Something to Think About

I was listening to a radio talk show this morning, and they were discussing a school that has opted to give every student an IPad.  Rather than use books as most standard schools do, they are pressing forward into the electronic world.  The discussion centered around whether this was a good or bad idea.  The cost was an issue that was brought up, but since the decision had already been made, that topic didn’t last long.  A teacher called in, and that’s when it got interesting.

This teacher brought up a couple of points that hadn’t been brought up before.  He was concerned that reading and spelling would go out the window with the introduction of these electronic gadgets.  Kids can text like nobody’s business, but they certainly can’t spell – at least not the way we were taught.  Everything is typed in a sort of shorthand, if you will.  Abbreviated words are the norm for these kids, and now the opportunity to learn to spell words correctly is disappearing.  Grammar is another topic that was brought up.   These kids do not learn sentence structure, and couldn’t tell you the difference between a noun and a verb if they had to.  Most don’t even know what those are.

Another caller chimed in and brought up another topic of discussion.  She mentioned that her ten year old grandchild could not read cursive, much less write it.  What?  I was stunned to think a kid couldn’t read or write in cursive at the age of ten.  After a moments’ pause, I realized that everything these kids do is with a handheld gadget or a computer – not exactly the place you will see cursive writing.  What a shame.  The art of handwriting is quickly becoming lost as well.

I thought back about my own children, who are now grown.  When I realized my son could not tell me what time it was unless he was looking at a digital clock, we had a lesson about clocks that are apparently considered “old fashioned”.  You know the kind.  They have the 12 number all around the outer edge and three hands – one that indicates the hour, another, the minutes, and yet a third, for seconds.  Didn’t take him long to catch on, but I quickly realized just how few “regular” clocks you really see.  Everything seems to have a digital readout.

Better look around, folks.  The things we pay little attention to, yet are really vitally important, may well be gone before you know it.  Hmmm……..something to think about, for sure.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 9:44 PM  Leave a Comment  

Giving Back

I am dismayed at how difficult it has become to simply be nice to others.  It’s as though an invisible shield goes up when you try to  be nice.  Are we that wary of others these days?

I don’t think twice about letting someone get in line in front of me at the grocery store if they have fewer items than I do.  More often than not, the first thing they do is look around them as if to be sure that no one else has overheard the “offer”.  If there are others in line behind that person, I usually don’t make the offer, as it just complicates things.  I do wonder, however, why people just can’t say “thank you”, accept the offer to move up in line and be on their way.

I was watching a medical show a couple of nights ago, and was  so enthralled with it, I wasn’t paying as much attention to what my husband was saying as I should have been.  He just doesn’t have the same interest in this type of show.  It was an episode (real life) about a gentleman who had, unfortunately, not survived a heart transplant.  His wife, who was the love of his life, made the decision to donate his organs.  She was approached about another patient who had been in a horrific accident, and had lost his face.  They asked if she might be willing to donate her husband’s face as well.  Without hesitation, she immediately replied in the affirmative.

In that instant, I realized that the one gift you can give to people that will probably never be questioned is the gift of life by donating organs.  I had always expressed to my family that this was something that I wanted to do.  When I told my family that I would like to donate my eyes so that the corneas could be harvested, the joke was that if I couldn’t see out of them, no one else could either.  I always replied that they were to give them my glasses as well.  Now, I realize just how important this is to me, and ultimately, I hope, to others.   Of course, this makes some people uneasy.  For me, it is a course that is such a far-reaching gift for quite possibly a large number of people who might not otherwise live a full life.

I talked with my husband about it when the show was over, and he still struggles with it, but did say that if he were to go first, he was okay with me making whatever decision I was comfortable with.  I felt like that permission was a gift in itself.

After checking into it a bit further, I realized that a huge number of people could live their lives just from the donations of one person.  Certainly gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?

Published in: on August 15, 2010 at 11:43 AM  Leave a Comment  

Business As Usual

Everyday, it seems that we are pummeled with information about the economy, the housing market, unemployment, etc.  I have yet to figure out how we can complain about these things when you can’t get anyone to return a phone call.  Over the weekend, we looked at houses that we might possibly be interested in purchasing.  I dutifully wrote down the address of several homes, as well as the contact information for the realtors “selling” them.

I made three different calls to three different realtors about three different homes, and have yet to hear back from any of them.  HELLO!  Do their clients know they are not getting any service for the 6% fee that they will ultimately end up paying?

I just called one of them back again, to see if – one more time – I might be able to garner some information.  The phone rang 4 times, and a lady answered “Hello”.  I thought I had mis-dialed.  I asked for the realtor I was looking for by name, and she answered “This is Ann”.   I told her I was calling about a certain property she has listed and she responded with “Didn’t you take a flyer?”  Uh, no.  There were any in the box.  It was empty, just like it was the last time I looked at the house and you didn’t return my call.  She then says “Tell me what you want to know.”  Okay, how about the price, the size, how many bedrooms, etc.”  She comes back with “Three bedrooms, 2 baths.  It could be four bedrooms if you use the second living area as a bedroom.”  Okay.  I ask how many square feet.  She says “Well, the owner swears it has 2000 square feet, but he doesn’t include the square footage of the sunroom he added on the back.”  In light of the fact that we have had a lot of problems with homes in our area making additions without the proper permits, I asked if he had a permit for the addition.  She responds “Doesn’t need one – he’s not considered to be in the city limits.”  I forged on and asked what the asking price was and she replied “$199,000 – anything else?”  Actually, yes, I did have one more question – why had the property been on the market for so long?  She responded “Because it needs some repairs – but it will pass inspection.”

I can only surmise that I had interrupted her freshly painted toenails from drying without the phone ringing.  I’m no rocket scientist, but even I can figure out why this house is still on the market.  This woman is a dunce, and has no interest in selling the home.  If she ends up being unemployed, and the housing market slumps due to the non-sale of this home, and the seller ends up in the tank because he can’t make the payments – PLEASE – don’t call me back.  I don’t want any part of this.

I think I’ll contribute to the economy, housing and employment by finding a realtor who really does want to sell me a home and isn’t “bothered” by my ridiculous phone calls.  Hope your toenails dry without you having to do any touchups.

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 4:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

Walking the Dog

As a general rule, I’m a fairly early riser.  Earlier in the summer, I decided to start walking every morning and was taking our dog with us.  She’s a small dog, and we started out with a fairly short course.  We walked a little farther each morning, until we were walking about a mile every morning.  Eventually, as it happens, we missed a day, and then got started right back again.  Then, we skipped another day, and each time we failed to go, it became easier each morning to put it off until “tomorrow”.  Somehow, “tomorrow” never came, and we stopped walking altogether.  This scenario always seems to happen in situations like this.  Kind of like going to the gym after you’ve paid the membership, I suppose.  I’m not sure though, as I’ve never joined a gym.  That’s another tale entirely.

Anyway…..we are back on the wagon, and have started walking again. We started back out on our original course, which is about half a mile.  Every morning, when the dog sees me come into the living room with my socks and tennis shoes, she starts jumping – and I mean straight up and down.  Sheesh!  I should have so much energy.

Here’s my little “walking companion.”

It’s been really hot here, so we go early in the morning, when it’s cooler and neighbors are sitting on their porches drinking their morning coffee.  It’s nice to be out and be able to enjoy the outdoors and say a quick “hello” to others passing by. We had been sticking to our original course, and this morning had to deviate.  Just as we started to cross the street to continue on our path, I saw a loose dog.  Not sure who it belonged to, but all I knew was it was not on a leash and MUCH bigger than my dog.  I quietly and quickly turned around and walked back in the other direction.  We chose a different course, and got to the corner, when another dog came out of nowhere!  Barking and making such a racket.  I was holding my dog up out of reach, and heard a voice through the cracked front door of a house say “Oh, he won’t bite.  Don’t talk to him though, or he will keep jumping and barking.”  Huh?  I just wanted her to come and get him.  She said she couldn’t because she was in her pj’s.  I don’t care if you are naked!  Come get your dog.   I decided to walk away and if he followed me, I could take him back home after my pet was safely back home. When I turned to look back, he was still in his front yard, but was now barking at someone else.  At least he stayed in the yard even though there was no fence.

Our new course is longer than the one we were taking, and is probably about 3/4 of a mile.  Turned out to be better healthwise for both of us, I suppose.  We will take the new course again tomorrow, and follow it for a week or so.  We’ll gradually increase the distance until we are once again walking a mile or more every morning.

No more excuses – we are up and at ’em every morning.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 8:29 AM  Leave a Comment  

New View on Contests

I’ve never been too big on contests where my creations were entered, because, somehow, there always seems to be a “hitch” of some kind.  This year, I’ve decided to really put things into perspective and try some new things.  Contests and competitions will be among them.  I’ve decided to make the State Fair my first venture in which I will compete against others with handmade creations.  I made the decision to work on a few pieces and enter them into our State Fair.  Here is a photo of one of the pieces I’m working on.  Still has a bit of work to finish him up, including adding more coloration to the tip of the mane, and whiskers need to be added, of course.  Once I’ve got it complete, I’ll add a finished photo.

It’s a bit of a process, in that you first have to fill out the paperwork and submit it with your fee, then wait for confirmation of receipt.  Once you’ve received the receipt, you have to take the pieces you’ve decided to enter to Dallas.  For me, this is close to a 4 hour drive away.  After a three week judging period by a group of people familiar with the particular entries being submitted, you will be notified if your entry has placed.  If your work was chosen as a winner,  the entries will remain on display throughout the duration of the Fair., and will be picked up after the Fair is over.  Literally thousands of people will see the winning works.   There are four winning places – First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention.  While there is no monetary prize, just having your work chosen as a winner from all of those entered is a prize in itself, in my opinion.

I liked this particular contest for a number of reasons.  It made me really stretch myself to see just what I could do.  Additionally, the fees were more than reasonable.  The judges have no idea who any of the entrants are, and won’t allow you to enter more than one piece in the same category.  I think that is a great rule, as I’ve seen so many contests where the same person takes all of the winning ribbons.  I find that discouraging.

Just getting ready for this has spurred me on to do other things.  I made a much smaller version of the State Fair entry.  Here is a quick snapshot of him as well.  Again, not a stellar photo, but it’s a start. This one was really fun, though very fiddly.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this all goes and where it will lead to.  Maybe this is the start of a whole new venture.  Woo Hoo!

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 11:03 AM  Leave a Comment  

Re-thinking Things

I received an e-mail from a friend last week, and it was a link to an online video clipSometimes I click on them to watch – other times not.  It usually depends on how much is left on my “to do” list, which as of late, has been pretty full.  Anyway…my husband viewed the clip first, and immediately told me I needed to watch it.  Okay, okay.  I took myself away from a project I was trying to finish, and sat down to watch it.  It only took a few minute’s time, and was so interesting, I viewed it a second time.

I’ve had to be drawn into the electronic world kicking and screaming, because it just seems to be so overwhelming to me.  From a customer’s view, I found myself annoyed to receive e-mails or watch tv commercials that touted discounts, special perks, etc. for customers who became followers or friends – all online of course.  Hey!  What about me?  I’ve been a loyal customer for YEARS!  Now, to receive the special offers, I have to sign up for something else – yet again.  I’ve always been hesitant about these things, because, invariably, you end up receiving tons of unwanted e-mails – mostly from people or companies you aren’t even aware of.

From a business view, joining in on the social networks, setting up mailing lists, etc., seems to undoubtedly the way to go.  It seems that direct mail, newspapers, magazines, etc., are going the way of the dodo bird – and at record paces.  To remain viable, the electronic world is obviously something that I will have to adjust to if I want to survive.  I just have to learn the safety nets, and the risks – as well as the rewards.

Just last week, a person I had never met contacted me to purchase an item off of my website.  Turns out that she lives in the same town, and I decided to hand deliver the item to her.  We spent a very enjoyable morning together, and found we have many similar interests.  I’ve invited her to join my group of friends that get together once a month to sew on unfinished projects, eat too many cookies and gritch about whatever comes to mind.  It just goes to show you – the electronic world is beckoning and we just may have to jump on board to survive.  I’m seeing things a lot differently now – thanks to the video via the electronic world I’ve been so reluctant to join.  Count me in!  I’ve changed my mind.  If you want to see for yourself, go here:

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 12:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

Are We Too Busy?

Just how busy are we?  I mean really.  We have incredible technology at our fingertips, and yet, we can’t seem to find a way to stay in touch with each other.  It literally takes seconds to pick up a phone and press a button to be connected to someone.  It takes less than a minute of our time to type a quick “hello” to someone and hit the “send” button.  We don’t have to look up phone numbers or addresses – not even e-mail addresses.  We have all of this information  pre-programmed into all of these technological devices we can’t seem to live without, yet we somehow can’t stay in touch.

I have a group of about ten or twelve friends that are scattered all across the states.  Heck, some of us live 30 minutes from each other.  We all share similar interests.  Some of us have traveled together, taken the same workshops, attended classes,  together and stayed in each others’ homes.   We have supported each other when times got rough, and laughed until we cried at other times.  Some have struggled with their children, others with their spouses.  We’ve helped each other get through health issues,  and consoled each other during times of crisis.  We have been there for each other when there was a death of a family member and celebrated the birth of a new life.

For so many years, we have been only an e-mail or a phone call away.  Yet, somewhere along the way, it seems that just about everyone got “busy”, and it’s not the same.  I made a decision in January of last year to make a concerted effort to stay in better touch with people.  I helped locate my husband’s two step-brothers and step-mother, who he hadn’t seen in close to 30 years.  We made a few phone calls back and forth and recently made a trip to go visit them.  What a treat!   We looked up relatives my husband had always heard about but never met.  We met up with them as well.  Again, what a delight they were.

About once a month, I would send an e-mail to all of the friends in my group and fill them in on what was going on.  Slowly, but surely, I would get back fewer and fewer responses.  I dropped the ball and didn’t send anything out for a few months.  Still, I heard nothing from the bulk of them.  I sent another of my dissertations out a week or so ago, filling everyone in on what was happening in my life.  To date, I have only heard from 2 of those friends.  It’s not that the others don’t care – they are just “busy”.

I hope I never get to the point that I am so “busy” I can’t stop for a quick “hello” to stay in touch.  I don’t want to wait until it’s too late and spend my days filled with regrets because I was too “busy”.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 3:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Simple Life

“Maya” – Enjoying Life

As a general rule, cats do their own thing, and fit you into their schedule if they see fit to.  We happen to live with three cats that have very distinct personalities from each other.  Pictured above is “Maya”, the largest and most loving of the group.  Nothing seems to bother this gal, and she truly loves life.  She loves to sit in the dirt in the middle of the flower bed and soak up the sun – usually on top of a plant that quickly meets it’s demise due to her sheer weight.

I know, I know – she looks like Jabba the Hut, but I promise you, she is more agile than you would imagine.  The vet was surprised when he saw her on her recent visit.  I asked about her weight being a problem, and when he found that she could jump on the bed, sofa and on occasion the counter – he laughed.  He said she could do more than he could.  I didn’t want to tell him that she plays chase with the ball like the dog.  This grey lumpkin does love to wrestle with our dog, who also thinks that she is a cat.  They will go round and round, and then lay down beside each other for a “catnap”.

She loves to sit in the computer chair, and once settled down in it for the evening, pretty much dares you to try to move her.  She certainly doesn’t mind sharing the chair, but she sure as heck isn’t giving it up.  You just have to sit in the small space that she leaves you or wait until morning when she’s ready to go outside.  Small concession in the grand scheme of things.

Ah, life should be so simple and easy to enjoy for all of us.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 5:09 PM  Leave a Comment  

Fruits of the Garden

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Spring  seemed to have arrived earlier than usual this year, and with that, comes earlier blooms of flowers in the garden.   I have always loved hydrangeas, but they don’t grow especially well here.  My husband found this variety, which is called an Oak Leaf Hydrangea, and planted it in the garden.   It is just full of beautiful blooms this year.  This is one of those plants that you can truly enjoy all year long.  The blooms last for quite a while, but when they are gone, you are still left with a nice looking plant that remains green until fall arrives.  In the fall, the leaves gradually turn colors, just as the leaves on an oak tree do.  The transformation from green to yellow to orange is really quite a site.  We’ve enjoyed this plant for a couple of years now, and it has thrived even after being moved from one part of the yard to another.

Our yard has done really well this year, despite the heat setting in fairly quickly after spring had arrived.  We’ve enjoyed a variety of blooms on the various plants in the yard despite temperatures hitting the 90’s in late April.  The high temperatures so early in the year is not usually a good sign for what we are in for during the summer season.  Air conditioners are already whirring on a daily basis as everyone tries to escape the heat.

I’m trying my hand at some vegetables again this year as well.  So far, everything except my beans are doing well.  The tomato plants are full of blooms, as are the squash plants.  My eggplant and bell peppers are coming along and hopefully, I’ll end up with some spinach and eventually, some beans.  I replanted them yesterday, after something ate the first batch I planted.  It was a bit disheartening to watch them sprout out of the ground, leaves reaching for the sun one day, and empty stalks there the next.  I checked for caterpillars, snails, etc, but never saw anything on them.  Today, I’m resorting to a time honored tradition – marigolds.  I dug a small trench along the edge of the beans yesterday, and today, will fill it with marigolds.  I’ve always been told that they not only keep unwanted bugs out of the garden, but insure good growth as well.  We’ll see.

Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 9:01 AM  Leave a Comment  

Surprise! or Not

I was enjoying a piping hot pretzel yesterday at a big box store and sitting next to me was a young mom with 2 children – both school age.  The girl appeared to be about third grade age, and the boy, probably 2nd grade age.  Both were very polite and well mannered.  The little boy was getting hammered with questions about an upcoming program that he was to participate in at school.  Mom asked him all about it.  Was he scared?  Was he excited?  Did he know all the songs?  She went on and on, and he dutifully answered each question.  No doubt about it – this kid was ready.  Not only was he ready, he was excited!  That’s refreshing to see a kid excited about something happening in school.

Mom continued to pepper him with questions and started asking about the songs they were going to be singing.  Would they be performing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”?  Yep!  How about “America The Beautiful”?  Yep!  How about this?  How about that?  Yep!  Yep!  His little head bobbed up and down with a resounding yes in answer to each question.  Mom kept on?  What else?  She listed off all of the songs and when he said that was all of them, both of her hands dropped to the table in front of her.  “You’re kidding, right”?  “I guessed them all”?    The kid, more excited than ever that she had guessed everything, again exclaimed “Yep”!  Mom is really dejected now, and says to the kid “Well, now none of the program will be a surprise tomorrow night”.    Huh?   In the end, she decided that at least Grandma would be surprised.  The kid was paying no attention to her at this point, but was starting to skip around, singing.  Kids – gotta love ’em!

Published in: on May 6, 2010 at 6:59 AM  Leave a Comment