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Merry Christmas from Mary and Herb



December 22, 2016 · 10:49 am

Countdown to Christmas

atmAs December’s days grow darker                                        HWK

and presents remain unbought,

it’s plainer every day what counts

is the cost and not the thought.

From Cartoons and Comments, a forthcoming volume of poetry by Herb Knapp.

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Countdown to Christmas: The DIY Christmas Card

On those days when I spend an hour or so talking to Mac tech support on the telephone, I yearn for the simplicities of yesterday.

On the other hand, I can’t deny that the digital age has wrought magical transformations that in some respects make life a lot easier —and generally better.

Take the family photo Christmas card.

Today you take the picture with your digital camera and determine right away whether or not you got a good shot. If not, you try again, and when you’re satisfied, you can transfer the photo to your computer, go to Shutterfly, poke a few keys, type in your credit card information, and pretty soon, beautiful full-color cards appear in your mailbox.

In my family, back in the day, the photo Christmas card was a DIY project of the highest order. Production began immediately after Halloween.

Once we decided on how we were going to pose, it was time for the photo shoot.

piano-christmas-card-r1Ah, the photo shoot (or shoots)! There was no way of knowing until the film was developed and a contact sheet was in hand whether or not we all looked pleasant. Often we did not; for several years, one of us had the habit of making a funny face just as the shutter clicked. The photo shoot could go on for days.

Eventually we were successful and Dad then engaged the assistance of a business contact, a printer who had one of his artists hand letter a greeting on an 8×10 print. The lettered print was then photographed, producing a negative that we used to make our cards in the basement darkroom. “We” meaning my Dad and I, my sisters being too young to be helpful, and mother not much interested in the seriously boring position of darkroom assistant.

Producing the cards required hours spent in the darkroom under a red light. My job was to take the tongs and wiggle each print in the developing solution, transfer it to the stop bath, and then the fixative.  The process could not be rushed. The prints then had to be washed to remove the chemicals, but I can’t for the life of me remember how we did that.

I do remember that we placed the wet prints in between two long sheets of blotting paper that stretched across the living room floor. We then rolled them up and set them aside until the prints were dry.

Today it’s so much easier—so much faster.

But I’m not so sure my Dad would agree that it’s better. He had a lot of fun making the cards, he worked hard at it, and he was very proud of the result.

When machines become so competent that they can do what you pride yourself on doing,  it’s sometimes hard to figure out what you can be proud of. MLK

* * * * * * * * * *

My mother never bought a Christmas card in her life.

She drew her own; the verses were her original compositions. Before I was born, she was the office manager for a printer, who printed the cards for her. She then colored them by hand.

After I came along, my mother quit work to become a full time mom. She remained friends with her former boss, the printer, but she never returned to the work force. She was a true self-starter, a bright woman with a great deal of energy and promise. No doubt in my mind that she could have been a contender in the business world. Instead, she threw herself into being an energetic homemaker and continued to make the Christmas cards until my Dad died and she quit sending cards altogether. HWKme-card

We wish you a Christmas

As Warm and As Bright

As Our Hearth’s crackling flame

And the Star’s twinkling light.

Herbert, Mary Ellen, Herb, Maralee, Mark

Knapp, ’52


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Countdown to Christmas

starI plug the lights in then I climb a chair.

Behind me, you direct me from afar,

telling me what I’m too close to see

as I adjust the star.

From Reading and Rhyming, a forthcoming volume of poetry by Herb Knapp


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Our Family Thanksgiving Prayer


Thirteen years ago, I wrote this prayer for our family, which then included a child. That little boy is now a semi-adult, but we are all still immensely grateful for the blessings enumerated here:

Dear God,

At this time of Thanksgiving, we thank you for our many blessings:

We thank you especially for our family and our happy homes.

We thank you for giving us all the food we need and want to eat.

We thank you for nice clothes, a comfortable bed, hot water, and a warm house.

We thank you for doctors who help make us well when we are sick.

We thank you for teachers who help us learn.

We thank you for the precious gift of our talents.

We thank you for music, and paintings, and books.

We thank you for our country—for the brave men who had the idea for our nation in the first place, and for the brave men and women who fight for our freedoms and to protect us from our enemies.

God bless us all. Help us always to do the right thing and to be grateful every day.




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Subtlety is Out

“Under Yale’s sexual misconduct policy. . .sexual assault includes any contact without ‘positive, unambiguous, and voluntary consent’. According to Yale, consent must be ‘ongoing’ at each stage of an encounter but ‘cannot be inferred from the absence of a ‘no’.”

Jennifer Braceras, “College Sex Meets the Star Chamber,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 23, 2016




I hear that there’s a law (A law no less!)

that “yes” means “yes.” Oh, no. It’s not

for politicians. It’s designed

for college guys with sex in mind.

Like children playing Mother, May I.

You remember, “Mother, may I take

two baby steps?” “One giant step?”

Anyhow, according to this law,

each sexual step must be preceded by

a clear request and answered, “Yes.”

He asks, “Is it okay to . . .” “What? she wonders,

He does, too. His brain is tied in knots.

They didn’t start this with a list of wants.

Life is cloudy; clarity’s for bots.

From the just-released Did You See This? Poems to Provoke the Politically Correct by Herb Knapp. To see more poems from this book, go to


And yes, in New York state, “affirmative consent ” has actually been codified into law.


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When You Count Your Blessings

Don’t forget to be thankful for modern medicine!

Bloodletting in the 16th century

Bloodletting in the 16th century

From An Old Merchant’s House: Life at Home in New York City, 1835-1865:

” Doctors didn’t know what caused people to be sick. What was worse, they didn’t know they didn’t know.

“It would be many years before the medical community understood the role that microscopic organisms played in causing disease and infection.

“In the meantime, various erroneous systems of belief led doctors to prescribe positively harmful treatments and medications.

“Chief among these was the ancient practice of bleeding or venesection. It was based on the notion that an overactive circulatory system caused blood to accumulate, leading to inflammation, which caused disease.The doctor used a razor-sharp lancet to cut into a vein in the arm or leg or sometimes the neck to drain blood from the circulatory system.”

How much blood are we talking about?

 Charles Meigs, a leading obstetrician, wrote in 1842 that he drained 52 ounces of blood from a 20-year-old new mother who had developed childbed fever on the fourth day after delivery . Without this treatment, which Dr Meigs said was typical, he was convinced she would have died. What is amazing is that the cure didn’t kill her.


300 years later and nothing much had changed.

It’s hardly surprising then that many people simply became their own doctors, relying on cookbooks that included recipes for remedies or turned to alternative practitioners. among them doctors known as homeopaths. Homeopaths administered minute and extremely diluted doses of medicine to produce symptoms similar to those of the disease. This was thought to be curative.

Read more about it.

Ann Haddad, researcher at the Merchant’s House Museum, recently discovered that the family who lived in the house in the 19th century turned to homeopaths for medical treatment. It comes as a great relief to the Merchant’s House staff and volunteers. All of us who have an affection for the  family who lived in the house were glad to learn that they were spared the grueling experience of bloodletting.

Read Ann’s interesting account of the history of homeopathy and how one 19th-century family embraced it.





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