Extra Trash or a Stash?

First published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of January 31, 2016

Something About Nothing

Do you have a stack of magazines you haven’t read from years back? I do. It wasn’t an intentional stash. I would receive my AARP magazine or my Good Housekeeping and intend to read it the day it was delivered. Of course, something else would come up, and I would put it on the stack. Today I am sorting through the stack.

Let me clarify that I love magazines. They are part of my reading world. The first magazine I picked up was an AARP magazine from 2015. I glanced through it and put it in recycling. I felt what was relevant in 2015 won’t fly in 2017.

The next magazine was a writer’s magazine. I put that in the to-read pile. I plan on reading it today. I decided to go through my stack and designate today as a reading day.

I have a little eccentricity problem. I also keep magazine pages. I will read a magazine and find an article I think I might want to reference in the future, so I tear it out and put it in a folder in my file cabinet. I do the same thing with recipes I want to try. With the recipes, you might remember I don’t really like to cook, but I love to save recipes for the day when I am going to become a master chef. And then — wait for it — I never look at that folder in the file cabinet again until I am cleaning it out.

Once a year I clean out my file cabinet. I pull the folder out and decide I probably don’t need anything in that folder and decide to toss it — but then I stop and think that I might have stashed something else in the folder in a moment of hurry, I check the items in the folder. You guessed it ­— when going through it, I look at the articles or recipe, and it is almost like the first time I saw it, and I decide to put it back in the folder. The same goes for product or appliance manuals. Does anyone ever go back and read appliance manuals? I have appliance manuals from appliances I don’t remember ever having.

This year has been a better year. My house is getting emptier. It hasn’t been hard to let go of some things, but anything to do with reading makes me feel as if I am giving or throwing a part of me away. That includes books. I love books.

E-books have simplified my life. When I take a weekend or longer trip I don’t carry around the suitcases or bags full of books that I usually do. I put the Kindle in my purse, and I have plenty to read for as long as I am gone. Getting rid of books and magazines I can touch and feel and smell seems sacrilegious — there is something about the smell of books that make me feel as if I am eating and smelling a gourmet meal. It is the book lover inside of me that has an insatiable appetite.

My magazine stack isn’t just one type of magazine. I have Good Housekeeping, AARP, Do It Yourself, Guideposts, Prevention and Writer’s Digest. I have varied tastes. If I am in Barnes and Noble or a bookstore, the magazine section is a magnet for me. It happens in the grocery store, too, and in the grocery store those magazines are there tempting me to buy as I check out. What’s another little item purchase on my grocery bill?

You would think, considering all the magazines in my stack, they would make me smarter. You would think I could ace those trivia questions on trivia night because of my magazine stash. The problem with that scenario is I first have to read the magazines, and then I have to remember what I read.

My stash is going today. Some will go to the library. Some will go to recycling. It is going to be a marathon reading day. If you catch me tonight I might actually remember something I read, but if I don’t, it actually doesn’t matter to me unless it comes up in a trivia question next week. I am reading for the pure joy of reading. I will immerse myself in fluff, facts, home improvement, decorating, inspiration, meditation, and stories that will give me a brief respite from what is happening today in our world. And if I don’t remember it and I keep the books and magazines, when I go through them again to toss, it will seem like the first time I have read them. Sometimes having a short memory is a plus. Look at all the new reading material I have.

Add on note: My paper stash of magazines is almost gone. Yikes, now my Kindle is full, and it is telling me I have to delete some books and magazines. Does that mean I can’t keep the last year of DIY on my Kindle? How can I ever let it go to the cloud? What if the cloud fails and it rains out to cyberspace all my reading material? My vision is cloudy. Will that vision become reality? Will my cloud get full, too, and they will tell me to get off of my cloud? I guess The Rolling Stones were visionaries when they told us to get off of their cloud. Who knew?

Were The Good Old Days Really That Good?

From my column in the Albert Lea Tribune, Monday August 29, 2016

bobby vintonNostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Nostalgia was what I felt as I spent the day painting my porch this past week.

I like to paint when it has creativity involved, but it doesn’t take much creativity to slap some white paint over worn white paint. Yes, I like to see the change in the appearance, but getting there is a little boring to me. So I turned on the tunes on my Amazon Music and set it to a ‘60s station so I could enjoy the beautiful weather and make my painting sentence a little lighter.

I flashed back to my teenage years. I listened to “Mr. Lonely” by Bobby Vinton and remembered exactly who I had a crush on and danced with to that song. As I was listening, I also flashed back to what was happening in the world. I don’t think back then in my ninth-grade mind, I connected the words to what was happening in the world. “Mr. Lonely” is about a lonely soldier far away, wanting to be back home and feeling forgotten. The Vietnam War was raging, and I imagine many solders felt that way for many reasons, one of which, they were fighting an unpopular war and were not appreciated. I might not have figured that out in my ninth-grade mind, but I got it on this beautiful afternoon in 2016. It could be a song from a soldier today.

One of the lines hit me, in which the soldier laments he gets no letters in the mail. There was no quick internet chats or email, just snail mail during the Vietnam War, and I remember how long it took for letters to get to someone I loved who was serving in the war. It seemed forever to receive word from those special people to know they were fine and safe, yet because of the time, circumstances might have changed by the time the letter arrived.

As I sang to some of the other songs (I hope the neighbors didn’t hear my off key voice) I wondered why my parents let me listen to some of them. Some songs by popular artists were about drugs and the psychedelic experience. I don’t think my parents had a clue because they didn’t think to listen to the music or they must have tuned it out when I had the radio playing, or they didn’t understand it. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so upset about the heavy metal songs a couple of my children listened to in the ‘80s. It was kind of like calling the kettle black.

I remembered a hit of nostalgia a few years ago at my place of work. It was in the same building as my teen center years, and a song came on the radio as I was working at my desk. I had a flashback to being in the same building at the same spot when I heard the song when I was 16 years old. I never thought when I was 16 I would be sitting at the same place, in the same building years later.

As I kept my paintbrush moving, I thought about my best friend, Karen, who I shared many of my days with in the ‘60s. She is no longer living, but I felt she was right there with me when certain songs played. I wanted to call another of my ‘60s friends, Linda, but I didn’t want to put down my brush for fear I wouldn’t pick it back up again. I wanted to share a time we were driving around the countryside on a warm summer night listening to a song from Donovan. Or “Summer in the City” by the Lovin Spoonful.

There are moments when I listen to the music from my youth, and it makes me sad because we can’t go back and relive those times or be with some of the people who were an important part of our lives back then. It reminds me I am getting older. But the painting day wasn’t one of those times. Listening to my music brought back memories of a time when I didn’t know as much as I do today. A time where I hadn’t experienced as much of life, and it felt like the future held so much hope. After all, we were going to change the world because the generation before us caused all the problems that we were being faced with in those tender young years. We were going to solve those problems.

Some things never change. The generation of today blames my generation for the problems they are facing today, and the young ones feel they will be the ones to fix it. My generation should understand their blame because we experienced the same feelings.

I thought of the race riots of the ‘60s and the threat of the Vietnam war. In 2016 we still have race riots, and we still have war.

My day of nostalgia reminded me the more things are different, the more they stay the same. New problems exist, and old problems rear their ugly head. Each generation shares experiences and hopes and dreams as did the previous generation.

Parents will always question the music of the youth. Youth will always question the decisions of the past generation. People will always fight for a better future and will always protest when they feel there is a wrong needed to be made right.

As much as I remember with longing the years of my youth with my music, when I now listen to the lyrics they remind me “the good old days” had their problems too. Time and age make them seem more idyllic. Music always made me feel better when my heart was shattered over some trivial teenage thing. Music now makes me feel better when my heart is shattered over mind-bending life disasters. That is another timeless treasure which has not changed.