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Archive for the ‘moods’ Category

Finding Meaning

Recently I came across an opinion piece that I clipped from the local newspaper in Socorro, New Mexico back in 2010 when I was visiting my in-laws. I intended to write a blog post about it, but in the hub-bub of the holidays and travel I laid it aside and forgot about it until I uncovered it this week while attempting to declutter my desk.

Tom Kozeny, commenting on the then-recent 2010 mid-term election, starts out this opinion piece thus: “These days thinking men and women everywhere seem to be scratching their heads. Events around us are calling out for meaning. …What was the meaning of the recent mid-term elections?” Perhaps some of you, my readers, are thinking the same thing about this most-recent Presidential election?

From there on Mr. Kozeny waxes philosophical and doesn’t much allude to the election ever again in the opinion piece. Here are a couple of short, thought-provoking quotes I wish to share with you:

Hannah Arendt said in “The Life of the Mind,” that truth and meaning are two very different things, and that the use of reason is not just to discover the truth but meaning. In the end, we’re after the meaning of life — your life, my life, life itself.

What we need, to unpack the meaning of our world, is a vision poetic — artfully, dangerously, beautifully poetic. It alone can fathom the love in our world and the life that we live every day. …Science and prose and the technical march of the modern machine can join in. The meaning of it all only art will divine.

Source of the quotes: Kozeny, Tom, “Finding the Meaning of It All,” El Defensor Chieftain, December 22, 2010, p. 4.

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Six months ago I made the following resolutions, in addition to my ongoing resolution to declutter my stuff:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again

So, how am I doing at the 6 month mark? Not as well as I had hoped.

1. Relearn to crochet

I’m making progress on a blanket that I started crocheting in January. I’m about a quarter of the way done. I haven’t learned that many stitches. Just the basics for now. I started this project in order to use up some yarn that I had lying around for years. But, of course, one skein will not do for a blanket so I had to buy 3 more. Not sure which is better for my decluttering: having one skein of unused yarn or, in the end, having yet another blanket lying around the house. I have a feeling my cat will be happy though. Another soft place to sleep.

2. Start and finish sewing projects.

Haven’t started or finished one. Still have the materials sitting in the closet waiting… with hopes.

3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf.

As you can see by my reading list (see tab above) I haven’t gotten through very many books in the past 6 months. And, some books I’ve read this year haven’t even been my books. After I read the last library book, I vowed to not read another until the books on my bookshelves are all read.

4. Start writing again.

For those of you who follow my blog, you know the answer to this one. I don’t do much writing at all and haven’t written a line of poetry for a couple of years. This mostly has to do with the new schedule since we moved into our house back in 2010. I don’t get up to start my day until after my husband leaves for work. Previously, when my husband worked 50 miles away, I could get in a full day’s work and still have about an hour to think, meditate, read, or write before I had to start dinner. Now, with my husband working 4 blocks away, as soon as I leave work, I have to start dinner. No time to think, meditate, or read. And, as a consequence, no inspiration or time to write. What about evenings, you say? A second problem is that there’s no room in this house in which I can be alone with my thoughts and relax. No room in this house inspires creative thought. Unfinished home-improvement projects, clutter (not mine!), and lack of comfortable, relaxing surroundings contribute to this situation, with no end in sight.

So, how’s the decluttering coming along? This too has slowed recently, ever since I had the flu in April, the after-effects lasting an entire month. I haven’t even been doing the minimum of decluttering one item a day. But, I do manage fits and starts. Recently I cleared out 4 plastic drawers so that I can unpack a few boxes of pictures, memorabilia, and such. As a result of this clear-out, I was able to move my small file cabinet into my closet, rather than having it out in my office, and I re-arranged a few things. It’s amazing how much “lighter” the room feels when the file cabinet, an old computer, and a few other things moved out of the “living space” of the office. My next goal is to declutter enough from my other closet to fit a bookshelf in there and use it for storage. That will free up some more room in my office living space and allow me to paint a section of wall to match the rest of the room. The room is blue, this section (that was behind a mirror that the previous owners left) is brown. Eventually, when my husband is free to help, I’d like to remove the previous owner’s 1980s window treatments (multi-colored balloon valances) and put up something more suited to my taste. But, this will have to wait until after we get new windows (hopefully this year!).

As you can see, making this house a home that’s comfortable for me to live in takes more than my decluttering efforts. The list of house projects keeps growing. The time my husband has to spend on any of these keeps diminishing. I don’t have the know-how to do many of the things that need doing. Priorities keep getting shifted. And, in the end, nothing gets 100% done. In the meantime, the house looks like a construction project in progress…

And, with summer coming and late spring temps approaching summer-like highs, I’m guessing the motivation to continue with these resolutions (formal and informal) will wane ever more.

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Whispering Breezes

This weekend, in my continuing effort to declutter and simplify, I decided to tackle the clutter in a drawer of my nightstand. Since this nightstand is no longer used as a nightstand and merely as a table to hold a lamp in the corner of our bedroom, this drawer became a catch-all. If I didn’t know where to put something, it went here. There were things in there that I haven’t seen in years. And, it got to the point that I could barely open (or close) the drawer.

For many years, on and off, I used to subscribe to O, The Oprah Magazine. For those of you who know me well, it’s probably hard to believe that I would subscribe to a women’s magazine. I don’t like to fuss with my hair. I’m not into fashion and style. And, I don’t wear makeup unless I’m going to a wedding. But, although this women’s magazine is chock full of these things, it also has self-help and inspirational articles. That’s what attracted me to it in the first place and what kept me subscribing over the years. Early on, the magazine would have tear out sheets with inspirational quotes on them. Sometimes these were just little notes to post somewhere. Sometimes they were post cards that we were supposed to send to a friend or loved one. Sometimes they were bookmarks. I have a feeling over the years, I saved every one of these things.

As I was going through these piles of inspirational quotes, I came across this quote by novelist James Carroll:

We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things…[but] there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.

Wishing all of us more moments in our lives when we can stop, be still, and listen to those whispering breezes!

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For the second year in a row, I, my husband, and my mother-in-law attended the Mid-Winter Singing Festival this past weekend in East Lansing, Michigan. The theme this night was “Michigania!” The six song leaders were all folk singers from Michigan. Some of the songs chosen for this night’s sing were quite evocative for me:

    Rainbow Connection brought back memories of my childhood. I was a regular watcher of the Muppets TV show, and although I never saw The Muppet Movie I did have a cassette tape album with the songs from the movie on it. Remember cassette tapes?
    What a Wonderful World is a song I do not like. However, the memories it evoked were pleasant ones from our wedding day. As at all weddings in modern times (or so it seems), this song was played at our wedding too.
    The Flintstones Theme again evoked memories from my childhood.
    Rock that Sucker. For those not familiar, it’s a song by Claudia Schmidt and arranged by Joan Szymko. This night it was sung by Claudia Schmidt and the All Corners’ Festival Choir. This is a good song to be singing in light of the 10+ inches of snow we got just a few days earlier. However, the memory this evoked was from a week earlier when my husband backed his car into a snow pile at the end of our driveway and got stuck. Despite me telling him to “rock that sucker” (Ok, I didn’t say it quite that way), he continued to spin his car wheels while telling me that rocking the car never works to get one’s car unstuck from a snow drift. I guess my multiple first-hand experiences in the matter didn’t count. And, from what I could tell, it didn’t seem like getting angry and spinning the car wheels was doing much better. It did give the neighbors a good show though!
    You Send Me made me think of one of my long-time friends and his fiancé. He just proposed to her about 3 weeks earlier, on the second anniversary of their first meeting. I suppose, in a roundabout way, this also brought back memories of when my husband proposed to me. Different circumstances, but equally as romantic (if not more so!)
    As Time Goes By. No. No memories of Casablanca. Only warm memories of my husband and I cuddling on the couch watching episodes of the British comedy, As Time Goes By, that we periodically rent from Netflix.
    Edelweiss reminded me of my favorite movie: The Sound of Music. It also inspired me to start learning to play my keyboard again. I had to put it away quite a few years ago when I started working from home because there was no room to have it out. The last song I was learning to play was Edelweiss. Now, in our new house, there’s plenty of room to have my keyboard set up. Now I just have to make the time to practice again.

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Gift Suggestions

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

Originally published in something called “Wood Chips Newsletter,” I cut this out of a church bulletin years ago. I ran across it today in my nightly attempt to unpack and get things organized. Yes, we’re still unpacking and organizing after living here more than a month in our new home. At least once a week I make the comment “we have too much stuff!” This after taking yet another load of stuff to Goodwill this past weekend. And, in thinking about it, how much does our stuff make us happy and how much of it gets in the way of making us happy? That’s something to ponder…

So, in this season of giving. And in this season of getting more stuff that we may or may not want or need, the above quote seemed appropriate. While we may ponder whether all our stuff makes us happy or not, if we all gave and received the gifts suggested in the above quote, chances are we wouldn’t have to ponder whether we are truly happy or not. We would feel it from the depths of our souls.

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A pet peeve of mine: bad spelling. Or, I should say, carelessly bad spelling. I’m not talking about the occasional misspelled word in a personal e-mail. I’m talking about misspellings in professional communications, whether that be newspapers, television broadcasts, or campaign fliers, just to name a few.

For quite a few years I’ve noticed more and more misspellings in local newspapers. This started, I believe, a while back after the first round of newspaper layoffs happened. Or, that’s how it seemed to me.

In the past couple of days I’ve noticed misspellings on newscasts. A couple of days ago: “Ever” instead of “Every”. Today, in a story about recalled frozen vegetables: “Pease & Carrots” instead of “Peas & Carrots”.

In this election season:

On a flier for Shawn Adair for County Commissioner: “I will adhere to the principles of our founding father’s — Limited but effective government.” Hmm. I didn’t know we had only one founding father….

On a flier urging me to vote for the Headlee Override to keep fire and police services running:

“Paid for by Meridian Firefighters for Headlee Overide
5300 Chatilly Lane, Haslette MI 48840”

“Overide” should be “Override”,
“Chatilly” should be “Chantilly” and
“Haslette” should be “Haslett”.

My question: Shouldn’t the creator of these fliers be able to spell the street name and city where the group is located?

Now, admittedly, I tend to be a perfectionist and am very detail oriented. I also work as a typesetter and computer programmer in the publishing industry. So, it’s my job to be extra-sensitive to spelling errors. However, throughout my academic career, perfect spelling was impressed upon me. Good spelling is part of good communication. I know that when I read something with misspellings, I have a more difficult time discerning what the author is trying to communicate. Even with minor errors such as above, I have to read the lines more than once or spend more time thinking about what I’m reading because something seems “off”, so to speak.

My final question: Have we, as a society, determined that spelling is no longer an important part of professional communication, and as a result put the proofreader, even if that be ourselves, out of business?

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This weekend a few events coincided that led me to ask myself: Who decides? Decides what, you say? Who decides what movies I can see and what books I can read? You’re probably saying to yourself: “Huh? You live in America, don’t you? You have so much freedom there, a free market. You decide of course.”

But do I really? Even with our free market, we still have movie studios and publishers that filter out the supposed wheat from the chaff, so to speak. The “good” make it to the movie screen and the bookstores. The “bad” languish unseen and unread on the screenwriter’s or author’s desk.

Now, I’m not knocking movie studios and publishers (I work for a publishing contractor/publisher). They perform a valuable service, this filtering out the wheat from the chaff. But, I wonder sometimes: “How do these people decide what is wheat and what is chaff?” Obviously, if the writing is not up to par or the story is convoluted, then I can easily see how a studio or publisher can filter that out. But, when the lines are not clearly black and white. What happens then? My guess would be that the thumbs up goes with whatever would “sell”, whatever appeals to the most people. But, what about the screenplay or novel that is well written, but would only appeal to a niche audience, a small subset of the masses?

What led me to these questions?

First, I went to see “Singin’ in the Rain” at the Redford Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. I went to see this film with my husband, a long-time friend of mine, and his girlfriend. My long-time friend is a screenwriter, has yet to sell a script to a studio, but has co-produced, co-written, and co-starred in a movie (“Dan Jones’ Career Is Over”). He’s inspired to again film a movie of his own, but investors with capital are lacking. How does one get capital for a worthy project when one is, essentially, unknown?

This friend is also a big-time movie buff. For years he’d go to the movies weekly (or every other week). But, as we were talking, he mentioned that he rarely goes to movies anymore. There’s nothing out there that appeals to him. My husband used to go to the movies often with his brother. His brother moved across the country some years back, but my husband used to mention wanting to go see movies often. But, for a couple of years now, he’s not gotten excited to see anything (well, except Avatar). Is there an untapped market that the movie studios are overlooking?

Second, after church on Sunday I was talking with a friend of mine who loaned me her copy of “Mrs. Miracle” by Debbie Macomber a couple of weeks back. Before this friend extolled the virtues of this particular book I had not heard of “Mrs. Miracle”. Strange, I thought, considering this kind of book is just what I like. I found that I couldn’t put it down and I liked it so much I decided to check out another book by that author from the library. And, I’m liking that book too. How do published books get in the hands of those who are most likely to read and enjoy them? Word of mouth is good, but authors and publishers can’t rely on that can they? Amazon.com has their “recommendations”, but that’s not the best service either. No books by Debbie Macomber appeared in my recommendations, but a lot of books that I wouldn’t even consider reading are on the list. And, these are published books, with big-name publishers. What about authors who have interesting books but can’t find a publisher to publish them? What about books published by small-time publishers or self-publishers? How do they get the word out without the network that big-name publishers have?

Who decides what the world should see and read? And, what are we missing when the powers that do decide decide that certain screenplays or manuscripts should best be left unseen or unread?

Just pondering…. No answers. Although, if my readers would like to provide answers, I’m all ears… or in this case, eyes.

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