Lists, Technology, and Time

Thanks to the reign of technology, I no longer lose my grocery list. Ever since my iPhone became the equivalent of another body part, the list goes with me everywhere. I might add or delete items from the list at any time of day, at whatever moment a thought wanders through my brain. Then, when shopping day arrives, the list is up-to-date and in my hand at the store.

I remember days past when I'd get to the grocery store, fumble through my purse, and realize my paper list wasn't with me. A bewildered panic would seize my body as I wandered up and down the aisles, racking my brain to remember what I'd written on the missing list. My only option was to fill the cart with familiar items, hoping some of the things might be what I needed. All the while, I couldn't shake that nagging feeling something was being forgotten.

Of course, something was forgotten. I'd discover what it was much later when the list popped up somewhere at home, taunting me. I could either return to the store or do without.

The present generation can't relate to such an experience. The days of the paper list are over. In fact, why use a list at all? Groceries can be ordered online for pick-up or for home delivery. It's as easy as clicking 'Add to cart'. The process saves so much time and frustration.

At least, it's supposed to. I seem to have less time than ever. I don't know where all the time goes that I'm supposed to be saving. I still meet myself coming and going, and I often work into the wee hours. I have too many appointments, too many unfinished projects, and too many meetings. I'm baffled as to why there's not more free time. I wonder if it would help if I made a list.



Recent Reads 2018

My reading selections in January were a mixed lot. I chose one novel, three middle grade novels, and one writing craft book.

Bear Town by Fredrik Backman
     I'm a fan of Backman, having read many of his other books. His stories don't always lead where I think they are going, but they lead to the right place. Bear Town is a story of family dysfunction. It's also a story of small town camaraderie and survival with lots of truth and heartbreak.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
     This is a story of how a homeless child hatches a plan to get enough money to move her family out of their car and into a house.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
     I'm not sure how I ended up reading so much about this topic in one month, but Crenshaw is also about the struggle of childhood homelessness. An old imaginary friend shows up, uninvited, to help the child through a tough time.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
     This is a must read for elementary students. It's a story of a child with cerebral palsy who is frustrated because she understands words, but she can't respond or communicate with others. Life changes for her when she receives a computer that allows her to communicate, but not everyone is ready to accept that a handicapped child can be "normal".

On Writing by Stephen King
     King intertwines his memoir with writing advice in this book. It was an entertaining and useful read.



Marking the Days

Sometimes I get excited over the smallest things. When the bookmarks arrived for my upcoming book, The Legend of Sassafras House, I couldn't tear into the box fast enough. It was love at first sight.

New bookmarks have always been a treasure for me, but none so much as these. Nothing could be more beautiful, except the actual book itself, which will be released soon. I keep reminding myself to be patient. Publishing takes time. In the meantime, as I wait to hold my own book in my hands, I'll be marking all my current reads with these beauties.

The Legend of Sassafras House is my debut middle grade novel. While I anticipate seeing the The Legend of Sassafras House in print, I'm diligently working on my next book. But right now, I think I'll spend a little time staring at my new bookmarks.



Thirty-one Days

Today is the last day of January. It's been a long month. Thirty-one days. Six other months of the year have thirty-one days, but only January drags out so long. It could be the freezing temperatures. It could be the biting wind. It could be the absence of sunlight. Whatever the reason, January is longer than any other month. I'm always glad to turn the calendar page and see February ushering in chocolates and roses and love.

I spent this last day of my least favorite month out doing errands. At lunch I ordered a cobb salad with honey mustard dressing. The order taker got everything down, but when she read it back to me, my dressing order came out as "holy mustard". I told her it sounded good. She couldn't stop laughing.

One item on my agenda today was to return some clothing items that didn't fit. I had slacks and a dress for one store and jeans for another. I didn't want to do this chore because my receipts were missing. Losing stuff like receipts is not my custom. I felt bad to ask for a refund without one. But I did it, and I was amazed at the smoothness of the transaction. It was customer service, indeed.

Of course, I turned around and spent my refund. I needed the purse and the sweaters. I tend to freeze year-round, so the sweaters will help keep the chill away. The purse is a beautiful shade of green that has already made me forget January.

All in all, the last day of January was a good day. The people I encountered were pleasant. I finished everything on my checklist. Even the sun was shining. My least favorite month wrapped up on a positive note. What made today better than the thirty dreary days preceding? It had to be the holy mustard. I'll have to remember it for next January. 


Book Review - How to Steal a Dog

When it comes to writing for children, Barbara O'Connor just gets it. Unlike most adults, she seems to remember how a child thinks. This ability allows an author to walk in the child's shoes as the story unfolds.

Barbara O'Connor has written a number of novels for middle grade children, and I've become absorbed in each one I've read. In her book, How to Steal a Dog, she combines the reality of being homeless with spunkiness and humor. Georgina lives in a car with her younger brother, Toby, and her mother. She knows it's not normal to live as they do, washing up in service station restrooms. Georgina is afraid someone at school will discover her secret, so she wants to help her struggling mother get enough money to rent a place to live. She hatches a plan to steal a dog, return it to the owner, and collect a fat reward.

Georgina finds Willy, the perfect dog to steal. His owner lives in a big house, and she surmises rich people will pay large rewards. Nothing goes quite as planned, though. What seemed like a good idea turns out to cause all kinds of problems. Georgina wrestles with choosing between right and wrong.

I'd recommend this book for elementary school aged children. It would be eye-opening for more fortunate children to read about Georgina's struggles. It's also the kind of book that makes a wonderful read-aloud in a classroom.



My Sign

I don't know why people confide in me. They tell me things I have no business knowing. They tell me details I don't want to know. Someone must have plastered a sign on my back inviting strangers to talk to me about private matters.

Listening is something I do well. I've always preferred to listen rather than talk, but maybe we should be introduced before you start spilling your secrets. Some topics require we know each other's names, at least.

I must have been wearing my sign today. Along with other shoppers, I perused the supplement aisle at a pharmacy. A well-groomed, attractive woman nearby snatched a bottle from a lower shelf and held it up in front of my face.

"Cranberry," she said.

I nodded, not knowing where this was going.

"I had terrible bladder and kidney infections before I started taking this. My daughter said I should just drink cranberry juice. Not me, I hate cranberry juice."

I nodded again. I didn't know this woman, but I now know her history with urinary tract ailments.

Something similar happened to me while at the ophthalmologist's office. A woman seated near me related the details of how her son was fired from his job. He held a professional position and had been accused of wrongdoing. I am now privy to who, what, when, where, and why. I hope I'm not called to testify in court.

This sort of thing happens to me often, and I'm always amazed. Are people so lonely they will seek out a stranger and start a narrative about their personal life? What causes such a lack of filter for subject matter? I suppose it's the fault of the sign I wear. Now if I can just get my husband to tell me what he wants for dinner.



Top 10 Choices for 2018

Ready or not, 2018 is here. After the hundreds of calendar pages I've turned over, dates don't worry me much any more. Every day is a good day to me, but I do sit up and take notice of a new year. If for no other reason, it's always good to know the year because a nurse or doctor may check my orientation, and I do like to pass tests.

Each year we have to take the bad along with the good, but, wow, it seems like 2017 was extra full of sadness and evil. There are so many things we have no control over, yet we have choices every day that can make a positive difference for ourselves and others.

Here's a list of choices that could prevent at least some of the needless unhappiness and suffering in 2018. Starting with what we can control will make life better for ourselves and those around us.
  1. Drive sober and unimpaired.
  2. On the same note, being distracted while driving is just as dangerous. Put the cell phone away.
  3. Choose kind words. 
  4. Be aware that your tone of voice can hurt as much as words.
  5. Talk to your children, and not just to order them around. TALK to them.
  6. Laugh with your children.
  7. Know there are two sides to every story.
  8. Clean up your own messes. Can I get an amen?
  9. Help those who are weaker.
  10. And the gold standard for all circumstances, treat others like you want to be treated.