Reading is Fundamental

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I am a reader.

While I do enjoy the occasional e-Book, I am an old-school reader…I like actual books. I like the feel of the binding in my hands. I love the smell of the paper. Hard cover or paperback, doesn’t matter, as long as I can hold on to it.

And I can spend hours…literally…in a book store. Just wandering the aisles, seeing what’s new and looking for old favorites. I can clean out just about anything, but I do struggle when I need to clean out my books, because I am one of those people who re-reads the favorites over and over again.

The sad thing is that the rest of my household members are not readers. They really don’t get how I can spend hours with a book and be perfectly content. They measure reading progress by chapter or page number. I don’t measure…I read until I’m done with the story.

As my kids started to need me less and I had free time (free time?) on my hands, I started to look around the community for some way to give back. With my love of books, the Friends of the Library was the first place I went. I love spending time going through the books and, in many cases in the children’s section, reliving old memories, not only mine but my kids’ too.

Sometimes I worry that with all the technological advances, there will come a time where reading – like cursive writing – is no longer a focus. I also worry that booksellers will go the way of the dodo, much like newsprint is said to be slowly dying.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the convenience of checking out the news on my iPad, but when it comes to really losing myself in a story, give me a book with pages to turn.

For me, reading is a fundamental part of my life.

 

Playing the Girl Card

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Just like the “Man Card,” we girls have a card as well.

When I was younger, I held my Girl Card pretty close. I felt like I had to prove that I was just as good as the boys. So I handle 90% of my “stuff” on my own. (The other 10% consisted of a flat tire in sub-zero weather that I “handled” by calling my dad.)

It was good for me, because it proved – not only to the world but to myself – that I am woman, hear me roar. And not to get too high on my soapbox, the female of the species does have to prove themselves in the world. While I think that things are improving, we all still hear about the “glass ceiling” and “increasing leadership gender diversity” in business. Title IX gives parity in the educational system to women’s sports, but, in my experience, the boys often get the better fields, practices times, etc. And women are often still expected to take the majority of childrearing responsibilities or face the wrath of society for being “unnatural.”

Let’s take a quick time out: I want to be clear that these are all generalizations. My husband and I evenly shared raising the kids. Many schools’ girls’ teams are better supported than the boys’ team. And the fact that corporations are increasing the number of women in leadership positions all show that we’ve come a long way, Baby.

And I will be the first to admit that there are a goodly number of girls who are not helping the cause by personifying all of the worst stereotypes…the dumb blonde, the gold digger, the girls who can’t survive without a man to take care of them. We women need to be the strong individuals we can and should be.

That said, I began to realize as I got older that I didn’t have to prove myself at every turn. And the “Girl Card,” played judiciously, could be a good thing all around. It didn’t make me less of a person to admit that I couldn’t lift a box that weighed more than me. It didn’t diminish my worth if I asked my husband to clean the bathrooms, since he was “stronger than me and could scrub harder.” And yes, it didn’t make me “one of those girls” if I used a bit of flattery and eye-batting to get a job done.

With great power comes great responsibility, so you have to use the Girl Card for good, not evil. But with that mindset, THWACK! That was my Girl Card, hitting the table as I played it.

 

Decisions, Decisions

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Decisions aren’t always easy.

As an NFL-level “Monday Morning Quarterback”, I often look back on my decisions and realize I chose poorly. Which then causes regrets.

I can’t lie; I find a number of decisions in my life regrettable. Some are small, like having a bad day simply because I chose to wear a shirt that ended up not comfortable or attractive on me. Some were larger, like deciding to attend one event when I should have chosen another one that turned out to be THE event of the year. Some even bigger, like accepting a job and discovering within literally the first hour that it wasn’t a good fit.

But through the years, I have learned that this process, ending with the regret, is enormously unproductive. Through a long maturing process, I can now see that I make decisions based on the best information that I have available at the time. And I’m comfortable that I make a concerted effort to gather all the data I can and get different perspectives to base my choices on.

Sadly, all too often, additional information comes to light later that would have definitely pushed me in another direction, but I have learned not to beat myself up about it. At that point, I simply focus on making the best of the situation.

In other words, I try to accept the things I cannot change, find the courage to change the things I can, and hope for the wisdom to know the difference.

Now I just need to decide what to have for breakfast…decisions, decisions…

Mean People Suck

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I’m really tired of the Mean People.

I recently volunteered for a local community event.  Overall, this was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute of it.  Except for the Mean People.  But I was absolutely amazed but the lack of common courtesy that a small fraction of the participants showed…for not only for the other folks there but for the volunteers.  And then the smaller fraction that was actively rude to anyone in their path.

Sadly, this is not uncommon.  I’ve seen people at the grocery store who have actually raced to beat me to the open checkout line.  I’ve worked with people who can only be right by proving you wrong…publicly.  As a teenager, working at McDonald’s, I had a customer chew me out because he had to wait 30 seconds longer for his special order Big Mac.  I’ve seen trainees reduced to tears because of a mean person just couldn’t wait patiently when the clerk encountered something new.

I’m especially cognizant of new employees, because let’s face it, we all had to start somewhere.  It never fails, in almost every restaurant or store I go to, if someone is in training, I will be helped by that person.  I’ve had some of them get all flustered by a simple question and I just tell them, “Relax.”  But it’s almost as if the gods have decreed that my patience needs to be rewarded with every trainee within a 20-mile radius.  And that’s cool, because I have been in the “new girl” shoes and I always appreciated someone who understood.

I do wonder about the Mean People.  I try to make allowances because some folks seem like Mean People but really aren’t…I just happen to catch them on an off day.  But for those dedicated to that lifestyle, what makes them mean?  Did they have unhappy childhoods?  Because I know people who have truly had unhappy – even awful – childhoods who are definitely not Mean People.  Is it that they feel they aren’t getting their share of the world?  If that’s the case, then go work for it, just like the rest of us have to.  Is it just in their DNA?  Well, just like stupid, I’m not sure you can fix mean.

I’m not sure what the answer is here.  But to the Mean People, I say just stop.  There are already too many bad things in the world to make a simple trip to McDonald’s unpleasant for you or that poor teenager behind the counter.  And for those who refuse to stop, I stand by my statement:  “Mean People Suck.”

 

Winter Woes

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This has been one long winter…

Now I know that most people are dealing with winter woes just as much as I am, but I think I have officially reached my limit.  And now that we are finally getting some nice weather (i.e., above zero degrees), I find that I am getting even more impatient for summer.

Normally, I am a big fan of the spring season.  I love the budding trees, seeing those first crocus, tulips and daffodils pushing bravely through the soil and sometime snow, brings me back to life.  When the crab apple trees and the orange blossom bush (that is threatening to take over my front yard, by the way) start to bloom, my soul fills up with a giddy happiness.

This year, I’m not in the mood.  Bring on summer…now.  I want bright, hot sun, 90-degree days.  I will even take to 150% humidity that we can get…my skin will love it!

But ultimately, I want to feel the warm summer sun on my face.  I want to have coffee on my patio while I greet the sunrise.  I want to sit on the bleachers at a baseball game with a ballpark hotdog (ketchup and mustard please) and maybe a beer (depending on where the bleachers are).  I want to drink an ice-cold strawberry lemonade while catching some rays…using sunscreen of course.  I want to open all the doors and windows in the house and feel the breeze blow out the cobwebs in my house…and my brain.

I keep reminding myself that we are getting there.  The piles of snow are shrinking and I’m seeing more ground patches.  (Notice I didn’t say grass…grass is green and we aren’t quite there yet.)  I keep reminding myself that there will come a day in late July where I complain – out loud to anyone who will listen – that it is too hot.  There will come that moment in September where I want nothing more than to wear a sweat shirt.  I tell myself not to wish my life away, since it’s going too fast as it is.

But right now, everything else is being drowned out by my winter woes.

Living in an E-World

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In my house, I am the technologically challenged one.

I know precious little about Twitter, my kids were so proud when I hit 15 “friends” on Facebook, and as far as I’m concerned, Instagram is a new product from Western Union. Heck, let’s be honest, I can barely turn on the television, given the “Remote of the Future” that reminds me of something I once saw on a Star Trek episode.

Which is why the “Beatrice” commercial for Esurance is SO funny in my house. If you haven’t seen it, basically an older woman has “posted” (i.e., taped) her vacation photos to her “wall” (i.e., her living room wall) to share with her “friends.” I thought my daughter would fall off the chair she was laughing so hard!

“OMG Mom! That’s YOU!”

Yeah…thanks honey…REALLY appreciate that.

But it’s true. Technology does scare me a little. And frankly, when you need a doctorate in engineering just to switch from cable to the DVD player, I just don’t have the patience to try to learn it.

There are some drawbacks, in addition to the ongoing mocking I take from my children and husband. If I’m home alone and the TV settings are wrong, I can easily be stuck listening to my iPod (which my daughter has loaded for me…that’s a completely different topic). If I really want to watch a movie, I have gone to the basement because that DVD player is magically set to start automatically when you pop in the disc. I’ve actually skipped working out, simply because the Wii console is not where it should be and / or not plugged in to one of the 20 open spots in the back of the television.

But I think the good outweighs the bad, since when we do watch things as a family, I am completely absolved of any “set-up” responsibilities. I just need to bring the popcorn. And when they ask me to change the disc or get things back to normal cable, I can whip out the “I don’t know how” excuse. And they have to buy it, since they have mocked me mercilessly.

All in all, I think I can deal with living in the E-World…as long as I have E-Servants.

 

The Beat of Life

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Now that I have more time alone in the house, I have rediscovered music.

Music has always been an important part of my life. My parents believed in music lessons to round out a personality, so I took violin and guitar lessons as a child. Sadly, none of it stuck.

I also was involved in our church choir, where I was nothing if not a strong alto…sometimes too strong. And, having older sisters, I was introduced to pop and rock music very early on. The bonus for me? My sisters’ varied in their tastes…one was a Barry Manilow fan and the other leaned more toward Led Zeppelin.

Music has always been the subtext of my life. But as I got older, life got in the way and the soundtrack mysteriously switched from Rush and Hootie and the Blowfish to Disney. (Dammed if I can’t still sing all the words to Under the Sea and Beauty and the Beast…)

As the kids developed their own musical tastes and music came back in the house, I realized what I had been missing and asked for and received an iPod for Christmas. Once my daughter loaded it for me (I’m not the most technically advanced human on the planet), it became the thing that gets me through the day.

My music comes with me everywhere…when I work out…when I clean house…when I’m writing. I’ve even discovered this winter in Chi-beria that snow shoveling is not that bad when you have Pitbull, Usher and Will Smith as company. Van Morrison is the perfect reading companion. And cleaning the kitchen goes much quicker with vintage Prince, Janet Jackson and Vanilla Ice.

The continued bonus for me? Somehow my iPod got linked to the “cloud” so every song the kids download magically appears on my iPod! Every time I listen, it’s like Christmas in July because I never know when a new song will appear! One day at work, I was cranking along and suddenly Alice Cooper wanted to “Feed My Frankenstein”…terrific…terrific!

As a result, I likely have one of the most eclectic playlist in the world. Oldies from the 60’s (“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations), 70’s (“Takin’ Care of Business” by BTO) and 80’s (“Seventeen” by Winger) join more contemporary hits from the 90’s (“Mysterious Ways” by U2) and this century (“It’s Been Awhile” by Staind). Show tunes play right after Ted Nugent (“Stranglehold”) and AC/DC (“Thunderstruck”) follows Jay-Z (“99 Problems”) on shuffle. My extensive Dave Matthews Band collection joins Mutemath (check out “Armistice”) and Macklemore (“Thrift Shop” is still fun) to lift my mood and my day.

Not every day is a symphony but I keep plucking away because my music provides the beat of life.