Monthly Archives: June 2014

Maturity Doesn’t Preclude Enthusiasm

My son’s dog likes to remind me that there is always a place for enthusiasm.  We think of her as a puppy, but we recently noticed the gray coming in on her chin which is supposed to be a sign of maturity.  When she likes something or someone, she really likes them and everyone knows it.  And she likes a lot of things.

 

I enjoy a walk around the neighborhood to get fresh air, exercise and ideas from other people’s gardens.  (And it is a good time to think.)  I let her come with me.  (I do not take her for walks, let me be clear.  Because she is not my dog.)  She knows she is only allowed to go if she behaves herself.  She must start by waiting calmly while I put on my shoes.  Far enough away that I can get my shoes on without conking her in the head with my foot when I raise and lower it.  Or trying to give me kisses when I bend down to get my shoe.  Then she is supposed to calmly let me put on her harness without licking me.  Then she is supposed to go calmly to the door and wait to the side while I go out first.  Lastly she is supposed to wait calmly while I shut the door.

pleading eyes

But she just really likes to go for walks and she wants to make certain that I know how happy it makes her that I am preparing for a walk.  Even if this delays the start of the walk while she gets hold of herself.

 

It is good to have a constant reminder that life is better when you have things that make you feel all wiggly.  There is plenty on the mature side of life that draws the enthusiasm right out of a person.  It should just help us to enjoy things more, but for too many people these things seems to mean the preclusion of enthusiasm entirely.  I think maybe I should send them on a walk with my son’s dog.  She’d love to go.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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Staying Calm

Someone went in the basement of a government office in England a couple of years ago and found themselves a gold mine by unearthing a WWII slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On”. With my tagline on my old blog being Reasonable Expectations, which is along the same vein, you probably believe that I find the phrase has plenty of merit.  And I do believe in the sentiment.  (I almost bought a plaque myself when I first saw one in a catalog because it is a pithy and practical mantra.)

 

Google search of keep calm and...

Google search of keep calm and…

But ever since I was told the first time as a child in a tizzy about some long forgotten irritation to ‘calm down’ I have thought that is the most useless phrase in the English language.  In the history of the world the number of people who have actually calmed down just based on being told to do so might be legitimately calculated at one.  In my experience, both personal and observed, it is more likely to be equated to waving a red flag in front of a bull.

 

But, since chronologically we are all adults, we do need to temper our tempers.  We are civilized after all, aren’t we?  Therefore we must find a means within ourselves to defuse any mounting irritation, frustration, anger, or rage before it gets the better of us.  Before we get into full tantrum mode.  And there is plenty to be frustrated about – businesses seem to create rules for the specific purpose of frustrating their customers.  Or, knowing a particular time of day is a high volume time there will only be 2 cashiers with a long row of empty checkout stations and a longer row of people who have somewhere else to be.

 

Anyway, back to defusing frustration.  Reminding myself to breathe is a good mantra – have you ever noticed that your breath is shallow and rapid which makes your pulse get shallow and rapid?  And your shoulders head north toward your ears?  I can’t make the store bring out some more cashiers, but I can make myself breathe more deeply and shake out my shoulders until they are back where they belong.  And try not to listen while the man behind me tells the woman he is with to calm down.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

There Should be an App for That

(Please remember as you read today’s post that I have a dumb phone and I know exactly this much – 0 – about phone applications.  However, should anyone reading this decide that this is a viable idea and create such an app – you’re welcome.)

 

I’ve been to a few meetings and events in the past week or so that all start with some version of the announcement to turn off or turn down the beeps, bleeps, trills, rings and singing of electronic devices.  I dutifully turn my phone to vibrate each time because I do rely upon that verbal reminder to take this courteous action.

 

I’ve had a cell phone for about 12 years now, clearly not an early adopter.  My sister and brother-in-law got me into the mobile age by gifting a pay-by-month phone.  I left it in the box until the morning that it was predicted that a huge snowstorm would bear down on us later that day.  I picked up the phone – box, instructions and all – and activated it when I got to work.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

(A year or so before that, I spent two solid hours inching past Woodfield Mall in a frustrating effort to get home during an evening rush hour snow storm.  I was the 2nd to last parent to pick up my kids at after-school care and due to the emergency situation was not charged the late pick up fee, thankfully.  I could have used a phone that night.)

 

I digress, I use the cell phone for communication not entertainment.  For it to be effective for inbound contact, I need to be able to hear it ringing.  I can count on one finger the number of times that I have successfully remembered to turn back on the sound after a meeting or an event.  I missed a call this past week that once again made me annoyed at myself.  And led to this thought about apps.

 

There should be an application that activates when a person turns off the ringer and then finds a way to turn the ringer back on after a period of time or a way to notify the phone owner that the sound is off.  Yes, this is not necessary for the folks who obsessively check their phones.  But I know that I am not alone in the way that I use my phone.

 

What do you think?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Changing Landscape

I am not a gardener, more of a putterer.  I admire gardeners and I enjoy the effect of a garden.  My back and knees don’t want to garden, though.  (They are protesting as I write this because I am itching to go and putter in the garden.)  There is something so elementally pleasing about watching things grow and thrive.

 

Last year I read an interesting book called Founding Gardeners.  I realized that I had something in common with Jefferson, Washington, and Adams besides a vested interest in the ongoing success of the ideals that created this nation – I enjoy a lot about gardening but wish that I could hire people to do the hard parts like they did.  Sometimes I manage to get my son to step in.

 

A few years ago I decided to create a garden area in my backyard in my mom’s honor.  We call it the Grandma Garden.  The object was to add plants each year for Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday.  It was a way to stay close to her.  For many years it didn’t look much like a garden and plenty of the plants that were added didn’t make it.  (Often times thanks to the dog or other creatures, darn them.  The dog inexplicably dug up a sand cherry repeatedly and I kept finding her playing with it until it died.)

 

Last year I got a bunch of mostly evergreen plants from my sister early in the season.  I put a few in the Grandma Garden and for the first time it started to look like an actual garden area.  I had to move around a couple of boxwoods – moving plants was a revolutionary idea to me that has changed my puttering entirely.  The dog hasn’t been too kind to the boxwoods – digging near their roots unless I am vigilant.  They have been tenacious though.

 

The Grandma Garden last year.

The Grandma Garden last year.

I worried about my new plants during this past harsh winter.  The deep snow cover protected much of the plant bases but I have noticed signs of stress on the upper parts that were subjected to the wind and bitter cold.  I tried waiting to see if they would revive, and then a bit of trimming.

 

I just had to pull up one of the boxwoods.  The larger one, the one that had been more successful.  Because it was larger, it got greater doses of the winter punishment.  Now there is a big space which I am currently pondering.

 

One of the points of the garden was to find things that made me think of mom and the stories that she used to tell.  She wasn’t a gardener, but she had an appreciation for nature and she liked to dabble (a step or two more distant from gardener than putterer happens to be) in planting now and again.

 

There were large bushes in front of the house that she grew up in and every year when her dad got out the pruning tools, mom would pester him to let her trim.  That’s what the boxwoods were representing.  For now, the stunted little one that remains represents these moments in my mom’s life all by itself.

 

We think of plants as stable, but when you start to work with them you realize that gardens are ever changing.  Things thrive and things die – sometimes it doesn’t make any sense.  Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes dramatic.

 

Do you pay attention to the landscape around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Come Banging After Me

I have lost count of the number of times that I started to learn to play the piano.  My mom had an old black upright piano that moved with us from state to state and sounded beautiful to me whenever she played – but the years and the moves weren’t kind to the poor instrument.  It was a relic of her childhood, carried over into mine.  At some point during my college years she treated herself to a new piano that now lives at my brother’s house.

 

Mom was more than happy to teach us to play when we took an interest.  But she wasn’t going to come banging after us to practice, or in any way harangue us for this or any other endeavor.  She loved to play, but had her moments during those learning years when she had to be pressed to continue by her mother.  She had a picture of herself as a concert pianist, unrealized because she didn’t put in the necessary hours of practice and single minded dedication.

 

Mom at a piano, not the one I mention - and long before she was 'mom'.

Mom at a piano, not the one I mention – and long before she was ‘mom’.

My nieces’ dance recital has brought this and other creative efforts to mind, as it does every year.  I am enchanted by the growth of their skill, poise and grace each year.  I don’t have to be there for the moments when they just don’t have it in them to go to a particular class.  When they have to make a choice between practice and another activity.  I just now realized that I haven’t ever asked my sister how much effort she puts into banging after them to work through a momentary dip in interest and effort.  I know that she puts a lot of her own time and effort into making their ability to dance a reality.

 

I took dance classes too, here and there – now and then.  We didn’t ever have the facility and the talented people that my nieces have had the pleasure to be exposed, that perhaps they don’t recognize as a gift.  The other gift that they may not recognize is the time and expense that my sister puts into their pursuit.

 

There are so many options, so many interesting pursuits that we could take on – intellectual, creative, etc.  A whole lot of factors have to convene just so to create excellence – dedication and a support system being just the start.  Regardless of dedication, sometimes the difference just comes down to having someone to come banging after you when your energy and dedication flag a bit.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Lack of Possession that Killed the Impression

I’ve never claimed to be a grammarian.  My time as an English major was spent reading literature, not parsing sentence structure.  (Though a tortured sentence could make my enjoyment of any story come to a screeching halt.)  Spelling, now – I used to be pretty good at correct spelling until Microsoft Word made me a little soft.  (It’s my fingers that can’t spell, not my brain – really – they get a lot of little squiggly red lines.)

 

The most basic point of decent grammar and spelling are to create common understanding so that we can communicate.  Given that, I suppose my grammar is sound enough due to all the practice of reading and writing, just don’t ask me much beyond explaining nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives.  I base most of my grammar judgment in how a sentence or phrase sounds when I read it out loud.  (A trick I highly recommend before you send out that message to anyone whose opinion matters.)

 

I am still doing much better than some people.  Such as those who never grasped the important task that the apostrophe holds in showing possession.  This must be why we had to do pages and pages of Bill’s dog and Laura’s pencil ad nauseam and still too many people might call this Beths blog as if it were written by numerous people named Beth.  (Clearly they don’t do their typing on Microsoft Word because I just had to tell it to ignore Beths.)

 

public domain image

public domain image

And since I brought up their – more possession – it shouldn’t be confused with they’re there, as in they are there in that moment to understand their proper usage.

 

Maybe in this world of text speak and informal interaction it isn’t as important to make the proper spelling and grammatical impression.  But maybe it is – if you want the job, or the grade, or to show your erudition.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Do the Lady and the Tiger Still have Power?

Certain events and experiences have a powerful impact far beyond the time that they take to occur.  I think that is a safe assertion to make.  We all know someone who still brings up their glory moment from their distant past every chance that they get.

 

I won’t bore you with a long ago glory moment.  But story moments, now those are worth bringing up again.  In some cases I have let the author (shame on me as someone so interested in writing) or the title fade but the storyline comes back fresh as the day that I read it.  There are many stories from my early teens that have this resonating factor to this day.  Some I read in a classroom and some I stumbled upon in a library.

 

Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger” is one such story.  I read it in Mr. Bruno’s 7th grade class which would make me about 12 I think.  We read some great stuff in Mr. Bruno’s class – I’m sure that I have mentioned him here before.  (The search function in WordPress declares my memory to be faulty, I wrote about him on my old blog – Take it for Your Share and Go On)

 

public domain image

public domain image

Mr. Bruno gave us a writing assignment to determine the end of the story because crafty Frank Stockton left the reader hanging.  Well, I couldn’t settle on a convincing argument for either resolution so I got crafty myself, got into the main character’s head while he pondered his choices and just as he reached for the door he had chosen, my essay ended.  Mr. Bruno loved my piece and gave me an A.  And I learned a great deal about decision making and storytelling.

 

Now I have come home with a new book – bought from the clearance table (double bonus) – that is an anthology of stories where the writer leaves it up to the reader to tie up all the ends.  Guess what story is in the book?  Yes, my old favorite.  Plus it seems Frank Stockton wrote a follow up story and I just adore the title already, “The Discourager of Hesitancy”.  I hope the story lives up to that fabulous title.

 

First, I will have to read “The Lady or the Tiger” again.  And I am a bit hesitant because Thomas Wolfe famously told us You Can’t Go Home Again.  What if the Lady and the Tiger have lost their power over me?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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