Janet Sheridan: Lesser blessings



Janet Sheridan

During the Thanksgiving season when others mention the blessings for which they’re grateful, I never mention press ‘n seal plastic wrap.

But I could.

The struggle to decently cover leftovers has plagued me for decades: I’ve balanced plates atop half-full serving dishes, hurled plastic tubs and lids here and there searching for a matched pair, stretched elasticized bonnets until they snapped, and rued the wastefulness of discarding aluminum foil after one use.

Since the invention of press ‘n seal, however, I unroll a sticky length of film, stretch it across a bowlful of dinner remains, smooth it’s stickiness down the container’s sides and dance on the inside.

I could also mention how grateful I am to have given up on trying to fold fitted sheets. I once saw Martha Stewart demonstrate a procedure for bundling the limply resistant objects into respectability, so I know it’s possible. I just can’t do it.

So I‘ve given myself permission to stop wrestling with the stubborn things. Instead, I gather fitted sheets into a lump, squash it flat, and reward myself with a cookie.

Remembering the way Ms. Stewart’s arms wind-milled about as she folded a king-size fitted sheet into a tidy nugget, brings me to the next item on my list: I’m glad I’m not Martha.

I’ve better things to do than making a whimsical turkey from old Clorox containers for the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving table and surrounding it with placemats I wove from recycled panty hose.

I don’t want to bake cornbread from scratch and cut it into precise cubes, which I’ll toast, to use in a stuffing recipe that also requires fresh figs, portabella mushrooms and candied pecans.

And I refuse to laminate place cards that look like miniature pilgrim heads.

Next, I’m glad to see cursive writing go the way of the Edsel. I used to ponder the alphabet letters demonstrating perfect cursive formation that marched around my grade-school classrooms and practiced their outlined moves diligently during daily handwriting drills—parades of capital Q’s that wobbled and grew increasingly misshapen.

But I never mastered the proportions, loops, and slants necessary to earn a penmanship star.

Computers saved me. Since their advent, I rarely have to clutch a pen in a thumb-numbing grip to scratch out text I can’t decipher two minutes later.

I’m also thankful for the many napping experiences of my past: marvelous minutes stretching out in a recliner, curling up on a couch, squashing my face against a car window or bobbing my head about in an airplane.

I’m no longer able to casually drift into a nap, so such memories are precious. These days, when I grow drowsy after lunch and lie down for a snooze, I twitch with anxiety until I force myself to leap up and dash about doing something—anything—because I know if I give in, I’ll be up at night, ranting about my inability to sleep.

And finally, I’m grateful for a female truck driver who stopped her semi in the outside lane next to Joel and me during a huge traffic backup on I-80 between Rock Springs and Rawlins. She smiled through clouds of cigarette smoke and motioned for me to roll down my window.

“There’s a pileup five miles ahead involving several vehicles that lost control on black ice, so we’ll be stalled for a while. Thought you’d want to know.”

Then, after two or three cars zipped around her rig on the shoulder of the road so they could squeeze their way back in farther up the line, she pulled her two-trailer truck over, blocked the shoulder, and put a stop to that nonsense.

She’ll never know that she is one of the small gifts I’ll think about as I eat Thanksgiving dinner.


KateGladstone 4 years, 5 months ago

I teach handwriting ... and I, too, neither mourn nor fear the abandonment of cursive — precisely because I recognize that handwriting matters.

Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citations appear below) When following the rules doesn’t work as well as breaking them, it’s time to re-write and upgrade the rules. The discontinuance of cursive offers a great opportunity to teach some better-functioning form of handwriting that is actually closer to what the fastest, clearest handwriters do anyway. (There are indeed textbooks and curricula teaching handwriting this way. Cursive and printing are not the only choices.)

Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it. (In other words, we could simply teach kids to read old-fashioned handwriting and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to write that way too ... not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing well.)

Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don't take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)


/1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 1998: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf


/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. DEVELOPMENT OF HANDWRITING SPEED AND LEGIBILITY IN GRADES 1-9. 1998: on-line at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

(NOTE: there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way. Shouldn't there be more of them?)

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the World Handwriting Contest http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com 6-B Weis Road, Albany, NY 12208-1942 USA telephone 518-482-6763 handwritingrepair@gmail.com


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