How do I love Thee?

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Maybe it’s the sunniness and warmth that we’ve had over the past few weeks, or the fact that I’m finally able to hang out laundry on the clothesline, but I’ve had a pretty warm fuzzy feeling about Rome lately. I think I am in love! Let me count the ways:

1. I have a job I love with great coworkers who have chosen Rome as their home base. We are all pulling in the same direction, bringing arts and cultural entertainment to Rome, and we’ve all come to love various aspects of Rome. We’re always telling the others about the latest fun and interesting thing that’s happening.

2. Nicky Doodles is open, and the picnic tables are outside. Even if I don’t choose to sit outside, seeing others out enjoying their food and ice cream is always a treat (no pun intended).

3. I can walk or bike to work without being attacked by dogs. Where I grew up, this was never a certainty.

4. People wave and honk like real neighbors. I’ve lived in places where I didn’t even know the people downstairs from me, but between neighbors and friends, waves and honks are all over the place. Sometimes I don’t even know who I’m waving to, I just wave! It feels very homey.

5. The daffodils in the city flower beds in front of the Capitol are blooming. Daffodils are the most optimistic of flowers; I’ve glad to see that they’re still kicking after our recent bit of snow.

6. Mike Henry’s cookies. The homemade cookie at Brenda’s Natural Foods, made by her husband, are a perfect afternoon snack, and I don’t even have to walk a block.

7. Hearing various strains of music playing when I leave the office at night. Between John Hayes O’Neill Studio of Dance, The Music Studio, and A Vivo, music is never far away. It makes our block feel fresh and vibrant.

8. Rome Cash Mob, Shop Rome First, and Positively Rome. I love how the people of Rome are coming together in a positive way to create change. The naysayers will always be present, but the power of positive thoughts, especially when magnified by other like-minded people, can’t be overstated.

9. The crazy pastry creations and cakes at Cafe Divino. It’s a sweet cafe run by sweet people, and I love to see the photos of the cakes that they’ve made by special request.

10. The prevalence of Easter Bread. I never knew Easter Bread before I moved to Rome, and there are so many to choose from. It will certainly be added to my list of the signs of spring.

Why do you love Rome? I always love to hear from you, dear reader. Feel free to email me at kylie@romecapitol.com.

Moving on Out

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My mother is moving from my childhood home, and I will be helping her. I’m waiting for the mixed feelings to kick in, but they haven’t yet, so at present I’m just excited at the idea of a fresh start. (Please don’t tell me you’re surprised, dear reader.)

What’s more, she is downsizing from a full-sized house to an apartment. I encouraged her to do this repeatedly, but the logistics of paring and shrinking one’s possessions can be formidable, and was certainly something that I hadn’t thought about that seriously while I was in ra-ra “move to a small city where things are more convenient and we can see each other every day!” mode.

Joyfully and serendipitously, an offer was put on her house sold almost immediately after the first potential buyer viewed it. It was a lovely surprise, but then the other reality set in. We have to move a whole house in a relatively short time! Eep!

I have been trying to declutter and downsize my own possessions, so I know how difficult it is. But having to do it in a set amount of time (especially a short amount of time) seems darn near insurmountable without help. Fortunately, it is much easier to do it with a buddy, and I was up for the job. (Mom offered to help me with my own possessions, too, so all is fair in love and decluttering.)

My mother had been working on the house since last fall, so she had a pretty big chunk of the work done. To add a little fun to the mix, I proposed that we change the usual “Keep” and “Give Away” categories to “Awesome I Love It” and “Sell.” We split the Awesome category into “Awesome Now” and “Awesome When I Move.” Between the two of us, we did a quick whisk around the house, making big decisions about Awesomeness and Selling, then we revisited the little sections and made smaller decisions.

It’s certainly mind-boggling how many possessions a person can accumulate in a partial lifetime, let alone a whole family of people who, upon leaving the nest, left a trail of forgotten possessions. Going through things gave us the chance to laugh a lot, cry a little, and generally feel better about lightening the load, both tangibly and mentally.  It’s amazing what a little extra space can do, and how much mental space is created by freeing up physical space.

Springtime is a great time for spring cleaning objects as well as rooms. She’s so ready to make a fresh start!

 

Little things and little people

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Art and I are rather blissfully childless. Don’t get me wrong, I love children, but they just don’t fit with our life and our priorities. Because of this, I like to borrow other people’s children once in a while.

Though I get plenty of time to spend with kindergarten and 1st grade girls as a Daisy Girl Scout leader, little boys are kind of an anomaly in my life. Fortunately, my little sis has a wonderful little man named Howard who is not-quite-two.

Needless to say, I was delighted to get a text from my sister on Sunday asking if I were free to stay with Howie to give her and her husband a much-needed movie date. Though I was running errands and grocery shopping, I was happy to oblige. (My little sis works and her husband is a stay-at-home dad, and quality couple time is a rare event indeed.) Plus, I hadn’t seen Howie in a few weeks, so of course I said yes.

By virtue of being not-quite-two (almost 22 months, in official mother-speak), Howie is a bundle of energy and squirmy as a worm. Most of the time, because this particular youngster is high in demand as the first grandchild on both sides of his family, I rarely get to be alone with him. It stands to reason that when my mother is around, she naturally knows how to do motherly things and knows what to expect. Me, not so much.

Our first stop (and last, it was soon to be evident) was to the grocery store. I had seen legions of happy babies and toddlers in the child seats of shopping carts. No problem, right? Well, not quite. Howie was happy there for about 2 minutes and 12 seconds. At that point, he charmed me with his newly-uttered first word, “up,” and I fell for it. No sooner was he up then he wanted to be down, then two aisles over. His trajectory and my pursuit brought to mind a game of Frogger–carts zooming by, Howie avoiding them (or them avoiding him) rather cleanly, while I was nearly flattened several times. Hm, on to Plan B. What’s a childless aunt to do?

Off to the toy department. I soon came to realize that, when you’re not-quite-two, toys aren’t really toys for the purposes for which they are designed. Cars aren’t really cars. They are objects that should be where other objects are, and then you’re done. If they happen to appear again with the help of an adult, grab, toss and repeat. Such was the fate of several cars, a small stuffed dragon, and an inexplicable red plastic pitcher.

Out came the handbag. Keys, smartphone (which he, like many of his generation, seems to already understand with little prompting), post-its, lip balm. Another request for “up.” A little bit of fussing, which I thought I handled fairly well. A lot of end-of-the-world hugging and crying. A lot of other shoppers looking at me like I was a bad mother. (Wrong on two counts.)

I finally realized that, if I could look at the world like I was not-quite-two, this trip would be a lot easier. So I should sing all of our conversations, because songs are more fun. I should find an ordinary object that meets several goals at once (enter Ritz Bits sandwiches–tactile toys, food, and something with a lid!). And I should acknowledge that productivity and efficiency take a back seat when you’re not-quite-two. It’s not that Howie was being bad, he was just being himself: a little hungry, a little sleepy, and possibly in need of a change, in more ways than one.

We finished our visit with some playtime at home, in a relatively good mood. And I learned a pretty good lesson. I can’t wait to see what not-quite-two-and-a-half will bring.

 

Advancing the status of women locally

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Last night I attended our monthly Zonta Club meeting at the Savoy. I became a member in December 2012, and have been working ever since to make a positive contribution to the activities of the club.

Getting together once a month with women who care about advancing the status of women and girls is a special treat. Aside from the pleasant social aspects of the meeting, we get to hear reports about what our members are involved with throughout the community. My co-members are women from all professions, many life stages, and all walks of life. We have commonalities and we have differences, and they’re all celebrated when we get together. It is a wonderful reminder of the diverse group of women who call our community home.

Many people don’t know the indignities that women suffer around the world, largely because the women themselves are reticent to bring it to the public’s attention. Even in our own country, domestic violence is often a secretive occurrence, only coming to light when it becomes so egregious that the woman (and/or, heaven forbid, her children) is at risk for severe injury or death. Zonta International, our parent organization, works globally to be a voice for women who are underrepresented and oppressed. Through economic, educational, health-related, legal and political initiatives, as well as programs for youth development and against domestic violence, Zonta takes a stand on many issues pertaining to the fairer sex. Scholarships are also given, in the areas of graduate aerospace science and engineering (a fellowship award named for former Zontian Amelia Earhart), and aspiring businesswomen (the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship).

While Zonta was founded in 1919, our own club wasn’t far behind. Our chapter was 90 years old in 2012, and I am honored that women in Rome cared enough about women’s issues to form an organization that could do something about it. The Rome chapter runs the Back to Basics program for 3rd and 4th grade girls, which gives girls a safe environment to learn life skills and interact with other girls. We also support various women’s issues events regionally, including Take Back the Night (a march to raise awareness for violence against women) and the YWCA Salute to Outstanding Women. Scholarships are given each year, as well as supporting Lucy’s House and other organizations that offer help to women and girls.

For more information about Zonta International, visit their website at http://www.zonta.org. If you are interested in learning more about Zonta Club of Rome, contact our President, Laurie Fusco, and fuscolaurie@yahoo.com. You are a welcome guest by invitation at any of our monthly meetings. We hope to see you!

Signs of spring

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I know in my heart that spring is on the way. No matter how cold or miserable it might typically (and even atypically) be this time of year, there are many things, both well-known and personal, that seem to herald spring. Here are some of many:

1. The Vernal Equinox. (Obviously.) One of two days of the year where the day and the night are twins, not too long and not too short. As Goldilocks would say, just right. It’s a lovely thing to look forward to in the spring, as an indicator that the days will be longer than those on the equinox until the next equinox.

2. The Eastern Bluebird, the American Robin, and the American Crow. The earliest birds to show their faces, these fair-weather friends show us that the natural world knows things will get better. I enjoy watching these creatures arrive back on the scene.

3. Raccoons and skunks. Many people don’t love these critters, but I welcome them with open arms. They poke their heads out fairly early, and have faith that food options will present themselves sooner rather than later.

4. Seed catalogs. Although these lovely vegetable and flower fashion magazines start coming in December, the sheer number that have accumulated by March, coupled with the arrival of early seed orders for seed starting, remind us that greener things will soon appear. 

5. Cinefest. Though it’s not a particularly springy event, the timing of Cinefest, the first film festival of the year for Art and me, couldn’t be better. The people who attend are pretty excited to see the films and see their old “film friends” that live far away, and that enthusiasm, coupled with what is usually warmer weather, makes it feel like spring.

6. Motivation to get out of bed and do something. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so the lack of light really does me in in the wintertime. My body seems to know when the days are getting longer. Even if it is unseasonably cold, something in my mind has more get up and go this time of year than it did in the preceding months. I find myself jonesing to start spring cleaning and outdoor planning.

7. Shedding horses. Horses coats respond to light rather than temperature, so they begin to shed when the days get to a certain length. At my last lesson, I had to remove the hairs from the grooming brush twice. Pretty excited about that!

8. Daffodils. Talk about a plucky plant! These pretty ladies and gentlemen are poking through the snow before we can even see our sidewalk. They can’t wait to greet the spring! Seeing daffodils springing up always puts me in a good mood.

These are the things that let me know that my dream of spring will soon be reality. As lovely as winter can be, the changing of seasons is inevitable and welcome. I trust that many of you are looking forward to spring as much as I am.

Fun is hard work

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I’ve never been good at fun for fun’s sake. I know quite a few people who love nothing better than lying on a beach with a drink in their hand and letting their mind wander. Don’t get me wrong, my mind does enough wandering, but I much prefer to find my fun in productive pursuits. Relaxing too much seems to make me antsy, and I envy those who can pull it off!

Believe me, I know that some work can be plain drudgery. There are lots of things that I don’t like doing, but I do them because that’s part of what makes the world go ’round. To help myself get through it, I listen to music or give myself little rewards, like “If I do this before 11am I’ll buy my favorite snack,” or “If I finish this project early, I’ll work on something I love doing next.” Things like that keep me going. I’ve become a pro at finding the silver linings on even the most tarnished clouds.

I think it was Mary Poppins who said “In every job that’s to be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and *snap* the job’s a game.” (Or something of that ilk; forgive me Mary.) While in the office today we were brainstorming ways to promote our upcoming silent showing of the 1925 film The Lost World. Promos are always a little difficult, and we do so many that they tend to run together. The further we delved into the planning, the more laughing and smiling we were doing. The ideas starting bouncing around faster and faster, and we were all super psyched to get started on it!

If you can identify the humor or fun in the not-so-great things that you have to do, I can practically guarantee you’ll be a happier person. Rather than dwelling on how horrible a task is, you can look on the bright side. You may have a limited budget, but you can challenge yourself to see how far it can stretch and still be comfortable. You may hate cleaning the house, but if you turn on some music or listen to an audio book, the time will fly. And, as one of my favorite motivators says, you can do anything for 15 minutes.

If that doesn’t work, remember that a job begun is half done, and think about how much better you’ll feel once you finish it. The joy of finally finishing something that has been hanging over your head is one of the world’s most wonderful feelings.

(P.S. Thank you to all of you dear readers who have introduced yourself and taken the chance to tell me how much you enjoy this column. You make writing it worthwhile. I am sincerely grateful.)

Measuring the measurements

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I am blessed (or cursed, as the truth may be) with a rather analytical mind. I am a list-maker, a spreadsheet creator, and I like to measure as many things as possible. I am pretty comfortable with data, most likely due to my engineer father and geology degree.

That said, taking data to execution, or tracking back to keeping data in regards to a goal, can sometimes be difficult. What can you do with numbers, especially at the personal level? How can numbers help you achieve great things, especially if you aren’t a “numbers person?” I assert that you don’t have to be a numbers person to make progress with data.

Take for example an average household budget. Even those who are generally afraid of numbers have resigned themselves to dealing with finances. You can prepare a budget in two ways: 1) you can track what you are spending and backtrack, or 2) you can estimate what you are spending and try to keep within that range. Either way can work; it just depends on how much legwork you want to put into it. If you check your banking balances and transactions online, or if you have them import to a computer program, you don’t even have to collect the data yourself. (Automation is my favorite way to collect information. Why reinvent the wheel and do more work than you have to?) The key to making a budget stick is monitoring: you have to check your expenditures against what you had determined you should spend in order to make it work. Even if you can’t automate the collection of information, making a habit of checking your data at the same time every day will help. Moral of this paragraph: automate information collection if you can; it will make monitoring easier. If not, create a habit of recording the information so that you can monitor it later.

Budgeting is a pretty obvious example, but what about other goals? Consider New Year’s Resolutions for example. Say you want to eat one vegetable every day, after eating no vegetables on most days previously. It may help to create a chart that lists the days of the week and leaves you room to write in or check off your vegetable. Ditto with a goal like weight loss. You can make a graph that shows your weight each week, and your progress over time. Visual cues will help you see when you’re doing well and when you have to step it up. Moral of this paragraph: Graph or chart your progress. It will help you visualize how well you are achieving your goal.

I promise numbers aren’t that scary, and can actually be pretty helpful. If you find yourself stuff in a rut, see if you can shake it up a little with some charts and graphs. You may be surprised at the results.