Nancy Drew, Narcissism, and the National Debt

Here’s what I’ve thought about this week.  Brought to you by the letter “N.”

Me.  I started reading a Nancy Drew mystery this week.  I saw it on the shelf as I walked by the guest bedroom and thought “why not?”  Having read it decades ago, I don’t remember the plot of the story so it’s all new to me.  All I know is that I loved Nancy Drew.  Unlike Laura Ingalls who I knew I could never be, Nancy Drew’s example of “do good” behavior gave me hope that I could become someone useful and cool when I grew up.  Whether or not I’ve accomplished this goal, I don’t know;  but at the very least she showed me that attention to detail and an independent spirit could take you far in this world.

*Amen*

•  Us vs. Them.  I’ve never, ever seen so many narcissistic people on TV in one week as I have this week.  Hello, Washington!  How are you weasels doing?  Let’s review what narcissism is, shall we?  It’s shallow, self-absorbed behavior in which your need to be important trumps everyone else’s right to exist;  combine this behavior with being overly sensitive to perceived criticism, and we have an egotistical, whiny person who only focuses on himself or herself.  Sound like anyone in DC?  Oh, yes– I know, it sounds like everyone in the U.S. Congress.  It’s time for all you weasels children people to shut up… sit down… and do something productive.

*Capiche?*

•  We.  So we’re going to pay our bills.  Good idea.  That would be the responsible thing to do.  As WE have racked them up, now WE must pay them down.  I hope that there will be less bills in our future.  That would be an example of reducing.  And I pray that there will be more money in the coffers.  That would be an example of regulating & refining.  But I fear that until Americans understand that the U.S. Constitution starts with the words “WE the people” none of the common sense things that need to be done will be done.  And this nonsense will continue forever.

*Meh*

A Suburban Moral Dilemma

As I sit here typing this post I’m watching our neighbor’s sprinkler system water their lawn.  Putting aside the fact that it is midday and the sun is at its hottest while the sprinkler system waters their lawn, I’ve found myself in a bit of a moral dilemma.  The sort of dilemma that an observant, kind-hearted person, such as myself, could only find herself in.

Here’s the deal.  We don’t have an automated lawn watering system.  I am our watering system– complete with hoses, oscillating sprinklers, and a decidedly lethargic approach to lawn care.  I water when the spirit moves me and in a random pattern when I get around to it.

Our neighbors, on the other hand, have a perfectly positioned, professionally maintained sprinkler system that evenly and consistently waters their grass.  Or at least that’s what the neighbors, who are never here at midday, think is happening.

The reality is that the men who positioned the sprinkler heads have sent the water shooting into a tree and a wall, which is causing the water to bounce back into small portions of our lawn instead of evenly watering the neighbor’s lawn.

Now the angelic [do good] part of my being is saying that I really should go over to the neighbor’s house and tell them that their sprinkler system is amiss… that their professionals have made a mistake or two when positioning the sprinkler heads.

But the devilish [lazy butt] part of my being is shouting “yes! less lawn for me to water” and resists making the effort to tell the neighbors what’s really going on with their lawn… figuring that it is up to them to monitor their own property.

So there you have it, my gentle readers.  A moral dilemma.  In a non-friendly suburb.  Noted by me because I pay attention.

What say ‘ye?  Do I tell them, or not?

Blogging: Then And Now

Subtitled: In Which I Explain How I Came To Be A Blogger

Sub-Subtitled: Blame It On The Dirt

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I read my first blog in the summer of 1997.  I was searching online {pre-Google} for info on gardening in clay dirt when I stumbled across this unique website by a regional gardener/college prof.  The website was called a weblog and I was amazed to discover that this weblog was updated on a weekly basis.  I could return to the site every week and learn something new!

I was smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

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But then my life got very busy and I forgot about weblogs.  In the fall of 2002 I read an article in a newspaper that linked to these new things called blogs— which I instantly realized were more advanced versions of the gardening weblog that I’d loved years before.  According to the newspaper article people were writing personal blogs that they filled like a diary or a scrapbook.  Then they shared their blogs with the world– and encouraged their readers to leave comments.  

Comments, I wondered?  What might this be?  So I followed the links in the newspaper and discovered that people were indeed now keeping daily blogs– and that readers were leaving their 2¢ on the blogs in a place called comments.

I was re-smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality combined with the ability to talk with people all over the world.  What was not to love?

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Soon thereafter I jumped into blogging.  First, I commented and emailed with bloggers I found {mostly by spending hours surfing the pre-Blogher net}.  Then, on the advice of a blogger friend, I started my own blog– which turned out to be a huge challenge to create and a great deal of fun to keep.  However, after about four years of being a daily blogger, I was tired of keeping a blog so I let it go and walked away from the blogosphere.

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Fast forward to the winter of 2011 when I decided that it was time for me to get back into blogging.   Much had changed in my life– and in the blogosphere– so I decided to start this blog with the understanding that I’d not post on a daily basis and that I’d write about whatever interests me in the moment.  Just because I could.

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IMHO, the coolest thing about blogging is– and always has been– that with a bit of desire and gumption anyone can have a blog.  That’s what hooked me on blogging in the first place.  Personal expression + instant connection.   

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Blogging has changed along the way into something more polished and more organized than the early versions that I fell in love with.  Having recently re-entered the blogosphere, I see four things about blogging that surprise me.  Whether they are idiosyncratic to my experiences or the norm, I could not say;   I’ll leave that for others to figure out.  All I know is that things are not as they once were– and I’m cool with that.

  1. Blogs all look very pretty now.  In fact, in the process of setting up this blog I have not once used a piece of code.  Amazing.  I spent hours & hours & hours working on the code to get my first blog to look passible.  Now, pretty is a given.
  2. Blogs are all classified into niches.  I’ve found very few generalists like myself.  Instead, everyone who keeps a blog is [or wants to be] an authority on one specific subject.  I see nothing wrong with this, but realize that connecting with other bloggers is more difficult because of it.  Blogging is not as open and free-form as it once was.
  3. Most blogs are monetized now.  That was a new concept when I left the blogosphere, but today it is ubiquitous.  I understand the reason why people are trying to make money off of their blogs.  However, adverts and product placements put a different vibe into the blogging mix;  one that wasn’t there years ago when people blogged just for the fun of it.
  4. Many blogs do not seem to want commenters– as much as followers.  I see a shift away from the comment section as a cocktail party {with everyone chatting it up & discussing all sides of an issue} to the comment section as standing in line at the coffee shop {with casual, polite encounters & indifferent shrugs}.  It’s a different take on what it means to connect and communicate with others.  I get it, but it has taken me awhile to adapt to this more reserved approach to commenting.

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I feel fortunate that I discovered blogging early on and allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to give it a try.  It has evolved so far from my first encounter with it in 1997– and I couldn’t be happier.  Yet different as it is now, the basic concept remains the same: info, updates & a bit of personality.

Yep, I’m still-smitten… after all these years.    

Shopping For Furniture

A brief overview…

We wanted to buy two comfy chairs and an ottoman for an upstairs bedroom that we’re turning into what I call a sitting room– or as Zen-Den refers to it, the un-bedroom.  [The man is very literal.]

Because the bedroom is up the stairs, around a corner, and has a small doorway, the size of the chairs was our primary concern.

After much… much… much searching online and on foot, we ended up with three possible chairs that would fit into the room.  One was at Crate & Barrel.  The other two were at Ethan Allen.

The Top Five Reasons Why We Bought Our New Furniture At Crate & Barrel… And Not At Ethan Allen 

Number 5 –  Crate & Barrel was less expensive than Ethan Allen.  Not by much, but a little bit.

Number 4 – Crate & Barrel had a better selection of fabric than Ethan Allen.  Fewer choices, but more current colors.

Number 3 – Crate & Barrel allowed us (encouraged us, even) to take fabric samples home so that we could see how our chairs/ottoman would look in all kinds of light, night and day, in our house.  Ethan Allen wouldn’t let us have even one sample to take home and required us to make an appointment with one of their designers who would bring the fabric samples to our house for one hour; during which time we were to decide which fabric to use on our furniture.

Number 2 – Crate & Barrel sales associates were knowledgeable about the furniture on the sales floor as well as all the items online and in their catalogues.  Our request to see certain chairs that I’d researched online before going to the store confused the Ethan Allen designers;  they couldn’t find one of the two chairs on the sales floor (or in their catalogue) to show us.

Number 1 – Crate & Barrel sales associates were friendly, hip, and encouraging with lots of good decorating ideas.  Ethan Allen designers were uptight and high-handed.  They seemed weirdly disinterested in selling furniture to us– or anyone else in the store, for that matter.  So, we walked out the door and didn’t go back.

[Hello FTC!  I know that posts like this worry you, so let me assure you that I/we have received no money or other compensation for the above endorsements.  This is just my take on what happened to us when we went shopping in these stores in our city.  Feeling less worried now FTC?  Good.] 

The Just Say Nope To Taupe Project

Twelve years ago we had our house built.  Today we both agree that the floor plan is great for us.  It’s a transitional style home, so we have rooms that are traditional and we have rooms that are contemporary.  The rooms are juxtaposed in such a way as to create an interesting, non-cookie cutter feel to the house which adds a fun energy to the place.

But I never really liked how the inside of this house looked.  We worked with the builder’s interior designer and I’m not sure that she knew what she was doing.  She gave us pinky beige and taupe walls– with dark cherry cabinets, creamy tile, yellowish bathroom counters– and shiny brass knobs and door handles everywhere.  I trusted her, but either she put the wrong neutrals together because she was stupid.  Or she put the wrong neutrals together because she was malicious.  [We refused to go with her first design plan for our house: purple walls, leopard print, shiny brass with beveled glass light fixtures, and black counters.  Really.  Not kidding.]

So for eight years we lived with what we paid for.  I tried to correct a few of the rooms but ended up with a so-so look in each space.  It bummed me that things never looked right and Zen-Den, who has a good eye for decorating, was too busy at work to focus on how to fix things here at home.

Then four years ago, in what I can only describe as a burst of peri-menopausal bravado, I announced that: “If I’m going through the change, so is the house.”  Zen-Den, bless his heart, said: “okay.”  And with that, we set out on what has come to be known as The Just Say Nope To Taupe Project.

Since then it’s been almost non-stop change.  We’ve kept the furniture and accessories that we both liked– and sold, Goodwilled, or St. Vincent de Pauled the rest.  [A few antiques still need to be sold to a dealer.]  We’ve painted or had someone else paint almost all the walls and ceilings and trim in the whole house.  [One room to go.]  The kitchen has been entirely remodeled and the master bathroom has been refreshed.  And now we’re to the point where we’re slowly removing the old wall-to-wall carpet and putting wood floors downstairs/new carpeting upstairs.

While I did have a pretty good idea of how much money it was going to cost to redo everything, I didn’t have any idea of how much clutter this project was going to generate.  At some point in the last four years every room in our home has undergone some sort of change– which has created various degrees of chaos caused by stuff shifting back and forth between rooms and the basement.  Zen-Den has taken this process in stride.  Me, perhaps, not so much.

I’m glad that we decided to do this whole house overhaul instead of moving, but I won’t lie and say that it’s been a fun project.  It’s been very anxiety inducing for me, an English major turned self-taught interior designer, to make all these color and style choices.  Obviously, improving a house while property values are dropping across the country is a bit of a worry, too.  I doubt that we’ll ever get our money back from The Just Say Nope To Taupe Project.  But I don’t know that I really care about that.

What I do care about is the fact that we have a home with a cohesive color scheme, comfortable furniture, and a sense of our quirky personalities— three things that were lacking previously.  We’re relaxed when we’re at home now.  It’s our house fixed up the way we like it.  And we both feel like we belong here– finally.

How To Make Me Snarl

[First, here’s “why” I’m talking about this.]

I introduce this topic today because:

  1. It makes me irritable and therefore is rant-worthy;
  2. No one I know irl can figure out what to do about the sort of rudeness I will describe below;  and
  3. I’m hearing about more and more adults who are changing their first names.  So even if you haven’t experienced firsthand what I’m talking about here, I’m betting that sometime soon you will.

[This is not the snarl part.]

A few of my friends have changed their first names.  Some have adopted a different version of their childhood name e.g. Kathy became Katie.  Others have tweaked their childhood name e.g. Sandy became Sondy.  While others have changed their names completely e.g. Joyce became Suzy.

[Still not the snarl part.]

I’m always happy to use whatever name a friend wants me to use.  I figure that he or she has good reasons for changing his or her name, and I can’t imagine being so rude to someone as to not respect what he or she wants to be called.

[This is the beginning of the snarl part.]

But I’ve noticed that not everyone I know is as gracious about name changes as I am.  In fact, on a few occasions I’ve been shocked when someone I know insists that he or she doesn’t have to adopt a friend’ s new name because he or she knew this person before the name change.  Therefore, he or she is exempt from cooperating.

I’ve come to think of these uncooperative sorts of people as the louts.

[Full snarl here.]

Obviously, this behavior is insulting to the name changer, but it is also awkward for those of us who know both the name changer and the uncooperative lout.  While I understand that there is a power play going on here, I can’t figure out what the end game is.  Is the lout trying to undermine the name changer?  Or is the lout trying to punish those of us who cooperative with the name changer?  Or is the lout so obtuse that he or she really doesn’t understand how irritating his or her behavior truly is?

[And finally, I conclude.]

I realize that lack of courtesy is an epidemic in our world.  And I also realize that I cannot change people (nor do I want to).  But this situation has made me more aware of how fragile personal relationships are.  And how nonchalantly some people I know will throw them away when asked to bend just a little bit.

Can you blame me when I say that I have an overwhelming urge to snarl?