Friday, October 31, 2008

Taking Time to Enjoy Favorite old Rituals…..

This past Tuesday was the annual airing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” As I had seen a commercial (while at the gym, since we normally fast forward over them when at home) advertising it, I actually remembered and sat down to watch it. However, I really only caught about half of it because I was doing my daily “moving things around” ritual. Remembering that we had half a bottle of wine that needed finishing, I poured myself a glass before sitting down.

It felt really strange to be watching a kid’s TV special while drinking an adult beverage, but proceeded to do it nonetheless. It was nice to watch it live for a change, not remembering the last time I’ve done that. It would have been even better if I didn’t have to mute all the political commercials in between, but I suppose it comes with the territory this time of year.

I was reminded of that evening when I read this in Slate today: Like the columnist, I feel a bit nostalgic for the past and know what she means when she says, “…I can never see these wonderful specials again for the first time.” I think the Peanuts specials should be mandatory viewing and a time for families to sit down and enjoy them together. Somehow, I doubt that happens in many households across America, at least not these days, and I think it’s kind of sad.

Anyway, we had Beggar's Night in our town last night (10/30) and I probably only got about a dozen or so of the little buggers. Unlike last year, there didn't seem to be any older kids - like 12 or 13 year olds pushing their luck on their last year of going out. There were at least 2 or 3 with "Scream" masks - one very high tech one with blood that dripped down it. Very creepy indeed! (no wonder our cat scooted out of the way when most of the trick-or-treaters came to our door). They certainly seemed a very polite bunch. When I told them they could help themselves, most took only one thing and reminded their siblings they were only allowed one each. Later in the evening I had to force them to take more so I wouldn't have any leftovers. At the end of the alloted two hours, all I have left is a small bag of Starburst candy -not a favorite apparently.

Speaking of little buggers, tonight I will be photographing 21 of them at my sister's Halloween party. I encouraged her to do this last year, but she decided to take me up on the idea this year. I have been hired (to be paid in candy) to photograph the kiddies in their costumes. It has also been requested that I use as many special effects as possible (and use a digital camera so they can see the photos instantly afterwards). I look forward to the challenge and only hope I won't be elbowing my way past 21 sets of parents.

Also, my friend's husband suggested we buy bags of Goldfish crackers to hand out. I bought a Pepperidge Farm multi-pack (regular crackers, pretzels and cookies), but found that the children strongly preferred candy since they were less likely to get that from their parents. I guess I'll nix that idea for next year! (though I did manage to get rid of them all).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Engleman Hall circa the 90's

This is what it used to look like when I lived there.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

It’s that time of year again – autumn leaves are falling, evenings are drawing in, fall sports (i.e. football!) vie for our attention, and the ever-lasting ritual of Homecoming……

If you’re in high school, it likely means your school has a pep rally and maybe you attend a dance. When you’re in college, you might attend a pep rally, watch a parade and then go to the big game (possibly followed by a party afterwards).

It was this ritual I decided to undergo this past weekend when I visited my alma mater, Kent State University, after graduating 14 (long!) years ago.

When I last visited the campus, briefly, in 2002, not much had changed. The Student Center courtyard was finished after undergoing a lot paving and landscaping works while I was in my senior year. I was told my dormitory had been updated and converted into apartments. The only thing that looked different about it from the outside was that the ivy had been removed – stripping away some of its character if you ask me. Yes, I suppose tiny critters could have used the ivy to scale the walls and invade our rooms, but none ever visited me, so I was fine with the New England charm enveloping my domicile. Walking around the rest of campus, most everything looked the same as I remembered, so I left content with that knowledge.

In six short years, not only have new halls been added (like Centennial Hall – the dorm of the future….) many of the dorms seem to have undergone complete renovation (from the inside) rendering them almost unrecognizable to those of us who used to frequent them. Okay, so perhaps they were a bit dated probably not seeing too much of a change in d├ęcor from the 70’s, or maybe 80’s, but we still loved them all the same.

I guess the students of today (who I am old enough to be a parent of!) expect a lot more in the way of comforts and luxury. With cozy seating, fireplaces and a big screen TV in each lounge, I doubt there’s much they can complain about! We even had a baby grand piano in our lounge, but that’s since been removed.

There didn’t seem to be many university run cafeterias left since chain fast food restaurants moved in (at least in the student center). I also noticed grocery stores adjoining cafeterias in a couple of the dorms. In my day (said while waiving my cane and holding up my sagging panty hose with the other hand), we only had a tiny store in the basement of one of the dorms. If you wanted proper food, you shopped off campus at either Apples, or Giant Eagle (neither of which exist anymore). Yes, life is good for the student of the 21st century, except for when it comes to graduating and finding a job. I don’t envy them that arduous task!

By the end of the weekend I almost found myself grasping at straws to find at least one or two familiar places. It seemed little had changed at the Rathskeller (though I only poked my head in for a second), the library (books & periodicals still collecting dust on the 10th floor!), and the Franklin Square Deli (downtown).
I think my uncle probably said it best, “I suppose we have an idealized vision in our minds of what things were once like, and it is kind of sobering when we see the reality of the changes (not all positive) that time has brought.”

I wish there was a special elevator (or tardis?) I could enter where when I stepped out, I would be back in 1994 (or earlier even!) so I could go back and revisit ‘my Kent State’ one more time before tucking away that memory forever.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Not Buying It collage

Not Buying It collage, originally uploaded by authorwannabe.

I created this after reading the book as a sort of contrast between not shopping and being inundated with catalogs wanting you to buy their products (those are all my catalogs, but the book I checked out of the library).

Consumerism vs. Conservation

This has been an interesting year for me in terms of consumerism vs. conservation, so to speak. What I mean is, struggling with my love for shopping and the novelty value of having something new versus my efforts to go green, recycle and reuse, save the planet and all that.

It started back in February (?) when I read Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. Levine and her husband, (if my memory serves me) are native New Yorkers who were as caught up in the same consumer culture as the rest of us of buying, accumulating (but not always using), and then buying some more. With a few minor exceptions, both pretty well stuck to their pact to go a year without buying anything other than basic necessities.

As inspired as I was by her efforts, I, like probably most people, know I would never be able to go a whole month, let alone a year without buying something outside the box of “necessity.” That’s one of the reasons I like to go grocery shopping, so I can reward myself with either a magazine or newspaper, or maybe a sweet to enjoy after I’m done with the task at hand.

However, as I am also a fan of Ed Begley Jr. and his efforts to “go green,” I have tried to step up my efforts to recycle and reuse even more and find other ways to be environmentally friendly.

For starters I bought the Page-a-Day calendar “Living Green – 365 Ways to Make a Difference.” At first I really tried to embrace each idea and often put pages aside to refer back to later. However, by about half way through the year I found myself knit-picking their ideas and how absurd many of them are (like trying to get your company to be environmentally friendly – yeah right! good luck with trying to convert corporate America!).

I also bought the environmentally friendly water bottles I saw on an episode of “Oprah.” Unlike a lot of plastic bottles, these are partially made of corn. Maybe it’s that reason that they’re not recyclable. They tell you the bottles can be reused up to 90 times. I didn’t even try to keep count, but only after about 9 months switched to a new bottle and noticed a major difference. As each bottle has a filter (that the water passed through as you suck it out the spout), I can see why this is necessary.

I have stocked up on enough canvas bags to hold a year’s worth of groceries - now if I can only remember to grab one every time I go into a store (not just grocery stores). FYI- it’s a good idea to write your name in marker somewhere on the bag so they don’t try to charge you for their store bag when you use it (Target!).

My husband and I stocked up on CFLs on our last trip to Ikea and have tried to replace bulbs wherever we can, but as a lot of our lights are on dimmers, those aren’t as straightforward.

We are rinsing out a lot of our plastic bags (including store produce bags) and reusing them as much as possible, and still save the occasional piece of tinfoil or clear wrap.

I greatly reduced my lunch time shopping trips – partially because of road construction (and revamping of a favorite store) near some of the shops, and partially wanting to avoid the old consumerism trap (probably more due to the road construction/revamping to be honest).

Cutting down on shopping certainly means I have a lot more free time to do things around the house (or read more on my lunch hour). I am forever moaning about not having time for all my little projects, but when given the time, I still find I would rather be out and about scouting for a bargain or the often overlooked treasure. It’s hard to reprogram years and years of a bad habit.

Today I came across this blog called The Simple Dollar that sums up my life perfectly. At the top it says, “Be a Creator, Not a Consumer.”

“A lot of us want to accomplish something great. We want to read the great works of Western literature. We want to train for and run in a 5K. We want to write the “Great American Novel.” We want to have the perfect home for our family.

The truth is that no product on earth will ever make these things happen. You can get the great books of Western literature for free from the library, but you can’t buy the time and patience and concentration to read them. You can have the best running shoes on Earth, but if you’re not out there jogging thirty minutes every day, they’re useless - the barefooted fellow will do substantially better.

You can have all the slick notebooks in the world, but if they’re just filled with empty pages, they’re useless.”

The things I personally hoard the most are books and craft supplies. To my credit, I am trying to make an effort with the books. It’s been months since I set foot in my local library. Instead I am trying to read my own books first. Okay, so I have bought as many if not more books this year than I’ve checked out of the library, it’s still an effort, albeit not a perfect one.

As far as the craft supplies go, I am just trying not to buy more of them, and making a list of goals/completion dates to try and get inspired to use some of the blank photo albums/books I’ve bought. Since I am currently in the middle of a 6 week session of classes, trying to do anything else besides homework / practice for these classes is a major effort, so I’ve postponed most projects until after Christmas (I don’t plan on taking anymore classes until at least March).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A & C in front of house

A & C in front of house, originally uploaded by authorwannabe.

This photo was taken in our first year after moving in I think.