Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The cost of convenience

In my ever-present dilemma of whether to stay near a city or unplug completely, I've discerned a disturbing pattern.

It occurred to me as I sat in my really great parking place at the local Shop 'n Save store. I'd been so happy to find it! On a busy day, the day of the shop's crazy-good specials, I'd managed to land a spot right by the door. I couldn't believe my luck. This awesome spot would allow me to run in and get the three little items I needed.

Ten minutes later, five of which had been spent at the bustling check-out (stop chatting and move it!), I hurried to my car. Except I couldn't drive away. There was a big truck parked behind me, blocking me in along with two other cars. Of course it would stop there, with blinkers blinking; it was right by the entryway. As was I. Except now, my spot wasn't so perfect, was it?

I pondered my realization as I watched the truck's blinkers continue to mock me. Yes, every time there's a convenience, there is a price. Even if that truck weren't hedging me in, for example, the parking spot close to the door is also the spot most likely to feature runaway carts. I sought the pattern elsewhere. Cars? They're great. Except now that I depend on one, I am lazy and don't combine errands the way I would if I had to ride a bus, or walk, or bike. And, cars (and airplanes) have allowed people to move far away from jobs, schools, extended families, etc.—which seems convenient until you consider all the traveling hassles—not to mention the extra money we spend going to those places frequently, even daily. Plus the pollution.

I love my washing machine, clothes dryer, and the dishwasher. Love them. However. The price? Now it's too easy to be clean, to toss a shirt or a drinking glass into the ever available receptacle for dirties. I don't need to be careful, don't need to be mindful of whether the item is truly dirty, because the solution is right there. Waste, and waste more. The same is true for indoor plumbing and a seemingly endless supply of hot water at the ready. Now? We're all obsessed with cleanliness; God forbid we smell like people instead of perfumes. The Europeans don't seem to have been sucked into this illness; perhaps we should find out how they remain immune to the lures of scentlessness...

Easy, breezy communication? I've already touched on that one, and how I truly believe it's cheapened and weakened our interactions, to the great detriment of our language and relationships. Prepared foods? They're often very unhealthy for you, and use more energy to prepare and deliver than locally grown or slaughtered. Fast food? Same thing, plus all those convenient foods cost you more money, too.

Disposable goods are so convenient, aren't they? Paper plates, napkins, little zip-lock baggies, plastic cups that no one bothers to recycle, plastic tablecloths for parties, etc. I'm just as guilty—I've used them, too. Although I do recycle the cups, and we certainly don't entertain much... But I digress. The point is that since all this stuff is as close and cheap as your nearest dollar store (filled to the gills with imported garbage, no offense to the stores intended), we have an insatiable hunger for junk just because it's there. It's so affordable. We forget that we'll never use it all, that we never needed it to begin with.

Easy entertainment via TV, movies, and games? Well, now we've forgotten to think for ourselves, and we're getting less exercise than ever before. Health costs continue to skyrocket, not just because the health care and drug companies are the new mafia, but because collectively we're in worse physical shape than pretty much any nation in history that I can think of.

The best part? We're teaching our kids to require all these conveniences. So they, too, can be slaves to big corporations and foreign countries. So they can also have lifelong habits that kill them softly instead of infusing their lives with meaning and purpose.

It seems to me that everything intended to add convenience to our lives actually costs us considerably in some other way. Does anyone else see the pattern? Is anyone else starting to question our culture?

Upon closer inspection, the remote countryside is looking pretty good. Harder, yes. But infinitely better than the squishy alternative.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good thing I seized the brushes

Thankfully, I did seize the brushes yesterday, and accomplished two painting tasks: finishing this robin painting, and slapping a couple of coats of green paint on a newly acquired (gently used) bench to extend seating at our dining table. It's a good thing I took care of these jobs when I could, because I'm accomplishing nothing today: Marcus came home from school with a flush in his cheeks, and it morphed overnight into a croupy cough. He's home with me, feeling well enough to want to do all the fun things that healthy kids do, but he doesn't sound great, so I'm trying to squelch his activities as much as possible. Not easy on a breezy, spring-like afternoon.

I'm an artist but not a painter; the bench looks terrible, on not-so-close inspection. If you visit us? Please don't check it too carefully. It's slightly better than the stark white coat it recently wore, BUT...

I'm a bit happier with the robin (Robbie). He's for sale at my shop. Next week, I hope to turn him and his sparrow friend into note cards. Stay tuned!

And yes, the lovely sun and less-than-frigid temps are just a ruse; don't fall for it. Keep the boots and salt handy, but rest assured—soon, we'll be seeing much more of my pal Robbie.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My love/hate relationship...with Legos

Here are some facts which you may already know about me, and which will help you to better understand the rest of this post:

1. I am a slightly obsessive neatnik.

2. I love order, despise chaos, and fight clutter everywhere I go.

3. I might be slightly weird.

3. I have a young son.

4. The young son has amassed an impressive collection of Legos.

Legos are awesome. I had them when I was a kid. They inspire creativity and flexibility in thought. They teach design and also give ample opportunities for re-design; they encourage children to explore their engineering tendencies, and they nurture the need to build stuff. They might even help kids develop a better understanding of spatial relationships.

Let's not forget, too, that Legos make a splendid gift for a little boy. They're the fail-safe idea, the sure-to-go-over-well item. Even duplicate sets don't really pose any problems, because everyone knows that after the initial construction of the prescribed toy, all those carefully assembled blocks will be torn apart and re-used over and over again, never in the same way twice.

But it's the dead of winter, the temperatures have been downright bitter, and we've spent way more time indoors than I would like. Which means that the Legos have barely had time to rest in their big plastic bin before some hand has been riffling through them roughly, searching for just the right piece.

Maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, and maybe I've been experiencing some PMS moments worsened by little daylight and even less fresh air. Maybe. All I know is that lately, the sound of Legos, and the sight of them filling the living room floor, is enough to make me want to run away and hide somewhere. Honestly, it's mostly the noise they make. When the Legos are still, they're silent—but they're rarely still. They're usually being moved quickly and often, which means they're exceptionally loud and unsettling to a freaky person such as me. I can handle the mess, because we pick up the worst of it and store it at night, but that rattling sound of brittle plastic being raked repeatedly against more brittle plastic... sometimes, I can barely endure it.

Please don't think I am too strange. Some days, I am the one responsible for that very sound as I'm poring through the piles of blocks, searching for tiny tools or miniature propellers or such. Then, I hardly notice the noise because I am so involved in the search. Other days, I'm completely immersed in some other activity and immune to that annoying racket.

And then, there are the times of which I am speaking right now.

Can I get an Amen, Sister?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The S A D day

"We came here to win the football game and we didn’t do that."

We know that football is a game that's played by mortal men,
And that to go to Dallas in itself was quite a feat.
We know our team will reach that final bowl game once again,
And yes, we understand that sometimes games will bring defeat.

And if we had to lose, well, Green Bay Packers are quite good—
And Rodgers, glad to say, resembles Brady not a bit.
He's got a cannon for an arm, and does the things he should;
That Packers team plays fair and well—they surely never quit.

And yet, it makes no difference, viewed through stinging, sullen eyes;
Our hearts are weighty things filled with regret for our mistakes.
We were so close, we reached for that Lombardi in the skies
Then saw it, firmly held by those in green who live by lakes.

Thanks to our team for all the thrills, a season filled with fun.
The ride was good, my friends, but watch that last step—then, it's done.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The B I G day

Here are my two boys, cheering on our favorite team at last week's Heinz Field send-off for team.

I know you'll be watching, too.

Go, Steelers, go!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm a fool

A painting fool, that is. It's my only escape from winter! Doesn't this little feathered pal make you think of spring?

It's in the Etsy shop; I plan to make blank note cards out of it, also—maybe early next week, after the Steelers victory.

Soak up the sun while you can, and look for beauty in the little things around you today. See what you can find to help calm and soothe you when the air is nippy and your mood is chippy!

P.S. "That boy sure is a runnin' fool!" Can you name that movie?!