Friday, March 17, 2017

What's In YOUR Wallet?

    As anybody who has reached a certain age can tell you, the older you get the harder it is to remember things.  It could be that our brain cells are wearing out and just aren't as nimble as they used to be.  Or it could be that we have tried to pack too much information into what is most certainly a limited storage space in our head.  By the time you've reached middle age, you have already had to remember a vast amount of information such as all the names of all your children's teachers from kindergarten through high school; passwords for 27 different accounts and systems that you only log into once every six months; how to do every job you've ever worked at since the age of 16; the birthdates of all your friends and relatives and their favorite colors; all the state capitols that you memorized in the 7th grade; how to program a VCR in the 1980s; combinations of 11 different combination locks used at various times in your life - the list goes on and on. 
    It's time to admit that your memory bank is maxed out.  You just can't cram one more bit of information in there if you tried, so you resort to cheating.  You write down your passwords in a secret location, even though every security expert advises against it.  You start leaving yourself post-it notes in conspicuous places.  You call yourself on the phone and leave yourself messages to remind you of appointments.   You set reminders on  your cell phone and your tablet, and write them on your calendar.  You find a hundred different ways to compensate for your dwindling capacity to remember things.
      Personally, I take this even further.  For random bits of information that I just may need someday, I have resorted to the habit of writing them on small slips of paper and sticking them in my wallet.  My wallet is in the same condition as my memory bank - it is already jammed full of too much stuff.  First, there are the normal things everybody carries: a few odd pieces of paper money, which takes up hardly any space at all;  my driver's license; credit cards; insurance cards, stamps, and receipts from my latest purchases.  There's a library card, courtesy cards from stores that I frequent, a few business cards from local businesses and my doctors.  But now there's a stack of papers containing random bits of information that started out small but seems to be growing:  one slip of paper contains the names of my senator and state representative, in case I feel the urge to contact them.  Another contains the name of a rare medical condition that a friend told me she has.  There are a couple business cards of new acquaintances at church who I readily admitted I would not be able to remember their names to.  One slip contains the brand and size of aquarium filter I use. Another contains the row and seat number of my husband's season ticket at the local high school football stadium.  I used to have one that held the brand name and size of xylophone mallets that my son wanted me to buy in the 8th grade.  I kept that one for about 3 years before tossing it.   For the last 3 months I have been carrying  around a product warranty card written in hilarious Ching-lish that I will pull out in case I ever need something to entertain somebody with.  I also have a want ad for a job that I decided I could not afford to leave my current job to take, but I'm saving it in case something happens to change my mind.  (I'm sure the job will be long past filled by then.)   And last but not least I have the "I Love Voting" sticker that was handed to me at the polls in the last election, to remind myself that even thought I did not like the election outcome, we still live in a country where we have the right and the privilege of voting for our government officials.
     My wallet is more than just a place to carry money.  It's a depository of bits and pieces of my life, some important and critical, some random and perhaps unimportant.  But you never know when you're going to be stuck in an broken down elevator with three strangers, and need to lighten the mood and kill some time by pulling out that hilarious Chinese-butchered-English product warranty manual.  It's certainly worth carrying it around for five years, just in case!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Signs of Spring....Robins, Taxes, and New Grandbabies

    It's been awhile since I have posted on this blog. I apologize for that, but I have been so befuddled by the antics in Washington of our newly elected officials that I haven't been willing or able to comment on that or anything else. There are just so many crazy things going on right now, it's beyond my ability as a mere amateur to provide any meaningful insight. I will leave that up to the professionals, who are having a tough enough time making any sense of it themselves.
    But that unhappy situation for the professional frees me up to focus on more lighthearted topics, like the impending coming of spring.  February's unseasonably warm weather in this part of the country has heralded an early return of one of the earliest signs of spring - the appearance in our yards and neighborhoods of robin redbreast! I saw 5 or 6 of them while out and about today. The warm weather of late has brought them back north a bit early.  (For those outside of the U.S. who may not know, "robin redbreast" is a cheery little grayish bird with bright orange underbelly and breast feathers that return to these parts every spring.)  Unfortunately the summer-like temperatures we enjoyed a few weeks ago have reverted to more seasonal winter-like weather. The robins looked rather chilly hopping about in the snow today. I hope they can find enough food and warmth to survive the next few nights which are predicted to drop down into the teens, with more snow on the way  Hopefully the blizzard which is predicted to hit New York will bypass us and the warmer temps will return soon.
     Along with robin redbreast, another sure sign if spring is the looming April 15th deadline for filing our taxes. Tax day seems to roll around more quickly every year. (Didn't  we just do this???) I hope you have your paperwork in order and the tax gods smile on you.
     I have vowed never to turn this blog into grandma's brag book but I would be amiss not to mention the birth of my first grandchild last month. For those who have experienced it, you know what I'm talking about.  Pure joy!  There is nothing else like it!  Seeing your children have children of their own is a fascinating thing and opens up a whole new world of possibilities. I hope you indulge me for bragging just this once!   
    I've heard it said the a new baby is God's affirmation that the world should go on.  Even with the crazy shenanigans going on in Washington and the whole world seemingly in an uproar, we can still take solace in the sure knowledge that, just like last year and every year before it, spring is on the way, with robins, daffodils, and walks around the block with new grandbabies to look forward to.  As mixed up as the world sometimes seems, the circle of life continues, as sure as birth and taxes.  God has affirmed that life in all it's craziness and beauty should go on.  Hope your spring turns out to be wonderful, as I'm sure mine will be.

photo credit:


Friday, February 3, 2017

Old Protest Song Seems New Again

      For some odd reason, I woke up this morning with this old Pete Seeger song in my head.  The words used to seem kind of corny, but in this new political climate they seem oddly appropriate.  If someone would make a new recording, they could have a hit on their hands, and it could become a new rallying cry for the "opposition."  The popular version in the 1960's was recorded by Pete, Paul, and Mary.

If I Had A Hammer

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, uh

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, oh

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd song of out a warning
I'd sing out love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land, oh

Well, I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's a song about love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land
It's a hammer of justice
It's a bell of freedom
It's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I Feel Lime I'm Losing My Country Because....

   Maybe you've been listening with me to a new radio program on NPR called "Indivisible Radio." It's  a call-in talk show designed so that listeners of all political persuasions  can join in and discuss their reactions to what's going on during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Tonight's host stated that he's heard both Republicans and Democrats alike express the feeling that they are "losing their country", so tonight's theme was "I feel like I'm losing my country because____________."  (Fill in the blank.)
     It's  easy for me to answer that. I grew up in the sixties. Back then every school child by the age of 8 knew  the stories of our two greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  We celebrated both their birthdays in February by having class parties, eating cherry pies or cookies, and retelling their stories. The teachers tacked up the same dime store cutouts of their faces on the bulletin boards every year, but the tales of their stellar character never faded.  For Washington, it was how as a boy he cut down his father's favorite cherry tree. Upon being questioned about it, he answered with complete and utter honesty. "I cannot tell a lie. Yes, I cut it down."
     For Lincoln, it was how he walked many miles to return the book he had borrowed from a neighbor.  His honesry was so legendary he earned the nickname "Honest Abe."
    Of course we learned the other details of their lives as well:  of Washington's brave leadership during the Revolution, and how Lincoln steadfastly steered the country through the tumultuous Civil War. But as children we were most impressed with the simple stories of the character they displayed as boys.  It was this sterling moral character that made them great leaders of our country during times of trouble and distress. They both seemed to possess an inner compass that enabled them to stay the course and determine the right action to take in times when others may not see the clear path.  Washington and Lincoln are considered two of our greatest presidents because  of their honesty, integrity, and courage.  Can we say the same of any of our current leaders today? I'm sure there are some honest politicians in Washington today, but I do not see these  traits in our highest elected officials. "I feel like I'm losing my country"....... because we no longer hold up the high ideals of honesty, integrity, and courage like we once did. We no longer look for leaders with great character who will lead us through any storm. Now we settle for the one who promises us the biggest payback for our vote. We base our political choice on how we think it will affect the stock market and our own bank account.  We look for the leader who promises to put us ahead of the pack and focus on our interests before the interests of others.  And politicians running for office promise us the world and brag about their own popularity despite their moral lapses. ("I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone....")
    May we make it through the next four or eight years with our country more or less intact, having learned a hard lesson that character does count when it comes to electing our leaders. And may the dark period we are now experiencing help new leaders emerge who have a better moral compass and a sense of what is right and good for our country as a whole and the world in general.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What is True American Greatness?

     We all know them: the neighbor guy who spends all his time working so he can amass more "toys" and is so preoccupied with himself that he doesn't even know your name.  And then there are the relatives who can't let you forget about their fabulous vacations and luxurious lifestyle, but who never give a cent to a charity organization. These people have the best of everything. They lack for nothing materially, but would you consider them "great?" Of course not. They may have fashioned successful lives for themselves, and there is nothing wrong with being materially successful in and of itself, but they do absolutely nothing to enhance the lives of others.  No one would describe them as "great".
     True greatness is hard to define, but  when we think of a great individual we think of someone  who has done extraordinary things for the good of others. America's "Greatest Generation" is defined by journalist Tom Brokaw as those men and women, many of whom are still with us, who put aside their own plans for themselves and gave large parts of their lives to fight tyranny in World War II. They were common, ordinary  Americans but when called upon to make sacrifices to ensure freedom and democracy were safeguarded at home and abroad, they did so willingly and unselfishly.
     The dictionary has various definitions for the word "great" but the one that applies particularly well is "notable, remarkable, exceptionally outstanding." When America was at its greatest was when we were standing up to defend freedom and the rights of those who could not defend themselves, or when we showed great courage in the face  of adversity. Think "Civil War and the abolition of slavery."  Think of Ronald Reagan saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Think of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Think of U.S. soldiers liberating the prisoners at Dachau. Those are examples of true greatness in Americans.
     A country could have a zero crime rate, the most highly educated citizens, the best health care, the most wealth, and the lowest unemployment rate and not have any traits of greatness. If we are only concerned about ourselves and the quality of our own lives, we are not being "great", we are only being self centered. True greatness means wanting the best not just for yourself, but for all people, not just materially but spiritually.  It means wanting others to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their definition of who "God" is, what they think "marriage " looks like, and where they came from. True greatness puts aside  self interest and works for the good of others.  I'm not sure when some people think America stopped being great, but if we want to be great "again" we need to look beyond ourselves, stay engaged with the rest of humanity, and resist the temptation to be concerned only with our own happiness.. Isolationism  will not make us great, it will  only make us self absorbed and irrelevant to the rest of the world.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Melania Watching Begins

     Okay, maybe the world is not going to end now that Donald Trump will occupy the Oval Office, at least not immediately anyway, which means we're going to have some time time to observe the royal family,...ahem, I mean "first" family for awhile, until Armageddon sets in. I've especially enjoyed seeing how Melania, Donald ' s Slovenian born wife, handled herself during the inaugural festivities today. At this moment the Trump family is in the reviewing stand watching the inaugural parade, so we've only had a glimpse of her wearing one outfit so far, a stunning powder blue suit reminiscent of styles and colors worn by none other than Jacqueline Kennedy during her stint in the White House. I can imagine Melania months ago sitting down with her wardrobe team, looking over pictures of past first ladies on inauguration day.

    "How about this one?  This is Mamie Eisenhower."
    "No, not that one. She looks kind of frumpy."
     "Here's Rosalyn Carter."
     "Too plain. I don't like the boots."
      "Lady Bird Johnson was  very elegant."
       "Red's not my color."
        "....and here's Jackie Kennedy..."
       "That's it! I love it! Make me look like her!"

     And so a look was born.   I have to admit, Jackie immediately sprung to mind when I saw the boxy suit with the matching long gloves and hair pulled back in a chignon. She pulled it off very well. 
     Although she is a former fashion model and should be comfortable in front of the camera, Melania does not seem to seek the public eye. She appeared very little with her husband during the campaign. Today she seemed nervous coming down the steps to face the crowd. Maybe she knows her husband is not that popular and is apprehensive about filling the roles vacated by a hugely popular president and First Lady. The demands of the First Lady are really quite simple. Stay in the background and look nice. That's all that's really required, though many First Ladies choose to use their position to champion a favorite cause.
     Melania will surely find her way and grow into the role.  She has four years to make herself at home in the White House and decide how involved she wants to be in the public discourse. If nothing else, she will surely be a fashion icon and be a beautiful and elegant distraction from the sometimes ugly business that is politics.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcome to Adult Coloring - The Latest Craze!

    Wouldn't it be nice to return to childhood when your biggest decision was whether to use the peach crayon or the apricot?   I had a friend in kindergarten who never used her purple crayon.  She was saving it for something special.  When I found this out, I was dismayed that I had not had the foresight to save my purple crayon as well, although I wasn't sure why.  For kids, coloring is a social activity.
     While out Christmas shopping this year you may have noticed the walls of adult coloring books in some of the major department stores.  Welcome to the world of adult coloring - the latest craze!  It is touted to be very relaxing and great therapy for those with frazzled nerves.  Apparently by the number of coloring books available, anyone and everyone is doing it.  You can buy full sized 8-1/2 by 11 books, or miniature versions, apparently to carry in your purse and take out while waiting in line at the bank or the doctor's office -  I guess anywhere you are likely to have a few extra minutes.  I guess you are supposed to carry an extra pack of crayons or colored pencils with you at all times as well.  If anyone asks, just say they're for the grandkids. 
     The first thing I ask when I see those walls of intricately designed coloring pages is "Who has time for this???"  Well, since it's that time of year between Christmas and New Years Day when the parties are over but it's not yet time to take down the decorations, apparently I do.  I didn't want to make the commitment of $10 to buy a full sized coloring book.  Instead I went to one of the many online coloring pages for adults and printed out a few samples.  There are myriads of themes and styles to choose from - something to meet every taste. 
    Luckily my husband and I are pack rats and even though my youngest is 17 years old, we have not yet thrown away all the art supplies from his childhood, so I found a good supply of crayons and colored pencils in the basement.   All I needed to do was knock the crust off of some of waxier crayons, sharpen a few pencils, and I was coloring away!
     My first picture was a medieval wood cutting of monks, lords, and ladies sitting around a table sharing a meal.  The second one was a Picasso-like portrait of a guy eating some fruit.  All told, it took me a couple of hours to color these two.  You can see the results below this article.
     It was amazingly fun, easy, and relaxing, although I am not sure of adult coloring etiquette so I have a few questions:
    1.) Is it permissible to mix crayons and colored pencils on the same page?
    2.) Why are the quality of crayons so different. Some are smooth and go on the paper like silk, others go on bumpy and unevenly.  How do you fix that?
    3.) If the artist made a mistake in the rendering, should you correct it, or just color it like it is?
    4.) If you are in a new relationship, at what point should you admit that you spend your free time coloring?
    5.) Is it okay to color in public?  How about during your break at work? How about while waiting in line at the unemployment office? Will it affect your chance for a promotion/employment? 
    6.) Where do you display your finished works?  Do you frame them?  Hang them on the refrigerator?  Throw them away?
    7.)  Is it possible as an adult to color too much? At what point does it change from a relaxing hobby to an obsession? At what point does it become a ridiculous waste of time?
    8.) Should you admit your coloring habit to your friends?
   Soon Christmas break will be over and I'll be heading back to work.  I'm sure I won't have time for much coloring then, but in the next few days I may indulge in a few more coloring adventures.  If you want to join me, just do a Google search on "adult coloring pages to print" and you will find many pages for your enjoyment.  Happy coloring!  Let me know what you think of my creations below.  (Oh, and may I borrow your purple crayon?  :)