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I used to be a voracious reader. In all my thrift store gleanings I have compiled books known and obscure, stacked in a neat pile ready to be devoured. My nightstand groans with my “to-read” pile, and I have added an extra stand, slender with shelves, so I can pile more. That’s right, I have two nightstands with book stacks – doesn’t everyone?
As of late, though, I’ve stumbled across a troubling thing. Something that if really is true will be the end of me because I won’t know the cure. The problem? I’m having a terrible time staying focused on my books. I used to be able to sit down in the evenings and read several chapters. If the book was really intense, I could read for hours during the day. Now I have problems finishing a chapter and books are becoming harder and harder to finish. I think I know what the issue is and don’t want to admit it. I believe I’ve succumbed to the social media/technology disorder. You know the one? Where you can’t go five minutes without checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed? I might settle in with my book, get comfy and cozy, read a few paragraphs, and then my palms start itching. I start thinking about what might be new or have been said and bam – my book is facedown and I’m scrolling. This, my friends, is what we used to yell at our kids for.
Technology has become part and parcel of our world. On our hand-held smart phones the world is at our fingertips. We can’t go anywhere without it or we feel disconnected and apart, and I can’t believe I’ve succumbed to it. I’m not really sure that there is a cure. When I think back, it’s only been 10 years since we got our first computer. The first time I got online it was like magic, even though it was dial-up and took years to get on. Cell phones, big and clunky, were purchased and through the years became more streamlined and full of more options. Now, my laptop is my portal to the writing world where I gather ideas, and also where I type up the thoughts that come to my head. It was only last August that I caved to the iPhone and finally decided I needed one. That was the last straw. I’m now connected wherever I go, even in the Walmart bathroom if need be. It’s a constant at-the-ready deal and one that, I believe, has taken away my ability to focus on something (like reading) for an extended period of time.
I’m not sure how to cure this because we all know that technology isn’t going anywhere. It’s only becoming faster and better every second of every day. We don’t have to bow to it, this I know. It’s become the norm, though, to be available at all times. I have to say that I do miss when I was out and about and could disappear from the world in the grocery store and let my answering machine at home pick up the calls. Alas, our answering machine went out the door years ago along with the landline phones. I say good riddance, in all sincerity. Has anyone else experienced this phenomena? The inability to concentrate on the simplest things like browsing a magazine or reading a lengthy book? The fast paced world where pages fly by and tabs are opened and closed with alarming speed. I would love to know that I’m not alone. I would love to know how everyone else deals with this. I love social media/technology and know that I must learn to embrace it yet manage it. I’ve simply got to learn how to switch my Internet-fast mind off and learn to switch off the phone and computer as well. Our brains are computers that can be trained as well, because after all, I have stacks of books waiting for me. But unlike technology, they will never change – they will remain static, full of their words, and wait for me to come back to them
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
My newest column on The Bargain Hunter:
I’ve reached the end of my cooking skills, folks. I humbly submit to you my resignation from the kitchen. I’ve got loads of recipes pinned to within an inch of their lives on Pinterest, my favorite cookbooks claim a space on my kitchen shelf, and my brain – oh my brain – used to think up great things to eat.
No more. I think my food switch has turned off and I don’t know how to turn it on again. This is not good news for those that live in my home.
When the kids were small and I was a stay-at-home mom (in my heart I still am) my refrigerator was stocked with easy to make foods. Casseroles, hearty and rich, found their way to my dinner table several times a week. Soups like potato and ham, broccoli, and even chili (which is not a family fave) with cornbread were served. I tried new recipes and honed the ones that everyone liked and the ones that were not so likable. I had a great little repertoire going on that had new ones inserted every now and then for good measure and to mix it up. Marinated meats were put in juicy containers and pulled out to grill in the evening and along with a baked potato the meal was complete.
Somewhere along the way the kids grew up, and along with their many outside the home activities, the supper table became a once a week type deal. It was a place to crash when we realized, “Hey, we’re all home tonight. Let’s sit at the table!” Glasses would clink merrily, mundane everyday details would be talked about, and the food would be plentiful and down the hatch.
Things change over time, like kids moving away, going to college, and getting jobs. I’m down to one child in his last year of school and I should be cooking everything he likes plus more. Instead, I’m drowning in my own cooking foibles, unable to even muster the strength to pull out a tried and true recipe and give it a whirl. My son just laughs and says, “Mom, you’re trying to starve me!” My husband laughs as well and says, “Just fry me an egg with potatoes and I’m good.” This is not me, though, this is not who I am. Aside from cooking the occasional Mexican meal (which I can do in my sleep) I’m in a rut and can’t see my way out of it.
I’m thinking that I’m mourning the loss of being important in the kitchen. I work part time and when I come home I can’t think past making coffee and sitting down in a cushy chair. When I’m home on my days off I try to make something good to make up for the other days that I didn’t do such a good job. It’s a constant struggle and to you working moms that have little kids I commend you for being able to get supper on the table.
As for me, I need to break out of this funk and get back to myself. Maybe I need a change of scenery in my kitchen. Trying some new ingredients or a fancy recipe I never would have tried before is the key. I should re-arrange and clean out my spice cabinet, and I should finally try cooking with asparagus or some other green vegetable the kids would never touch. When the last child is gone in six months or so, I will be left with a yawning space that was once filled with laughter.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
We watch R-rated movies with nary a thought.
Violence, guns, people being murdered as we munch popcorn.
Sex scenes don't faze us. They are part of the movie.
But let singers sing a song on an award show, wild and crazy, and suddenly we have become a people that can't watch.
It's simply not "Christian"
We applaud a Christian singer for walking out of the show,
because after all, that's what we do when we see something of the world.
We leave. Right?
We jump on the "Christian" bandwagon.
Are we blind?
Or do we share trending social media articles so we look more righteous?
You can't have both.
You are either one way or you're not.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Now that I’ve got you all on the edge of your seat, I’ll tell you what the whole problem was. … Our front door. Yes, that entryway into the Herrera household that divided us for years. When we bought our house nearly 18 years ago, we could tell that the front living room had once been two rooms. A support beam ran down the center, separating it into what used to be two tiny rooms. As we set up our TV viewing area, we realized that the front door would continually be opened onto us sitting there. You know, watching TV, reading, sleeping, or whatever people do in a living room.
At first it wasn’t an issue. You all know my husband is an interior texturer/painter so he has access to a lot of items people discard on a job site. Many of them fill up our garage because he can’t stand to see them tossed in the trash – windows, light fixtures, and yes, doors. This has been a boon to us over the years because it’s a money saver. Free things equal new to us. He was able to get a beautiful front door for a song and about 10 or more years ago installed it. It was about that time he started talking about changing where the front door was. “Let’s move it over and have it open at that window.” I thought he was crazy and told him so. No way, the door will be on the right front side of the house and look weird when you drive by. I am ever the devil’s advocate and argue about things that are meaningless. Needless to say, for many, many years we were at a standstill. He said let’s move it, I would say no.
Ah, the sands of time move along ever so stealthily, and with them come wisdom and the realization that some things just aren’t worth fighting over. I accept the fact that I blocked his dream door for years. It was me. Missy. I’m the one. Chagrin.
Over Christmas break he began to ask me again about installing a door. “I have one that I can get for a song and it’s beautiful, just trust me,” he said, “It will be installed and you will love it.” I was tired of holding out and not sure why I was really doing it anymore, although I put up a semi-poor argument that I didn’t want my house messed up the weekend before Christmas. That didn’t hold water and voila, the date was set for his guy to come and help him install the door. After picking up our daughter on a Friday night at the airport, then shopping until the wee hours with both daughters (George stayed home), we arrived home at 4 a.m. Saturday morning and crashed. Promptly at 8 a.m. I heard horrendous sawing and knew the front right side of my house was being sawed open for a new doorway.
I now have a new front door, on the right side of my house, off center, and you know what? I’m in love with it. It opened up our living room in a tremendous way and feels like a new home. I believe I fought for so long because I thought it would look strange from the road, but who cares what passersby think? People no longer walk in on top of us, I have a new living room, a wonderful door obtained for a song, and a new outlook on my home. And the best part? My husband is so happy and excited that he finally got his new front door – and we have one less thing to argue about. Lesson learned for me.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
New column freshly posted on The Holmes Bargain Hunter
Did 2013 not just arrive on golden wings yesterday? I blinked and it was gone along with several milestones and fresh ones looming on the horizon. Time flying is an adult’s business because when you are young you can hardly wait for things to happen – becoming a teenager, getting a driver’s license, graduating. As an adult the moments and events fly by and you scratch your head as another rounds the corner at full speed. I’ve compiled a list of things I want to accomplish in the new year or have accomplished this year. Maybe it’s just a list of wishes that if I work hard enough, will come true as the moments move along and I try to grasp them:
1) I wish for a reverence for taking care of my body. When we’re young our bodies work. Period. As we get older we start feeling little tweaks here and there and realize that, hey, we might want to start taking care of the shell we walk around in. There’s a good chance it might give up before we’re ready for it to!
2) The ability to manage money in a better way. I’ve come a long way in this area and I have worked hard at it. I never really learned much about it until it was time for me to all of a sudden be married and pay bills. My husband is a whiz at saving and managing money but I had to learn the hard way. I feel in control of myself for the first time in years and want my kids to be smarter than I was. Imparting money knowledge to your kids is the best thing you can ever do.
3) Start writing that book. I know. If you run into me at the store please keep asking me if I’ve started it…as you all already do!
4) Savor each moment and milestone that comes my way. Stuck in line at Walmart? Look around and instead of getting impatient, smile – and I mean BIG – at the next person who looks at you. Smiles can be heard around the world. I also want to savor my last child graduating. I want to take each wave of excitement and sadness, stew in it for a moment, and let it wash over me. Too soon they are all gone and their voices are but an echo in the rooms they once occupied.
5) I want to learn to listen to God’s nudges, and I mean actually shout back “Yes God! I hear you and for once I will listen!” Nudges turn into blessings and sometimes, very big things. This Christmas season I finally listened to several nudges and am changed for it.
6) Lastly, I want to start living a life that I want to live. I don’t want to be doing things, day by day, that are meaningless to me. Our lives, these small pockets of time in the universe, drain away minute by minute. What are we doing with them? Yes, we need money to survive. Yes, we need to earn that. There are things, though, that God has instilled in us. Our drive, our needs, our strengths that enable us to earn that living doing what we love. The things that when our passion and abilities combine we become unstoppable. I want that. I will have it. Through His grace I will achieve it. A life lived any other way is just living.
Happy New Year. Find the passion in your life and really start living, not just existing.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
My newest column on The Holmes Bargain Hunter touches on whether we actually feel Christmas. I'm choosing to revel in it.
Christmas week, in all its grandeur and preparation, has arrived on hushed wings in the night. As we are rushing around to gather last minute stocking gifts and food to prepare, the time to celebrate our Lord – tiny yet mighty – has arrived in full flush. Twinkling lights meet my eyes as I gaze upon the nativity scene I put up every year. Bought back in the 90s, my manger scene is lovely with its rustic stable and glass figurines. Every year I threaten to paint the baby Jesus hair because I know that someone made a mistake somewhere. Baby Jesus was definitely not a blonde. Even so, he is nestled deep in his manger while Mary and Joseph stand guard, a stout shepherd herds his sheep nearby, and the colorful wisemen are so very nearly there to bring their gifts from afar. Along with gifts and sparkly lights on the tree, this nativity scene is here to remind me that Christmas, above all else, is to remind us there is a savior.
What is something you remember from your Christmas’s past? Childhood memories flood through me and like scenes from a silent movie I browse through them, sifting and sorting, until the most precious moments come to me. I remember our stockings hung over the mantle with the fire gently burning. Stocking gifts were like tiny treasures, all wrapped up in their miniature splendor. Each one was opened and savored. To this day, my kids take turns opening one stocking gift at a time so the magic is extended precious minute by minute. From my memory banks comes the Christmas my dad made us handcrafted items. My younger sister received a dollhouse, replete with carpet and curtains, while I received a tiny homemade cupboard filled with plastic fruits and vegetables, plus boxes of pretend cereal and soup. The hours we played with these were endless. When I was 12 years old, we opened a box that contained an Atari system and the shrieking commenced. I played it hours on end that break and Space Invaders and I became the closest of friends.
Most of all, though, I remember time spent with family. Our big event is Christmas Eve when all my sisters and their families get together for our grand shindig. We graze appetizers and exchange gifts. We always went caroling through mom and dad’s neighborhood as a pack, our voices ringing through Berlin, and when they moved it was never quite the same. I remember the excitement when my brother would make the trek home to spend Christmas with us. He brought so much life to the gatherings and when he left us too soon, there was a hole in the festivities that was never quite filled. One by one we got married and added brothers-in-law to Christmases and our numbers grew. Christmas Eve, though, is the one time – no matter how many times it’s hard to get together throughout the year – that we all gather. We make memories for the new generation.
So as you’re rushing through the store for that one final gift, or baking the umpteenth batch of sugar cookies, stop in your tracks. Look around and let Christmas wash over you in a fresh way. Drain from your mind the anxiety we feel to provide the most perfect of Christmases. See your children, really see them. Find your husband or wife and look in their eyes, really look. This is where Christmas is. It’s in our loved ones that co-exist beside us. The ones we sometimes don’t see as we are rushing to Christmas day in a haze of wrapping paper and sweets. It’s not in the perfectly decorated homes we seek. Sometimes it’s in the tangled cords of lights that just won’t come unraveled, balls of knots that still shine so brightly and beautifully that its beauty is piercing. Let go of these expectations and really feel Christmas because all too soon it’s gone - tucked away along with the straggly bits of tinsel to be brought out next year. Moments, wrapped in dark corners of twinkly-lit kitchens, kisses lavished on precious cheeks, and deep chats around the tree with nearly grown children. This is Christmas. This is what we seek along with the ravishing birth of our savior. Don’t let it pass you by.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
This column is near and dear to my heart. Newly posted on The Holmes Bargain Hunter.
This morning, I have a very large mug of java steaming beside me as I type - on a computer with working Internet. This is the norm, it’s a taken-for-granted luxury that I know will be in my cupboard for me to pull out and brew every day of my life. I know when I turn on my computer the Internet will hum into working order. It’s called comfort and the knowing of things that will be. This morning, someone will get up and get dressed, head very early into work hoping to get a cup of coffee there because their cupboard is nearly bare. This person will look very normal, dressed in what our world deems “regular” clothing. They will drive into work in a car that is decent, and will get them to and from where they need to go, but never very far. That mysterious noise it is making might eventually get louder and you don’t want to be on the road when that happens. Taking it in for service is not a choice right now because the electric bill is due this week. Choices are what life seems to be made up of, hard ones and soft ones. Some of us will never have to make tough life choices. Life on the edge of the abyss, where you tread softly and hope there isn’t a major catastrophe to throw you over: a dryer dying, several tires going flat, a stove stops heating. These are the things that for most of us wouldn’t be worthy of batting an eye. Then there are those of us that an incident smaller than these I stated, cause that abyss to yawn even larger and wider. That appliance can’t be fixed with love.
We live in a society that ignores this sector, or doesn’t seem to know they exist. We are either rich or poor. If you have experienced poverty you know there really is no middle class – because the middle class are rich as well. They HAVE. To the world, this section of people looks normal. They own houses, they own cars, they dress in ways not “poor” as ridiculous as that sounds. They go to work, or make the choice to stay home and raise their children. They pay their bills and taxes and sometimes don’t have enough to buy groceries, so the electric bill doesn’t always get paid. But they are working – working and contributing – yet they remain the working poor. These people are invisible to most. They become visible if they get help - and are judged harshly by others that say they are taking advantage of Uncle Sam’s dime. Where has the viciousness come from, my friends? The words, the cartoons, the outrage that spews on social media and elsewhere? We have been reduced to a society that doesn’t care for our poor. We have been reduced to hate for anyone that needs help. We turn the other cheek and get in our working cars and drive away, to our homes that are warm and full of coffee and milk. Homes with freezers full of meat. We each make our own way, and to have is never a bad thing. It’s the not sharing that is the shame.
Christmas, above all else, should be a time of plenty and not want. I’ve been touched by several souls that have expressed a hatred for December and all it brings. The Christmas season, above all, should be the one time everyone feels loved. Yet for a lot of people, it only reiterates what they can’t give or afford. This is not whining. This is not complaining. This is fact. I have been moved to tears over their feelings of despondency and am trying to figure out how I can help. With Christmas full on us, I’m hoping a way opens up for me to show my love for them. To give with a smile, not a heart that is PROUD about the giving.
While my husband and I work and provide gifts for our children every Christmas, there were very lean times as well. There were times when I was on my knees begging God to change our situation. With my nose pressed to the floor, I lay there and asked what I could do differently. When situations are dire, you either stay down or you get creative. Even with those feelings of despondency you learn to make the best of your situation. These are the people who learn to live more simply, learn the rules of couponing and find ways to bring food to the table when there isn’t enough money. There is resiliency in the working poor. We must find ways to help them and not turn away because we feel it will create a “dependency” on good deeds. They will continue to work, and they will continue to make choices for their families that – in our ambient light – seem like not good decisions. When you are working and still can’t afford health care, or can’t afford your mortgage that is upside down – then you can say that their decision was not a good one, because then, you will have walked a mile in their shoes. Let’s do better. Let’s love and not hate. Let’s give and not remain selfish.