Thursday, June 14, 2012


In the 1950s, my mother delighted at the latest instant food mixes and frozen meals, because it meant she could spend less time in the kitchen and more time relaxing with Dad and me. (Both of my parents worked.) Dad, of course, had different opinions about instant mixes and frozen foods, but that’s another story.
Now, I live in south Seattle, in a neighborhood said to be one of the most diverse in the entire U.S. I like to do some of my shopping at a small Asian grocery store a few blocks from my house. I like to support immigrants and small businesses.

None of the packages of fresh fruits and vegetables are labeled, assuming that the people who shop here know what’s inside. There are at least 6 different kinds of leaves wrapped in plastic, roots and vegetables I’ve never seen before, several different kinds of chili peppers that I could never identify without having to go back to school again. I see packages of large green stems that I suspect might be sugar cane, but I don’t really know. Only the price is marked on the packages. I usually only buy what I recognize. I wonder if the goods are imported from China, from sources rejected by PCC and Whole Foods Market. They do, after all, cost much less here.

I have been taking my own canvas bag when I go shopping at that store, partly to get used to not using plastic bags, and partly to avoid accumulating them. After I’d picked out a variety of fresh vegetables, noodles and miscellaneous spices, I brought my things to the cash register.  The woman behind the counter started ringing up my purchases and putting them in a plastic bag. “Oh,” I said, “I brought my own bag.” I handed her the canvas bag I’d brought with me.
She laughed. “Are you practicing having to bring your own bag?”

I nodded yes.

“How silly,” she said, shaking her head. “In the old country, we all brought our own baskets to the market. We never had to do that here. Now we have to go back to doing things the old way!” She laughed again. “I will put your things in the plastic bag, then put it all in your bag.”

She was so insistent that I didn’t argue. Her English wasn’t good enough, and I don’t speak Thai or Vietnamese, so I didn’t know how to explain the ecological impact to her. I recognized in her laughter my mother’s attitudes: in leaving behind the old country, they left behind all of the primitive old country ways, coming to a new land where technology ruled and modern conveniences (like plastic bags in stores) abound. This woman and my mother were so delighted at the time- and energy-saving devices they found here in America. The immigrants, like my mother in the 1950s, enjoy the comforts of American life, even if it means going against the current ecological grain. To them, bringing your own basket or bag to the store is going back to the kind of life they wanted to leave behind.

I will still continue to bring my own canvas bags when I go shopping. I will continue to believe it makes sound ecological sense. But I’ve gained some kind of ironic perspective. It reminds me of the time I first visited my relatives in Latvia, shortly after it regained its independence. “How wonderful that your farmers here don’t use chemicals,” I said. “That’s because we can’t afford them,” my cousin replied. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bullish on astrology

Don't ever let an astrology teacher tell you how stubborn Tauruses are. Sure, they're represented by the bull as a symbol; and I have to say, sure, they ARE stubborn. But the good part about Taurean stubbornness is that when they disagree with you, they'll smile, nod their head, and just do what they've been doing all along. No argument. No muss, no fuss, no bother. Just don't try to push them around, they'll eventually push back if you're irritating enough.

The other bull-like animal of the zodiac is Aries--the battering ram! I find Aries to be infinitely more frustrating and stubborn than Taurus. When Aries disagrees with you,
  • they let you know, immediately, and very loudly
  • they keep on reminding you that you are wrong, until you beg for forgiveness
  • they always have to have the last word
  • did I tell you they keep reminding you how wrong you are?
  • they will keep trying to convert you, even after you've admitted your error
It's almost like being beaten repeatedly over the head with a virtual 2x4. Fortunately, since Aries is a fire sign, you can distract them and they eventually forget the issue. Taurus, however, is an earth sign, and--earth signs never forget. Anything. So, where Aries is aggressively obstinate, Taurus is, basically, comfortably immovable. It doesn't take much to set off a battering ram, but the bull won't charge unless you provoke it. And it may even decide that charging is too much trouble after all.

Given the choice, I'll take the Taurus any day!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writers UA 2011

Last week I attended the Writers UA conference in Long Beach, California. I was also a presenter at the Peer Showcase: (Click the links under "Materials" to see what I included in my presentation.)

Watch this spot for summaries of sessions I attended.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Long-Term Memory

A few days ago--I can't remember where--I ran across the words "Chantilly Lace." Over the next few days the words to the song came back to me, bit by bit. Although the tune is OK, I remember always hating the words. Pretty face? Wiggle when you walk, giggle when you talk? And the bit about big-eyed girl I was always sure referred to other attributes that probably would have been censored had he sung about the real big ones this little woman likely had. Obviously, this dude has no place in his life for a tall, intelligent woman. The song always made me feel gawky and out of place. It's definitely not a song for an independent, liberated woman. So, why do I remember the words so well? What tricks is my mind playing on me? Is this the song I'll be singing at the top of my lungs when I'm old and can't remember what I did this morning? Heaven forbid. Someone please send me lyrics I can relate to, so I can get this song out of my head!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Do You Thpeak With a Lithp?

I have a serious moth problem in my house. I love wool, and am crying because many of my favorite wool sweaters are being eaten, and have holes all over them. Some pieces can only be thrown away, but some--those with only a few small holes--might be worth salvaging. I researched how to get rid of moths without resorting to noxious chemicals such as moth balls. My search for an environmentally friendly product led to several encounters that made me wonder about the nature of communications, and the realization that some words are genetically predisposed to be misunderstood.

I happened to mention the moth problem to an acquaintance, and she told me of a small hardware store in her neighborhood where she got something called a "Moth Trap". Safe for humans and pets, it could be hung in a closet, where it trapped moths on a sticky surface so they could not escape and breed. I knew this hardware store, and decided to go get some moth traps.

The hardware store was, mournfully, closed for the holidays. Impatient and dejected, I stopped in another small store in my neighborhood on the way home. It mostly carried groceries, but did also have household items. I went to a clerk and asked him for help.

"I'm looking for a moth trap," I said.

He looked puzzled. "Mouse trap?"

I shook my head. "No, no. Moths." I emphasized the "th", sticking my tongue farther out than I normally do when speaking.


Oh my. "No, moths. They're little tiny flies, usually white. They live in closets and eat clothes. They like wool."

Understanding lit up his eyes, and he nodded violently. "Yes! They like wood! They live in wood piles!"

I gave up on the Asian grocery store. Thinking that Lowe's Hardware might carry something ecologically friendly, I went there. I sought the customer service desk, and asked the woman there if they carried a product called Moth Trap.

"Aisle 52," she said instantly, pointing. I headed toward Aisle 52, and found the aisle labeled "Outdoor Pests". This did not look good, but I searched anyway--and found mouse traps. Darn, not even a native English speaker knows what I want.

I decided to go to another desk, a different clerk. This time I asked for mothballs. That's a word most people understand readily. It took us a while to find them (someone had moved them), but the second clerk led me to the mothballs (stored, naturally, in the Closet section). They only carried mothballs, nothing else. The warning on the package said to only put them inside sealed containers, and avoid breathing the fumes.

Sigh. I guess I'll have to wait until Monday when the little old-fashioned hardware store reopens.