“J” is for “John, Jean, and Judy”

In the 1950s and 1960s, while public school kids were reading the adventures of Dick, Jane, and Sally (DJS), parochial school tyros were following John, Jean, and Judy (JJJ). I haven’t compared the two series personally, but apparently JJJ were living their counterparts’ lives. JJJ originated in the 1940s, when a crusading Rev. John A. O’Brien, Ph.D., tinkered with the DJS stories, keeping the original book titles and character names but adding or creating moral or religious themed stories more in line with Roman Catholic values. By the 1950s, for some reason (copyright issues, perhaps?) his characters were reborn as JJJ.

Rev. O’Brien’s career as a children’s book author was very much in line with his main passions, Catholic education and conversion. In fact, his contribution to the world of children’s literature is primarily a footnote in his life. Beginning with the 1938 publication of his best seller “The Faith of Millions,” he wrote 45 books and hundreds of pamphlets and articles espousing Catholicism. He taught the first accredited courses in religion while earning his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, where he remained for 22 years. Thereafter, he spent the rest of his life teaching and writing at the University of Notre Dame, devoting hectic summers to conversion campaigns in 50 American dioceses and preaching throughout the South. The late Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame, said “perhaps no priest in the history of the Church in America was responsible for more Catholic converts.”

Of course, Rev. O’Brien’s proselytizing meant nothing to six-year-old me when I first encountered JJJ at St. Cecilia’s School. I came from a home with plenty of Catholic books and had learned to read our copy of the Little Golden Book Life of Jesus. While I was impressed that JJJ had a character named Judy, the JJJ reader wasn’t as impressive as the Nancy Drew library books I hid under my desk.

Choosing my own reading material was relatively easy, since upwards of 50 kids were packed into 1950s classrooms. Alphabetic seating meant I was usually in the middle or back of the room; out of sight of prying nuns’ eyes. Unfortunately, I blew it for myself because I basically talked/whispered non-stop to everyone around me. My alphabetic seat wasn’t enough to protect me from being moved to the front of the classroom under the nun’s nose. Never later than Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, I still remember my Nancy Drew stories but not JJJ.

Written for the A to Z Challenge and for these prompts: #YDWordPrompt tyro; The Daily Spurs’ rebirth; Word of the Day Challenge hectic; and Fandango’s #FOWC never. Research materials include The University of Notre Dame’s archives, Find A Grave memorial; Library Things’ Cathedral Basic Readers series description, and, of course, Wikipedia

“H” is for “Habit”

Habits are those recurring things you do, often without even thinking about it. Get up in the morning and brush your teeth. Turn right at the intersection, even though turning left would get you there faster. Forks on the left; knives, right. After a few repetitions, you’re pretty much on autopilot. Common wisdom says you’ll have created a habit and turned on autopilot after repeating the same behavior for 21 days. Common wisdom is trite and not always right.

A 2019 article on Healthline.com points out: “According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.” That’s not to say no one develops a habit in 21 days. When you got your first job and had to be there by 9:00 a.m., you likely developed that habit far sooner than in 21 days. On the other hand, years of New Year’s Resolutions broken by February 1 tend to support the postulation that habit development generally takes more than 21 days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately, probably because I’ve developed so many bad ones. Well, let’s say “unproductive.” For example, I’m a night person. Always have been. I never quite got the hang of the “get to work by 9:00 a.m.” habit. Mine was more like “as long as I’m there by 9:30 I probably won’t get fired.” That seems to have worked, since I retired under my own steam six years ago. Not only did I no longer have to even try to get anywhere by 9:00 a.m., I didn’t even need to get out of bed before 9:00 a.m. That also meant I didn’t need a fixed bedtime. Yay, me! My natural sleep patterns kicked in and kicked me out of whack with most of the rest of world, even other retirees. I got so used to my new habits, I was always surprised to discover how much people did before noon — going to the gym, out to breakfast, to doctor’s appointments, shopping. And since my days started later and later, I had fewer hours left to fit in all the stuff other people did before noon.

Then came 2020 bringing “senior hours.” When going to the grocery store became a potential matter of life and death, I had to get up even earlier than when I was working if I wanted to shop with fewer potentially contagious people. It was a struggle and definitely didn’t become a habit after 21 days. However, I found that, once up and caffeinated, I was less stressed and got a lot done before noon. Most important, I wrote more on those days, earlier in the day, than on the days I slept to … well, let’s say “close to noon.”

Writing makes me feel good, like a whole person. And I need to figure out a way to have more of those days. It has finally dawned on me that being retired doesn’t really mean I can do whatever, whenever, I want. Without some sort of schedule, the days just drift along, and I realistically don’t have an awful lot of days left to waste. I need to develop some better habits, starting with a set sleep schedule. I just hope it doesn’t take any longer than 21 days to get to autopilot.


written to include Your Daily Word Prompt “trite”