Monday, August 24, 2015

Some Like It Hot

I grew up during the energy crisis of the 1970’s. My Dad took fuel conservation very seriously. In the winter he kept our house very, very cold, and in the summer, our house was usually very, very warm. While I did have a small air conditioner in my bedroom, after I fell asleep, my Dad would sneak in and turn it off. When I used to complain that I was hot (or cold) my Dad would say, “When you have a house of your own and pay your own heating bills, you can keep the temperature whatever you want.”

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a native New Englander, but I prefer to be cold. I like to sleep under a quilt, even in the summertime. And now that I pay my own heating bills, my dream has come true. Unlike my childhood home, my house is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I’d rather wear a sweater than strip down to a tank top. Because you can always add another layer, but at a certain point, you can’t take any more off! In a perfect world, I’d live somewhere where the temperature was always 50 to 70 degrees (perhaps California) with low humidity.

My preference to be cool extends to outdoor weather as well. I’m happier outdoors in the winter, spring, and fall than I am in the summer. If it’s 85 degrees outside, you’ll usually find me indoors reading a book. I’m not a sun-worshipper. Give me a nice cool crisp New England fall day anytime.

Ironically, my parents retired to Florida many years ago and as many elderly Floridians do, they keep their house very, very warm (a la Seinfeld) because my Mother claims they’ve become acclimatized and their blood has thinned.

How about you? Do you prefer to be warm or cold? Are you a sun worshipper or do you prefer a chillier climate?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Silence is Golden

In today’s world of media madness, peace and quiet are undervalued. People are constantly “plugged in”, whether they are using their phone, listening to music, or surfing the Internet (or any combination thereof). There is a television blaring in every possible location, from our workplace cafeteria, to the nail salon, to the gas station pump, to the back seat of a New York taxi, and now even at the “better” restaurants. A large screen TV recently appeared at my favorite local ice cream shop, so now I can watch television while I wait in line to order my ice cream sundae. Even the small child in the baby carriage is playing a game on a computer tablet. Do we all need to be entertained at every possible moment?

Sometimes I wonder if all this media stimulation is normal or if this barrage of information is going to make me crazy. Lately, I’ve been driving home from work with the radio turned off. As I enjoy the purr of my new car’s engine, I try to breathe deeply and decompress. When I take the pug boys for our daily walk, I take in the sights and sounds of my city neighborhood, and enjoy the tranquil greenery in the local park.

Last weekend I was at a quilt retreat with 17 other women. As you can imagine, it was a lively venue with several loud conversations going on simultaneously over the hum of multiple sewing machines. On Saturday night, the girls de-camped for dinner en masse, while I waited to meet my husband. Suddenly, I was completely alone in a large hotel conference room. The ensuing silence was welcoming, yet at the same time, almost an unfamiliar sensation. Peace and quiet surrounded me like a pair of two fluffy pillows. I embraced it.

When I googled “a world full of noise”, I expected to find studies on noise pollution or the invasiveness of the media, so I was surprised that the first several pages of references were actually religious or spiritual. One book title piqued my interest: In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. I haven’t read it yet, but in an NPR interview, author George Prochnik says, “quiet spaces are essential because they can inject us with a fertile unknown: a space in which to focus and absorb experience."

Where is your quiet space? How often do you unplug? Do you meditate or practice yoga breathing?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Not Quite a Nielsen Family

Did you know that according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than four hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or two months of nonstop TV-watching per year)? This means that in 65 years, that same person will have spent nine years glued to the tube.

I’m proud to say that I’m below average, and possibly even in the silent minority. For years my husband and I have owned a single television. We do not have a television in our bedroom or watch television when we eat dinner. We record every program that we watch and fast forward through all the commercials. Unlike my friend Marion who leaves her television on all day for background noise, we turn the television on to watch a program and when the program is over, we turn it off.

Recently we upgraded our cable service and went from a DVR recorder to TiVo. The installer proudly reported that I could record up to four shows simultaneously while watching a fifth show. The only problem is I can’t find much to watch. Back when I was growing up, it seemed like there were a lot of great television shows. Some of my favorites were MASH, Hill Street Blues, and the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Today, it seems like the average season for a show has grown shorter and shorter. And reality television shows, which range from the banal to the really, really bad, have replaced most network programming.

For a while, Mike and I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix, long after the show had ended. This worked out well for us because we had several years’ worth of episodes to catch up on. Sometimes on the weekends we’d hold a Breaking Bad marathon.

I love Downton Abbey and I just watched the Season Finale. It seems ironic that the “2015 season” only consisted of nine episodes and the next season won’t start for another nine months! I’m not sure that I’ll even remember what happened when the new season starts.

I find these statistics fascinating:
  • Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
  • Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
  • Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
  • Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
  • Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion
  • Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49

Where do you fit in? How many televisions do you own? How many hours a week do you watch? What are your favorite programs? Do you think that you watch too much television?

This blog post was originally published at my workplace in March 2015.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Curb Your Child

Blogger's Note: I wrote this for my blog at my workplace and my Editor refused to run it. In an email to me, she opined: I appreciate you penning another post  (after refusing to run The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and being so candid about your opinions. I’m struggling because this one offends me on a personal level, as a parent of young children. I agree with you about the fancy restaurant, but tantrums are a normal part of child development, and if it were easy and appropriate to do away with them by bribery, all parents would do just that. It’s not always possible to just pick up and leave. In my opinion, the price of raising well-adjusted children who can conduct themselves out in the world is that we all have to be generous about some tantrums now and again, in airplanes and restaurants and stores. It may seem like parents are oblivious or pretending, but sometimes the best thing to do is just get through it so you can address it when everyone is calm. Most parents are trying their best.

I can run this one, and share my personal opinion above in the comments, but it does seem a bit negative and judgmental, and again, I’m having trouble being objective on the topic. I know it’s your opinion and I appreciate that, but is there a way you could make it a little less one-sided? 

Nancy's note: My post is intended to be humorous. In addition, it has my name and photo on it, so it's obviously my opinion, right? And after reading my Editor's note, I'd never want to go to a restaurant with her!

Lately, it seems that everywhere I go, whether it is on an airplane, in a restaurant, at a movie, or even shopping for a car, somewhere nearby is a screaming child with his or her seemingly oblivious parent (or perhaps they are just wishing for oblivion). This seems to be an alarming new parenting phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.

Many years ago, my sister-in-law and I were shopping with my then 2-year old niece Rachel. After a while, Rachel reached her shopping limit and started to throw a tantrum of epic proportions. Unfazed, my sister-in-law put her items down un-purchased, picked up Rachel and we left the store. Rachel was screaming at the top of her lungs and I’m sure that everyone was grateful when we left.

Last month, my husband got a bonus at work and we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner at the Atlantic Fish Company in Boston. This is an expensive restaurant downtown and you can’t get in without a reservation. We were very excited to go eat there. Naturally, the hostess tried to seat us at the table next to the young couple with the screaming toddler. I refused and asked to be seated somewhere else. Fortunately another table was available. We still had a view of this young family and I watched the child scream for at least 20 minutes before the mother finally handed the little boy her cell phone to play with.

I do not have children of my own, but I have a niece and three nephews, and when they were little I would never take them out in public without a bag of snacks, several books, and a couple of toys to play with. I don’t even take my pugs for a walk without a bag of dog cookies in my pocket. I call it, “Better living through bribery.”

I realize that baby sitters get sick and sometimes Grandma is not available, but shouldn’t there be a limit on bad child behavior? I expect to dine with children if I’m eating at Denny’s or Papa Ginos, but if the restaurant doesn’t have a children’s menu, isn’t that a clue? Recently a diner in Maine attracted public attention for asking a mother to remove her screaming two year old. I’m sorry to sound old and crotchety, but I’d pay extra to fly on a child-free airline flight or eat in a child-free section of a restaurant.

Have you ever experienced this? Would you pay extra to eat or fly child-free? How do you handle your child if he/she is misbehaving in public? What do you do if the child at the table next to you is having a complete meltdown and their parents are pretending it isn’t happening?

Dear Reader, I'm wondering, do you think my post is too negative?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Blogger's Note: I wrote this post for my blog at my workplace and my Editor said it was too controversial. It was not published.

Alas, Cecil the mighty Lion is no more. In case you haven’t been watching the news or avidly perusing FaceBook, Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, recently paid $55,000 to shoot a lion on an African Safari. Photos of his trophy went viral, the public went wild, and Palmer has been forced to shut down his dental practice and website, at least for the time being.

Palmer half-heartedly apologized for his actions saying that he is a life-long hunter and that he thought his “kill” was legal since he booked his trip through a local African safari tour. Perhaps killing Cecil the lion would have been justified had he had been terrorizing Palmer’s local city of Eden Prairie, MN. Call me na├»ve; I thought that killing big game for sport had gone out of fashion with the late President Teddy Roosevelt, over 100 years ago.

I find this story reprehensible on so many levels, especially as a life-long animal lover. I believe that people have the right to hunt as a sport, if they’re planning on eating what they kill. And if I had $55,000 to spend on a vacation, I can think of a lot better things to spend it on than killing a lion that was illegally lured with bait from his protected animal sanctuary. Ironically, a friend of mine and her family are in Africa right now, although they are only shooting animals with a camera on a photo safari. They’re out of reach via the Internet right now, but I would love to hear what they think about this case and what the people in Africa are feeling.

RIP Cecil.

What are your feelings on this incident? Are you a hunter? Do you hunt for sport?