Robert Brincefield

Advertising jingles or catch phrases are designed to attract attention and be remembered. The obvious intent is to have consumers associate the product or service with the slogan so it is automatically recalled when shopping for a particular product. Some jingles are annoying, and some slogans are witty, but it is their repetition that commits them to memory — as much as the cleverness associated with the idea. I can still visualize Dinah Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet” and the grumpy old lady asking, “where’s the beef” in her hamburger. One was a pleasant experience and the other was not, but both were effective in generating recall.

One of the pharmaceutical companies had an advertising campaign for one of their products that asked the question, how do you spell relief? The answer the reader or listener was supposed to answer spelled out the name of the antacid they were marketing. I am not sure if we have ever purchased the product, although my wife remembers the ad. She just spells the answer differently. To her, relief is spelled v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n. It does not have to be a lengthy excursion requiring elaborate details and expense, a short close-by trip often provides more of a remedy.

I guess it comes from knowing each other so well, but she seems to be able to find the recipe to relieve my stress. The occasion was a birthday and we usually plan a short trip for each other when the anniversary of our births rolls around, mine in the spring, hers in the fall. There is a pattern developing with her planning. I have noticed several ingredients are occurring with growing regularity. A quiet setting is gaining preference over a crowded resort, and a river is gaining favor over a golf course. One May, it was a couple of days on the Llano River learning to fly fish. Another year it was relaxing on the banks of the Medina River near Bandera. This past week, she topped them both. Perhaps it is a reflection of the growing number of birthdays or an unusually stressful time in business, but this year’s trip provided a particularly effective remedy.

We stayed two nights in an isolated farmhouse on a cattle ranch outside of Fredericksburg. It was the home of the current owner’s great-grandparents and it was set far enough back from the highway down a long narrow gravel road that one could not tell that traffic was relatively close by. Even with the windows open, the din of vehicle traffic did not invade the still of the night. The screened-in sitting porch and the rooster crowing in the morning reminded us both of our grandparent’s farms, but this farm house had running water and indoor plumbing. There was even a hot tub outside under a pergola, in addition to the Perdenales River that was about two hundred yards from the house. While one could not see or hear the river, there was a mowed path that meandered along from the back fence making it relatively easy for guests to make their way down to it.

Given the time to relax and ponder, I was reminded of an Associated Press story that reported the findings of new research studies that showed that with age comes happiness. As one grows nearer to the milestone birthday that the government has determined qualifies for retirement benefits, one becomes aware of the physical signals. Activity as benign as sleeping in bed at night can bring with it aches and pains in the morning. It is more than a little encouraging for one to learn that late life can offer something more than just the better alternative. The research study found that in general, the odds of being happy increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age. Thirty three percent of Americans aged 88 years old reported being very happy, compared to about 24 percent of those 18. An aging expert at Duke University, Linda George said, older people have learned to lower their expectations and accept their achievements in life.

Don Newbury commented in a recent column on a study reported in the April issue of American Sociological Review. Newbury attributed the happiness perceptions of older Americans to making your own sunshine. I think that is a very good way to spell happy.

Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield@