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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Coloring books for adults?!

For the past couple of months, I have noticed in my shopping excursions, there are a plethora of adult coloring books.  Whether I was in pursuit of groceries, crafts or browsing, these paperback books filled with intricate black and white drawings are flooding the shelves everywhere I shopped.

 One day, my curiosity was saturated, and I picked up a volume entitled Mindfulness. In my Graduate classes, this topic has been very prevalent and it’s been in the forefront of my mind.  I flipped through the pages and saw this book have elaborate drawings waiting for colored pencils to bring to life. I also noticed that there were quotes from a variety of luminaries such as Carl Jung and Socrates. Since I am a huge fan of sage and concise quotes, I immediately bought it.

As I opened the book and absorbed the words, I found that this activity could easily lend itself to a relaxation experience. I am always looking for opportunities for self-care, so I decided to be very conscious of the whole experience in coloring. I found meditation music to help me ease into the relaxing mood. As the music played, I let my thoughts wax and wane.  I paid attention to the soft, rustling sounds of the lead on the paper.  I let my eyes wander back to the quote to pounder it again.

Typically, when I hold a pencil, I tend to grip it very tightly and cause painful callouses on my fingers. Yet, during this coloring sessions, not once did my right hand hurt. I wasn’t clutching the colored pencil for dear life, but rather let it sit propped in my fingers as I lightly glided it over the designated blank space.

As I colored the drawn flowers, I figured another way to relax was not to use the expected palette of the flora. I didn’t worry what color to choose—purple leaves on the blue roses, why not?! By allowing myself to not cave into conventional coloring, it was freeing and interesting to see what came from the pastel pencil.

I looked up at the clock and was surprised that 20 minutes had flown by.  I continued to color, then felt I had to finish the picture. This nagging drive for completion was not conducive to the relaxation I was trying to build, so I put away the pencils and closed the book.  I promised myself I wouldn’t open it again until the feeling of urgency had subsided and I was ready to just enjoy the sensation of coloring.

I am aware that not everyone shares my pleasant experience. I had brought up in casual conversation my observation about see so many adult coloring books for sale and have been met with rolled eyes and scoffs.  However, I find the process relaxing and rewarding, and encourage anyone who is looking for another way of self-care to try it. After all, there is no limit of places to purchase these books!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Snail mail revival

A couple of months ago, my bonus son asked us when the mail usually arrived. My husband told him it usually comes in the early afternoon.  I found this inquiry different, since he had never shown interest in the mail delivery schedule.  He then informed he had ordered a Loot Crate. Each day, he waited patiently for the mail. When a box wasn’t delivered, he looked dejected. 
I had no idea what a Loot Crate was-- it sounded like something Long John Silver from Treasure Island would speak about in low tones and a pirate accent.
 Finally, his "loot" arrived and it contained a T-Shirt, figurine, and other fun items with a theme. I asked my bonus son what exactly is a Loot Crate and he directed me to their website. As I navigated through the site, I began to understand its appeal. Each month, they have a different theme, such as horror for October. When a person orders a box, they are in for a surprise when it arrives. 
It’s been something I know I have nagged my kids about to learn patience. Sometime I feel this younger generation is too exposed instant gratification. Before I start reminiscing about the good old days, it’s nice to see that companies like Loot Crate have given a new appreciation for anticipation and “snail mail”!
I am also pleasantly surprised that there are a variety of companies that cater to people’s monthly expectation.  There is Try the World,  company that sends its subscribers a variety of food from a different country each month.  My all time favorite Fruit of the Month Club  appears to be still thriving.
Another pastime that is having a modern upgrade is radio shows. Back in the 1920's,  there were serial radio shows, such has Little Orphan Annie  and The Shadow.  People would gather around their radios to listen to the next adventures. Now, the modern equivalent is podcasts, which offers an enormous variety of choices, from comedy, news, interviews and even a show called Serial.

There is a song by Peter Allen called “Everything Old is New Again.” I never quite understood its sentiments, but after making these observations, I am able to make some sense of these passages.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

That's a lot of Mistys!

I woke up one morning with the tune “Misty” in my head. I was humming it as I fed my pets. The cats looked at me blankly as I crooned “I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree.” After my concert to bored animals, I decided to look up on YouTube the professional singers of this song.
I was aware of only two singers that performed “Misty”:  Johnny Mathis and Ray Stevens. I found it fascinating how Johnny Mathis could sing each high falsetto note meticulously. Though I enjoyed listening to him singing this song, it was not my favorite version of this tune. Ray Stevens’ bluegrass interpretation held that honor. I wasn’t quite sure why it was my favorite.  I did enjoy the uniqueness of the sound of his voice-- it has a yodeling quality to it. Or maybe it was the lighthearted and bouncy melody that the banjo and fiddle bring.
As I scrolled through YouTube, I was very surprised to see that there were many other artists that performed this particular song.  I clicked on the video of Ella Fitzgerald. The piano accompaniment was superfluous— her eloquent and refined voice was a fine tuned instrument all on its own, playing effortlessly with the notes.
I also found some singers I was surprised made covers of this song. Aretha Franklin’s version had a blues feeling to it. As I listened, I felt she was trying to contain her strong, powerful voice at the beginning of the song. Then towards the end, she blasted through the lyrics with a vengeance. I believed her presence was so headstrong that she wouldn’t be “led on” by anyone.  I also found the same reaction to Frank Sinatra’s version. Though his distinctive baritone voice and professional orchestra accompanying him were flawless, somehow all of these elements took away from the song’s vulnerability.

As I thought about the song, Ms Fitzgerald’s and Mr. Mathis’ versions carry a melancholy feel—they are both shyly expressing that they are “too misty and too much in love” to be able to think clearly.   However, in Mr. Steven’s version, he seems to revel in the fact that he doesn’t know the difference between his “hat from his glove.”  The upbeat tone of his version has the notion that being in love has a whimsical and fun feel to it.  He’s thoroughly enjoying the ride and not ashamed to crow about it.  The more I think about it, I believe I felt that energy as a young girl and that’s the reason why this has always been my favorite version. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A touch of Minx

A few months ago, I, along with everyone else, fell in love with the movie Inside Out.  I also appreciated that one of the main story points was it is  okay to feel sad, sometimes it’s an emotion that cannot be avoided. It was nice to see a movie not sugar-coat tough emotions and show that memories can be shaded with a blend of feelings. I thought the writers were so clever to materialize emotions into characters that kids could understand. Again, I was overwhelmed by their inventiveness that there are little beings living in the main character’s brain.
As I watched these colorful characters on the screen, I had a nagging reminder of a comic strip I had read growing up. It was in the British  comic book called The Beano.  Not to be confused with the natural remedy.  The Beano comic book has been going strong for over 60 years in Great Britain.
When I arrived home, I looked up these characters. The cast that started me doing comparisons was The Numskulls.    Come to find out, I was in good company on this very thought process. There was an article in The Hollywood Reporter that focused on this same observation. 
 I revisited this comic strip of bean-shaped (there’s a theme here, I know it!) tiny people that were in charge of the human’s functions, such as the Eye and Nose Department, rather than his emotions.
Looking through The Beano’s website, I saw the other players was entertained by: Lord Snooty: the equivalent to Richie Rich,  but he dressed in a top coat and tails; Roger the Dodger: a crafty boy always thinking of schemes to get out of his chores; Dennis the Menace: he looked nothing like the American counterpart. This comic had him with spiky black hair and a doppelganger dog by the name of Gnarly; and my favorite Minnie the Minx.
She looked just the way I remembered—the girl with the mischievous smile, wearing a vibrant red and black striped sweater and coal black Tam O'Shanter  hat covering her shocking red hair ponytails. Why was she my favorite character? Was it because she was one of the few girls in the comic strip?  Was it because her side kick was a cat? Why did I find her impish antics so amusing? Was it because she was the exact opposite of me?

It was nice to visit the past of my childhood and in the spirit of the movie, this memory ball of my favorite comic book character will be tinged with richer emotions.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hooray for the Santas!

I have been very encouraged with the recent news stories about store Santas working with kids with autism.  The first story I heard was about an event that Autism Speaks manages called Caring Santa. They have a Santa that will provide the families an opportunity to have their children with autism has a picture with Santa without the fear of stares if their child has a fit to due over stimulation. When one boy didn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap, this kind hearted St Nick joined the boy on the floor and the boy’s parents were able to capture a memorable photo.
The other story that really touched my heart was the boy who told Santa that he was afraid he was on the naughty list due to his autism. Again, the sage behind the Santa costume told him that he was in no danger of being kicked off of the nice list.  He told the boy the truth—his autism was not to be judged and that was just who he is.  Rightfully so, this encouragement has been shared over 500,000 times on Facebook.

It did my soul good to read these articles.  As a mother of a son with autism, I can truly appreciate the struggle of these parents trying to participate in “normal” activities. My son has had meltdowns through no fault of his, but the dirty looks and the mean comments we received (Can’t you control your child? What’s wrong with him?) have troubled all of us, to say the least.  I am so glad that these Santas are aware of autism and are being great examples of what caring looks like. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Thoughts on HitchBOT

In the past few weeks in the news there has been the saga of HitchBOT. It started as a social experiment to see how many people would pick up the hitchhiking portable robot and take it across the country. HitchBOT was a passenger all across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands.
The two professors and creators of HitchBOT decided to drop it off in Boston, MA and see how far it could go, its destination communicated through its screen was San Francisco, CA.
Unfortunately, HitchBOT was not allowed to record the image of the Golden Gate Bridge. After two weeks, it made it to Philadelphia PA where it was torn apart and left in pieces on the street.  
However, the story does not end there. A group of inventors named The Hacktory from Philadelphia saw this news story and did not want the conclusion to be that people only want to destroy things. They reached out to the Canadian inventors and offered to help repair HitchBOT. 
 Another item that has come about is PopeBot, built by a Philadelphia local station 93.3 WWMR. This robot is also dependent on people to take it on a journey and these images are posted to social media

This turn of events is a good lesson for your family. Though the negative events such as the demolition of HitchBOT is disheartening, sometimes taking positive action can help out change the course. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hearing the here and now

Months ago, as I was driving, I happened to noticed that Canyon Hearing Aid Center was torn down to make way for more parking for the next door convenience store. For some reason, I felt sad about this new turn of events.
I should have been accustomed to this type of change of landscape.  Being from Las Vegas NV, I had seen many hotel and casino buildings disappearing off the face of the earth. For instance, I remember watching on television the implosions of the Landmark and the Sands Hotels. Years ago, I had been a guest at the Landmark , which was a fanciful building, true to its name. I also visited the Sands’ kitchen facilities  when I was attending UNLV.  It was somber to see history be turned into dust.  At least these implosions made way for construction of larger hotels, supplying jobs and eventually more tourists.  
Maybe the reason I was saddened by this destruction of Canyon Hearing Aid Center was that someone lost his livelihood. This land was just being used as a parking lot.  
I had visited this establishment a couple of years back.  My husband had noticed that when he spoke to me I responded by asking him what did he say.  I argued that sometimes he spoke in low tones. However, I did notice at times I was asking other people to repeat themselves. He became concerned and insisted I have my hearing checked. We had seen Canyon Hearing Aid Center many times in our travels and one day we drove to this facility. I wasn’t looking forward to the hearing test at all—it was a reminder to me that I was growing old and one of my senses might be betraying me.  
When we stepped into the building, it appeared that time had stood still in these rooms.  The man who did my hearing test was none other than Dan McCuskey. He looked exactly like he did on the local commercials. I mentioned to him he was much taller than he was on television. With a deadpan demeanor, he stated that he was sitting down for the commercial, so of course no one could tell his real height.
I explained the reason behind my appointment and he administered a battery of hearing tests. The results were my hearing was perfect. Though I was thrilled I wasn’t in need of a hearing aid, I was curious why sometimes I had to ask someone to repeat what he/she just said? He explained as we age, we sometimes cannot process words as quickly as we used to when we were younger. He suggested instead of asking the person to repeat him/herself, just state “I cannot listen as fast as you’re talking!” I found him to be very knowledgeable and had a good dose of common sense.
I wasn’t quite joyous about the news that I wouldn’t be receiving a hearing aid today. It didn’t change the fact that I was growing older and this realization was disheartening.  As I left the examining room, I saw that Mr. McCuskey was speaking with a delivery driver in his office.  The subject they were speaking about was of motorcycles. From what I overheard, the delivery driver was asking Mr. McCuskey did he enjoy going on his latest bike ride.
I couldn’t believe my ears (I knew I heard right, I had a print out to prove that!)—here was this gentleman older than I was and he was riding motorcycles?! I was inspired by this and decided that though I may be growing older, that didn’t mean I would stop being vital.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any mention of the closing of Canyon Hearing Aid Center.  I hope that Mr. McCuskey is enjoying himself, riding his motorcycle into the sunset.