No Fun

It’s no fun when you only get a few responses asking  readers to give their opinion about what they want to read next. Not that I was expecting a mass of voting. Today is the last day to send me your thoughts on what song story you want me to write about.  If it’s a tie, I will put the entries in a hat and choose which one to write about first.

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Readers Opinion

Writing

Image by tonyhall via Flickr

Hello Readers,

I just wanted to reach out to you about my blog. It has been nearly 6 months since I started this project. I enjoy what I do here.

The following will be a bit of housekeeping. I will try to accomplish it without sounding like a memo, because we all know that memos are BORING.

1. Thank you for your comments, your like buttons, your star ratings and your personal proclamations of tears. If you haven’t taken advantage of any of these forms of communication, I urge you to do so in the future. (Screaming and swear words will only be allowed if appropriate.) Your feedback helps me know  how I am connecting with all of you. AND, it allows you to interact with others who comment in this small community called my blog. While I like to respond to my readers, I also encourage you to respond to the comments of other readers.

2. Please sign up for my blog. Did I mention it is FREE? There is no solicitation involved. I am not selling you anything, only sharing my words. My blog is delivered to your in-box when I post. No need to check Facebook or Twitter or remember how to spell the name of my blog. Look on the right hand side of the blog and enter your e-mail address under SUBSCRIPTIONS. If you read my blog on your phone, you will have to scroll down to the bottom and hit full screen mode to get access to the side bar. Again: FAST! FUN! FREE! Any other descriptors I am forgetting?

3. I am working on some new material, but I’d love to hear from you to find out what you would like to  read. In the past I have posted on parenting related topics. I have posted sketches of Spain. I have written essays about music,and  friendship.  I ran a Fiction Friday series for 5 weeks. I have written about my opinions  and my quirks. What did you like? What do you want to read more of?

Of course I will still write about topics that are important to me, that speak to me, and that embarrass me, but this is your opportunity to give your opinion, dear readers.

Enjoy your weekend. I will have a post about my weekend next week.

Tom Petty’s Girl

Legs
Tom Petty and I have a unique relationship. Granted, we  have never met. The closest I have been to him was in row 7 at a concert 10 years ago. My first memory of him was  in a hayloft, on my grandparents farm in Michigan. I remember hanging out with my older cousins.  We spent entire afternoons listening to “Refugee” that summer.
As time went on, I remember  thinking that Tom Petty was a musician that people of my mom’s generation liked to listen to. If anyone my age was a fan, it was because they were a “rocker” (jr. high slang word used to categorize a group of kids who listened to rock music, wore concert t-shirts and smoked.)  I, was not a “rocker”. I have no idea what I was at that age when kids begin to find themselves and want to separate from their parents and their tastes. Duran Duran, Madonna, Wham and Howard Jones held my interest.  Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen were for “older” people.
Even though I was trying to find my musical niche, I was still under the music influence  of the adults in my life. I was like a sponge and absorbed all that I was exposed  to. Well, maybe only the lyrics because if there was one thing I was sure of, it was that these “guys” (Tome, Bruce, Rod, Ric Ocasek, etc.) were not attractive. Rod Stewart in a tank top with shiny, skinny pants singing “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” made me want to vomit first, and then send him some clothes to cover up in.
Fast forward to the adult me. I am all grown up, married with children.  But here’s a surprise: I own more Tom Petty CD’s than Wham, Madonna, Duran Duran and Howard Jones combined!
It seems that I absorbed more than I ever thought I would. It is permanent. I am proud that I am  a Tom Petty music lover. I point out his songs to my kids when I hear them on the radio. I get excited when I get to learn one of his songs in  my  guitar class.
But I have to say, the most intriguing change comes over me when I am alone with Tom Petty. I become his girl. I am the girl he is singing about in all of his songs. I cause him heartbreak. He yearns for me. I am there for him, no matter what. He sings to me, “Our Love Was Built to Last”.
When I am cleaning the house, I put him on. I listen to his sweet, slightly twangy, but edgy Southern voice tell me things that I understand now as an adult. I sing along with him, my words surfacing from a vault in my brain that has collected lyrics over the years.
When I am alone with Tom Petty, I am young and available. I have long, blond hair blowing around me (like in the old MTV videos), tanned and toned legs a mile long perched on high heels. I “bring it”  in a mini skirt and a tank top. I am his “American Girl”. I’m going to save him. I’m the best thing he ever had. I’m his “Honeybee”.
Although Tom Petty will never get a 10 in the looks department, he rocks my world when he sings. He really knows how to make a girl feel special. He makes cleaning the house a pleasurable experience.
I’m off to find my sponge and Simple Green now. I think I hear  someone singing.

On the Fly

In all of my years of traveling, rarely have I been early to the airport. I typically cause everyone to be late, no matter how much I try to prepare in advance. I wait too long to get the clothes ready. I think I have enough time to wash all the laundry and clean the house the day before. I put my kids to bed later than I had planned. I need to go to the store for some travel item at the last-minute. And each time we arrive at the airport in the nick of time, I get the look from my husband that means, Why can’t you get your act together? I hang my head and vow that the next trip  I will be prepared. But some things never seem to change, no matter how much I want them to.

By some act of God, or luck or possibly I have finally learned my lesson, our most recent flight found us at the airport EARLY and with way too much time on our hands. What to do? What to do?

There is a little area at O’Hare airport called “Kids On The Fly”. It is a place where children can pretend  in the control tower, load cargo, or fly on an airplane. We had always intended to take advantage of visiting once we had children. We never had been able to, (because I was always making us late) until now.

At first the kids were excited to explore and investigate. They played in the control tower, passed through security and ran around.The excitement wore off sooner than a hangover  and the 6-year-old even proclaimed, “This is for babies. It’s boring.”

Alas, our preparedness didn’t pay off in the way we thought. The kids are too old to visit the play area. But that’s okay. The important thing to remember is that now I know we can get to the airport in time to spare. I sure hope this is a new habit I have started.

Five Things to Appreciate in a Modern Home

Toilet 7

Image via Wikipedia

During a most inopportune time, the water heater decided to act up. I made it through a semi-warm shower, then called a plumber.

Two men arrived, tinkered around and declared the heater repaired, but……….(and you should always be wary of buts) if it should go out again, I shouldn’t hesitate to call them.

Not less than 24 hours later, not only was I without hot water, but without adequate pressure as well. As I waited for the plumbers to come to my rescue yet again, I had time to reflect on the modern conveniences of my home that I often take for granted.

In some homes, chamber pots are the new receptacle for chic floral arrangements. No longer relegated to living under beds, these old-fashioned waste vessels of yesteryear have been replaced by dust bunnies and boxes of forgotten possessions. Indoor plumbing is number one on my list of modern amenities that I am so glad I do not have to live without. Every day I turn a handle and fresh, clean water appears. I can drink, bathe, cook and wash with it. And on most days, I can control the temperature. And best of all, no chamber pots!

According to the United Nations Human Development Report (2006) it is estimated that 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation.


A hamper for dirty dishes. A place where scalding water and cleaning crystals work together to remove my caked on bits of food. A place where my cutting boards and utensils emerge sanitized so that I can remain sane when it comes to Salmonella and other invisible germs. My dishwasher provides an easy option for morning clean up. Although I do enjoy the time spent washing pots and pans by hand (A lot of ideas pop into my head when I submerge my hands in suds), I like that I can give my dishes a quick rinse before storing them away in the dishwasher until it is full enough to run the cycle.

Ah, the light scent of a freshly washed shirt. The hard work of swirling, agitating, and spinning, all done by the wonderous washing machine. Who couldn’t multi-task with this monster of a cleaning machine? I often complain that laundry is a chore. I have no idea what life was like beating  clothes and linens against a stone embankment, or washing them by hand. This is definitely a luxury that I would not want to live without.

About 2/7 of the world population does not have a washing machine.

A repetitive beep startles me awake each day; a gurgle of water filters through a tube in a hurry to kiss small granules of a coffee bean and transform them into a cup of morning love; ten minutes of low buzzing that leave my mates face smooth and kissable; Kings of Leon singing in my very own kitchen while I sit unashamed in my pajamas sipping my java;  humming heat that turn my locks into a face framing style. It’s the sound of electricity.  I rely on it every day to do all this and more. I can’t imagine every day being like camping, because “roughing it” gets terribly tedious after a while. 

Did you know that 25% of the world does not have access to electricity?

Cool, refreshing, calming. When I am hot and uncomfortable, modern air conditioning changes my world. I use it wisely and only when necessary. I am not one to sleep in long-sleeved pajamas with the air cranked up.  It is just the right thing a few hours before bed when the house is full of humid and sticky air and there is no wind to push it around.

Did you know that most homes in Spain do not have air conditioning? People rely on  windows with  (GASP!) no screens to keep themselves cool. (It doesn’t work very well in my opinion.)

What do you appreciate or take for granted in your home?

There are Fairies in My House

There are moments when time seems to drag on in a repetitive circle in my life as a parent. Five days of school with activities, hustle and hurry, two days on the weekend playing catch up. Repeat. Then something happens and the world seems off kilter, leaving me to wonder:  In which new direction are we headed?

I had decided to take my children to the bookstore one afternoon when they had a day off from school. We all went our separate ways in the small store, looking for new favorites to devour. I ordered hot chocolate and a cookie for the children and called them to the table. Neither of them wanted to leave the books. I told them they could each choose a book to buy before we left.

When it came time to pay for the books, the 6-year-old begged for three chapter books from the Rainbow Magic Fairy series. I held firm to only one and wondered where she had seen these books and why the sudden interest in them.

On the way home we had to stop at the library to pick up a book I had on hold. Once again, the children scattered to the children’s section. And the 6-year-old had found yet more Rainbow Magic Fairy books and wanted to check them out.

During the short ride home she called out page numbers and chapter numbers, announcing her reading accomplishments. The rest of the day I watched her walk up and down the stairs with her nose in one of the books. She brought a book to the dinner table. She attempted  reading while brushing her teeth, a task that even I have yet to do.

When it was time to read before bedtime, I asked her which book she wanted me to read to her. She said, “I don’t want you to read to me tonight. I want to finish my book about Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy.” I tried every trick I could think of to change her mind. All of them were unsuccessful.

I felt deflated, like a day old balloon. For the past four months, we had a routine in the evening where we curled up on a mound of pillows and I read her chapter upon chapter of wonderful books, like the Ramona Quimby series. She was attentive. She asked questions. She compared herself to Ramona and other characters. She laughed at all the right parts. It was a special time of the day for just her and I.

It all seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. But as I reflected later on, I realized that we had built up to that moment over time. She has always been a self-starter. It was she who told me that she wanted to learn how to read when she was in preschool. She practiced and challenged herself with new words and their pronunciations. The former teacher in me encouraged her to read some of the passages out loud from these chapter books geared toward second and third graders, just to see if she was ready for this type of reading material on her own.

In addition to the mountain of books oozing out of every surface possible in our house, I indulged her and bought books that  interested her, like “Fancy Nancy“, “Pinkalicious” and “Angelina Ballerina“. But now, these books that she had been in love with only a short time ago were unacceptable. “They’re baby books,” she told me. I suggested chapter books that her brother had read when he was younger. She turned up her nose to “The Magic Tree House” series and others. I began to realize how important it was for her to have a say in the genre of books that she chose to read.

Now, she is a full-fledged member of our book-loving family. She wakes up early like her brother, turns on her reading lamp and gets a dose of words before breakfast.  She begs me to take her to the bookstore so that I can buy her more books to read (Fairy books of course). I know that when she is ready to read some of the outstanding literature  we have at home, (like Pippi Longstocking) she will dive right in and eat it up, just like she does with everything else.

As for me, I think this summer I will impose a Mama’s choice night where I get to choose the book and read to everyone. I am not quite ready to give up reading with my children. I guess I should start on my list now. I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you, readers.

Which books should make it to my “summer reading with my children” list?

A Little Help From My Friends

I recently wrote an essay for this blog about a group of outstanding teachers. Every word of it was true and I dedicated it to these self-sacrificing people who inspired my words. Three of them immediately responded with sincere gratitude. Of course that made my day, but I wondered why I had not heard from the fourth person. Surely she too had read it. I worried that perhaps I had offended her.

Alas, that was not true. In fact, she has been so dedicated to her role of assistant principal, that lately she simply has prioritized work above all else. In a state of sheer exhaustion, not to mention her e-mail account screaming that her in-box was full, she forced herself to clean it out, where she stumbled upon the story of herself and her colleagues. She sent me an e-mail, sharing her feelings, and this is some of what she said:

“I just wanted to say that on this day as I am battling  throbbing neck pain that just won’t go away (for the 8th day in a row), and as I avoid the stack of work that is growing by the minute behind me – I finally read your Charlie’s Angels blog and cried. Thanks for reminding me why I am still here in a school building that has gone to sleep, and giving me the umph I need to get back here tomorrow.”

I felt thrilled that she had finally found a chance to read it. And that she liked the post was like icing on the cake. But there were two more important messages that I took home from her e-mail to me.

The first was a personal message to me about why I write this blog. In case you wondered, I do so for many reasons: I enjoy creating something from the words percolating in my brain. It clears my head. It is great practice for other venues that I want to pursue in the future (like content writing, magazine articles, short stories and a novel). It is salvation in times of stress. But if I had to name the number one reason for writing this blog, it is because I feel that it is so important is to reach out to others and connect with them somehow, whether I know them or not.

The second message refers to the title of this piece. It has to do with friends and being supportive of them, helping them through rough times and celebrating the triumphs of their lives.  Sometimes I marvel at the technology around me and contemplate the possibilities that it holds for the different aspects of my life. Then I see how using technology often disconnects us from others. Do we really tell those we care about the most how we feel? Are we there for them when they need us, like in the songs, “Lean On Me”, “I’ll Be There” or “I’ll Be There For You”?

So readers, I implore you. Be the friend that your friend can rely on. If you are not eloquent with words or feel “verklempt” now and then, send your friend this blog. Let me be your Hallmark card. No matter how you choose to do it, just tell them. You never know what a difference your words  (or mine) might make in someone’s life.