“Your Hold Is In”

place hold(photo credit: wikihow.com)

When I stop in at my local library, I can usually find something on the shelves that looks interesting to check out. But other times I have to put an item on hold. That happens when a) it’s an old book that my library no longer carries but another library has, or b) it’s an extremely popular book that everyone and his brother is reading. Like the new James Patterson/Bill Clinton novel, “The President Is Missing”.  It sounded like such a good plot that I added my name to the hundreds of others on the hold list.

It took about a month for me to get that wonderful message: “Your hold is in!” But it was worth the wait.  So far, the storyline is intriguing, exploring the scenario of a president missing from the White House and its staff.

Sometimes it’s a good thing to have to wait for that novel you really want. The anticipation builds, and adds to the enjoyment of the book. It’s kind of like eating a dish of ice cream. If I just sit down in my air-conditioned living room and eat ice cream, it’s enjoyable. But if I take a long walk in the sweltering outdoors first, then come in and cool off with that same dish of ice cream, it is so much more delicious. So don’t hesitate to put a book on hold. While you’re waiting, there are hundreds of other books to tide you over!



Some things are important to read, other things not as important. I would put reading a mammogram on the list of things that definitely needs to be read. Several days ago, I received an e-mail telling me my test results were ready. Having not gone to the hospital mentioned in the e-mail for over a year, this was puzzling. I had changed doctors, as well as affiliated hospitals. What test result were they talking about?

Turned out it was last year’s mammogram, which my new doctor’s office had requested for comparison. The report said my results were normal, but the M.D. completing the report added this:
“Of note, this exam was performed on 5/10/2017 but was never read at that time. This exam was just put on my unread list for today and I received a request from administration for me to read this study at this time.”

I kicked myself for not noticing the lack of test results. But I also want to kick whoever just didn’t read my x-rays. How could he/she not read them? Were there other people whose tests didn’t get read either? Does administration normally tell the radiologist to check the x-rays? You can bet that from this point on, I will be religiously checking to make sure that this does not happen again!

The Morning After The Fourth

Following a night of tremendous noise and sulfur fumes, I awoke to a sticky 76º. While sipping a mug of coffee, I noted that we were supposed to get rain by 2:00 in the afternoon. Better get that laundry done now, I thought. By 8:00, I had three loads of clean laundry ready to be hung on the line. (Yes, my ancient washer does the laundry in about 25 minutes!).

Stepping outside with the first basket, I immediately noticed the mess on the lawn. Large and small bits of fireworks were all over the front lawn, on the front stoop, along the side of the hill, and in our back yard. There were even pieces of fireworks on our roof! My first inclination was one of annoyance and irritation. Every year our neighbors set off high-grade fireworks in their driveway that used to only be seen at the city’s fireworks. They delight the children in the neighborhood each year with their show. We, on the other hand, turn on fans, put on headphones, and sometimes retreat to the basement where the noise is somewhat muted.

While hanging up the laundry on my clothesline, I contemplated the situation. I could spend an hour walking around the house, collecting up the mess. Then I could present it to the neighbors with a sweet smile, saying, “Might this be yours?”

Then I started looking back over yesterday. We had driven to the next state over to visit with a family member who has terminal cancer, and will likely not be with us in a few months. Despite the sadness of the situation, we had a good visit – laughing, reminiscing, crying, and praying together. The visit reminded us that we will not always have the people we love with us, and to treasure the time we have now. I grew weepy thinking about this as I finished hanging the laundry.

I went back to thinking about the mess in the yard. Life is too short to get worked up about a mess in the yard, I decided. The neighbors were just have fun, enjoying their time as a family, trying to spread excitement to those around them. They are good neighbors, and why ruin a good relationship? So I picked up the large pieces lying about, and tossed them in the garbage. The small cardboard pieces I left for the rain to take care of this afternoon.

The Family Experiment – part 3

cable modem


We’ve passed the 1-month mark of not having home internet service. As mentioned in previous posts, our family decided to cancel our service through the cable company. The cost had risen to $80 a month, and we’d used up all the limited discount rates, as well as the special deals I had persuaded the company to give us by going in and personally talking to a rep. So this was the challenge: could we get by using the 3GB of fast data each of us had our prepaid phones, for which we each paid $25 a month?



We go to our local library about once a week to check out books and DVDs. When I am there or other places that offer free wifi, I try to take advantage of it. The biggest change for all three of us has been a sharp decrease in the number of times a day that we go online. We had gotten into the habit of browsing without thinking. But habits can be altered. I was made much more aware of how often I was accessing the web when I had to plug my phone into the USB cable to make a tethered hotspot connection to my computer. (You can also connect wirelessly by bluetooth, but it’s less secure).

So how did we do on limiting ourselves to 3GB of internet? Well, not so good. One of us reached the limit half-way through the month, one went over the limit just before the month was up just to test how much the speed would be throttled (it went down to the speed of dial-up), and one of us ended at 2.9 GB. In our defense, it was our first month of trying it, and we had times that we forgot to use the wifi signal instead of the cellular data.

The conclusion: It can be done, but it’s harder than you think.


Shared Reading

2018-04-28 sunshine coffee Burro Genius

It’s the perfect Saturday morning. Having had a full night of sleep, I awoke to bright sunshine streaming into the kitchen. What better way to start off the day than with a steaming mug of coffee, sunshine bouncing off orange walls, and a book in the hand! As my husband and son wandered past and saw what I was reading, it set off a discussion about the story. It was a biography, but some of it seemed exaggerated, I said. Did these things really happen? Was the father a mobster, or did he just embellish certain things? As my husband and my son told me what they remembered from reading the book (as well as one of the author’s other books), the thought struck me: we are an unusual family.

Yes, we are unusualmaybe even what some people would call a little weird. The three of us have actually all read the same book. In fact, one other son has read the book too. So that makes four people in our family who have picked up “Burro Genius” and read it. What are the chances of that?

It occurred to me that part of the joy of reading is being able to talk about what you’ve read with other readers of the same book – sharing what you liked or disliked, what struck you as odd, and what part of the book mirrored your own life or someone else’s. No wonder I love reading aloud to my grandson about Ralph the mouse and his motorcycle, or co-reading “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer” with my granddaughter. Some things are just better when shared with someone else.

Have A Little Compassion

This afternoon I drove over to school to pick up the grand-kids. The parking lot was crowded with cars, trucks, and several after-school daycare buses, all there for the same reason – to pick up kids. I got out of the car and walked over to the front porch of the school and waited for the grand-kids to pop out the front door.

As kids came outside and got into their cars, one line of cars started to move slowly toward the exit. The other lane, however, was at a dead standstill. That was when I realized that a large van was stalled, and unable to move out of the way of the cars behind it. One of the teachers who was in the parking lot calmly asked another guy to help him with the van. Then a parent inside another car hopped out to help too. Inside a minute, the three men had pushed the van across the parking lot and into an empty slot. There was a pick-up truck parked in the next slot, and the owner whipped out some jumper cables to try starting the engine.

Most people probably didn’t even notice that there had been a problem. It was handled quickly, efficiently, and with compassion. This is actually the second time I have seen this situation at our school. In each case, no one honked impatiently, got angry, yelled, revved their engine, or even frowned. Instead, people immediately hurried to help the driver in trouble. Both times I marveled at the camaraderie and good humor of people working together with kindness.

Before our grand-kids started going to this school, the older grandchild went to the assigned neighborhood school. It was generally a harrowing experience to pick her up from school. Drivers were rude, pushy, and would yell curses at you if you were in their way. If the car ahead of them wasn’t buckling kids into their car-seats fast enough, they would lay on the horn. On one occasion, a furious female driver honked for five minutes straight trying to get the cars ahead of her to move (they couldn’t move either), while teachers on the front lawn standing with their students pretended not to notice.

Why are these two schools so different? There are a lot of factors that set the tone for each school, but I really believe there is something that our current school does exceptionally well: they teach virtues. Each month the entire school, from the principal to the teachers to the students to the support staff, focus on a particular virtue. When we got home from school, I asked my granddaughter what the virtue of the month was. Without even having to think, she said, “Compassion!”

Wow – compassion. Being sympathetic to the hardships and bad luck that people around you are experiencing, and caring enough to help. Extending a kindness that gets them through the situation. That’s what I saw today – compassion.  Our school may not be perfect, but I give them an A+ for making virtues a priority!

Does Middle-Class America Still Have Books?

I don’t finish every book I begin. If it doesn’t hold my attention, I just close it and move on. Like my last book, which was written by a guy who provides long-distance moving services for families. In his introduction, in the midst of describing the packing process, he made an interesting observation about books:

“When I arrive at a residence to begin a move, assuming I’ve gotten into the driveway and close to the house, the first thing I’ll do is prep the residence. My crew and I will lay pads and then Masonite on any wood floors, carpet will be covered with a sticky durable film that gets rolled out, and we’ll lay out neoprene runners throughout the house. Banisters and doorways will be padded with special gripping pads. Anything in the house that might get rubbed, scratched, banged, dented or soiled is covered.Next we’ll go around with the shipper to see exactly what is going and what is staying. Then we’ll pack everything in the house into cartons.

I don’t love packing. It’s inside work, and mostly tedious. I do enjoy packing stemware, china, sculpture and fine art, but that stuff is getting rarer in American households. Books are completely disappearing. Remember in Fahrenheit 451 where the fireman’s wife was addicted to interactive television, and they sent firemen crews out to burn books? That mission has been largely accomplished in middle-class America, and they didn’t need the firemen. The interactive electronics took care of it without the violence.”

from “The Long Haul” by Finn Murphy, 2017

Of course the writer is talking about actual printed books that he no longer sees in the average American home. There are a lot of people that mostly read on Kindles, Nooks, other tablets, or their phone. But I think that most people that love to read have at least some printed books, as you get a much wider selection that way. It’s sad to hear that so many homes, middle-class or otherwise, have turned their back on reading in favor of movies and video-games.