Monday, June 25, 2007

The vagaries of memory

Memory intrigues me. There's so much about the brain that we have no idea about--who knows what we'll laugh at fifty years from now with scientific breakthroughs? The myth that we use only 10% of our brain seems to come partly from the fact that we don't use all of our brain at once. However, not being a scientist, I still do not understand why I can remember song lyrics, obscure actors' names and their movie roles, birthdays of grammar school classmates, and seeing my newborn sister when I was only 3 1/2 years old, but I cannot remember where I put my glasses/purse, what my husband asked me to pick up at the grocery store, monthly bill payments, or when I have a meeting or appointment.

As a wise person recently put it, for whatever reason it seems that spoken requests go in one chamber of my memory but never make it to the next one. Or I'll try to write something down but I'll write it on some scrap of paper that I then lose. Or I have some planner that I lose or forget to use and it's a month later and I find it and think, "Oh yeah, this, I should use this." I've gotten much better about it--step one is recognizing how my particular process works. If there's a school meeting, I put it in my Outlook calendar with an e-mail reminder AND I put it in my planner--which also has a To-Do list on the other side. Thank goodness again for Real Simple! This way I can keep everything together. I'm also learning to simply say, "Yes, I can do that, but would you please e-mail me/call me tomorrow about it?" This way I cover my bases. Plus, feathernester in her speech pathology wisdom has advised that I update and look at my to-do list every day for six weeks. According to her and many experts, this is the magic number for making something a habit. I will ask DH to help me remember and give myself little rewards each week for remembering. Today is Day 1, so wish me luck.

I think the biggest problem is that when I forget these important tasks, I and everyone else looks at it as a major character flaw rather than my hardwiring acting differently than others'. I don't use that as an excuse, though I have used some variation of it as one in the past. However, my inability to remember these things unless I write them down or repeat them out loud several times (and sometimes that doesn't even work) is viewed as me acting irresponsibly or immaturely--apparently once you reach a certain age, your brain should switch into Responsible Adult Mode. This includes rarely missing appointments, paying bills on time, not throwing tantrums, working when you'd rather play, and watching or reading the news. Raise your hand if you've ever seen adults NOT doing these things, yourself included. I thought so. I feel grateful that the aforementioned wise person helped me figure out that my memory snafus are not part of a character flaw; they're just part of me. I'll continue to believe this even when others around me do not.

Do any of you have this problem or know those who do? Perhaps you're married to or dating or working with this person? What are your solutions?

Friday, June 15, 2007

House Hunting Reality Check

So DH and I have been house hunting. Not that we don't love our little place, but it's getting cluttered and we'd like to have a grown-up place that is ours, mortgage and all. It would also be nice to actually use our wedding gifts instead of storing them at my FIL's. I knew it would take a while, but I never quite knew what was involved. We've been looking for months at houses through real estate websites and we have a broker helping us. The truly "adult" factor? We look primarily based on school districts. We'd love to find a place we'll remain in for the next ten years or so, so we want to make sure our kids benefit. Hell, if we have to pay the taxes, they may as well go to something worthwhile.
Last night we went to see a house that, at first glance, we loved. The price was right, it boasted a terrific school district, lots of yard, lots of charm. T and I arrived early and fell in love with the wind blowing through the giant tree, the large yard, the two porches, and the view we could see through the kitchen. Oh, to find one that worked perfectly so soon! Then we went inside. It's an old converted farmhouse from the 1800s. Ooh! Historical! Now I understand the jokes on the old Simpsons episode where Marge sold real estate:

Marge: That house is awfully small.
Lionel Hutz: I'd say it's awfully cozy.
Marge: That's dilapidated.
Lionel Hutz: Rustic!
Marge: That house is on fire!
Lionel Hutz: Motivated seller!

The house wasn't awful or anything; it did have a lot of charm and light, but the one upstairs bedroom had one of those office styrofoam rectangle ceilings (I don't know the proper name, so feel free to inform me) and a pull-down attic with a ladder that we didn't trust anyone to look on. Also, farmhouses don't have a whole lot of hallways, so there wasn't a whole lot of space/privacy. As we walked back down the stairs we realized an entire family of birds lived in the wall--had I pulled up the one ceiling tile, I could have fed them the worms myself without even stretching. This also indicated a lack of insulation--not a good idea in a house on top of a hill in heavy snow country. The one "bedroom" would have fit a twin bed and not much else. Going into the basement, we discovered that although it hadn't rained in a week, this hilltop house had a basement so wet you couldn't store anything in it. The basement also featured a 40 year-old boiler which could require replacement either in the next ten years or 2008, give or take.

It wasn't a terrible house at all; we just weighed the pros and cons and realized we didn't have that extra ten thou to update it as we needed. Thus the search continues; we're not in a hurry and we'll find what's right for us. I certainly learned a lot about what to look for and avoid.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why get snippy?

OK, since I've written one sentence about the cutting of the hair and received two comments already, I figured I'd go for it. I realize I have readers in other countries (thank you--glad to have you), so perhaps this is only an American phenomenon: For some reason, when women reach a certain age and have a family (and are not on Desperate Housewives), they cut their hair. I can think of a few exceptions, such as my Aunt P. and my friend L.'s mother, but that's it. Wait! L.'s mother is Dutch or Nederlandish or whatever the hell it is now! Maybe it IS an American conspiracy.

Well, either way, it seems that when women reach their forties or so and have a kid or two, some irresistible urge comes on them to cut their hair. Why? Do they feel long hair looks too "youthful"? Does short hair actually look better at a certain age? Is it too much of a pain to deal with drying and so forth? I cannot believe the latter because I have had short hair and I'm telling you, it can take waaaay more time to deal with when you have waves that threaten to look like a cross between Medusa and serious bedhead unless you attack with gel, spray, a hair dryer, and numerous combs and brushes immediately upon exiting the shower. My mother can attest to this as well. She did have long hair when we were little but since about 1984 her hair has not touched her shoulders. It always looks great (although she never thinks so) but I just do not understand why she cut it. What don't I know? Is it a compulsion? Is there a law? Do your friends pressure you into it? Someone please set me straight. I find this hair question to rank among one of Life's Mysteries but is probably simple ignorance on my part. S. is right: Most men seem to love the long hair. DH just recently begged me not to cut mine. In this weather it's usually up anyway, so is there a point to having it long? Another female question: Why do we insist on keeping the one lost earring? Do we really think we'll find the other one someday? Just something else to ponder.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Buffalo Tradition

This past weekend was the 50th annual Allentown Art Festival. Allentown is the area of Buffalo that's not quite downtown but has a lot of great little shops, restaurants, and houses. It's a sort of neighborhood enclave that has elements of the city without being too urban. Always a good venue for people watching, this festival takes up several blocks of main streets of Buffalo and boasts a wide variety of different artworks and fried foods. I will admit that a lot of the Allentown art is crap: Handmade jewelry, chintzy watercolors, overly cheerful magnets, statues made out of old metal and spoons.... Granted, the festival does have some true artisans, and I always find something interesting to buy for someone's Christmas or birthday present. I admit I think the real fun this year was walking around hand in hand with DH, looking at things we might want for a future house (to be discussed in a future post). While right now we can't buy any more art without it looking like an art gallery with our few walls, it's nice to know we'll have a house one day to spread out a bit and finally put everything away!

But anyway, Allentown's a great way to walk around and see all elements of Buffalo, good and bad. This year the weather was great and once again, I managed to support a few really hardworking artists. My only beef is that for some reason they don't allow local merchants to sell their wares outside their stores at Allentown; the Allentown Village Society doesn't allow it for some reason. This bugs me; why can't local people benefit, thus opening the suburbanites' eyes to what's just a few miles away, thus improving the economy for the entire city? It's what they do at the Taste of Buffalo, another festival that qualifies as a gastronomical wonderland. But I'll jump off my soapbox and stop boring my readers.

Enjoy your day!

Next post: Why do women of a certain age cut their hair short? And is this only in America?

Friday, June 8, 2007


(<-- my shoes!) Not to stereotype, but this is an extremely female post, so if you're male (or female, I suppose) and care little about the quest for shoes, here's your chance to have an out. Tell you what--I'll read DH's Esquire magazine and comment on the article about Angelina Jolie. Actually, I enjoy reading that particular magazine--it's pretty savvy. Not that men are Neanderthals who love only sexy women--I happen to think Angelina's pretty hot myself. I just figure I'll offer equal time.

But! Anyway, yesterday I went shoe shopping. I even went to what I always call the godawful mall. I try to avoid that place at all costs because 1) I am a person who walks with a purpose. I do not amble; I am not an ambler. Thus, I cannot stand wending my way around people who take their time and walk four abreast so I can't get around them. It drives me bonkers. 2) those amblers are usually obnoxious teenagers, although the mall has put in a really lovely rule that if you're under sixteen, you can't be there without an adult. This sometimes helps. Buffalo has many lovely little shops right in town but this time I needed major retailers all in one spot. Sometimes there is a need for the big conglomerates

First I jumped on the Croc bandwagon; I admit, they are extremely comfortable summer shoes. I even found some for DH, and he's not an easy shoe size to find: Being very tall, he has shoes to match. And you know what big shoes mean...big feet. Get your heads out of the gutter, people.

Then I made the mistake of going to DSW with only a vague idea of what I wanted. I'll try to spare you the details, but picture me ambling (yes, I was ambling) through aisle after aisle looking for summer sandals but I wasn't sure what they looked like. Too high a heel, weird buckle, don't like the straps, too slutty, no way I'm paying $50 for those, just plain eww.... I didn't realize I'd been there so long until I finally came away with shoes (and of course, not even shoes I had planned to buy but useful comfy shoes made by Rocket Dogs--and I didn't have any idea that they were hip L.A. shoes at all. I never know that stuff.) and the one worker guy said at the checkout, "Oh, so you finally found something?" and I looked down at my watch and realized I'd been there for an hour!

But, as many of you know, for some reason, there is something about the hunt for a shoe. And the shoe creators know it--they make so many in all different styles! Heels, colors, shapes, materials, adornments, flats, wedges, sneakers, boots, laces, treads, aglets! I don't know if women have a certain chromosome for it or what, but a great number of women have a strange love for shoes. However, for those of us without disposable income, our other chromosome that never allows us to buy retail will occasionally combine with the shoe chromosome. This means that entering a shoe store and seeing a "50% off!" sign accelerates the heartbeat, dilates the pupils, and sets our focus on Finding the Ultimate Deal. Men do not understand this obsession with shoes. They would rather pull out nose hairs one at a time than shoe shop with any woman. I understand this fully and have told DH that he never, ever has to come with me when I'm on the prowl. Actually, I once saw some poor boyfriend sitting bereft on a bench while his girl looked at shoes, even going so far as to ask him if he liked them. Poor guy. As she blithely walked away, I went over to him and whispered, "She owes you so big for this." He came out of his stupor and gave me a huge, grateful smile, and I quickly walked away.

Today I am going to walk around in my new shoes! Whoo hoo!

Monday, June 4, 2007


Does anyone have a line on how best to bid on eBay? I am trying to get a bike and someone keeps outbidding me! And if it's you, cut it out! This is a really nice little Electra and the real thing's usually $400. The only thing I've ever won on eBay is a stuffed Kermit the Frog doll exactly like one I had as a child. I got it for $7. I'm not an eBay freak who spends her whole life bidding and challenging other eBay-ers; some people make a life out of this.

Wish me luck!