Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wants and Needs

There just aren't enough hours in the day. Seriously.

I'm trying to coordinate all the things I NEED to get done with all the things I WANT to do. Somewhere, something's got to give.

For instance, I NEED to take care of my my yard. The bonus is that I have my big beautiful flower garden that also needs to be taken care of, so it takes a little longer than just mowing the lawn and picking up sticks.

And see that little corner of my house behind? My house is about 70 years old, and that, too, needs to be taken care of, both inside and outside. The age adds to the entertainment factor when trying to fix things. Trust me.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I need to take care of my mom, and my pets, and go grocery shopping and do laundry and fix meals and that sort of thing. Never mind sleep and bathe and eat. It all takes time.

The key is prioritizing it all. Probably more important to have the roof not leak or the sanitary sewer actually drain than it is to take down the 30+ year old wallpaper in the hallway and paint it. Probably more important to have a working furnace and air conditioner than it is to get the beat-up hardwood floors refinished. That kind of thing. I find it easiest with this kind of stuff to make a couple of lists: one of the big things (like the roof and the furnace and the hallway wall paper) and then number them in order of importance. I do the same thing with the "all the time" things, like laundry and grocery shopping and such. Then I get them coordinated in there and take one step at a time.

But where, in all that, do you put the stuff you want to do? For instance, I have about 45 knitting and crocheting projects I want to finish, and about a hundred others I want to start. I have a lot of movies I want to see. I want to take a nap. I want to finish the book I've just started reading because it explains so much and just begs to be discussed. I want to sit out on my back patio in the morning and sip my tea and watch the dog toddle around in the back yard and the birds frolic in the bird bath.

You get the idea.

So, how do you balance your wants and your needs? What gives, where? And why that?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Books about Bugs

So, why are there books about bugs?

Because, I've been thinking. Everything on the planet, so far as we can tell, has some useful purpose. It's here for a reason. Whether it's the sole food source for some obscure bird, or serves to pollinate flowers, or controls the population of other animals, there's some reason. It's all about checks and balances, and so everything has its place in the system.

But what, I've been wondering, are the useful purposes of the cockroach, and the "thousand-legger," more formally known as the house centipede?

I have learned much in the past week, with my books about bugs. I have learned that there are hundreds of varieties of cockroaches, but only 20 are considered to be pests. I have learned that what I always thought were antennae on the centipede are instead a long set of legs, and that they run on tip-toe. I have even learned the useful purpose of the thousand-legger: it eats other household pests, thus controlling those populations.

But I can not find a useful purpose for a cockroach. I'm sure there must be one. I'm afraid I'm going to have to kick the research up at least a notch at this point, and snag the scholarly stuff via Inter Library Loan. If that doesn't work, my next step is to find me an entomologist who is a cockroach expert and see if they can explain.

I know there must be something.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where it stops, nobody knows....

"Why do you have books about bugs?" asked one of my friends who works at the local library. "We're not supposed to notice, except it's you, but why do you have books about bugs?"

("Bugs as in insects or bugs as in listening devices? I could see you having books about either," says my BFF.)

As you might imagine, my choice of reading material is almost as diverse as the topics on this blog. At any given time, a question will pop into my head, and I'll hunt down information in an attempt to answer the question. So, at any given time, I might have books on knitting or crocheting or quilting or historical battle tactics or canning or cakes or the rise of Nazi Germany or how to repair a lawn mower or biological warfare or eugenics or the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. Or any one of a number of other subjects. And they could be in any one of a variety of languages. I've already told the library ladies that I don't care if they notice because, while there's always a purpose to what I'm looking up, it might be quite a challenge for people to figure it out, and I don't mind providing entertainment.

Not enough people ask questions. Of any kind. They take the information that is spoon-fed to them on TV or in the newspaper or on the radio, and go no further. They don't wonder, they just accept. And in my less than humble opinion, that's a shame.

Questions are what lead us to answers, and by getting answers, we grow: in knowledge, in skills, in maturity. Sometimes we don't like the answers. Sometimes the questions are even more important because they can uncover something that is dangerous overall. People need to ask more questions, to think critically, to consider the sources from which they get their information. Any media outlet puts a spin on the facts they present, intentionally or otherwise. They will strategically mention or neglect to mention something in order to emphasize their own opinion, to use a fact to their own purpose.

Beware of not thinking critically. Beware of those who blindly follow without asking questions.

The answer to that original question, coming up later. I know, inquiring minds want to know....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just call me Nero.

During hard times, one thing that people tend to let go are magazine subscriptions. They don't cost too much in general (depends on the publication), but those little bits can add up.

This time around, I'm flying in the face of conventional wisdom as far as this one goes. I've either renewed existing subscriptions for as many years as possible, or I've started up new ones. As ever, I've got my reasons.

  1. There are some phenomenal deals out there. Print media is feeling the pinch, too, just like everyone else. One of my existing subscriptions, which was already good through 2010, sent me the opportunity to renew for one year at 75% of what I'd paid for a year originally, or for two years with the second year costing only half again as much. That means the second year cost me 37.5% of what I paid originally, and I now will get the magazine thorugh 2012.
  2. Magazines can be an easy, portable read. They roll up simply, are light-weight (generally), and let's face it, reading about something that you have a passion for can take your mind off of all kinds of things, like having to wait too long somewhere, or all the awful things that are going on in the world. Think of it as a short, budget vacation.
  3. Should I fall pray to the current recession, I'll still be able to get my magazines. Right now, I am gainfully employed, and I thank God every day for that. Many people are not, and have dismal prospects for the forseeable future. Should my situation change, I would not have the expendable cash to do this, and would likely have to let a subscription go. Which would not cheer me up in the slightest. And while I could likely acquire most of these from my local public library (which is the greatest place on earth IMHO), it's just not the same as having them.
Now, a little more on that last point. These subscriptions, much as my lottery tickets or my lunch, come out of what I earmark weekly in my budget as "allowance." Which is to say, it is not taking away from anything else. I budget $XX weekly, and I can do whatever I want with it. I can give it to a homeless person, I can buy an ice cream, I can get more yarn, I can save it and consolidate multiple weeks to get something swell. But I can do anything with it. THIS is key, because you don't want to be missing that money later. It shouldn't come from savings, or rent, or anywhere else. If you don't have the allowance, don't spend it. Plain and simple.

So, with that said, I'm going to enjoy my subscriptions to all my knitting, crochet, gardening, and cooking magazines for the next little bit.

Monday, July 13, 2009

One of THOSE Days

Ever have a day where it seems you can do NOTHING right? Where everyone scolds you for something? You get scolded at home for not doing something fast enough; scolded at work for being overscheduled and not getting something done; scolded by your dog because getting work finished so you can afford to feed him is more important than the nightly game of fetch; scolded by the cat because you won't allow him to sit on the nice warm laptop while you're working.

How do you make yourself feel better on days like that? What self-cheering strategies do you have?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Amazing Discoveries

So, I take Pup Pup for a walk most mornings, and if I get up in time, we take a nice long stroll (at puppy pace) around the lake. The park district has added a large number of plantings on the edges of the water, apparently for goose control, though I thought it was just to make it a more natural environment.

Among the things they've planted is milkweed. Milkweed is an unusual looking plant, if you've never seen one. I've got three in my back yard, much to the chagrin of some of my neighbors. I like them because they're different looking, and in addition to having a lovely fuzzy pink flower, they attract monarch butterflies. For me, that alone is worth having a milkweed grow in my garden.

Well, at one end of the lake, the path goes through the middle of a thicket of wild flowers and bushes. It's really quite lovely, with something ALWAYS blooming in there. This morning, as Pup Pup and I were going through, I was suddenly enveloped in a glorious, sweet scent. I stopped, looked around, back tracked.

Lo and behold, I was in the middle of a HUGE patch of blooming milkweed. Who knew they smelled so good?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ships Passing in the Night

I never realized friendship was so arbitrary, and that so many took it so lightly.

I've always thought friendship was something to be cherished. Granted, there are levels of friendship, and I've always questioned people who made friends too quickly and seemed to have them too deep in their lives.

There has been a lot of hurt going on recently in an on-line community I'm privileged to be part of. Most of it involves people being purposely hurtful to those who, once, they called friend. What this says to me is that those people have no idea what that word means, the responsibilities it implies, nor are they capable of achieving the feelings necessary to use it in the proper context.

I've been hurt by this. Many have been. It's enough to make you want to not make friends. But how lonely would that be?

And indeed, they must be. Lonely. Angry. Bitter.

But not me. I've got friends.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ode to Independence

When you think about it, that's really what the Fourth of July holiday is in the United States. We celebrate this day in all kinds of ways: cook outs, buffets, champagne, games, fireworks, races, parades, concerts. Kids (of all ages) around the country light sparklers, and American Flags materialize out of nowhere to mark the birth of an idea. For some, it starts a day early or runs a day long, and for many, it's a day of rest, with workplaces closed, and a day to spend with family and friends.

But what's frightening to me is that most people don't quite realize what was said in that document that we celebrate. The Declaration of Independence was just the beginning of a real revolution, one that was completed by The Constitution of the United States of America and its first ten amendments, The Bill of Rights.

How many people today see the self-evidence of the simple truths set out in that Declaration? That "ALL MEN are created equal"? That "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"? How many people today have read these documents, and attempted to understand them, rather than relying on the analysis of "experts" or the media to tell them what it says?

I challenge you, this weekend, to read these foundation documents of the United States of America, in honor and celebration of that great sacrifice made by those who have come before.

Don't just eat a hamburger and wave a sparkler. Be a Revolutionary. Know what this country is all about, and stand up for it.