Sunday, May 29, 2011

new englander

I'm trying.  Really, I am. Trying to not complain about the weather.  I've always thought of myself as a "roll with it" kind of person, but honestly, this weather has been testing my limits.  I don't want to be one of those people, but it's feeling like there's not going to be an alternative this year.  Now, I'm not alone here...far from it.  I don't know if the weather just becomes more conversation-worthy as you get older, or if I've been in small talk situations more than usual, or if this is actually a more notable year, but so far in 2011 it seems I've done nothing BUT talk about the weather. 

January brought the snow. Oh, the snow!  I kind of like snow under normal circumstances.  And by normal circumstances, I mean being voluntarily "snowed in".  If my interaction with the snow is strictly on my own terms, I'm okay with it.  That means not leaving my house if I feel like it, puttering with shoveling (without having to be actually responsible for clearing the whole driveway), maybe playing and making snowmen...all the good stuff.  The majority of my interaction this winter was definitely NOT on my own terms.  Commuting, parking, learning how to use the snowblower (OK, I admit it...that was kind of cool), even walking to the office from my car, were all the epitome of drudgery this winter.  So what did I do? I complained.  Sometimes I was just participating in the complaining process, not initiating it, but still...

Then the rains came. Cold rains.  It was weeks of feeling all pruny and clammy and...moist (I hate that word AND that feeling.)  With extraordinarily frizzed out hair.  Not good.  Running in the rain all soggy. Not good. Sssllllowwww driving (because we all know that precipitation slows down traffic exponentially, even if it's relentless misting).  Not good.  Only one cure for all that not good stuff: complaining.  I had LOTS of help with that.

Finally, the sun came full force.  Suddenly it's hot as hell. Rush to find air conditioning!  Even running has instantly become more difficult. And sweatier.  And don't even get me started on my hair. I started to complain, but I stopped myself.  Wait! I like some of this! Even though it sounds like I'm complaining here, I actually have been finding the silver lining of this weather.  You would think finding silver linings without clouds would be difficult, but it's surprisingly easy: No jacket required! Flip flops and toe rings! Iced tea breaks! Yardwork (Yes, I know.  That's not a good thing for most people, but I kind of like it)! Vitamin D and bursts of energy! Using the screen porch! Dare I say it?...suntans! 

One major upside to all of the weather variations: it's a never-fail conversation starter.  Cliche, yes...but it works.  I don't know what I'd do if I lived someplace without variability.  You can only use "Hot enough for ya?" so many times.   How on earth do you REALLY appreciate the good weather if you never have any bad?  All that rain led to the greenest grass and most colorful flowers. Yin-yang. Sure, it sounds a little sappy, but that doesn't mean it's not true.

When all is said and done, I do love the fact that I live in New England.  I love that there are seasons. I appreciate what each one brings.  And I love to complain about them.  It's my prerogative as a New, it's practically my duty. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I have an uncanny ability to remember birthdays.  I think it's uncanny because I seem to be unable to remember much of anything else.  With very few exceptions, I can't remember anything verbatim...lines from a movie, words to a song, motivational quotes. Nothing. The worst is jokes.  I am absolutely incapable of telling a joke any more sophisticated than a "knock, knock" joke...and even those I find challenging.  Phone numbers last in my head with barely enough time to dial the phone, and even then I'm chanting it over and over again in hopes that at least the echo will stick in my brain long enough to complete the call.  I was moderately functional when everyone just had one number.  Add mobile phones to the mix and I was overwhelmed. Speed dial has been a great enabler.  I have no hope of getting phone numbers back in my head.  I can live with that. 

In general, I'm lazy with remembering things.  If someone else I know has the information in their head, or has access to it, I free up that space in my brain and trust that I'll ask again if I need it.  Yeah, my co-workers have always loved that little trick. No point in two of us remembering the same thing...

Technology helps immensely.  Google is always there for my lapses in memory.  Thank God for the Google.  The older I get, the fuller my brain stuff, work stuff, kids' stuff.  Something's gotta go.  For me, that tends to be the details of life.  I can accept that.

So, you can see why it's remarkable that I remember birthdays.  ALMOST all of them... It's not really on purpose, although it really does make people happy when I remember, so maybe subconsciously I try.  So let's say with very little effort, I remember.  If I commit it to memory, it sticks.  I remember every co-worker's birthday.  Not just my current co-workers (I'm slowly collecting birthdays in my new job)...All the friends I've worked with, at every job...even my high school job (Mary's April 17), the 3-month temp job (Marjorie's December 13), and the woman who only worked with me less than a year (Ruthann's September 3).  My first friend in school, friends I don't see, friends of the name it.  Someone recently called it my "superpower".  I like the ring of that.  I don't have much super anything, so lame or not, I'll take it. With power comes responsibility (or whatever that quote is)... I'll use it only for good. Yes!

But then along comes the great equalizer...Facebook.  Ordinary people get notified that it's birthday time for their friends...without my help.  Hey! That's my job! It's like they started handing out capes to everyone, so now there goes my superpower. That piece of technology is a little like my kryptonite.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't always make a point of telling someone I remembered his or her birthday, so it's a little like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.  If I know it's your birthday and don't actually mention it, does it still count?  Perhaps not.  I do my best, and sometimes it works.  Often, really. And occasionally, just occasionally, I miss one.  And I feel AWFUL. But then I think, hey, I'm only human.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Is there any greater joy than seeing a handwritten envelope addressed to you in the stack of mail, amid the bills and credit card offers? I think not.  And it's infinitely better when it's special reason, no birthday, no anniversary...just because.  When I was a kid, letters came from friends at summer camp, far away friends...basically anyone whose house wasn't within biking distance.  In school, correspondence came in the form of passed notes in the hall.  Each one would be cherished for a while, and re-read over and over.  I'm a little sorry to say I never actually keep correspondence...I'm not a saver, so there will be no publication of my  memoirs when I'm gone.  Maybe that will change as I get older, but really, it's not about the letters or cards.  I love what the letters and cards represent.  I don't need the original...I remember the feeling it gave me. 

What makes the handwritten note so uniquely fantastic? I think it's a couple of things...being able to "see" the person's handwriting makes them closer for that moment.  They were RIGHT THERE when they wrote it, and now they're RIGHT HERE.  Cool.  Handwriting is so personal, so individual, it's sharing a little of yourself.  You can also see the emotion in the writing.  It begins all neat with great the excitement builds and the words flow faster, the writing reflects the excitement....practically illegible if it's a really good story.  You can "hear" the person's voice as you read the words and you're together for that moment. Fantastic.  You have to put some thought into what you'll say before you write, since there's no backspace or cut and paste.  There are only so many scratch-outs allowed before it needs to be abandoned and started over.  I like that thought is required. Maybe it's a girl thing, but scented pages add another dimension of personalization.  Nothing is quite so potent as a smell memory.  It's a multisensory experience...

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm a big believer in electronic correspondence in all forms.  Love it.  Love being able to let someone know at that exact moment in time that I'm thinking of that with no effort I can make someone smile. There will always be a place for texts, e-cards, emails, and chat. It's all good.  But for me, it will never match the ultimate pleasure of handwritten correspondence. Ever.

Today I received another batch of free greeting cards from a charity, and I started to put them in the ever-growing pile of free cards that I neither use nor throw away.  I got to thinking about this very topic.  Why, exactly, don't I just send them all to friends? For less than 50 cents, someone will handcarry that card to someone I care about in about a day.  And they will be very happy for that second when they see their name.  And maybe the good feeling will last a little longer too.  That's enough to claim success.  More than enough.