Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Give me a minivan any day – almost

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a few days, but everything’s okay – really. I spent last week with a baby.

On the website I co-edit, I write about mommy bloggers – people like Seattle Mama Doc Wendy Sue Swanson, Dr. Claire McCarthy and The Real Moms of Eastern Iowa.

I admire these women even more now than ever. I have no idea how they have time to blog, much less take care of important tasks like caring for kids or going to purchase a crib for a darling little one.

While I was with my daughter and granddaughter when my son-in-law was out of town on business, my daughter found the crib she’d been eyeing available at a store about 30 minutes from her home. It was the last one in the style and color she wanted. After selecting the crib, we went to the checkout lane, and she paid for the baby’s new bed and went to get her vehicle. I stayed with the baby while a not-too-energetic clerk pushing a flatbed cart with the crib shuffled to the curb to load it in her vehicle.

My daughter worked to release the baby’s car seat tethers, laid both rear passenger seats down and tried to explain to the clerk that she’d need to raise one of them again to put the car seat back in. He shoved the crib in flat on the floor of her crossover SUV and gave her a blank stare when she explained that, although the crib fit fine that way, there was no place for the car seat. He half-heartedly tried to put it in at an angle – one quick attempt, just to appease her. It was obvious that if this young man had any problem-solving skills at all, they’d punched off the clock for the night before his shift ended.

Since it was obvious the young man wasn’t going to be much help, we thanked him and watched him shuffle back into the store. My daughter moved out of the fire lane into a parking place. I followed along with the baby in a cart.

We must have been a spectacle to watch out there in that parking lot, trying to figure how we’d get the purchase home. First, we tried “phone-a-friend,” hoping that the baby’s nanny, shopping in a nearby store, could take it in her vehicle. That might have worked, but none of us could figure out how to get the rear seats down. Then, we tried to call some friends who lived nearby. No answer – at 9:30 p.m. Gee, maybe they were doing something important – like getting ready to go to sleep.

During the whole fiasco, I was thinking two things. I didn’t share either of them with my daughter until two days later.

Number one involved a “back in the old days” solution. “Back in the old days,” I thought, “we’d just toss the darned car seat in the back end on top of the crib, I’d hold the kid on my lap, and we’d drive on home.”

But, this was St. Louis, for crying out loud. Have you ever driven in that traffic? I’ve already begun to grow fond of this little sweetie and I wasn’t about to put her life at risk.

Number two involved the vehicle of choice for many millennial parents. These kids who grew up being carted around in full-size vans and minivans (six such vehicles, in our case) aren’t about to be seen driving one themselves, no more than we Baby Boomers wanted to drive the station wagons that were standard family transportation in our youth.

But, I have to admit, I was thinking the whole time, “If she just had a van, instead of this silly SUV, we wouldn’t have this problem. We could put one second row seat down, put the box in at an angle and the baby could sit, safe in her car seat, in the other.”

Instead we took the crib back inside, where they returned it and agreed to put it on a 24-hour hold, and we made it home safely with the crib-less bambino.

It took all I had to keep from telling my daughter, “See, this is why you need a minivan!”

Besides -- this week, I’m about to go test drive my first crossover SUV. Almost thirty years after the birth of my last baby, my crib-toting days are over.

I will opt for third row seats, though. I’ve got to have room to haul grandkids, now don’t I?

Friday, March 16, 2012

‘Paper or plastic?’ We’re not talking bags here

During my last few years in the grocery business, three words came out of my mouth besides the greeting to my customer, the cost of the order and “Thank you.”

I know, I know … all you readers who know me know that I never let anyone get out of the store with the minimum number of words. When you came through my check lane, you always got more than you paid for – and sometimes more than you wanted – in the words department.

I’m sorry.

Those other three words, though, were the ones that people asked if we heard in our sleep. No, fortunately, my dreams weren’t haunted by “Paper or plastic?” but I did get tired of asking the question. That’s why I and many of my coworkers made it a point to remember what our frequent customers preferred.

What I’m here to talk about this time isn’t bags. It’s books – paper or plastic. In other words, print or digital (e-books), because some of them have a hard plastic shell.

If you haven’t read an e-book yet, you may have some of these sentiments. I had a couple of them.

“I want a book I can hold in my hand.”

“I like that musty smell.”

“Digital screens are hard on my eyes.”

“Too much technology already.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out e-books were for me. Don’t worry, they don’t replace my print library, which overflowed from the bookshelves in my former library and will surely fill my new one, no matter how much room I allow for them.

Instead, e-books supplement my print collection.

There are some books I’ll always buy in print – Lincoln volumes, for instance. I’ll do the same with books by friends who are authors. I like having autographed reminders that people I know have tangible proof they are authors, a prod to me that the goal is one I, too, can achieve if I keep working toward it.

I loved it on the day Richard Paul Evans’ second book in his Walk series came out. I was out of town on business. I set my alarm to get up early, turned on my e-book reader and found that the new book I’d ordered was downloaded, waiting to be read. And, when the second book in Jennifer Niven’s Velva Jean series wasn’t in my snail-mailbox on its release date, because I hadn’t paid the super-fast shipping charge, I downloaded the digital version so I could begin reading it. Yes, that time, I spent more than I needed to but, believe me, the book was worth having in two formats.

What books do I prefer in a digital format?

Business books – books about networking, social media, customer service.

Free books – classics like the essays of Robert Louis Stevenson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain and Michel de Montaigne.

My favorite books – the ones I love to go to again and again, like Carl Sandburg’s poetry and Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

I use my e-book reader so much – especially when I’m on the move – that I can’t imagine having to give it up and go on without it. Yet, I still love the feel of a “real” book when I’m curled up in my favorite chair or tucked under the covers at night. That covers-at-night thing is probably my mother’s fault – and I’m glad. There’s nothing better than a good bedtime story. I heard plenty growing up.

But, when it comes to those three little words – “Paper or plastic?” – my answer is much the same as it is in a grocery store that offers a choice.

“I’d like a few of both, please.”

How about you?

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012

(Image via)

Friday, March 9, 2012

There’s something ‘not right’ about a monochrome library

I stumbled across a photo the other day that troubles me still. It caught my eye at first -- as it was designed to, I suspect. Yet, the more I thought about it and what it represented, the more it troubled me.

I had just logged on to the social networking site, Pinterest, to see whether any of my blog posts or other social media articles had been re-pinned. I noticed others had pinned some recipes, motivational sayings, clothing items and more on their boards, which I see upon entering the site.

I had no need for the recipes, as I have a sign in one room of my house reading, “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house.” I didn’t have much use for a pencil skirt or red-polka-dotted high heels, either. The motivational sayings always give me pause, though, and cause me to reflect, so I lingered a bit, looking at them.

But what stopped me dead in my tracks was a shelf full of books, all in nearly identical shades of green. When I clicked on the image, I found that it led to a website where people can buy color-coordinated books by the linear foot.

There’s something wrong with that, with creating a library by color scheme, instead of by subject matter, author, interest, passion. This site seemed to be created for designers, people who are helping others amass libraries just for looks.

That’s just not right.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe every home should have books in it – in every room, if possible. Yes, even the throne room. You’ll find books and/or magazines under the sink in mine.

But the books should be carefully selected, strategically placed.

In our home, you’ll find coffee table books about the American flag and about Abraham Lincoln in the living room, classics, poems and short story collections in one guest bedroom, novels and collections of motivational stories in another. In my office are several reference books I use for my writing, and on my bedside bookstand are the books I’m reading now, as well as those that inspire me.

My library, collected a paperback here and a hardcover there over the past five decades, still includes the Janet Lennon book I received from a friend at a birthday party in a park on my twelfth birthday, a dog-eared copy of The American Dream and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, with his “dog-eared signature” collected 25 years ago, and novels penned by a high school classmate.

It ranges from thin little books I ordered in grade school to big, heavy ones I purchased and had inscribed by scholars at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

In those other rooms, the books are arranged by genre and sometimes by size. But in the library, you’ll never find my books organized by color, nor purchased for looks instead of substance.

I have every volume for a reason, because of the content or the person who wrote it. And they’re organized the only way a home library should be – by the Dewey Decimal System.

And, yes, I know that is every bit as obsessive-compulsive as organizing them by color.

But, you know what? There is something ‘right’ about it.

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012

(Image via)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Baby Boomers are supposed to live forever, aren’t they?

A few months ago I wrote a story for a website I co-edit. It was an article based on some research about how Baby Boomers aren’t serious enough about their health, that we’re just not realistic.

The study called us “delusional.” It implied, I guess, that we think we’re indestructible, and I tend to agree.

That’s why, when Davy Jones of the Monkees died of a heart attack last week, it hit many of us hard.

For some of us, it wasn’t even that Davy or the Monkees were our favorite groups.

Simon and Garfunkel were my favorite musicians of the era -- hands down, closely followed by Peter, Paul and Mary.

We lost Mary Travers a few couple years ago, but hearing that she was gone was different. Poor Mary had struggled with health issues for several years, so we were prepared a little, I guess – as prepared as anyone can be for something like that.

We squelched our selfish wishes to hear her sounds with the assurance that finally her suffering had stopped.

But, Davy Jones, that Monkee who looked like a youngster when we first heard him and never seemed to lose his boyish enthusiasm or charm, was moving along just fine, we thought. He was still touring, raising horses, savoring life.

Then one day, it was all over.

Davy was gone – the victim of a massive coronary. He was 66.

When we Baby Boomers were kids growing up, we thought 66 was absolutely ancient. My first grade teacher must have been about 40 when I was in her class, but looking at her, I was sure she was 100. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were always old, grown up, mature, responsible.

Some of us never wanted to grow up – to feel or act or look 40 or 50 or 66.

And, we sure didn’t want to grow old, or frail, or like, Davy, to die.

My argument when I wrote that earlier article – still my belief today – is that we aren’t delusional. We’re optimistic.

But, the sunniest outlook in the world can’t change what happened last week.

No matter how much we want to believe otherwise, Davy left us with this reminder when he went away so suddenly:

We are destructible, after all. And that, I guess, is not a delusion.

Darn it, Davy. Those are lyrics we’d rather not hear.

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012

(Image via)