Monday, June 16, 2014


1. Love unconditionally, and express it every day.
2. Lecturing  is not communicating.  Try active listening as well.
3. Model working hard.
4. Be a storyteller.
5. Children are very funny.  Develop a sense of humor. 
6. Care about the mother of your children.
7.  Have expectations. Let your children know that rules are necessary in life .  Establish only those that are truly necessary for safety and learning, then stick by them. 
8. You are your daughter's first boyfriend.  Don't break her heart by leaving.  If you must, make her feel she is still #1 in your heart.
9. You are your son's role model for being a father and husband.  Maximize his success by being the way you would have wanted your father to be. 
10. Pitch in and help around the house, even if you are dead tired. 
11. It isn't always necessary to  be right, just to be right.
12.  Change is a part of life.  Be an evolving parent.  If you are wrong, admit it and apologize.  This is a sign of maturity, not weakness.

My own father did not possess all of these traits, but I will always be grateful that he raised me to be proud of who I am and to to believe in myself.  Jim Valvano, basketball coach and broadcaster agreed.  He said, "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”  I hope this message strikes a chord with fathers everywhere.  Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Mindware,  a catalog of brainy toys for kids of all ages, arrived in the mail box yesterday. My head was spinning half way through.  I had started with my grandchildren in mind, but soon realized there were toys that many adults could enjoy.  Life seemed simpler back in the day – namely back in the l950s. So, leaving baking soda/vinegar rockets, tightrope-walking gyrobots, and young architect drafting skill sets behind I took a mental stroll down toy memory lane, researching the top ten toys of the ‘50s.  You’ll recognize all of them, but you won’t find them on the 2013 list.  Here they are with some some history that was new even to me, thanks to Judith Blakely of the Yahoo Contributor Network.
1. Barbie
Debuting in 1959, this voluptuous doll scandalized many at the time.  She and her boy counterpart, Ken, were actually based on Mattel founders Elliot and Ruth Handler’s children. I was lucky enough to work at Mattel from 1962 to 1967 and know a lot about their toys firsthand.  There was a whole department of top notch dress designers and seamstresses who brought Barbie and Ken’s clothing designs to life.
2. Play-Doh
Looking for a safe modeling clay substitute , Noah and Joseph McVicker created a non-toxic reusable wallpaper cleaner in 1955 that was the precursor to this great item.  Nowadays some parents make up their own version of Play-doh with flour, salt and food coloring, but I think I prefer the store-bought kind
3. Frisbee
Frisbees also have their own interesting history, a blend of two ideas.  One involved William Russel Frisbie, a pie maker, who had his name impressed on the baking tins, figuring that people who saw the name would remember it and buy more pies.  Eventually students at Yale university began throwing and catching these pie tins.  In the 1950s a man named Walter Morrison designed a saucer dish based on his love of flying saucers. He sold the idea to a toy company called  Wham-O, at which time  the two ideas were merged, with the name changed to  Frisbee.
4. Tonka Trucks

Tonka trucks endure in popularity.  Supposedly they came about when a group of teachers trying to make garden tools gave up and used the left over parts to make toys.  Voila! Instant success. 
5. Matchbox Cars
Jack Odell, made a tiny car model and put it into a matchbox for his daughter’s school “show and tell.”  Now almost all children know what Matchbox cars are,  and play with them at home or school.
6. Yahtzee
Yahtzee was originally called The Yacht Game  It  began as a way a wealthy Canadian couple  entertained their guests on yacht cruises.  Everyone loved the game,  and toymaker Edwin Lowe was commissioned to make the first toys as gifts, changing the name to Yhatzee.
7. Skateboards
In a way, skateboards could really be called surfboards on wheels. In fact they were created so that kids could have the experience of surfing without being near any waves, the earliest ones made in the 30s.
8. Hula Hoops
According to legend Hula Hoops have been in existence for over a thousand years, possibly originating in Egypt.  Our more modern version comes from visitors to Australia seeing kids gyrating with bamboo hoops at school.  The idea was presented to Wham-O.  The present hoops are plastic, and can be purchased in many colors.  I think there are probably very few households without them.  I also imagine that there are very few people in the household who can actually  “do the hula hoop.”
9. Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head’s creator, George Lerner, originally designed face pieces in plastic that could be pushed into real food to design various faces.  Originally it did not go over well because some people saw it as a waste of food.  The idea was sold to a cereal company, to be used as “giveaways” in cereal boxes.  Lerner bought back his idea from the cereal company and sold it to the Hasbro toy company which manufactured the parts for children to use making potato figures.  After eight years plastic potatoes were invented and Mr. Potato Head was born. He is alive and well today.
10. PEZ
Originally dispensing mints, and shaped like a cigarette lighter, this toy evolved when the company put heads on the dispensers and marketed them to children.  Now PEZ  is a candy dispenser AND a collectible.


There really isn’t a “top ten” any more.  It’s more like a top one hundred. Perhaps you can see why my head was spinning.  Today  stores like Target, Amazon and Toys R Us advertise a multitude of items by breaking them down into age and gender groups.  The closest I could come to a top ten list is Toys R Us “first fifteen”. There are few toys on the list recognizable to my senior eyes.  See below:

1. Sofia the First royal Talking Vanity
2  Despicable Me 2 Minion Dave, Agnes and Gru Collector’s Edition Figures
3. The Ugglys
4. Doc McStuffins Deluxe Get Better Check-up Center
5.  Ever After High Royal and Rebel Dolls
6.  LeapPad Ultra
7.  LEGO Legends of Chima The Lion Chi Temple
8.  Crazy Cart
9.  Xbox One
10. FurReal Friends Cuddles, My Giggly Monkey Pet
11.  Big Hugs Elmo
12.  Shimmer ‘N Sparkle Cra-Z-Loom Bracelet Maker
13.  Tabeo e2
14.  Flutterbye Flying Fairy
15. Skylanders SWAP forcer

I find myself thinking back to 1962 when the world of toys opened up for me.  I was recently out of college, and looking for a job in Los Angeles.  I had started as an employment counselor for Aames Employment Agency when a job at Mattel, Inc. came in.  I knew nothing about Mattel, or what went into toy making but after an in depth interview was hired as “green sheet girl” in the research and design department.  This highly secure area was the birthplace of many toys that are still being manufactured and marketed today.   Keeping the “green sheets” up to date meant that I met with every designer and inventor for the latest information on toys as they evolved from ideas to the assembly line.  It was a simple and effective way to show all involved inventors, engineers and corporate entities the status of various toys in the design process.

Perhaps most people don’t realize how open to industrial espionage the toy business is, and that special passes are undoubted still needed to gain entry into R & D.   Also, I found it fascinating that some  engineers had been hired away from the lucrative aerospace companies to spend their days inventing and playing with complex toys, hot wheels, and guns.  The first talking toys originated at Mattel with Talking Chatty Cathy.  Barbie, patterned after the daughter of owners Ruth and Elliot Handler, became a main stay of the toy line during my time.  Barbie’s many beautiful outfits were created in the fashion department by top notch designers.   Game makers spent their days designing and playing games they thought would sell well.  Child research played a role, with children observed playing behind two-way mirrors to see their reactions.

During that time other employees and I were featured as characters in a game called  Lie Detector.  For me R & D was the most fun department.  But manufacturing, quality control, cost analysis and all other departments necessary for a company to operate served important roles and drew talent from around the country. The company, founded in 1945, had highs and lows, but is still a wonderful place to work and you can check out job possibilities by going to going to Mattel’s web site.

With ten days to go until Christmas,  you are no doubt looking for a holiday or birthday gift for that special child in your life.  If you don’t want to fight the crowds for one of this year’s “top fifteen”, consider checking out Or maybe, like me, you’ll think about the good old days and get a “tried and true” toy.  Hula hoops anyone?

Monday, November 11, 2013


My brother, Bob Fjellman, left high school in his junior year to join the marines in 1943, fibbing about his age in order to do so. He was sent to the South Pacific where he engaged in heavy combat, losing many friends and fellow marines during that dreadful time. Luckily he returned home to marry and eventually start a successful construction company.  
Five years ago he was honored at a Veteran’s Day assembly at Meridian High School, receiving a long delayed diploma amid much pomp and circumstance.

Sadly Bob passed away in June at the age of 87.  His remaining siblings,  Maxine Beebe, Judy Fjellman and Jan Lind-Sherman returned last week to Meridian where they had also graduated many years before.  At the 2013 Veteran’s Day Assembly, they expressed their appreciation to the school by presenting the library with three large, inscribed coffee table books about the marines, WWII and an atlas about war from antiquity to the present day.  It is important here to recognize the students of Meridian, whose amazingly respectful and polite behavior,  shows us the future of our country is in good hands.

Getting back to Bob, like most veterans who saw active duty in war torn areas, he did not talk about his experiences.  We can only imagine how horrible and life changing those experiences were.  So for him, and the hundreds of thousands of others who fought, died and were forever altered,   I say a heartfelt thanks on Veteran's Day, 2013.  The following quotation by Lane Evans best expresses my feelings.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Who spreads unkind rumors and gossip?  I call them bullies.  Unwilling to confront directly, these people, both adults and children, use the power of words to intimidate, frighten and compel others to their way of thinking.  Cyber bullying has had a great negative impact leaving its victims powerless to respond, and in some cases, taking their own lives.

Little kids are often subjected to gossip and taunts by other little kids, or even members of one’s own family.  By any name it is still bullying.  Some rise above it and move on, developing a thicker skin.  Others just can’t.  If it happens often enough, and no one can defuse the hurtful incidents, these vulnerable children can grow up to be withdrawn, bullies themselves or, worse yet, feel such anger they lash out at an unkind world. Perhaps the recent catastrophic mass shootings around our country were perpetrated by angry adults who were once hurting children. 

Sadly, our world is also populated with adults  who still engage in gossip, taunts and the spreading of unkind rumors.  Bullies all. The results are not as horrific as murder and mayhem, but the thoughtless words still wreak emotional havoc on the targeted victims. Sadly, most of us have  listened to hurtful gossip, sometimes even passing it on without a care for the targeted person. We should not condone this form of bullying in ourselves or others.  And certainly we should nip this kind of behavior in children if we can.

I know someone who has been victimized in this way.  If you, or someone you know, have been engaging in gossip, no matter how benign or malicious, perhaps the following thoughts of Steve Maraboli, noted motivational speaker, will give some perspective.   He asks this:  “How would your life be different if you stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions.  Let today be the day you stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others.”

The following ten anonymous quotations found online might also give you pause depending on whether you have been the recipient or deliverer of gossip, rumor or innuendo. 

1.  “I’m okay with people talking about me behind my back, as long as they know what they’re talking about. 

2.  “I’ve always hated being gossiped about.  When I heard that people were talking about me I consoled myself with what my mother once told me. ‘Birds peck at the best fruit.’"  

3. “Fake friends believe the rumors told about you and judge you for them.  Real friends hear the rumors told about you and defend you, knowing they are not true.” 

4.   “No matter how small something is, if it’s not your business don’t spread it.”

5.  “Try not to take things personally; what people say about you is a reflection of them, not you.

6.  “Whoever gossips TO you will gossip ABOUT YOU.  It’s like this cycle that never ends.

7.  “Rumors are like fires.  No one admits to starting them and before you know it, they’re out of control.”

8.  “If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, or hear it with your own ears, don’t invent it with your small mind, and share it with your big mouth.”

9.  “Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.”

10. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it.

If you know someone who gossips and spreads rumors, find a way to show integrity.  Maraboli would probably suggest that you ask yourself this.  “How would your life and the lives of others be different if you walked away from gossip and verbal defamation?  Let today be the day you speak only the good you know of  people and  encourage others to do the same.”  He might go on to say that instead, “plant seeds of happiness, hope, success and love; it will all come back to you in abundance.  This is the law of nature."

Here are some concrete ways to help children in your life.  Right now we are hearing a lot about the Bully Project where kids are “taking a stand against bullying, and taking a pledge to join the movement.”   The movie, called simply Bully, is aimed at middle and high school age children and is being shown across the country. There is much media buzz on CNN and elsewhere describing its success to date.  Since a picture or video is worth a thousand words, go to the following link and learn all about this exciting program.

In the movie five kids and their  families are followed for a year showing in painful detail what many children go through, and how often adults are ignorant or feel helpless to fix the problem. You could take children you know to the movie, perhaps with a friend or relative. You could also be really proactive and see if your local school wants to get involved.  Basically, tell everyone you know about this movie and your concerns for the youth in our country.  Perhaps it will rub off on adults we know who will see that they are part of the problem

Another site that can help can be viewed at the Kids Health Website. Here is the link:

Monday, November 5, 2012


Tomorrow, November 7, 2012,  is a really important day.  Here are some of my guidelines on deciding which presidential candidate is best for our country. 

 I want a leader, not a boss.

I want that leader to be respected by other global leaders.

I want that leader to be gifted intellectually.

I want that leader to be in touch with average Americans.

I want that leader to understand what it is like to be poor.

I want that leader to understand the hardships of single parenting.

I want that leader to realize that students need financial help and it often won't be able to come from their parents.

I want that leader to understand the Constitution and the law of the land.


Please vote for him if you are undecided.
You are probably as sick as I am about all the negative ads, and we should not buy into them without some fact checking. To that end, if you think Mitt Romney is truthful about his background as a businessman and is the answer to our fiscal problems, try this.  Go online and read some of the information about what he actually accomplished in Massachusetts while he was governor. It would appear that he ended his four year term with a 34% favorable rating and was ranked 48th out of 50 governors.

I personally don’t mind if people change their positions based on new information.  That’s part of growing wiser. This is a good thing.  However, It feels like Governor Romney  wants the presidency so badly that he changes his position to suit his audience rather than because of  new insights.  This is a bad thing.

There is a Wikipedia link below. Other sites are available for fact checking. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Memorial Day.  An excuse to shop? A day off  from work or school?  Watching a band and eating yummy food at a downtown festival?  It's all of the above, but the main reason for this May holiday, signaling that summer will be here soon, is remembering.   Specifically, remembering our nation's fallen military men and women. 

Originally called Decoration Day, it was established before the end of the Civil War to honor the men and women who died in service of our nation.  Many small towns lay claim to having  been the first to celebrate a specific day, but over time it was officially proclaimed a holiday on May 4, 1868. It was marked by decorating graves, holding parades and attending picnics big and small.

In 1915  Moina Michael  wore a red poppy to honor those who died in war, and the idea took hold. Before too long the tradition of buying and wearing poppies spread, even to other countries.  The proceeds in some cases went to widows and children orphaned by war.

In ensuing years the original meaning has been lost and we now combine our remembering to include anyone close to us who has passed away.  We still decorate graves and hold special parties with red, white and blue flags flying, however the parades and community-wide celebrations are fewer, and in some places, non-existent.

In an attempt to return to its original intent, a "National Moment of Remembrance" was introduced in December, 2000 which asked that we all pause at 3:00 p.m. wherever we happen to be to remember those in the military who died to keep us safe.     Carrying it further, some are even behind a movement to return to the original day of observance, perhaps a specific day such as May 30, no matter what day it falls upon.  Their argument is that a three day weekend can be seen as a distraction with its multitude of activities,  rather than as a way of focusing on one important thing  - remembering those lost to us who were  trying to keep us from harm's way.

This year, for so many of our military's young men and women who made the "supreme sacrifice", we need to do more than take a minute at 3:00 p.m. to remember them.   As a nation we need to make sure that their deaths were not in vain, and live our lives in a way that brings honor to that sacrifice.  In the meantime, we can also show we care by our actions. We can say "thank you" or  give small gifts to everyone we see in uniform.  We can volunteer in military hospitals.  We can invite them to our homes for a good home-cooked meal.  We can put them in touch with possible employment opportunities.  In other words, we can give back to the living and injured an attitude of love and appreciation, while also remembering those no longer with us.

 So at 3:00 tomorrow, take a few minutes to reflect on those who have died so that we can be safe, and what that means for you.  Then take a few more minutes to think about those in the military, away from their homes and loved ones, and think how you can show them you care.  Surely it's worth a few minutes time in the lives of us all!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Today we held a bridal shower for  Liz, my future daughter-in-law,  at our Sandy Point beach house.  It was a champagne brunch for twenty-four women and the day was sunny and warm.  Guests were seated at decorated tables  on the water side patio, and garlands of pink flowers with white fairy lights festooned the walls above the buffet, which was prepared by another daughter-in-law, Jackie.
Presents were opened with the expected oohs and aahs, and daughter Jonelle busily made a bouquet  from all the ribbons. Click on the words "made a bouquet" to learn about this and other bridal traditions.  Because of time honored stories, Liz was careful  about unwrapping the presents, since the number of ribbons broken  are supposed to predict how many children the future bride will have.  And of course jokes were made about how many would be acceptable with respect to future motherhood.
Typical shower games were played, but one activity was worth sharing.   The women were asked to share advice for the new bride on 3 x 5 cards.  Here were a few of those "words of wisdom."
1.  Always make up and never go to bed mad.
2.  The best advice is to love, nourish and have peace.
3.  Laugh it off.
4.  Take 3 deep breaths and shake off the small stuff...and remember, it is mostly SMALL stuff.
5.  Communication and compromise are important.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff (toilet seats, clothes on the floor, etc.)
7. You catch more bears with honey than you do with vinegar.
8. You trained for a wonderful career.  Don't let anyone talk you out of it.  Always be able to work, to be independent, and to have your own money to spend.
9. Have unconditional love, fight fair, and always make up after.
10. Develop special hobbies and adventures that are shared together exclusively.  This will bond your relationship with each other and your shared memories will last forever.
11. Create your own family traditions.
12.  Promise to be kind to everyone you meet and know.
13. Act like your husband is always right, then do it your way when he is not looking.
14. Having two cars and two TVs is a good thing.
15. During the hard times (fights) pause and remember how rare true love is and how blessed you are to have it, then tell each other you love them.  Don't go to bed angry.
16.   Keep your guy on a short (yet fashionable leash). 
We all smiled knowingly at each other as the cards were read and I wondered  how many felt as I did - that being a woman is pretty special. I don't think men spend much time listening to advice from their buddies unless it has to do with getting certain basic needs met.  On the other hand we,  the so called weaker sex, shaped by the journeys  of those who went before, can spend hours talking about life's problems,  solutions, second guessing, multi-tasking, and handling whatever life throws our way. I think we are  wise, strong, clever, resourceful and resilient. Like the song lyrics from The Flower Drum musical say, "I enjoy being a girl."   
Many of us at the shower were mothers, which adds additional depth to the female psyche.  For those and for mothers across the world I say Happy Mother's Day.  May you enjoy the day, knowing that your children, whether near or far, will have you in their thoughts.