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Life

Bookstore

At my elementary school, there was a little bookstore set up next to the cafeteria entrance. After we finished lunch, we had the choice of going outside to play or visiting the bookstore.

I almost always chose the bookstore.

I don’t know if my school bookstore was an exception; at that time, I assumed all schools offered something similar. Our bookstore wasn’t anything fancy, just some shelves in the corner of the hallway. The book prices were discounted, making them more affordable for children, and a portion of the book sales went back to the school to support various programs.

If I remember correctly, they restocked with new inventory once or twice per month. On those days, I eagerly looked through the fresh options, hoping to find something interesting to add to my personal library. On the days when there was nothing new, I still enjoyed looking through the familiar titles. I’d note which ones I already had and which ones were my favorites. Sometimes, I’d discover something I’d passed over previously, and I’d reconsider my earlier disregard of its merits.

Occasionally, my friends would join me at the bookstore, but most often, I was alone. That was fine with me. In my opinion, book shopping worked best as a solitary venture. Evaluating content, deciding if the story was worth my investment of money and time – that required thoughtful consideration, the kind that wasn’t possible if I had to carry on a conversation or think about what somebody else was doing.

I did also love the school library. My bookstore moments, however, were especially significant to me. I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s because I was purchasing books as opposed to borrowing them. I was adding titles to my personal collection, inviting them to become permanent members of my book family, rather than having them over for a short visit.

Being in that little bookstore felt warm and comfortable, like being wrapped in a blanket. The time I spent in that hallway corner was often the best part of the school day.

Those memories resurfaced yesterday as I read an article about the current state of school bookstores. With the recent shift to online learning, many schools have shifted to offering an online bookstore model. It’s a good move, a logical move, one that I’m sure children, teachers, and parents appreciate, especially since in-person library visits have also been affected by current circumstances. I’m glad the option is available.

I can’t help but feel a little sad, however, at the disappearance, even if only temporarily, of in-person schoolhouse bookstore experiences. I’m sure there are children who, just as I did, treasure the process of lifting a book from the shelf, holding it in their hands, turning it over and flipping the pages as they decide whether to make a purchase.

Those children will still be happy to find new material via the online option. They’ll still enjoy their reading experiences. But they’ll miss the feeling of being enveloped by written words and imaginary tales, the hopeful anticipation of stepping into a space full of stories. They’ll miss those tangible moments that used to accompany the start of a new reading adventure. For their sake, I hope that, when the pandemic ends and it’s once again safe to do the things we used to do, the school bookstore experience is one of the things that returns.

In the meantime, I’m happy to have my memories. I’ll always be grateful for those moments of contented delight, standing in the middle of those shelves in that hallway corner.

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Life Neato

Amazing

Today, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to meet in the sky, the result of an alignment in their orbits as viewed from Earth.

This event is being called the Great Conjunction, and the reason it’s getting so much attention is because the two planets will appear to be closer together than they’ve been in hundreds of years. There was a conjunction when Galileo was alive in 1623, but it was virtually impossible to view because of the sun. The most recent conjunction that was visible and similar to today’s occurred in 1226, almost 800 years ago.

Tonight’s Great Conjunction will be visible without a telescope; all that’s necessary is a clear view of the horizon. The event will occur shortly after sunset.

When it’s over, the planets will continue their journeys, as they’ve done for billions of years and will do for billions more. Here on Earth, our human existence can’t compare. We can, however, look forward to the next Great Conjunction, which will be visible in 2080.

Barring a scientific miracle, I won’t be there. But perhaps my sons will, and perhaps their children will, as well. A simple moment in time, in celestial terms – but an amazing human connection through time and space.

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Life People

Switch

Yesterday, I read a story about an experiment with an evening online kindergarten class at a New Jersey elementary school.

Educators noticed a high number of absences in the daytime online classroom. They surmised that the challenges faced by working parents, coping with job and other changes brought about by the pandemic, made it difficult for some children to attend online learning during the day. When they did attend, they were frequently distracted.

So, the educators offered an option: a 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. class. Eleven students signed up.

The results have been excellent, according to the educators and the parents. Attendance improved, as did student engagement in the lessons. In some cases, the parents have been able to shadow their children, supporting them during the lessons and reinforcing the information. That would not have been possible in a daytime class.

This switch to nighttime education is not a solution that will work for everybody. But it has been successful in this case. Perhaps it could be a positive option elsewhere.

There will come a day when the pandemic won’t be a part of our lives anymore. We’ll go back to living without having to take the extra steps that keep us safe right now. When that day comes, it will be worth celebrating – a return to “normal.”

At the same time, it’s unlikely that we’ll think of things in exactly the same way as we did before. There will have been a shift in how we perceive the world around us, our options and expectations. A shift in how we define “normal.”

It will be interesting to see which of the experiments, which of the ideas and innovations created during these challenging days, will leave a lasting influence.

Categories
Life

Favorite

I woke up with an earworm of Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

This morning’s brain tune came with a bonus memory video of the scenes in the movie – Maria von Trapp and the children, dancing around the bedroom while thunder and lightning stormed outside. I let it replay in my mind a few times as I snuggled under the blankets, enjoying a few extra minutes of quiet comfort.

It was a good way to start the day. Thank you to the von Trapp Family Singers.

Categories
Life

Start

In the first days after 9/11, when the skies were silent and the country was grieving, it felt as if time had stopped. The days passed, but each one somberly echoed the one before, the same and alike.

Then, the word came that the skies would reopen, and the planes could fly. My colleagues and I went outside to watch and cheer as one of the first rolled down the runway and made its way into the clouds.

That one communal event didn’t change what had happened, didn’t fix what had come before. It didn’t negate the horrified sadness that seemed to be everywhere. Grief is not something that can be managed on a calendar or put on a timetable for healing. Those emotions, especially on a scale that existed after 9/11, must be allowed to occur as necessary, to come in waves, small and large, in bits and pieces, minutes and memories; a collective experience that is manifested in millions of individual, personal moments.

That shared occasion did do something important, however. It recognized a first. It honored a symbolic start. It celebrated the beginning of an ending.

I thought about those days this morning as I read about the trucks rolling out on their way to deliver the first doses of vaccine.

What’s onboard those trucks cannot make what’s come before disappear. Their contents won’t solve all of the challenges or take away all of the pain. There is no quick fix.

Those trucks do, however, carry a beginning.

Here’s to the start of hope. And, here’s to all those who are doing what’s needed to help the world move forward.


Categories
Life People

Brand

I’ve never bought anything from Zappos.

I don’t do a lot of online shopping, so that’s not a statement about my feelings about the company. On the contrary, I’m a Zappos admirer. If I wanted to purchase shoes or clothing online, Zappos would be one of the first options I’d consider. I’d even recommend – in fact, have recommended – Zappos to other people.

Why am I a Zappos fan, despite not being an actual customer (so far)? I’m inspired by the Zappos story, the journey from a little online shoe company to an e-commerce powerhouse.

The business results – financial returns, company growth, all of the other traditional “business” measurements – are impressive, of course. What I find particularly appealing, however, is what drives those results: the Zappos culture.

Until recently, the person leading the culture charge was Tony Hsieh. His perspective was (is) seen by some as radical, extreme, unsustainable. Encourage your employees to spend as much time as necessary to help a customer? Recommend a competitor if you aren’t able to meet a customer’s needs? Spell out company values and then prioritize those values over technical skills when hiring new employees? Crazy stuff, some might say.

But if you zero in on what’s really going on, what’s happening to build and sustain and expand the Zappos brand, the beloved Zappos experience, it’s not extreme at all. It’s very simple.

It’s people.

Zappos sells shoes and clothing online. That’s where the money comes from, and yes, the money is vital. A business can’t operate without it.

But – the reason Zappos exists is to serve people, both outside (customers) and inside (employees) the company.

Zappos puts people at the center of their business, treats them with care and respect and appreciation, trusts them to make good decisions, and listens to and learns from them. Customers and employees respond in kind.

This approach doesn’t guarantee that every day is full of unicorns and lollipops. Sometimes, mistakes get made, bad things happen, plans fail. Nobody’s perfect. That’s reality.

It’s hard to argue with success, however. The results are there; they tell a story that can’t be ignored.


Today’s cuppa honors Tony Hsieh, who passed away on November 27. Here’s to his brand of putting people first. I hope that his message continues to influence the world of business for generations to come.

Categories
Life Neato

Bridge

Yesterday, I read an article about a bridge in Utah that was constructed as part of an overpass widening project. The bridge is intended to give a safe “paw passage” for wildlife across the interstate highway.

According to the article, the plan is working. Deer, squirrels, and other wildlife are using the bridge. The article included video showing daytime and nighttime views of animals making their way from one side to the other. The end result is a safer journey for them as well as for the humans who are less likely to encounter a critter on the road.

“Innovation” can be a daunting word; it’s often associated with expectations of grand actions and never-before-seen results. It’s nice to be reminded that successful innovation, the kind that brings meaningful change, can be as simple as building a bridge.


Categories
Life

Tradition

Every year before Thanksgiving, I buy a new jar of poultry seasoning.

I don’t use poultry seasoning very often during the rest of the year, so you’d think I wouldn’t have to buy a new jar. I can never find the previous year’s jar in time to start prepping the food, however, no matter how hard I look.

Every once in a while, I’ll find the missing jar a day or two after Thanksgiving. I’ll carefully set it next to the current year’s jar and whisper to myself, “Now you have two; don’t forget where you put them so you don’t end up buying something you don’t actually need next year.” But then, the following year, the cycle of loss repeats itself, and poultry seasoning goes back on my shopping list.

Most often, the missing jar(s) simply never appears. It’s a mysterious event, like two socks going into the wash and one sock coming out, or cupboards full of Tupperware lids without matching Tupperware containers. I’ve learned to accept it and just get on with things.

In the midst of all that’s different this year, I especially appreciate the little moments of continuity – the expected, the familiar – when they do occur.

Here’s to tradition.

Categories
Life Neato

Dot

Happy birthday, Carl Sagan.

I watch this video at least once a year. It makes me think, makes me cry, and makes me smile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F2NeH_-f34

Here’s to our lives together on this tiny, blue dot.

Categories
Life People

Daughters

I have sons but no daughters.

I am, however, a daughter myself, and I have several nieces. I also have a mother, a sister, aunts, grandmothers. I have friends who have daughters, who are also sisters, aunts, grandmothers.

In other words, I may not have the experience of mothering a daughter, but I do understand the daughter experience.

Yesterday, the daughter experience had a First. Yesterday, a woman – a daughter – did something that took 200+ years and the combined hopes, dreams, blood, sweat, and tears of countless other daughters to achieve.

I know that not everybody is as happy with these circumstances as I am. Not everybody agrees with the positions and perspective that this woman, this newly-elected Vice President, holds. Even those who voted for her may have reservations. That is true in every election; there is no perfect candidate, and there are no perfect outcomes, even for the winning side.

I also know that history is full of diverse opinions and different views. Yet, the tales of history are influenced by the storytellers. Now, we are poised for the history books to include the voices of women – of daughters – in a new way.

This event doesn’t have to diminish what came before. Nor does it mean that my hopes and dreams for my sons – and for all sons – have disappeared. As always, I want them to be able to achieve their goals and to be recognized for their accomplishments.

I also want them to know, however, that there is room for more. There is space for beyond what used to be. They don’t become “less than” simply because of change; instead, change makes new opportunities possible. Instead of either/or, the world can be full of and.

I saw this floating around social media yesterday:

Be sure to wear your shoes, ladies. There’s a lot of glass on the floor in here.

Daughters- and sons – everywhere…let’s celebrate.