peoples (remnants of which groupings by twenty survive in some modern European counting systems). Or a base-sixty world, like the Babylonians. Or, we could be using base ten but still be lumbering along in lengthy strings of Roman numerals, with nary a zero to be seen. And the computer would never have been born.
Today is the birthday of my cousin Dianne and her twin sister Monica. Dianne is in critical condition in the ICU with complications following a bone marrow transplant from her sister Erin. Not the ideal place to celebrate a birthday, but the extended family have all been working together to monitor her treatment, keep her household and business running, and make the celebration as festive as possible under the circumstances. All that love and care is healing in itself.
My cousin Dianne, who has been in the hospital awaiting a bone marrow transplant for two rare blood diseases, has taken a turn for the worse. She has had to be intubated for respiratory problems, and now her kidneys are failing. Her birthday is October 9th and I was going to devote that day’s post to her but it can’t wait. Please, if you can, take some moments to hold Dianne in your thoughts and send healing prayers her way. Thank you, and blessings on all of you, too.
Perhaps you did not hear, one grim day this past summer, about the abrupt dismissal of Hillary Fennell, our library’s much-loved children’s librarian for over 30 years, as part of the sudden and arbitrary termination of all DC Public Library part-time staff throughout the city. So long, folks, there’s the door! Hope you didn’t leave your lunch bag back at your desk, because you won’t see that again! I tried to imagine what logical thought process culminated in this bizarre event.
Here’s the answer to a question that has probably been puzzling you for some time. What do the Sphinx and the sphincter have in common? Well, they share a root in the Greek verb sphingein, to squeeze. The Sphinx, if you recall, punished those unable to solve its riddles by strangling—squeezing the air out of them. And if you’ve ever been eight months pregnant, desperately searching for the nearest ladies’ restroom, you’ve done a little squeezing yourself.
This post is in honor of Roy Blount, Jr., whose birthday it is today, and thanks to whom I discovered this etymological nugget. I first became acquainted with Roy Blount, Jr. through listening to NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” a humorous and intelligent Saturday morning current-events quiz show to which I am sufficiently addicted to plan my weekend cooking blitz for its time slot. Blount is one of the participants, and I said to myself, “Who is this smart, funny man with the sexy, crumbly, Southern-accented voice?” and I immediately added him to the list of Guys I Admire, which includes my husband and son (at the top, naturally), Gregor Mendel, and Hektor, hero of Troy, among others.
Blount was actually born in Indiana, so he must have picked up his Southern accent in high school in Georgia. Besides the vast amount of work he does for radio and numerous periodicals, he’s written plays, screenplays, and song lyrics, and is the author of many works of fiction and non-fiction about (to name a few subjects) sports, politics, gender relations, domestic animals, poetry, and hair. The first book of his I opened was Alphabet Juice, a book hard to describe but a must-have for the bookshelf of any language-lover. Therein Blount explores from A to Zyzzyva (a class of weevils) words that intrigue, excite, or annoy him, contemplating in the process multiple dictionaries, Indo-European roots, and popular culture. Happy Birthday, Roy! How’s this for a birthday present: a “roy blount” as a meme for “curious word or phrase worthy of investigation.”
Answer: A cow.
Tomorrow, October 4th, is actually the Feast Day of St. Francis, not today, but I am celebrating him a day in advance because today is the Blessing of the Animals in his honor at Washington National Cathedral. (And many other churches have similar events.) Come at 2:30 to the west steps of the Cathedral for a brief service followed by individual blessings for your dog, cat, rabbit, goldfish, or any other pet not actually life-threatening to the clergy in attendance. There will also be representatives from the Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League to accept donations of pet food and toys and to share information about adopting homeless animals.
These drawings are from my daughter’s second grade Saints, Heroes, and Heroines main lesson book.
If you wander today along Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Porter Streets between 1 and 5 pm, you will encounter neighbors, local merchants, and folks from the elementary school, library, fire department, and other neighborhood organizations celebrating what’s interesting and fun about Cleveland Park. Attractions include music, food, clowns, a moon bounce, McGruff the Crime Dog, and President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland, long-ago residents presumably returning to check out old stomping grounds and new restaurants.
Among the events will be a tribute to Cleveland Park Library staff whose positions were suddenly and gracelessly slashed over the summer, especially beloved children’s librarian Hillary Fennell, a living encyclopedia of children’s literature and a lovely lady besides, who had served the library and its community for over thirty years. What is story hour without Ms. Hillary? (More on this in the October 5th post.)