Looking Forward, Looking Back

Liesa's Birthday

Life is good at the Broadmoor Sunday Brunch

This past Sunday was my birthday.  Thank you to everyone who sent cards, e-cards, and Facebook notes.  I was at the fabulous Broadmoor resort for their world-famous Sunday brunch, when my good guy surprised me with a special dessert.  A lot of friends from my dance studio sang the traditional birthday song, and while I’m not very comfortable being the center of attention, it was wonderful to feel such friendship.

Hmm. Birthdays.

At this point in my life, I’d rather forget they exist, as each year seems to fly faster, and I don’t think I have enough birthdays looking ahead to fulfill my dreams. I think more of bucket lists than pails of fun.  I doubt if I’ll ever learn a back handspring that I was so close to accomplishing at one time.  President of the United States?  That dream has gone by the wayside too. Now I spend more time thinking about ways to stay healthy than to have adventures–and spend my phone conversations complaining more of aches and pains than hopes and promises (something I vowed I would never do).

Am I getting old?  Yep.

Then, I take a look at many of the things in life that didn’t exist when I was born, but are ubiquitous now:

  • Wearing seat belts in cars – Saab introduced the retractable seatbelt as a standard fixture in 1958.  We still flung around in our cars without “buckling up” for several years more. I still smile at the “squish in as many as you can” rides, and thank my lucky stars we didn’t have any accidents in them.
  • Microwave ovens – We bought our first oven at about the same time my good guy and I bought our first house.  The microwave, our first piece of furniture, was a big two and one half-foot cube that sat on our living room floor (the only room with a high enough volt in the electric socket to run the thing–if memory serves correctly).  Although the machines were originally built shortly after WWII as “radar-ranges,” it wasn’t until I was grown that they became popular and popularly priced enough to have one.
  • Color television – need I say more?  I remember this enormous block of metal sitting in our basement flashing black and white pictures of The Lone Ranger and Rin-Tin-Tin.  Then, one day we went to my aunt and uncle’s house where they were showing George Pierrot’s travel program.  The program was truly boring, but all eight of us kids were enthralled because everything was in color. “It looks so real!” exclaimed a sibling.
  • Saran Wrap–Okay. Technically, this was introduced a few years before I was born, but wax paper still competed with this product for wrapping sandwiches well into my elementary school years.

I could go on and on about things that weren’t there one day, and a year later seemed everywhere–personal computers, cell phones, airbags, SUVs.  The world keeps spinning and churning out amazing inventions that become way-of-life necessities in the blink of an eye.  This amazing creativity is ours each day we have the get up and go to go get up. How exciting is that?

Today, thank you to the inventors, the dreamers and the visionaries. You’ve marked my life with wonderful growth, and I hope that you will keep being born, keep dreaming and keep inventing.  With this much hope, we can address the big issues of climate change, equality for all, and literacy around our world.

Yes, it was a great birthday. I’m alive in a wonderful time, and can hardly wait to see, “what’s next?”

New Blog Category — Literacy

GallyCat's Illiteracy in America: INFOGRAPHIC

Thank you to GallyCat https://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/illiteracy-in-america-infographic_b51032 for this important infographic

A few days ago I was playing around in YouTube and stumbled across a fun and funny video called “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama.” While Zach and the president were discussing affordable health care for young adults, one incident drew my attention.  President Obama referred to young adults as thinking they were “invincible.”  Zach played on that by interpreting the president as saying “invisible.” In a nutshell, these two professionals managed to squeeze two enormous issues into just a couple of sentences:  health care for the young and uninsured, and an issue of illiteracy that may be larger than we think.

I know very little about the Affordable Health Care act. It’s not my area of focus or expertise.  But I think that as a writer, the issue of illiteracy ought to be a concern for me.  Heck, if people don’t read or comprehend what they read, this hits me in a very direct way.  That’s a shrinking “target market.”  As an old marketing person, I understand the importance of expanding a target, not shrinking it. So the questions started:

  • Is there an illiteracy problem in our country?
  • What are the many facets of illiteracy?
  • Why should we care if people don’t read?
  • Is reading a quaint past time that could easily be replaced with movies, videos and other forms of communication? Is it “out of date?”

To be honest, I’ve done a little reading on the subject over the past few months.  I haven’t “fact checked” thoroughly, but here are some things that have surfaced for me:

  • 82% of the adults in this country read one book or less a year for entertainment
  • 19% of the adults who watch a television show will miss between a quarter and a third of the program’s message because they don’t understand it.
  • 20% of high school graduates can be classified as being functionally illiterate.

Ouch! For those of us who do read, try to grow our comprehension, try to think through the issues of our day with the information we get through reading, journaling and other forms of written communication, these figures must be cause for concern.

This is why I’m adding a new category to my blog posts–Literacy.  Over the next months, I want to explore this topic in greater detail.  But most importantly, if you and I discuss this and conclude that literacy is a “problem,” we may be able to brainstorm about how we can help. As my sister says, “Think global, act local.”

I know everyone has schedules that are crammed full of today’s pressing issues for her or him, so I’m not asking you to take action and “solve” this thing, but if you can join me in finding out more about the topic of literacy, perhaps we can come up with ways to address the issue in our own communities.

A few months ago, I read a book of short mysteries by a group of famous writers led by Mary Higgins Clark.  The Plot Thickens is a super fun read.  Each story had the requirement that it contained these three elements:

  • A Thick steak
  • A thick fog
  • A thick book

I enjoyed every moment of reading these stories, and am looking forward to buying this for my permanent collection, because not only were these terrific stories to read, but the proceeds from sales of the book go to helping Americans with literacy problems. How cool is that?

Wishing your week is filled with fun reading and great comprehension.

Sneak Previews of Spring

sunrise pines

Spring is coming–under all the snow.

When I was young, nothing could have been more boring than discussions of the weather. That was for old folks and farmers as far as I was concerned.  Then along came Al Gore and the debate over climate change. I remembered discussions of pollution way back in the 1960’s before grown-up life, bills, and children got in the way.  Suddenly, the repercussions of all my undone “earth science” homework bubbled to the surface of my brain and weather became very interesting indeed.

“What an unusual winter we’ve had,” friends have been saying for the last five years or so. “Our summer is too hot.  Do you think it’s climate change?”

Of course, there are some who, by the very fact that a democrat brought the subject to center stage, deny that climate change is real at all. “In the millions of years that the earth has been spinning, mankind has only been here a few thousand.  We couldn’t possibly know that climate change is occurring because it happens over hundreds, if not thousands of years.” (Interesting how several of these good folks pound on bibles and claim that the earth began only about six days before mankind started).

But whether or not our earth is heating up, our greenhouse gases are building, or our ozone is gone, weather is becoming more interesting all the time.  Particularly here in Littleton.  On Sunday, a day I was inside all day for a dance program, the temperatures hit seventy and yesterday, we had snow. I stayed inside voluntarily.

snowbound crocus

Had to brush the snow away to find these tiny friends

My crocuses, the miniatures at least, have been creeping out of the earth in cheery tones of yellow and purple.  Today, I had to brush the snow aside to see the tiny darlings hovered over in the cold.

I’m not sure why this year particularly I’m so anxious for spring.  Perhaps it’s that so many people have had bad flu bugs (don’t they every winter?), or maybe it’s because the cold weather has been very cold this year.  A third, and probably more realistic cause for this anxiety is that I love getting outside, if only for lunchtime, and truly enjoy the sun.  It lifts my spirits and provides wonderful daydreaming opportunity.  I always feel more upbeat when the warmer weather hits.

Spring in Littleton begins just about this time every year and lasts through Mother’s Day, when the last frosts are expected, and we can go officially dig in the garden without worry that our veggies and other delicate plants will catch their death of cold.  I was going to meet a friend for coffee this morning.  He would have been talking about baseball, no doubt.  He’s a big fan.  Unfortunately, he caught a winter bug.  Looks like spring ballgames are on hold for him.

spring sunrise

Day promises to be bright–I’ll be at my desk looking out for it.

Back at my desk, I’m behind on that short story project of mine. Did I ever tell you that one of my nicknames is Last-Minute-Liesa?

Even with the sun shining, and temperatures rising enough to melt the dusting of snow we had yesterday, I have to stay inside to do my work.  Something absolutely must happen to Joy today, and I’m the bad guy who has to make that so.  I have to make Joy’s reader understand why ghosts haunt her in particular.  Very dark stuff on such a glorious day as I see out my window.  But this is the life of a fiction writer.  And luckily for me, spring in Littleton provides enough cold and hot, light and dark, winter and summer-like feelings to give me plenty of opportunity to develop a good story.

How about you?  Does weather affect how you work and play? Do you feel more creative with sunny days or do “dark and stormy nights” provide your inspiration?

Here’s hoping we can all take our winter sweaters to the cleaners soon for packaging up until the fall. Have a great spring day, no matter the weather.