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Friday, September 20, 2013

LETTING GO AND HANGING ON



Carolyn J. Rose
A few weeks ago, scissors poised over an old towel destined to become dust cloths, I became a hostage to memory. Cutting the cloth was a simple task and one that should have taken less than a minute. But that towel was a gift from my mother, a gift made 21 years ago, 2 years before she died. So cutting into that towel involved slicing the warp and woof of memory and attachment and loyalty and love.


The towel, once a bright turquoise, was the last of several my mother bought for the guest bathroom in our house in Eugene, Oregon, a house we sold in 1994. She bought those towels to match one of the colors in a shower curtain I sewed. It was a perfect match and the towels brightened the room.


I loved them, but she never seemed satisfied with the choice. No matter how many times I told her they were just what I wanted, she sighed and said she should have kept searching for a color just a little more subdued.


Which says something about our personalities. I am seldom drawn to subdued colors. I liked the towels because they were vibrant, because they made the windowless room brighter, because they claimed their space, because they were there.

Did my mother wish I had been more subdued? Possibly. Probably. Definitely at times.


Ours was like many mother-daughter relationships—a little uneasy, a little explosive, a little as good as it gets.


The towels were among the last gifts she gave me, so they’ve stayed with me far longer than others, making the transition to hot-tub towels, to gym towels, and now to dust cloths. The next transition will be to the trash.


I tell myself towels are just things and that letting go of things isn’t the same as letting go of memories, letting go of my mother.

Somehow, though, I don’t quite believe it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

THE OBLIGATORY TECHNOLOGY RANT



By Mike Nettleton

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology, despite the fact I tend to ignore a huge percentage of it. My wife and I may be two of the only human beings left on the planet who have never texted or tweeted. I have no desire to know what my phone is dreaming when I put it to sleep. We have no apps, other than the one that allows you to enter a number and push a button to call it. Our ring tone sounds like a (gasp) telephone. 

Have all the amazing developments in technology really enriched our lives? Is communicating in 140 characters tweets connecting us or allowing us to avoid  real human contact? And what’s with cyber-bullying? Can’t we go back to the day when the local  knuckle-dragger would simply punch you in the face and take your lunch money? 

Does this sound like a rant? Sure is. Here are my top five technology gripes: 

#5.  People posting their every movement, stray thought or facial blemish on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or any other social networking site. Okay, you’ve become a grandparent, I’d love to hear about it. Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale—terrific, let’s have the details. Your dog is licking himself in an embarrassing place—probably an overshare.

#4.  GPS golf yardage devices. Many of the old guys I play with haul these out before every shot they play.  A hundred-fifty three yards to the front of the green, one-sixty four to the back, and one-fifty seven to the pin. I’ll eyeball the tall, white 150 yard stake and gauge one-fifty five to the hole. Here’s the question I always ask the GPS wielder. Will you use a different club based on the two yards difference between your GPS and my guestimate? I don’t know about you, but most of the people I play with are lucky to even strike the ball with the front of the club. 

#3. Self-checkout devices at retail stores. Okay, okay, I agree, they’re handy sometimes and can save you time when you’re in a hurry. But every time I scan my own merchandise, I think “A human being used to do this.” Technology is wiping out jobs faster than we can graduate people from high school and college to start collecting unemployment. It’s a serious problem with serious consequences for the American (and worlds) way of life.

#2.  The simpering voice that drones: Press one for English, press two if you know your parties extension, press three if you have an annoying rash on your rear end, press four if you can only count to three, press five if you’re considering setting fire to your telephone. I crave the sensation of calling a business and having an actual human being answer  and ask how they might help me. Chances are, they’ve gained a customer for life. Part of this equation is the same concern as #3, but a huge part of it is feeling we’re losing our connection with each other. 

#1. “Hello, I’m Farley Harquar, candidate for U.S. Senate and I just called to tell you how concerned I am about whatever it is you’re concerned about. I’m not sure what that is, but, you can be assured I’ll propose legislation to either outlaw it or make it mandatory if I’m elected.” I know, I know, you can hang up on robo-calls as soon as you realize what they are, but they still annoy me no end. If you’re going to intrude on my privacy, at least have the decency to hire a human being to read from an intelligence-insulting script. What puzzles me is the idea that automated sales calls work. On any level. Has anyone you know ever bought anything from somebody who robo-called them? Why do they keep doing it? 

Okay, okay, I’ve vented. And, ironically (all of life is ironic, isn’t it?), this is going to be posted on our blog, to be read by people on the internet, or even on their hand held devices. Crap! I’ve just contributed to the problem.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

LIFE LESSONS VS. REAL LIFE



Carolyn J. Rose

 

Recently Mike and I took a young friend to an animated movie about a snail who yearned to go fast. Like many books and movies aimed at kids, at its core were lessons about family, dreams, determination, discouragement, doubts, fears, and belief in yourself and your possibilities.

Those lessons seemed overly obvious to us, but perhaps they weren’t to kids in the audience who were caught up in the story and able to suspend disbelief.

Later, I thought about the movies of my youth and realized the same messages were there—messages about getting past ridicule, breaking out of loneliness, discovering the thing you can do and having the courage to try, again and again, to do it.

Those were all fine messages, even heroic messages. They prepared me to believe I could succeed. And the stories that contained those messages also prepared me for failure—but failure as a temporary thing, failure as a time-out before another attempt to reach the goal, not failure as the standard for the rest of my life.

The ones who failed in these movies were the characters who bullied or cheated or lied or attempted to harm the gutsy protagonist. In real life it isn’t always that way. The proof of that statement is on the nightly news and in your morning paper.

Sometimes the coyote catches the roadrunner. Often those mice don’t escape from the cartoon cat. Most of the time a snail wouldn’t win the big race.

But the lessons remain. You may not cross the finish line first. You may not cross it at all. But if you don’t get out there on the track, you’ll never know.