Being in Charge

When I was assigned a task as a child, my mother would not say, “Punkin, go set the table, please.”


What she would say is, “Punkin, dinner’s getting close to ready.  You’re in charge of setting the table.”  She felt, correctly I think, that a feeling of power over a situation is more likely to get cooperative results.

As adults, my brother and I would chuckle about this turn of phrase and tease Mom, telling her that all we learned from that was that being in charge just meant work!

The thing is, there was a subtle and powerful lesson involved that really didn’t hit me until just this morning.  My son had commented that he thought the house could do with some cleaning before we went to the beach, so could we do some?  I handed him a pad of paper, a pen and told him to make a list of what he thought needed to be done.  I also told him I had about a half an hour I could dedicate to it, so he had to be careful not to assign me more tasks than I could do in a half an hour.

The lesson, you see, was that youngsters really do need to feel that they have power in a situation to get things done.  Like my mom, I do try to encourage a sense of independence in my kids, but also a sense of initiative.  Initiative happens best in situations where people (not just children) feel they have the power to effect a situation and Get Things Done.  It’s why I’ll allow my son to plan out a housecleaning session.

I have to laugh a little at this evolution of parenting styles.  My mother’s mother would never in a million years have applauded initiative in a child, nor put them in charge of a thing.   Don’t get me wrong.  I loved her as deeply as a grandchild ever loved a grandmother and feel the weight of her being gone even after more than a decade.  She was gloriously creative, hilarious and delightfully outrageous.  But in Ellie’s World there was a hierarchy and a pecking order.  You damned well were supposed to know your place and in charge meant able to give orders — which Nanny did with enthusiastic abandon to any of her clan over about the age of 2.

I’m sure I’m thinking about that more as Beach Week approaches, and chuckling at the memory of Nanny running around, enjoying her view of being in charge and getting in the way of the people who really were getting stuff done.  I find myself a little glad I never knew the concept of the Designated Control Freak at the time.  I might have been foolish enough to try to explain it to her.

At which point I feel certain she would have taken a drag on her unfiltered Chesterfield and told me to kiss her ass.

Wild Times

Okay, taking a break before diving back in to work.

I didn’t make myself a bento for today and was regretting it, but disciplined myself to make a nice, veggie-stuffed wrap for lunch rather than grab something — not that I have much in the way of bags of easy-to-grab food in the house but fruit, anyway.  (Confession:  Bento are at least in part laziness.  I prefer to make it easy to eat properly).

It’s warmed up nicely outside, and it feels like summer.  But it does make me want to be lazy and take a nap.  Unfortunately, I have way the devil too much work to do and really shouldn’t even be writing this entry.  I’m doing it to reboot my brain.   All I can say is that I’m happy that my projects are on relatively interesting subjects.

My cat is trying to inform me that I’m deficient in my petting duties by sitting on the arm of my chair and looking pitiful.  I suppose I should not whine too much about work.  I’m not in a cube farm, fergossake, and I doubt many offices would permit me that most necessary of writing materials, a cat to paw at your hand when it wants love or curl up at your feet while working.

Ahh, the exciting times of the self-employed writer.

Sea Kittens and Oberserving Nature

First off, I think PETA’s leadership is crazy.  But, apparently they have enough money to keep a state park open.  I have to wonder what rich nutjobs give these people money.

I’m all for animals under human care being humanely treated.  I also know what it would do to the price of meat.  I’m okay with that, but I’m not struggling as much as some, am a good cook even with vegetarian dishes, and really couldn’t give a damn if domestic species of animals die out or not. Die out, you ask?  If we all went vegan, where would be the incentive to keep these expensive and expensive to care for animals?  Holsteins didn’t evolve in nature, friends, and need specific care.  Many domestic species either can’t survive in the wild or would be damn dangerous to let loose if they can.  Go up against a wild pig unarmed sometime. If you survive, you’ll only do it once.  And I don’t think you’ll feel quite as warm and fuzzy about Wilbur any more.

Have these people ever seen an animal hunt?  For that matter, have they ever really watched cats that they want to rename fish “sea kittens” to produce some kind of emotive response in people?  Cats are sadistic little monsters.  I’ve taken mice away from my cats and put them out of their misery because the squeaking got to be too much for me.  greendalekgreendalek did the same with a dove, once, because the cat had spent about fifteen minutes crippling it and then toying with it.  It was awful.

I won’t go into the ethics of eating meat, because I’ve not examined the logical arguments for and against. Logical, not emotive.  The poor fuzzy animals approach doesn’t work on me when there are human beings under conditions just as bad if not worse.   I know I feel physically better and healthier when I eat a diet of primarily meat and produce (not grains).  That doesn’t leave much room for the vegan diet.  I realize that doesn’t touch the arguments about a living thing having to die for me to feel energetic and healthy, but I’ll be blunt. People die for those cheap clothes you’re wearing, too.  I find that a bigger concern.

And that’s where it comes down to for me.  While the ecosystem needs to be cared for so we don’t foul our own nest, I do think sentient, thinking beings are more important than non-sentient, thinking beings.  (Hey, hadda throw that in there.  Science fiction fan and all).

Travel Bento

The point of bento is, of course, to have a meal on the go.  I made these because the man of the house is going to be taking a very long car trip and I wanted him to have decent food without having to grab crap at a fuel-n-feed.  Yes, it’s a convenient hobby!  I made these bento specifically as finger-food so that he wouldn’t have to worry about a fork or chopsticks if he ate while driving.

When I do my bento class, I’ll probably discuss the convenience of travel bento in general.  If I take a train trip, I almost always take a bento along.  Many bento enthusiasts take them on airplanes (no liquidy food, of course, but what I did here would get by more than fine!) or family outings.  Picnic bento are a tradition in Japan –usually the family meal is packed in a large single box, though, rather than these little individual boxes.  When I took my children out to the pool not too long ago, we’d intended to make a day of it, so of course I made bento for all of us.  I find them fantastic for day trips as well as longer travel.

The real beauty and convenience of a bento won’t hit you until you hold one in your hand.  They’re small.  A bento large enough for my lunch is about as large on top as the palm of my hand and fits in my purse with the greatest of ease.  Those three bento, packed up with their lids on, fit in my backpack with room to spare for sunscreen, towels, a picnic blanket and cans of soda with no problem at all.  For a longer trip, you can make meal bento and snack bento that have great meals, but take up considerably less space than traditional sandwiches and chips.  It’s the compactness that makes them so delightfully convenient for travel.  The boxes I use fit inside each other when they’re done so that after you’ve eaten, they take up even less space.

Even though they’re small, it’s a tasty, satisfying, filling meal.  Part of the satisfaction comes in because a well-made bento has a variety of tastes in it.  Notice even in these completely non-classical bento there are little bits and tastes of lots of different foods.    When you eat a meal with that level of variety, you find your pleasure in the meal is increased as well as your level of satisfaction.

Of course, travel food has plenty of solutions and options, but I find the bento one of the better ones to save time, money and get better food than you’re likely to be able to get on the road.

Tell Me a Story

I don’t like sitcoms in general. It’s not that I’ve no sense of humor at all.  I do. It’s very small, harsh and (as one friend put it) sanguine.

But another reason I generally don’t like sitcoms is that they’re weak, very weak, on what I go to almost any art for.

Tell me a story.

No matter what else, I need a story to engage my mind and emotions.  My tastes in this are pretty child-like.  When I want a story, I want interesting characters, a good guy, a bad guy, a concrete problem for the good guy to solve, a bad guy who has a real motivation for thwarting the good guy, and if the story is long, I want a certain development and learning in at least the main character over a period of time.  Ideally, the lessons the main character learns should be those lessons that contribute to him solving the problem.

I loved the first movie Highlander.  I hated the rest of the franchise with a bitter passion.  The story had been told and it was just capitalizing on a franchise.  (Obviously my tastes in this sort of thing aren’t common, or it wouldn’t have made the money it did).

I don’t watch television because in general TV shows are not set up to have a concrete story arch.  You have to leave it open for them to continue potentially indefinitely.  Of course, there are exceptions.  Many Doctor Who episodes work around this pretty well, with several episodes telling a discrete story.   Avatar: The Last Airbender did a brilliant job with the storytelling, but it did have a definite end. (Notice that a lot of the stuff I like is written for children).   If that were the norm for television, I’d have TV, I really would.

I liked The Incredible Hulk TV series pretty well.  It also was very strong on storytelling.  Thing is, a series of short stories under a single premise does have its limits.

It’s not that I don’t ever like series, or a series of stories set around a single character or premise.  I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan, and I really enjoyed the Callahans stories.  I have to admit that I lost a bit of interest after Callahan’s Secret, even though I really did love the characters.  I’ve read every single Discworld novel and short story so far published.  I’ve read all the books Heinlein ever published.   But out of the thousands of books I have read in my life, getting into a series is the exception rather than the rule.  Mists of Avalon was amazing.  All the tie-ins?  Blegh.

I hate movie sequels as a rule, unless it was a story told over several movies.

I know from a marketing perspective, the success of the Discworld Series, the Star Trek franchise and many, many other series that have generated a fandom cause producers and publishers to look for The Next Big Franchise.  It’s where the money is.  I understand that.

But my inner three year old is plumped down on a pillow with a frown and a pout saying, “Tell me a story!

All Summer in a Day

When I was in the fourth grade, my reading book had two science fiction stories — “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury and “The Fun They Had” by Issac Asimov.

I’ve been thinking about the first story quite a bit lately, as it’s been raining so much.  I’m beginning to feel like the protagonist, who is slowly going crazy because of the rain.

But these two stories also trigger a thought.  How many people got into science fiction because of stories they read in school?  Probably few people older than I am, as the genre was considered beneath contempt by many educators before I started going to school.  In Stranger in a Strange Land, there’s this throw-away line about a character having read War of the Worlds in school, “same as everybody”.  When the book was first published, I am sure it was meant to be a least a little absurd. And yet, my fifth grade teacher, who read aloud to the class quite a bit, read A Wrinkle in Time to the class.  When I was in 10th grade, I was actually able to take a whole unit in spec-fic.  We read Dune, and A Canticle for Leibowitz (Hey, it was still the Cold War).  I’m trying to remember others, but I can’t.

If you’re over 35 or so, did you ever encounter science fiction as part of your school curriculum?