Friday, August 6, 2010

The F-ing Limit

Today was the day.
Today I reached my limit.
Today my personal boundary reared it's head and said , "Stop. No more."
No more what?
No more F-word.

The first time I heard that most profane of the conversational profanities, I was in bed, upstairs in my parents house. My dad was a jazz musician, and parties at our house were musical, loud with laughter and well attended by dear neighbor-friends. Dad was one of those brilliant "fix anything" kind of guys, so he built our fancy home Zenith High Fidelity stereo system, complete with dishwasher sized speakers. It was from those speakers that I first heard Redd Foxx utter that word, the f-word. The word that would stop conversations, stop the car, stop the actual rotation of the earth upon it's mere single-syllabic, four letter verbal arrival. I certainly recognized the limit then, so how has that word so slyly slinked into an incarnation of mixed company acceptability?

It's not like I haven't heard or used that word myself. Are you kidding? I've been a bartender, a Harley rider, a life partner and a 35 year member of the working world. I'm clearly not an f-word virgin. Looking back, I just remember the importance of placing that word carefully for maximum impact.

But now I keep hearing everywhere. At the grocery store, in stores with fine china and dressing rooms, in church parking lots (!), in school corridors, airport terminals and on airplanes. My husband and I were in one of our community's newest and fancy restaurants having dinner. It was late and there were only 2 or 3 tables of people. There was a group of people across the dining room, noisy and profane. Unfortunately, the loudest and most f-bomb-ingest was a well know local retired athlete and his. "posse." My husband was waiting for the manager to go over and deal with it, as we could see his discomfort increasing, but, alas. No spine in that manager. We just ate quickly and left. I really regretted not saying something myself, but the mental rehearsals I had gone through were never any better sounding than a whiny sounding woman.

But today was the day. During one of my yoga classes, and for the zillionth time, I was posing, flowing along in my practice,...and there it was. The music mix that our teacher was using had a couple of f-words flying through the room of noble peace, and I had an opening! Maybe it was me, maybe it was my 12 year old niece beside me, but I couldn't let it go. When our teacher came over to correct my pose, and another f-lyric smacked me in the side of the head, I looked at her and asked..."Really? Do we need that kind of language in a room with noble respect and young students?". She was very apologetic and a little undone that she hadn't noticed it herself. I kept looking at my niece, and thinking that if I didn't say something, she would think I thought it was alright. It wasn't, and I did what I could do to fix it. I don't want to stop going, I just need it to be alright. Peaceful. Non-violent. Safe.

When my husband and I were young parents, we heard (I think in church) that "Whatever parents tolerate in moderation, our children will tolerate in excess."

Today I stopped tolerating that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Friend Flickr!

In a previous post, I referred to a Flickr site that our family has organized to preserve images and scans of documents from our family history.

And now that the last of the "parent generation" of my mother's family is gone, we are reaping the benefits for having been proactive with this legacy.

In April, our cousin will be up to bury his dad's remains, same as we did for our mom, his sister. Turns out that now the 6 remaining cousins of the next generation are the keepers of this family cemetery plot, and the torch has officially been passed. My two sisters and I are the only ones living in the area anymore, so my guess is that we'll be most involved in maintenance and upkeep. We now know how many burials we can have per grave (1) and how many cremation urns per grave (4). It's a Michigan statute. We know that spouses who are "marry-ins" need our permission to be buried here and that there are a few options, from the basic in the ground to the mausoleum in a crypt and other more expensive choices. We are also reminded of our younger brother (10 years behind me), who lies in a crypt with other infants who didn't make it all the way through childbirth.

Gerard, our only brother, was one of those miscarriages that would have survived today, but couldn't benefit from the technology we have now. He was stillborn, baptized and buried alone, as we weren't invited to take part in the ceremony back then. I was 10, and the sisters must have been 11 and 7. We were spared the impact of the sadness of that occasion, by our mother and dad, who were overwhelmed by the event itself. Too much.

I never thought much about him, until we buried our mother 9 years ago, and we found him in the main building's burial area. Since we never saw him, I wonder often how he would have looked, or acted, or grown into manhood. I know God has a better plan than mine, and I know he probably won't ever let me know what the big picture is...He knows I would blog it and blow the big surprise.

But a unique sadness does catch up with me every so often, and I start the wondering.

I guess we'll wonder again in April when Uncle Tom comes home to take his an urn, leaving room for his wife and 2 others. At a recent "apres tennis" breakfast meeting, my sisters and I went going over the details. "well, we can all fit in if we're all cremated, but if we die earlier, we may wish to be buried, or cremated or scattered in the desert, the ocean, Las Vegas or back in Ireland."

That's a stark logistic that we'll never need to worry about, because we won't be here.

At least the kids will have the pictures.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Favorite Nings, A Song for the Ages

My dad loved MAD magazine. He waited for it to arrive at our house each month, and thought it was the epitome of cleverness and sophisticated humor. For him, is was in a category of slickery with Wylie Coyote and Rocky and Bullwinkle kind of humor; a kind of backhanded slap to the establishment in their own little way.

The 2 things I looked forward to in MAD were:

1. Spy vs. Spy (hysterical)
2. Re-Written Song Lyrics

The editors would take multiple, well known songs and re-lyric them with their own twist of sarcasm and irony.

This is why I couldn't resist this little ditty I've re-lyricked called "My Favorite Nings".
I'll let you guess the tune (clue: from the "Sound of Music"), and feel free to sing and sway along!

My Favorite Nings

Needles for knitting and books for my students
Funding for music and art would be prudent
Reading the latest in encounterings
These are a few of my favorite Nings

Desktops and laptops and tablets all over
Uploading photos of rolling in clover
Cropping and lightening and editing things
These are a few of my favorite Nings

When I'm panicked
Feeling Manic-ked
All my focus skewed
I just simply upload my favorite Nings
and quickly upgrade my mood!


Okay, Where Did I Leave My NetVibes?

Alright, I get where this is going. The fog has lifted and I can see our target clearly. Customized start pages are all just about cherry-picking information that is just for me...or interests me. It brings me closer to the news lines and stories I want to follow. Maybe someone will customize a page to consolidate the "data path" for the political fallout of the former mayor of Detroit...Collecting that information on those criminals, payoffs, indictments, trials, sentences and impending book tours is a circuitous and time absorbing hobby. A train wreck so compelling that if I had to choose between breaking news of Monica Conyers and Sam Riddle or watching any of the "Godfather" movies, I would need a "picture in picture" TV. Then I would need a nap.

I digress.

I have been told that the reason I have a difficult time with Nings and NetVibes and Snowflakes is that I "over think it". Well, I don't get accused of over thinking much, it's actually quite the opposite. So when I think about dialing back my brain power, I have to stop in my tracks and meditate on being simpler. Simpler than I already am? Est-ce que c'est possible? Aahhh, mon Dieu!

Now, how can I use this power for good and not dalliance in shopping or nail care?

I feel like I'm putting a $5 bill in each of the pockets of my coats, jackets, blazers and hoodies...Spreading my information too thin for all of these pages. I'll never remember to check all of them. So I can make sure I don't have too many going at once.

Anyone else feel this way?

I'm going to check my jeans for change.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shall We Link?

My sister has multiple academic degrees, unlike me, who ran with the first Bachelor's degree that came my way.

If I had stayed in school, like her, I would have learned this (which she relayed to me):

Science has determined that, with regard to technology, the world is separated into two distinct camps: People born before 1983 and people born after 1983.

Those born before 1983 will be of a chronological age that will put them in the category of
"Digital Immigrant". This means that they will probably move through technology "speaking with an accent". Probably knowing the technology that they need, but not much more than that. Probably not easily taking to newer concepts unless taught by someone younger and geographically closer. More likely to cling to good old communication techniques like phone calling and emailing and even the beloved "snail-mail". They're more likely to care about telephone operators and mail carriers, gas station attendants and grocery baggers. They probably think that FedEx and UPS are still the best ways to send information quickly. As a matter of fact, they probably have FedEx or UPS t-shirts and mugs.
Those people born after 1983 are considered "Digital Natives". Digital technology will be natural and intuitive for them. These people will be more likely to use technology as a utensil or extension of themselves. It will be an automatic and seamless default choice for not only problem solving, but these younger folk will enhance and enrich their lives by "short-cutting" through red tape and useless steps to pure end solutions.

I'm one of those FedEx lovers. I keep stamps in my desk drawer and mail things to people who live in my town because I think it's just easier that way. I like talking to our mail carrier and I secretly love that packages and envelopes were handled by so many people that I don't know, just to get to me (not my bills). The first time my mother emailed me, she drove over to see if it arrived. Nuff said. And she thought that was pretty high-tech.

This is why I think I won't be using LinkedIn . I have heard from the "natives" that it's a useful and well respected link to professionals from professionals. They feel that the recommendations they can send and get are top notch legit and contain no funny or cute comments meant to be endearing.

I think I'm too far evolved from 1983 to incorporate another communication network in my work world. I'm not sure how education would use it more...I would think that recommendations would be useful, but my colleagues would call or just email.

I'm already "facebooking" (I heard that was a verb now), and we do that to keep in touch with our changing international family and friends. That's enough information for me. So far.

My accent must be too thick.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thing Four: The Eeyore Syndrome

People who know me will not be surprised to know that I have an opinion about most everything: not a judgement, but an intuitive vibe that tilts me one way or the other. Commenting on them out loud, however, is not something that is always a good notion. And being a facebook participant has helped me pace myself, my words and my reactions.

I am often at the restaurant that my family has been running for 45 years. And if one thing is apparent, the social aspect of eating out is more important sometimes than the food aspect.

We have the kind of place where people are comfortable coming in groups, couples or just alone at the bar. But each of our customers comes for two things: For a meal, and for interaction. Just like Eeyore the donkey, people long to be noticed. Noticed for their presence, their conversation, their contributions. Even if they are just out for a hamburger and a beer, to watch a sports game or check in on the events of the day, they need noticing. Otherwise, they would stay home.

Commenting on blogs is certainly a way of noticing other people. It's a written response to their written statement. It's an affirmation that they were heard and evaluated at some level.
So when I comment, I will try to be as thoughtful and careful with my responses as I can.

I can only imagine how important commenting and blogging will be to the next generation of communicators. The nightly news is full of stories about people of extreme behavior, and often, if the person is of a certain young age, they'd blogged about one thing or another.

Blogging can be a good way for young people, students, to be noticed, and to hear back from someone express themselves in a place of some kind of anonymity and see how they are received. I think it'll be interesting to watch this next communication phenomenon. I see it as a very useful tool, indeed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lesson III, I'm a Loser

When I start a new project, especially from square one, I pretty much follow the same pattern. Sewing, golf, knitting, even cooking, it's always an initial wave of bubbling enthusiasm all the way to the first big crash.
Then I decide if I should continue.
Will this enhance my life?
Does it have any kind of pay-off in my practical life?
Will it stave off Alzheimer's?

Last week, my accordion lesson was nothing but pleasant and upward-lifting, because I knew nothing and had nothing to lose.

This week, I realized how much I didn't know and how far I had to go. Yakov was very encouraged and noticed that I did practice on reading music and getting the proper amount of air going in the right directions. He praised me for sitting properly and holding my accordion with the appropriate attitude for easier expansion and contraction.

We even included a new note ("A"), and I had to cover more of the keyboard. When I told him that I only knew 5 notes and 3 chords, he patted my arm and said "Dun't verry, Meddy Liu. Dats goot for TOUSANDS of songs!" And we laughed, him thinking about all he could teach me,...and me thinking that maybe that 5 notes and 3 chords may be just fine.

So, when he asked me to stay for just a few extra minutes to see his prize pupil, I was happy to oblige him. This is where I became a Loser.

Let me just say that I was unaware that one could play an entire symphony on an accordion, and was just the warm up. I was all of a sudden another okay hobbyist in the presence of a virtuoso. And his teacher was the maestro, conducting, directing. "Crescendo!...Andante!..Staccatto!"...arms flailing and the music stand the object of a laser-like focus. I could hear his fingers tap each key as he pounded through eighth notes like they were melted chocolate, and his left hand was pushing combinations of chords that are not in my current repertoire. His bellow placement was perfect and he never ran out of air.

What world is this kid from? Home school world. He also plays piano. And when I asked how old he was, "18". Really? "What are you plans for next year? Have you auditioned for many universities?" Oh, no. no plans for that. He's already working in the family business, heating and cooling. Wow. I guess I'm not the only one interested in enriching my life, just because I think it's beautiful. Someone else has guided this boy to think so too.

When I was leaving, Yakov held open the door. The boy had begun his primary piece.
"That's Handel", Yakov clued me in.
"Sounds like a requium" I guessed.
"Veedy Goot, Meddy Liu". Yakov was pleased that I had that word in my vocabulary.
Me too.
See you next week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Fascinating Web 2.0

In my family, triumphs and tragedies seem to occur in waves and surges. All of the babies, recitals, graduations, weddings, illnesses, deaths, funerals seem to come in at least packs of 3 at a time. And as much as we like to save on dresses, shoes and airport trips, sometimes it's all a little too much at once.

When a surge of passings occurred around the time of the World Trade Center falling, all we (meaning my sisters and cousins) seemed to be able to do was clean out the next family member's belongings, assign them or donate them, and keep what we thought was important for our family legacy. And because I was the photographer and scribe, keeper of the family albums, a lot of the family archival photos were committed to my library cupboards.

This all occurred at a time of technological transition; a time when we thought the best thing we could do was to find an online geneology tree and fill it in as best we could, print it out and literally cut and paste photos onto it. But as time went on, we were able to build a Flickr site that was available to the entire national genepool, and they could help themselves to sacred photos of ancestors, family lines, immigration and census forms and anything else that was kept in a series of Jacobson's boxes in my grandparent's house.

This long story is the metaphor for why I have an interest in Web 2.0. For awhile it was enough to think that we could save valuable information in a safe place for posterity and legacy. Web 2.0 offers the option of not only saving, but managing information in a productive and synergistic way.

The way humans communicate is what make us different from the rest of the mammals. And that we can share information with each other that illuminates the past and impacts the future is the pay-off from good and thorough information management. I am already using Facebook, You Tube and Flickr, so I'll be curious to see how much more I think I need to communicate.

And in my professional life, a big part of my job has to do with sharing files, photos, information and schedules.

Looks like it's going to be a good thing for me.


Mondays with Yakov

This just in: There are a few certainties about accordions.

1. Accordions are the red-headed stepchild of the music world
2. Accordion music makes everyone smile
3. EVERYONE has an accordion story...and they smile when they tell it.

I am 2 weeks into my Monday lessons with a charming Russian man named Yakov. When I told him that I though I had practiced and learned my songs from the previous week, he replied:
"Meddy Liu, vood be meedacle!" Oh well, miracles can happen. Turns out that there wasn't one this last lesson.
With very broken English, and my non-happening Russian, we seem to meet in Italian musical direction. Multo bene!
Next week, Lesson III