Friday, November 25, 2011

Unwanted E-ttention

I like people. I do.

But as a busy mother who works full-time outside the house, when I find the time to read, and not talk, and not have someone bugging me, I cherish it. And when that time is jeopardized, I get cranky.

But I like people. I do.

My lack of technological skills and my tendency to be lagging in this high tech e-world is on-going. I don’t have the time or patience to sit with a new gadget, read instructions and fiddle with it.

So when I recently was given an e-reader to ‘try out,’ my tear ducts were given a run for their money. I was given the ‘simple’ model because I can’t handle anything with more than three buttons.

Well….it wasn’t so simple. I won’t reveal the model because that wouldn’t be fair to the company. It’s not their fault I am a complete dolt when it comes to this stuff.

So I have sort of figured out how to buy and download books – and not cry. Sort of – not really.

But the instructions don’t tell you of certain side-effects of owning an e-reader.

One morning while watching my son at his swimming lessons (a perfect time to read), I had one eye on the boy and I had just pulled out my e-reader when I heard, “Excuse me, is that one of those e-readers?”

A very nice elderly lady beside me stared intently at the gadget in my hands.

She wanted to know all about it. We exchanged a few words and she asked a bunch of questions I couldn’t answer. I told her I was new at it and really didn’t know much about it (which is dumb because I was READING on it, wasn’t I?), but the questions and comments still kept coming.


Feeling a lull in the conversation I casually went back to my ‘book.’ Settling into chapter one, word number four, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a male voice proclaimed,

“Hey, is that an e-reader? I really want one of those!”

The fellow introduced the lady as his mother-in-law (I caught that eye roll), and now we were all one big happy family – talking about the e-reader.

The son-in-law peppered me with questions about the e-reader, despite me explaining again and again that I was new at it. Kids/grandkids near and far were all but forgotten.

Him: “Is it compatible with a … (insert high tech thing here).”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m new at it.”

Him: “Can you do… (insert funky function here).”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m new at it.”

Mother-in-Law: “Does it have a light?”

Me: “I don’t know. I’m new at it.”

And on it went.

My eyes were starting to sting and water, and I wasn’t sure if it was out of frustration or from the high levels of chlorine. I just wanted to read. The humidity in the place always plays havoc with my hair, and my make-up slides off my face. I usually look like a Halloween-leftover in two seconds. So why – what about me – do people feel they need to interrupt me?

All I wanted to do was read the book that made me cry throughout the downloading process.

Two days later I was on the bus. When I read on the bus I curl up in the corner, don’t look up, don’t make eye contact with anyone, and keep my eyes on my book.

But buses are like sardine cans. Everyone is squished together, and you are in it for the long haul – or at least until your stop. And there is no getting away from anyone.

So there I was with my e-reader, and of course….someone sat down beside me.

And of course, the questions started to which I had no answers for. Oh for God’s sake - I just wanted to read.

Do I see other e-reader readers being hounded by non-e-reader readers? No one bothered me when I was reading PAPERbacks! Why me? I didn’t make eye contact; I wasn’t exuding welcoming pheromones or anything. Why? WHY? I need to look grouchier, I think.

All I know is that my problem with my e-reader is not that I don’t understand how it works.

It’s just that it attracts too much attention.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not So Famous...and Happy for It

Since the release of the book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness’ which contains two of my stories, I have been busy being famous – or not.

True, the book is not a full-length novel bearing my name in raised, gold lettering. And true, I am ‘just’ a contributor in the anthology. But in my up-and-coming writing world, this is BIG. As I waited for the day to arrive when the book (as given to contributors upon story acceptance) would be in my hand, seeing my words in black and white, I wondered: would anything change?

I wondered if I would look different with this new-found ‘fame.’ Nope - I still had to use a ½ a tube of under-eye cream everyday to combat the puffiness. I still had to do my own hair and makeup – no one was coming to do it for me.

I wondered if people would recognize me and cry out, “HEY! There’s that famous Chicken Soup for the Soul girl!” as I sauntered down the street in my power suit, Coach™ bag and fancy hair. Considering my picture is not in the book, I own neither a power suit nor a Coach bag (but I have a Coach wallet, courtesy of Mom), and I still have the same hair from 1989, I am still just another person walking down the street.

I wondered if my new-found fame would instantly release my demure, mature, professional side that should have come out long ago. I recently all but fell to the floor writhing in joy when my sister gave me three packages of Purdy’s Sweet Georgia Browns – each package containing two of the chocolate, caramel and pecan delights. I ate them in two days. Actually, in one-and-a-half days. And I didn’t share. So much for maturity.

During the week the book was released, I would stalk the bookstores, waiting to see ‘my’ book on the shelves. When they did arrive, I danced/skipped in the aisle (truly), and stared in amazement at my name in ink. I fantasized about spreading a few books on the floor of the bookstore and frolicking in joy. So much for professionalism.

Since none of these ‘famous’ things happened, I reverted to basking in my own literary joy.

After the books were in the stores for a week, I built up the nerve to go sign some books. Me, Lisa, doing that – who woulda thought?

I had no idea what to expect, never mind having no idea of how it was done. So…I just did it.

I spoke to the manager of the first bookstore, and she resoundingly said YES to my offer to sign books. After bumbling like an idiot (me, not her), she told me to get the books from the shelf, and go to the corner to sign them. It took great effort to sign normally with shaking hands, all the while acting cool and calm, as if I do that sort of thing every day.

Done signing, I wondered what to do next. So I took the books back on the shelf - FACE OUT - and left the store.

No trumpets sounded; no red carpet was rolled. Oh – okay then. That’s all there is to it, I guess. But I wasn’t disappointed. I giggled and skipped my way down the street, proud of what I had just done.

The next day, feeling brave and confident, I stopped at the next store.

I approached the manager and he, along with his co-worker, was quite thrilled with the whole thing. “We just had Adrienne Clarkson (former Governor-General of Canada) here last week signing her book, and now you’re here!”

My GOD, I thought, I am being used in the same sentence as Adrienne Clarkson.

They asked me about writing, one of them blushed, they collected the books for me to sign, they wouldn’t let me put the books back….it went on.

At the risk of sounding like my head had swelled bigger than the bookstore, read on….

A week later I was reminded of WHY I write – not for fame, money, or a new Coach bag (well, maybe). On the Chicken Soup for the Soul® website, readers can subscribe to have a Chicken Soup story, randomly picked from their countless books, sent to their email. One of my stories from ‘my’ book was picked.

The next day, my elation at this honour still having me in whirlwind, I received an email from a Chicken Soup story subscriber. She made the effort to track down my email address to tell me she had read the story, was touched, and to keep writing.

And THAT is why I write. Forget about fame....

Friday, November 11, 2011

When Technology and Fruit Meet

I am not overly techno-savvy. But I can navigate my way around a computer decently enough (heck, I made this blog, right?), format a letter of gratitude to the makers of Vidal Sassoon hairspray, and know when it’s time to recharge my apparently archaic 2 year-old cell phone.

I don’t own an iPad or iPhone. I have an iPod, but the songs have not been updated in 3 years. My son has to do that for me. One earphone is broken, and if I hold the wire JUST right, I can get both working; a feat mastered on my walks at 4:30am.

PAPERbacks are preferred, hence no e-reader. I am a sucker for simplicity and routine, and very often anything other than good ole tried-and-true rattles my world. Saying all that, however, I am willing to try something new - just once. Because we all know - change is good.

I will try new foods – rare fruits and veggies – provided I can down a few Rolaids® afterwards, just in case. Anything spicy or exotic, and my sensitive stomach retaliates. So sticking with the good ole tried-and-true is best.

Like apples, oranges and bananas - the basics.

So when I peeled my banana one morning, I was startled to find one of those new and improved ‘scan code’ things stuck to the peel. Those weird little symbols of garbled squares and blocks like something straight out of the 1980’s Atari® Space Invaders game have replaced the usual banana sticker.

I see the scan code things everywhere – there was even one on my new washing machine. When scanned with your iPhone, it links your phone to the company’s website – or something. I don’t have the phone to engage in such technological activities, and I wouldn’t have the time or inclination to do so if I did.

My techno-son says some call the weird black and white square things scan codes or bar codes. Even the age-old mysterious black and white stripped lines telling a cashier clerk the price of something, is changing. They’ve been around for years! Leave them alone, would ya?

But when I saw one of those Atari Space Invaders things on my banana, my first reaction was ‘Now THIS!?’ Yes, the fine print on the sticker says ‘Scan for Contest Info,’ but not even the chance at winning something, even if it was a banana yellow car, can conform me.

Leave my bananas alone.

I understand the companies’ need to keep up with these competitive times. As fast as technology can evolve, companies can rise and fall. But fruit is here to stay (global warming aside) – especially bananas.

Some countries in the world are so technologically advanced they have scan codes on bus stops relaying schedule information to riders’ phones, whereas some countries don’t even have bus stops – never mind buses and phones. I think I sit somewhere in the middle - one foot in each country, as it were.

But keep technology away from my fruit. Just leave it alone – leave it be. It’s just a banana – natural and untouched (except for all the processes involved in ripening and preserving them, but we won’t go there right now.) Don’t taint it with ever-evolving technological garbbledy-goop. Preserve its innocence, and leave it scan free. Can’t there be a little piece of life that hasn’t been touched by technology?

Leave my bananas alone.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hairy Halloween

It was time to get my hair cut; it needed it, desperately. Sun damage from the summer had to go. I don’t get my hair cut very often. Finding time, and the nerve, often hampers my coiffure pursuits. Keeping it long and straight (and boring), works for my busy life. A ponytail works wonders, so length is needed for the fast and furious up-do.

But I had to do it. Scraggly hair does not a Vogue cover model, make.

I summoned the courage, and before I could change my mind, off I went. Therefore, I have no ‘before’ pictures to compare, and the ‘after’ pictures I just can’t do – yet.

With a toothpick in his mouth, the hairdresser guy much younger than me chattered about Halloween two days away. The parties he was going to – snip. The costume he was going to wear – snip, snip. (Switch toothpick to the other side). And the grumpy old people who complain about Halloween antics? May the goblins get them, he cackled - triple snip.

I was determined to show him I was cool, composed, and unaffected by the amount of hair floating by.

I guffawed, cussed, and agreed at all the right times, my seemingly outward composure, secure. Sure, he had been doing this for 10 years, as he said. But with each snip, my composure fell to the ground, inch by inch. Hair grows, I kept telling myself. I needed to get this done, I kept telling myself. But my positive self-talk failed miserably.

Underneath the hairdresser’s cape, I was shaking. I couldn’t breathe the neck was buttoned so tight. Strangulation in the hairdresser’s chair was sure to be my demise. There was no ventilation under that thing, either. As sweat dribbled down my back, I was thankful for the cape - never let them see ya sweat, and all that.

Let me make one thing clear, however, should the stud himself ever read this – he did an excellent job. Truly. He did exactly as I asked; no more, no less. No weird ends. No missed pieces. Maybe a tad too short for my liking, however, but hair grows, as I kept telling myself.

What had I done?

The transformation complete, I made the mistake of looking at the pile on the floor as I got up. The shaking escalated, making my teeth rattle like the skeletons readying to roam the streets in two nights’ time. I tried not to gasp, failed, and with a lame giggle to cover my audible show of weakness, I jelly-legged to the cash register. My hands shook like a caffeine junkie as I tried to peel the bills from the wad of millions in my wallet. I chattered a bit too much. I flicked my hair in wonder at the weightlessness a bit too much. People were staring.

What had I done?

As I put on my coat, I realized I barely had to pull my hair out from underneath like I used to have to do only 45 minutes before. My family was set to visit the pumpkin patch heralding haunted houses and replica graveyards sporting dead bodies in a few hours. I would fit right in. I would be able to scare the young and old, free of charge.

How I drove home without creating a 1-car pileup (with me, anything’s possible), I’ll never know. I banned anyone from looking at me as I scurried in the house. I washed my hair, and attempted to do something with it. Luckily (for his sake), the man of the house noticed and said all the right things – not really.

“Wow, you haven’t had it that short for a long time.”


The kids didn’t notice how bald I was. My hands were still shaking. I longed for a Valium. Off to the pumpkin patch we went.

It’s done, it needed to be done, hair grows I kept chanting to myself as we slogged through the fertilizer and pumpkin vines. A kid in a witch costume complete with a scraggly wig ran by – SHE HAS BETTER HAIR THAN ME, I moaned. The carved pumpkin I happened to be standing beside had no response.

Determined not to let trivial things like hair ruin our family time, I focused on the pumpkins, the hay ride, and the replica graveyard. For a split second as a few short strands blew in my eyes, I longed to lie down in one of the graves and get it over with.

On the way home, I realized no one turned to stone at the sight of me, and my family was happy with our Halloween adventure. And that was all that really mattered.

Hair grows.

Halloween day was business as usual; get up, do something with my hair, and go to work. The hair worked out relatively fine, what was left of it, and whaddya know? I could still put it in a ponytail. And even though I felt like I was practically bald – not that there is anything wrong with that – no one noticed. I guess those missing 3 inches of my precious locks didn’t make much difference.

This was me on Halloween, the hair-panic forgotten. I didn’t need fancy hair for my costume, anyways.