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Archive for March, 2011

Adjustments

I am in the process of making my latest adjustment in life, namely getting the hang of living in a small town. I have to admit that basically I am a big city girl. I like all the convenience and culture and rhythm and excitement that a big city offers. And having lived in one for so many years, I have learned to suppress my annoyance with the noise, crime, dirt, congestion, traffic, etc. etc. etc. that is part and parcel of living in a metropolis.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed being in the country. I grew up in Portland, Oregon … but you already know that from reading Becoming Alice, and I have a great need to have nature, plants, flowers, trees, grass lawns, etc. etc. etc. all around me. Fortunately my homes have always had those amenities. And now I am in a small town where those wonderful gifts of nature are even more abundant. I love that.

However, I am reminded by my mother’s warnings early on, “You can’t have everything!” The other saying was, “If you had everything, it would be paradise on earth … and one can’t have paradise here and now. Maybe later … who knows?” Smart lady!

I’ve already told you the shortcomings of big city life. I am now making my adjustment to Small Town America. One of my annoyances is the lack of shopping facilities. I do miss not having a Peets Coffee shop anywhere near. I can’t pop into a Bed n’ Bath every once in a while … with coupons in hand, of course. I like to buy some stuff at Cosco … so much cheaper … and Trader Joe’s … for things I can’t get anywhere else. Nowhere near. So far I haven’t found a jeweler who can size my rings as my fingers get fatter and I don’t know where to go to have a shoemaker reattach my high heel when it breaks off my favorite pair of shoes … you know the ones that don’t hurt and still look fabulous.

There is good news on the horizon however. I have found an old fashioned American shopping mall that is only about a thirty-five minute drive from my house. Now, if I can only find a chunk of time where I can go and research it out. I will have to subtract seventy minutes driving time and another twenty to thirty minutes parking and walking to the front door of the mall just to get to my destination. Then I will have to add more time to research the facility out to see if my favorite places are there. I’m not sure I will have enough time left to actually buy something. I think making this adjustment may take a little time.

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I’ve often wondered why so many of the public figures in our society say “I take full responsibility for this problem.” These public figures may be congressmen, evangelests, actors, businessmen, and the list goes on. Their actions may be to abuse power, steal funds, or take part in unacceptable, and sometimes perverse, sexual behavior. Currently the inspectors of the nuclear plants in Japan admitted they haven’t done it right for years. The air traffic controller at the Reagan National Airport fell asleep, leaving two incoming planes to fend for themselves. Luckily no one was hurt. Where was the FAA in all of this? They haven’t taken “full responsibility” for the incident either, except to say there will be a “full investigation.” The controller has been fired, but we haven’t heard a word out of him.

I wonder why no one has ever come out and said, “I’m sorry.” It must be that saying I’m sorry means that you admit you have done something wrong. It implies that you must feel some guilt about what you have done. It makes you look bad. In Japan you will “lose face.” But if you say, “I take full responsibility for this catastrophe or problem,” it implies that the problem may have been caused by some other person, perhaps an employee, a spouse (for a failed marriage), an adolescent (whom you haven’t monitered closely,) a neighbor, a colleague, anyone else other than yourself.

I have always thought saying I’m sorry showed strength of character. It shows a person is confident enough in himself to admit to others his mistakes and feels he can overcome the problem and still be accepted. Perhaps I feel so strongly about the importance of saying, “I’m sorry” because my father never, ever in his whole life admitted he was wrong or had made a mistake about anything. That is, not until he was ninety-seven years old and was caught red handed in a mistake he’d made. I am so glad that happened. I can now remember him better for all the positive characteristics he had, and they were many.

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Yesterday the little town in which I live had its first book faire. Well, it wasn’t strictly a book faire because the OjaiBookFest allowed renters of table space to sell goods such as decorated gords, crafts, pamphlets, and what-nots as well. However, as one of the booksellers (of Becoming Alice, A Memoir,) I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The first good thing that happened was that it didn’t rain despite the fact that it had been in the forcast for a week. Actully that is only partially true since the rain started at about two o’clock sending us booksellers into a frenzy to save our books from becoming soggy piles of wet paper ready for the recycler.That left me about three to three and a half hours to mind my table at the faire. In that period of time I sold a lot of books, but even better, I had a great time.

There is a method for being a bookseller at a faire. First of all the seller must be on his/her feet. So often when I looked around at the others, I found them sitting down, chatting with one another, having coffee and a snack and completely ignoring anyone that might be passing the table. The trick is to make eye contact with the passerby … not the person who’s selling something next to you. Once the passerby has stopped, smile at him/her. That’s the first invitation to maybe say something, like “Do you want to know what this book is about?” They may smile back, shake their head, and move on. That’s okay. Or, they may approach your table. That’s when you pick up your book and say, “You can find out what this book is about if you read this short synopsis on the back cover.”

If you’re lucky they’ll say, “Wow.” Then you can add whatever else you want. In my case I say, “It is a true story.” Now your passeby is engaged and will either ask more questions or make a remark like, “Oh, I’m from Portland.” Or, they might say, “I was in the war … I was with the occupation forces … we did this and that and this and that.” That’s the kind of engagement that ends up in a sale.

The best kind of engagement comes about when the passersby stop three feet from your table. They hesitate and look at the table and your invitation to read the synopsis doesn’t move them an inch closer to you. That’s when you smile and jokingly say, “You’re welcome to come and look at this book without buying it. It’s free to look … you can put it back down and walk away and I won’t mind at all.”

Of course, you already know that these passersby, who probably were afraid of a sales pitch, bought my book.

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I’ve been a tennis player for more than half of my life, which has been quite a number of decades now. I got to the point of thinking myself as being pretty good at it. Well, not as good as Serena Williams or some also-ran like Ana Ivanovic, but pretty good for city tournaments at maybe not the A level but in the B level. I even have some trophies for show for it. Sometimes I won some tournaments which didn’t test my abilities and when I looked at the trophies, I got to resenting them. You see, they didn’t affirm my abilities on the court and I had to dust them regularly, a chore I didn’t like. That dimishied their value altogether. After some years, I got rid of most of them and only kept those that represented a win over someone I thought to be “better” than me.

Those days have come and gone. I still do play tennis, but I’ve stopped climbing mountains. I decided I got as “good” as I was going to get. I didn’t need to prove anything anymore.

I’ve moved to a small town recently and joined a tennis club. The tennis pro hit a few balls with me and put me onto a “team” which he thought I’d fit into. Most of the players on this team are much younger than I and they are still climbing that mountain. I can say that I hold my own with all of them and surpass most of them in ability at this point. Luckily there are one or two members that seem to be my equals, but most are not. There is a higher team at the club and I sometimes wonder if I’d fit into it.

It makes me wonder if I’d be happier being one of the strongest members of the team I’m in, or one of the weakest members of the higher team. I think I’d rather enjoy the challenge of a stronger team. Perhaps I’m not as good as I think I am, but doesn’t one have to believe that in order to accomplish anything in life. If you think you’re not worth anything, I bet you won’t perform even close to the level you could … because you didn’t believe in yourself. So I have decided to move away from thinking that “maybe I’m not as good as I think I am” to embracing the thought that, “hey, I’m just as good as they are … maybe better.”

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My review of Velvet Totalitarianism by Claudia Moscovici is now posted on http://www.amazon.com

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I still have Bosses, Leaders, and Power in my mind. How could I avoid thinking about it? Every day that I put CNN on for the latest news, I see the kind of Leadership, the kind of Boss, and the Use of Power that the Lybian leader, Ghadafi offers his people. This also effects the rest of the world actually. Just go and fill up your tank at any USA service station and you’ll see how his every move impacts all of us. Ghadafi is a tyrant, for sure, but what I want to know is how there are so many Lybians who support him, who fly his plane and tanks and kill their fellow citizens. Have they been so crippled by having their own ability to think taken away from them for many years that when they are finally given a chance to exert themselves, they are unable to do so? Is this the same kind of brainwashing that we had seen among Hitler’s “judend namely the German children, who cheered for him blindly? This is all very scary stuff, as far as I’m concerned.

But I’m also worried about the leadership of the countries in the rest of the world that stand by lamely and don’t use the power in their hands to stop the Hitlers and Ghadafis and Mubaraks and … and … and …

Is this also a problem on a much smaller scale? For example, how many parents dominate their children, how many husbands and wives dominate their spouses, how many siblings dominate one another, how many bosses dominate their employees to the point that they are unable to express their own free will? Not a small number, I would imagine. I think leadership qualities can be identified in childern as early a nursery school. Perhaps we should find a way for those who are being bossed around to learn early on how to deal with those who rule over other in negative ways.

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In one of my earlier blogs I talked a bit about thinking that most people want to be liked. It probably varies a little from one person to another as to how much they want to be liked, or maybe even to the extent of certain people not caring a hoot about being liked.

I think I even wrote about a newspaper in my home town of Portland, the Oregonian, which ran a column when I was a teenager telling people what to do to be liked. Their formula was to have people give compliments to others to achieve great popularity. I couldn’t do that then or now.

My dad’s formula was to agree with everybody, whether he did or not. That didn’t work for me then and it still doesn’t. However if I do disagree I usually don’t start battle with them; I just let it go and move on to speak to someone else .. until last weekend.

I was at a dinner party having a grand old time when the conversation got around to politics and the world situation, or should I say mess, that we are in right now. The talk got to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which my particular group of dinner partners thought were wars “not worth fighting.”
Then someone commented, “I think no war is worth fighting for.

If you’ve read Becoming Alice you would know immediately why I would disagree vehemently with that statement. I hesitated. If I expressed my contrary opinion, would I lose that person’s friendship? I like her. I wouldn’t want to that to happen. What to do?

“I must disagree,” I said finally. “The threat of having to live under the rule of Hitler caused a war that was necesary and worth fighting for.” There! I said it. My grandparents were killed in that war. And if Hitler would have succeeded, which he almost did, I think a whole lot more of us would have been killed.

No one responded to my challenge. The conversation took another turn. I have yet to find out if I’ve lost a friend. But, if I have, she is not someone I would want to keep with the group I respect as my friends.

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