Too good not to share

Too good not to share

Got this from a friend on Facebook. Happy MLK Day + Inauguration Day, and a day to reflect on how far we’ve come, yet how far we still need to go.

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A change in the weather

When we lived in San Francisco, we befriended several people from Wisconsin and Minnesota who had moved to the Bay Area. At one point or another, each of these friends would opine about missing the seasons, the snow, the fall, the spring.

Granted, California has seasons—it just depends where you are in the state to experience them. June in San Francisco is like winter in Seattle. October in Fog City is like late summer in the Midwest. And San Diego is just pure bliss, nearly every day of the year. A yearlong season of bliss.

After living in the Midwest for six years, I am beginning to understand why someone who grew up with seasons would miss them. The bursts of color in the fall and spring; the snow and crispness of winter that promises sledding and snowball fights. And then there are the long, hot, humid days of summer that seem unbearable but come mid-winter it’s the only thing I long for. It’s nice to have the change, though each season has become less predictable each year we’ve lived here.

Still, I am a Californian at heart and in my bones. Growing up in San Diego must have programmed my body chemistry to reject temperatures below 68 degrees and above 74 degrees. It’s a small window, and it gives me lots of grief. I am still apt to complain when the mercury rises or falls below my minimal comfort zone.

But I do surprise myself from time to time. It was 50 degrees out today and sunny. I wore only two layers instead of three or four, as I would have a few years ago. I even went sockless while running an errand. I might be getting tougher after all.

A Midwest Childhood

A Midwest Childhood

For my two boys (and their friends), living their early lives in the Midwest has given them the opportunity to explore their environments without the hassle of busy streets and shady characters roaming around. They live a relatively happy and carefree existence.

Update on the Cats

Thanks to everyone who shared their advice and comments and voted in the poll about our newest members of the family–our two cats.

The bolder one of the two has been spotted at night and during quiet times of the day (when the children are not around) exploring the house, eating food and hiding under the bed. The shyer cat has yet to be seen, but there was a tell-tale sign of its existence: its fur was stuck to a vertical scratching post we bought. They are alive, and they are watching us.

It was three full days after they came to us that the bolder cat was first spotted. Now it has been nine days. We are all patiently waiting for our new friends to emerge. The kids are especially being patient and are very interested in the rare spotting of the bold cat.

We will be in this house for almost three more year, so they have plenty of time to adjust. I just  hope that when it is time to move to our next–and hopefully final–home, that the cats will have fully integrated into our family.

The Cat Conundrum

Yesterday we adopted two cats. They’re brothers, and they’re four years old. But now we can’t find them. Once they were let out of their cat carriers from their old owners, they bolted. We haven’t seen them in almost a day.

This was to be expected. Cats–especially these cats who have never explored the outdoors and have lived in the same house since they were born–need time to adjust to new environments, people and situations. Still, I am a little freaked out because I can’t find them anywhere in the house.

It’s unlikely they escaped and it’s nearly certain they are tucked away in some random, remote and dark spot in the house that I never knew existed.

I have never lived with a cat. You could call me a cat novice. So, I turned to my cat guru friend, Aleza, who told me they would eventually come out. But when? They probably came out last  night while you were sleeping, she said. They need to “sniff everything.” Well, OK, I’m prepared to wait. But for how long?

How long do you think the cats will remain in hiding?

Take this poll and wager your bet.

A new experiment

Seems like this blog is all about experimentation.

In a moment of solitude I had myself wondering if my idea of myself, that I’m a relatively open minded person who enjoys a good bit of diversity around her, is reflected among my friends.

I turned to Facebook–a likely destination–where nearly 400 of my “friends” from past lives and selves converge. The thought was, if my Facebook friends reflected the diversity of which I think I have in my life, then all’s well. If not, well, maybe I’m just living in a fantasy world that people really can have a diverse group of friends. It would support the recent reports that like-minded Americans are clumping themselves together in geographic locations.

Stay tuned to see how this experiment concludes…

Rutabaga for Me, Rutabaga for You

I’m learning to try new things now that I’m living in the Midwest. The latest new thing is the rutabaga.rutabaga1

I’ve been inspired to do it. And, it’s sitting in my fridge, waiting. Waiting for me to cut it up and throw it in a stew. I am so excited. I am anticipating a whole new taste, a whole new world of rutabaganess coming my way. I really don’t know what to expect, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless.

Fall

There’s one thing that is nice about living in the Midwest when it has to do with weather. The fall. The colors are vibrant, the leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air, and everything beckons a cup of hot apple cider. Currently we have one bright yellow tree and one flame red bush. The rest of our outside space is covered with leaves.

Covered with leaves.

Perfect for stomping.

Mac vs. PC

This is an age-old question—at least in the information age. Mac or PC?

This has never actually been a question for me. I am Mac. Or, rather, I have been branded a Mac person. It was a carefully crafted campaign that began early in elementary school, when our class had computer time with the school’s two Apple IIe desktop computers. We filed into an unassuming room and took turns practicing open-apple-control-something to boot it up, then stuck a floppy disk in the slot and played two-tone educational games. It was great. But I really thought nothing of it.MacPC

Later, my family got a hand-me-down IBM from my mom’s work. I used it to teach me how to type and to write school papers. By the time I was in high school I was computer literate and typing about 70 words-per-minute, which was enough to impress my Freshman year typing teacher (we were still actually typing on typewriters ). I was proud of my computer literacy and typing ability, and I think that helped me continue pursuing writing.

I went through high school without much thinking about those early ears on an Apple (it wasn’t even a Mac yet). It seemed that all the computer trend-setters viewed IBMs as the top-of-the-line brand, and my computer teacher uncle had two at his house, which fascinated me to no end. All those cryptic codes and the flashing cursor in green, white and orange. It was like a secret language.

My stepdad warned my siblings and I time and time again that we needed to learn computer skills to succeed in the workplace. And, like any good teenager, would, I brushed his advice off as parental gobbeldygook that didn’t much matter in the modern world. Of course, he was right. But he was also wrong to think that computer literacy would be difficult to achieve.

I started college without my own computer. Between my roommate’s Compaq and the computer labs in the library, I had enough access to get all my work done. Classes were not yet conducted online, and syllabi were still handed out on paper. The world had not transferred to the Internet, and books still reigned supreme.

But, as time went on, it became apparent that the work I needed to do needed to be done on my own, personal computer—a P.C. I didn’t even consider an Apple. I didn’t even think about it. And, I got one, and I liked it.

When I started working at the school newspaper, I was re-introduced to Macs. But their Macs crashed all the time. You’d be working on a layout or editing a story, and bam, the computer would freeze and all would be lost. There were many cries of anguish and frustration in that newsroom, and Macs—especially when using the layout program Quark Xpress—were the bane of meeting deadlines. My internship at a local newspaper had me work on an old Apple—actually, the original Apple Macintosh, which was the company’s rebirth model, and the beginning of a movement.

Soon, Apples—or, rather, Macs—became associated with art and design, with journalism and photography, with anything a little more quirky, techie or artsy. Every newsroom I worked in was Mac-based. I became so accustomed to working on a Mac, that I forgot all about my little old desktop PC, which was collecting dust in my grandmother’s garage. I bought my first Mac in 2003—a G4 Desktop with a Super Drive. And, with that purchase I became a completely transformed person. I was now a Mac user. And I could never turn back.pmg4graphite

So here, six years later, I have a new job outside of a newsroom, away from artsy, geeky, techie types. I work in state government, and apparently they have a contract with Dell. So that’s what I got. And I have been flummoxed ever since. I can’t get the shortcuts right. I can’t figure out how to see my desktop when I have multiple windows open. I can’t easily switch from one program to another. It’s maddening. And, while I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to learn the ways and means of my new operating system, there is a big part of me that has been taken up in major opposition. Much of my body—indeed, my cells—do not want to use a PC. We, as a whole, prefer the Mac. It’s prettier, it’s user friendly, we are familiar with all of its quirks and shortcuts and doodads. We like it.

So, I put this out to my Facebook friends: Mac or PC? And, I got some interesting results. The first of which was: “Mac, you’re kidding, right?”

Of my 30 respondents, 14 proclaimed Mac, and I mean proclaimed. This was the interesting part of the informal poll.

Those who responded they preferred Macs did so with gusto. Examples: Mac!!! mac!!!!! mac, baby! Mac, all the way!Mac for sure 🙂 Mac Mac Mac.

Others used their response as an opportunity to take jabs at PC users, such as: “Definition of PC user: someone who has never used a Mac.” and “Mac. Todd has a PC and it makes me a little crazy.”

The majority of those who responded with PC as their answer, did so abruptly with a simple “PC” as a reply, or accompanied with needed justification like: “PC but only because the software at work doesn’t run on a MAC. :(,” and “pc. Cheaper,” which seems to endorse Macs over PCs, too. Justification is necessary when defending your choice to use a PC, but enthusiasm is exerted when declaring your preference for Macs. Interesting.

There were a few respondents who said they used both for different purposes and did not lean one way or another. And there was one who responded, “Pepsi.”

My non-scientific conclusion would be that people who use PCs do so because they need to for work or because it is less expensive than a Mac, but the PC users are not excited about their computers. They have not had this great marketing ploy attacking their cells since they were seven years old, and do not hold their computer choice as dear as Mac users do. Mac users are loyal and enthusiastic about their computers. They regard their computers as more than useful tools. Macs are accessories, status symbols, marks of identity. Macs stir up emotion. And, we all have Steve Jobs to thank for that. Thanks Steve!

Weekend Getaway

My husband and I were granted a long-weekend away from normality to celebrate our eighth anniversary, so we hopped in the car and drove five hours straight east and ended up in the Windy City. It’s been a while since I’ve been in  a real city, and this is as real a city as any—especially for the Midwest.

Chicago is filled with noise, smells and sights of almost anything imaginable, like any great city would have, including the smell of urine, the bone wrenching sound of a light rail screeching along the tracks, pigeons bee-lining for your head on a crowded sidewalk, and amazing food. We indulged. We ate, we drank, we lounged. We listened to incredible jazz during the Chicago Jazz Festival, and we admired the interesting and varied architecture and public art around downtown. We ate so much deep-dish pizza we actually got sick of it. And it almost seemed like we were a young couple again, childless and fancy free.

The hotel we stayed at hosted a wine hour each evening, so we obliged. We sat among about 50 other hotel guests in the snazzy lobby, people watching and reminiscing, when an old woman and her husband walked into the room. They looked to be in their late 70s or early 80s. She was wearing a long gown circa 1975, and he was in the same time period slacks and shirt. After they got their wine they sat on a sofa facing us. The old woman turned to a young man next to her, who seemed to be either German or Dutch, and started telling him that she was from Brooklyn and had met her husband, who was in the English Army, in New York.

Then she turned to us and told us the same story. “Thank God for Hitler,” she said, because if it weren’t for him, she would have never met her husband.

My husband and I looked at each other, sort of in a state of amused shock. By then she had turned to the next person and started telling him the same story. Meanwhile, her husband had been working the room, probably telling a similar story of love and adventure during WWII.

Moral of the story: when you come to the big city be prepared to rub shoulders with the wacky and subtly senile.

Chicago lived up to expectations. Visits with old friends, and meeting new ones. Hot dogs with chili, and chorizo stuffed dates. Lake Michigan. Weddings needing to be crashed. And very little wind.

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