Monday, March 29

Recommended Reading

For as simple as this book and its premises were, I am baffled as to why it doesn't show up on the mandatory reading list for every college student. Regardless of whether we are born introverts or extroverts, everyone is affected by the erosion of the basic communication skills and good manners that once knit together individuals and communities,ultimately making possible society as we knew it.

Although I felt a bit self-conscious picking up a book on small talk, as if it somehow made me look shallow, I am immensely glad that I did. The author neatly delineated why people of all temperments/backgrounds so often struggle in social situations in a way that allowed readers to identify without feeling condemned. She then gently but concisely led us through the appropriate alternatives, putting individuals in control of situations they were helpless to navigate before.

Most importantly, I believe, Ms. Fine establishes the purpose and focus of small talk. She reminds readers of a basic principle we either never learned or simply forgot: it's not about us. When time is money and shameless self-promotion is normal, the gift of kindness and hospitality we offer others in genuine smiles, welcoming words and a truly listening ear are life-changing.

Antique Stores

There is an amazing antiques mall in Canandaigua. I love to just wander around, exploring the eclectic collection of furniture, china, toys and ephemera from years past. I love to run my fingers along the worn surface of an oak buffet, imagining the generations of women who have spread sumptuous holiday meals, painstakingly arranged floral pieces and delicately embroidered runners across that same surface. I am forever intrigued by the old watch maker's benches, the secretary style desks, and the long-outdated wooden card catalogs with their abundant drawers, cubbyholes and elegant handles. My mind seems to immediately flow with ideas of all the wonderful things that could be so neatly tucked away in them, orderly, organized and elegant.

Of course, I must admit there are a few less "warm fuzzy" reasons for my penchant to stick to the edges of the store. For all that we tend to associate the Victorian Era with wholesomeness, properness and vignettes of devoted families, there was a morbid and macabre underside to all that gilded charm.

I cannot even begin to describe my horror at turning a corner and finding the most disturbing lamps I have ever seen. [Reader discretion advised] Bald headed baby dolls, naked and hacked off at the waist, shoved into a cage-like wire frame with heavy tin oil-lamp based screwed on where their legs should have been. They stared blindly forward like shell shocked and tormented inmates of a child's asylum run by a madman. I didn't take pictures because I didn't want such nasty images here, but I swear I'm not making it up.

On a more positive note, I did discover an entirely new subject to read about (if I ever make it through the stack of books I've already got) - trench art. Who knew that bored WWI soldiers carved, molded and welded their empty cartridge shells, bullet canisters and scraps of wood or bone into pieces of art? Seriously, why didn't we learn about this stuff in history classes? It would have been so much easier to be engaged and paying attention if we'd had something innately human and personal like that to which we could connect the broad sweeping overview of events and famous people of the times that we were supposed to be grasping!

But it is late and I begin to rant, so I shall end here. Except to say that if you need somewhere to spend a rainy afternoon, the main corridors of your local antique store beckon cheerfully. And should you ever plan to run a haunted house, gather your courage and explore the many splendid props tucked quietly away in the narrower, lonelier aisles...

Important Reminder

Tuesday, March 23

Career Conference

Last weekend was the Mary Kay Career Conference in Syracuse. It was completely unlike anything I expected, but so amazing! Imagine a room full of hundreds of beautiful women of all ages. Now try to comprehend that they are all positive, all encouraging and welcoming and supportive of one another. Add in dance music, prize giveaways, commendation for successes, the funny stories and recounting of heart-rending challenges shared by top Sales Directors and you have a little bit of an idea of what the weekend looked like.

Loved this commercial for the product, btw...

For all that it wasn't long by conference standards, this event was packed with fantastic resources. I came away so encouraged and renewed, personally and professionally. I am so blessed!

Wednesday, March 17

Book Review

It was beautiful and sunny here for a change yesterday, so Arthas and I celebrated by sitting on the deck for a bit tossing his much-battered ball around. While he chased it, I checked out a book that someone lent my mom. It's not a new book, but it's intreaguing.

Written by a man with beloved border collies of his own, it explores how dogs have changed in recent history from pets people bought with a purpose - hunting, watch dog, herder - to surrogate people owners can imbue with whatever emotions and personality they need.

As Katz flows seamlessly from case to case, he reveals real people with very real and common needs and the dogs they've chosen to try - some more successfully than others - to meet them. If you like animals, psychology or sociology at all I highly recommend picking this up. It's not a hard read, but will give you plenty to think about.

Tuesday, March 16

Pilgrim Names

While sorting books with my mother, I came across one about Pilgrims. I was rather amazed by their creative and meaningful choices when it came to naming their children. Did you know the first two boys born in the New World were named Oceanus (because he was born at sea) and Perregrin (meaning wanderer)? It got me thinking about what an impact it must have on a person's life to grow up with a name rife with clear meaning.

I decided that if I had a Pilgrim name, it would have been Persistence (seeing as stubbornness isn't technically a virtue). Eric would have been Perregrin for sure.

According to the Pilgrim Name Generator, however, we'd have been Remember and Bartholomew. LOL... I like my picks better!

4 Year Old Wisdom

My best friend never fails to teach my 4 y/o god-daughter the important safety steps we all need in life. Recently, while stopping to cross the street, they reviewed the necessity of looking left to check for cars, looking right for the same, then looking up to check for aliens.

"Are there any aliens, Morgan?"
"No - they're all at dinner Mommy!"
"What? How do you know that?"
"They TOLD me!"

Next safety lesson: wear tin foil hats whenever leaving the house!!

Saturday, March 13

What Domesticity Looks Like

I am officially on my 5th day of writing my own schedule, and it is amazing. Arthas has become my shadow, and feels dramatically less unloved now that he doesn't get left behind every time I head for the Jeep.

I was struck yesterday while he napped nearby by how incredibly quiet the world was. No whirring slicers, screeching racks, beeping from six directions, thundering dish machines or general head-splitting din from a cacophony of customer chatter. Nice does not begin to describe it.

I have been able to make progress on/ finish several smaller projects that have been endlessly postponed, like this white eyelet lace runner for the buffet. It's not perfect, as my sewing skills are rusty, but it's bright and springy and protects the piece's nice wood so I was delighted to get it completed.

Possibly my favorite part has been the real food. Homemade pizza with my favorite thrice-risen crust recipe. (The naked half, by the way, is waiting for the "everything" topping still sizzling on the stove while the picture was snapped.) I have not eaten a single flat, hard french toast bagel (my default option at Panera) this week! Between making it to the gym and eating real food, I am not worried about gaining the weight I always joked was easy to keep off running in circles around Panera all day. :0)
Eric will be back from flight school soon, so I'll wrap this up for now. I look forward to posting more on the many blessings I'm living in right now!

Saturday, March 6

Long Time Coming

Loan Balances
You do not currently have any active or fully disbursed loans on our system.

I logged in to my student loan company's webpage this morning, and was so incredibly blessed to see those words!! I know my education was worthwhile, but the financial burden I've carried forward from it has been a heavy weight as Eric and I work towards our goal of being debt free and good stewards of our money. It is so wonderful to be one step closer to that! Amen!!