dare to be different

Brass Ring

“Breaker 1-9, Breaker 1-9, this is the Brass Ring.”

Road trips as a kid, from Georgia to Michigan to Western New York and back again, I heard it over and over.

Back before Waze.  Before GPS.  My Dad had his CB radio in the car, listening in to truckers talk about traffic, road conditions, and all kinds of other topics.  Back before podcasts and Audible and Sirius, there was CB radio to pass the time and exchange information. (There was also= 8-track cassettes and the States and Capitals game, but those are for another post.)

Brass Ring was my Dad’s CB handle.  Why the Brass Ring?  When I was growing up, one of my Dad’s many interests / hobbies was carousels.  He owned a small merry-go-round when I was very young.  Even after he sold it, we kept a full-sized carousel horse in our living room. We had a kids’ barber chair shaped like a carousel horse on our front porch.  We had a number of carousel-horse art piece throughout our home.

What’s the Brass Ring?  In the early 1900’s, many carousels were built with a “game” for the riders on the outside ring of horses.  Someone would slide rings down a dispenser, and you had to reach far out from your horse (while it was moving) and try to grab the brass ring.  Many of the rings were iron.  It took courage, skill, timing, determination, and luck to grab the brass ring, the real prize.

In my many years of riding carousels with (and in memory of) my Dad, I’ve only ridden 1 with the ring game.  I was probably in my teens, riding the carousel in Coney Island.  Many people don’t even know the brass ring exists.  I leaned off my horse and tapped the dispenser several times around before the old man working figured out I wanted to play.

I recently started a new business.  When trying to think of a solid name with some history and meaning, I remembered my Dad and the Brass Ring.  He used it as his persona.  He said it with a big-fish swagger, even though we were usually traveling along in a conversion van or minivan. He owned his place in that conversation, no matter what he was driving.

As I push forward into something new, I hope I carry on his swaggering spirit, as well as the courage, skill, timing, determination, and luck it takes to claim the real prize.  It will take some reaching. I may feel like I’m losing my balance as I really stretch. Sometimes I’ll pull the iron ring.  But if I just focus and stay in the game, my turn at the big prize will come around.

 

 

perspective

Snoring

Do I snore? Do you snore? Or the real question should be: is snoring keeping you up at night?

For me the answer is sometimes snoring keeps me awake. Like today for example. My partner is snoring. Could be in another room, in the distance or up close and personal. Doesn’t matter if it’s the reclining chair, the couch, a nap in the car or in bed. Snoring is a must or a bust.

It seems snoring is a must or a habit that unconsciously happens on a regular basis and it’s not defined by location, sitting or laying position, or even regular sleep vs. nap sleep. It just happens. Frequently.

It’s also annoying on most days because it keeps me awake to an extent. Not always but enough times for me to document the noisy behavior and actually write about its variety. I may or may not even have a video collection of sounds.

Speaking of variety I was on a family vacation and sleeping quarters included an open living room in which family members claimed a couch spot. I can sleep anywhere allowing me to grab a spot without hesitation.

And then there was another and another. I nodded off quickly but awoke to what I assumed was my partner’s annoying snoring habit. I tried the normal covering of the ears. I made my quick video of the sound effects for proof and attempted to find my restful state again fully knowing the sound was not going away.

And then there was two. Two sounds. A kind of surround sound effect. Oh no, was my mind playing tricks on me? Not a chance! My partner’s sibling had snagged a spot in the open air sleeping space while I went to sleep. I had surround sound snoring in full effect!

It was almost the exact snore pattern. In the dark room, I could hear the tick of the clock and hoarse sound of snoring in each ear. A constant sound. Shallow breath, loud snore. A hicccup pattern or patterns of continuous snores. An abnormally loud snore that could have resembled a snort or two or three.

This torture went on an on. No end in sight. I finally saw the sunrise on the horizon. A peaceful sight. It was early but blissful. I was awakening and the sound was fading into the distance.

As the sun rose and the rooster made its morning announcement in the distance, the snoring faded. Each sibling out like a light. Not even remotely aware of their snore fest mimicking a Fourth of July fireworks display to others nearby.

How do you coexist with snoring? Could I snore as bad as they do? How does one fix their snoring problem? Is there snore etiquette when you have a sleepover of sorts as adults? Is snoring even an issue for kids?

Ah, so many questions. Since it’s the wee hours of the morning and I am somewhat sleep deprived I will move on from this post as I’m sure it’s not all that exciting to most.

Do you have a funny snore story to share? If so, drop us a comment or send us a note. We love to hear from our readers and/or snorers. Hope this post didn’t put you to sleep.

perspective

Empty Shelves

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The end of the school year was very, very strange for this teacher librarian. We left school on a Thursday night.  I had just started a book fair.  We had a Family Bingo Night event going on.  In between the four corners and the blackout round, the school system announced we would be moving to digital learning. Tons of phones going off with the texted news.  Thankfully, we had been practicing for something like this…a snow day here and there.  No problem.

Never would I have imagined that we would go through 42 digital learning days before finally calling the school year over. Endless Zoom meetings, Google Meets, video lessons, double checking teacher pages, responding to student discussion posts. It was exhausting.  It was annoying. It was boring. It seemed it would never end. As of last week, we are finally done.

The school year is over, but I didn’t get the sweet satisfaction of celebrating with the kids.  No “high fives” with the little ones who had finally learned to read.  No “Thank you, Miss Dr. Friese” from the kiddos who loved finding their favorite book series.  No cheering kids on at field day.  No smiles and waves as the 5th graders walked their triumphant parade through the hallways on their last day, Pomp and Circumstance piped on loop through the intercom system. No final send off of the buses, waves and tears as we jump into summer.

Instead, we donned our masks and gloves and handed out their belongings and all the end of year “stuff” in large white plastic bags.  Pop the minivan trunk so we don’t risk touching.  Wave through the windows at the little ones we haven’t seen in months.  Many kids didn’t even come to pick their items up.

It is a dull, aching sadness I can’t really describe. An emptiness.  The main reason I came to work each day stopped coming to school. The kids.  The energy from their smiles, the goofy misbehavior, watching the kids grow, it all stopped. I loved seeing their videos in lessons and missed their personalities, but it wasn’t the same.  I wondered (and still do): are they ok? are they reading? do they have enough to eat? are they safe?

In a strange twist, my library was also scheduled for renovation this summer.  So in the middle of this slow-motion mess, I had to take the entire collection off the shelves and pack it away.  In some ways it was good, since I had more time to take care of it than if I were teaching up to the last day.  But the sight of the shelves, bare and dusty, just added to the sadness of it all.  Someone said it looked lonely in there.  Yes, more lonely than you know.

A school building without the kids is just a shell.  It has no soul, no life.

Summer break is ready to begin.  I will spend part of it putting the media center back together after the renovation is done.  I am hoping we go back to school on time, and I want to be sure the library is all ready for students from day one.  Budget cuts will bring new challenges for me.  But as long as the students come back, we will figure it out.  Sure, we made it through digital learning.  But a school without kids is lonely.  For teachers like me, there is just no substitute.

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adventure

Spring’s Simple Pleasures

Is it just me, or is this the longest spring season in recorded history?

And no, this isn’t really a post about how difficult it has been to be cooped up indoors a lot, separated from friends, missing out on events, and so on.  (If you’re looking for that, try these posts.)

I don’t remember spring ever lasting this long because it is usually lacrosse season, celebration season, end of work season, and so on.  We are often driving and juggling and cheering and volunteering and working nonstop.  And I love and miss a lot of that.  But this season has allowed me to notice and enjoy spring in new ways. I have always loved fall above all else, but I’m now seeing that spring has its charms.

Couple that with my commitment to be more intentional about spending money and I am finding myself relishing small, simple pleasures.

I’ve mentioned the morning reading that has replaced my sometimes frantic commute.  Quiet, candle, coffee and a book starts my day most of the time.  You’d think a librarian would read a lot, but I honestly don’t make the time for it that I should.  Right now I am going into my physical building to work for a few weeks, so reading time is short but I try not to miss it.

Bike rides.  What would I do without my bike?  I’m sort of obsessed with it.  I keep it on my car pretty much all the time and biking on the back seat inside just in case the opportunity to ride presents itself.  Cruising new paths in the sunshine with my riding partner is happiness and adventure when going very far from home isn’t happening.  It feels like a mini-vacation and is one of the few times I feel truly care-free.

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I am a farmer’s market fanatic.  The pandemic has caused many local farmers to revamp their business models.  I’ve been able to order flowers and farm boxes and pick them up safely.  I actually love that I can order what I like and have it held for me.  It’s frustrating to drive all the way to the market only to find they already sold out of my favorite sungold tomatoes or, later, September Wonder apples.

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Which reminds me, it is almost tomato season here where we live.  I look forward to these summer veggies all year.  Right now we are in the heart of strawberry season. I found an hour the other day to drive out to a strawberry farm and pick a couple of buckets.  If you have never had strawberries straight from the vine (or tomatoes for that matter) you are missing out.  It’s a totally different taste than supermarket berries.  And the experience of picking them myself in the hot sun was sweet and reflective. Fresh strawberries are one of the sweeter things in life. It’s been great to share them with people who appreciate them.

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What simple pleasures have you rediscovered in these hard times? Walks?  Game nights? Family dinners?  Tell us in the comments.

 

family

Grocery Store Chronicles

When I was close to 10 years old I would go with my Mom every Friday to shop for groceries with my Nana. I didn’t know it then but I learned so many lessons from these Friday trips.

I learned to care for others. I learned that elderly people needed a little help whether it was transportation or help with lifting or even just social time with loved ones to talk. I learned that I liked Fridays with my Nana because she gave me candy, ice cream or even some change for helping out. I was rewarded for being nice. I was the youngest sibling so I was toted along always. I never minded the time spent and when I look back I’m glad I had the opportunity. I also learned math at the register and so many other little tidbits.

I didn’t really notice at the time how independent my Nana was. She always had her own cart. She always paid for her own groceries. She also put up the divider between her order and ours. She was doing what she needed all by herself with just a little support from us. Not financial support but assistance getting to and from and being social.

There were definitely more cash transactions back then and the clerk even knew how to count change for one dollar or a twenty. Today is 95% credit card and most clerks need to read the change back amount on the computer to complete the transaction. Such a shift over time.

It wasn’t too much longer before my Nana passed but I still remember those Friday trips like it was yesterday. Vivid memories yet I can’t ever recall how much time we spent at the store. I’m thinking it was a long time now that I think back.

Now fast forward to today. It’s corona time! Life has slowed on many levels as noted previously in posts like Nature Therapy. A slower style I have been adapting to and enjoying. Not sure how long the slow pace will last but for now I’m enjoying the relaxation.

Today I had the honor of taking my Mom to the grocery store out of the blue. Masked, observing social distance and limiting touch. How different it was from when I was a kid…. I may have licked the pole on the way out back in the day. Talk about how times have changed! The trip awakened many childhood memories of shopping with my Nana. I invited my teen daughter to go along but given corona she opted for a big no which is a good gesture however another indication of change in time. As I noted above as the youngest I was toted along. Nowadays kids seem to get choices.

In my fast-paced hectic life, I’m used to running into the store grabbing what I need and getting the heck out, whether it’s pre-corona or during corona so I don’t catch anything. Anyway this trip was different. My Mom physically moves slower. She likes to look at all her options. She likes to check her coupons. She like to compare pricing to the ad she had for another store. No iPhone to google a price. No rush to be anywhere. No need for speed. How this brings back memories of shopping with my Nana.

I observe and adapt to my surroundings. I go with the flow. The slow flow. And I mean a turtle’s pace to get through the produce section. Then the deli counter where the meat needs to be sliced just right and she needs white American cheese not orange cheese! Then we have to skip the ice cream section because that has to be last so it doesn’t melt. Then if she buys the strawberries she needs the shells to make shortcakes and don’t forget the whipped cream. None of this was in her to buy list by the way. Her time to shop was a field trip of sorts. She needed to get out of the house for a sense of normalcy. She needs to pay for it herself for her sense of independence. She needs to choose what she wants.

The cart started to get heavy but she needs it to rest her weight. She pushes I pull. We must be a comedy show for those crazed folks darting around the store to get what they want as if the place was on fire and here we are puttering around as if time is of no matter. My surroundings didn’t seem to phase me. I was supporting the one I was with. I live life in the driver’s seat yet in this situation I am a passenger. I’m looking out the virtual window to see what’s around.

When you slow down to this pace you observe so much. Some of which can be ugly. For example, a person snagging the last can of green beans off the shelf in their haste and hurry not realizing they just snatched it from the reach of an older person who moves slow. Craziness is what I say to myself but did the person even notice because they were on a mission to get in and out fast. They might not have seen her waiting 6 feet away, waiting for her turn at the shelf when one hurried in snatched and hurried off?

She is in her 80s. She is not phased by corona. She wore a mask so others didn’t judge her but it wasn’t comfortable. It irritated her left eye and moved around causing her to adjust often. She had taken great care to watch a nurse show the proper way to put a mask on in a YouTube video and she said it doesn’t work. I keep touching my face. This is pointless. The nurse video said don’t touch your face. I just shook my head and smiled.

We were in the store close to one hour thirty minutes. Quite possibly my longest trip to the grocery store ever. It was just one cart full. They didn’t have many items she needed and for that I get to get up early and go again in the morning. And she wants to go to make sure I buy the right items.

This is hilarious and awesome all at the same time. One day I won’t have the opportunity to go shopping with my Mom but today I did. Corona didn’t stop her and it didn’t control her tempo, her attitude or her ability to make me giggle. To give you a visual of our shenanigans the photo below is from day 2 of shopping. This visit was Target and I was ever so thankful for the “Caroline cart” designed for special needs folks but my Mom has her own special needs; her limited ability to walk but she doesn’t think she is ready for a wheelchair so this was a great compromise. It also allowed me to zoom through the aisles faster and limit my time to 45 minutes with her all buckled in the seat. She would kill me for posting this but I’m a big fan so it’s an honor for me to share.

In about 40 years time so much has changed about visiting a grocery store. I have my memories and I have today. Now I can’t wait to see what it’s like in another forty years when somebody totes me to the grocery store or maybe they won’t because modern times will send a courier with my groceries.

Do you have any fond memories of grocery shopping? It may seem like a silly question but I hope you have memories like me.