Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lefties

I come from a generation where writing left handed was frowned upon, and corrected usually with detrimental effects. When my youngest brother started writing with his left hand at school, he was forced to use his right hand. The good thing about that is that he can now write with either hand, the bad thing is no matter which hand he uses, his writing is almost illegible.

My husband is left handed and what got me on this particular train of thought was the discovery that there is a 'left handed' and 'right handed' way of hanging clothes on a coat hanger. My husband retired recently in order to be take care of his mother who lives with us, while she is still perfectly capable of taking care of herself, due to failing eyesight and good sound common sense, she has chosen to quit driving. As her eyesight is expected to continue to deteriorate, eventually we expect she will need more than just a driver.

Meanwhile, because he is no longer working, my husband has taken over many of the household chores, in particular the laundry. I still do the ironing early on Sunday morning but no longer have to wash, dry or hang the clothes.

That was when I noticed this phenomenon. It got me thinking about being left handed in what is essentially a right handed world. When we remove clothes from the dryer, we hang them immediately, that minimizes the chore of ironing them. I had never noticed before that there is a right and left way to put a shirt on a hanger. I, right handed, hold the hanger in my right hand with the hook turned to the left, insert the hanger into the right shoulder of the shirt, (on the left facing me) then into the left shoulder (on the right facing me). Now, with my right hand I can easily hang this up.

A left handed person, at least my husband, does completely the opposite, holds the hanger in his left hand, hook to the right, inserts it first in the left side of the shirt (which is facing him so on his right) then in the other shoulder, now it is ready for him to hang easily with his left hand.

What intrigued me most about this is that when I went to remove the shirt to iron it, I felt totally turned around, the natural way - or at least natural for me, wast to remove from the side to my right first, but it felt wrong because the hook was facing in the 'wrong' direction. Of course, this was just a very minor discomfort and not difficult to adjust to, there are many other things that pose greater difficulties.



My first car in the US was a stick shift, and I had been driving a stick all my life, but changing to a car with the driver side on the left, that put the gear shift on the right, it was my first real experience of how difficult things must be for people who are left handed. So many things are designed for those who are right handed. Door handles and locks all placed on the right side. And, while left handed scissors are available, they are not easy to come by, manually operated can openers, and a computer mouse can be configured for left or right handed people and some kitchen knives are very obviously designed with the right-handed user in mind.



Many people say that left handed people are smarter, my belief is that is because they are forced to use more of their brain, the right side naturally because they are left handed, but they have to use the left side just to live in a right handed world. My husband is most definitely smarter than average, as are the other members of my family who are lefties, my highly intelligent grandson and my beautiful and very talented niece.

Fortunately these days it is much more accepted and children are allowed to develop according to their genes - because researchers have located a gene responsible for right- or left-handedness, according to a 2013 study published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Apart from the forced right handed writing, I couldn't find any references to forcing left handed people to do anything else with the right hand. But what is very interesting is that my husband, who I mentioned before writes with his left hand, and I might add his hand writing is a lot better than mine and I am and always was right handed. However, he bowls with his right hand, and apparently always has (incidentally he also does that better than I do), as you can see from the photo, my grandson bowls with his left hand.

Here are some very interesting things research has come up with about left handedness.
  • Make up between 7% and 10% of the population
  • More likely to have allergies
  • More prone to migraines
  • More likely to be insomniacs
  • Use the right side of the brain the most
  • Three times more likely to become alcoholics – the right side of the brain has a lower tolerance to alcohol!
  • More likely to be on extreme poles of the intelligence scale
  • Tend to reach puberty 4 to 5 months later than right handers
  • More likely to suffer stuttering and dyslexia
  • Twice as likely to be a man
  • There is also a left hand day, and a left handers club. See here for more information. 
According to this article regarding left handed US Presidents, Daniel Geschwind, a professor of human genetics at UCLA says : "Six out of the past 12 presidents is statistically significant, and probably means something,"





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rain


I am no stranger to the rain. I grew up in Ireland. When I first moved to Central Texas, and for a number of years after, I did not join in the local excitement when it rained, neither did I understand their reluctance to go anywhere in the rain. Of course, bearing in mind the driving style of Texans (see my blog here) and their determination to ignore changes to road conditions and refusal to adjust their driving accordingly, it is somewhat understandable. If the Irish waited for the rain to stop before doing anything, they would do nothing at all, and my firm belief is that if I didn't dissolve before, I surely won't at this stage in my life.

However, in the last 5 years my attitude has changed, don't get me wrong, I still don't allow the rain to stop me from carrying on my daily life, and I still don't dissolve when I get wet, but I do get very excited when it rains, and the more it rains, the happier I am. That is because I have finally realized what the results of prolonged drought will do to a country.

Central Texas has the most amazing landscape, and a large number of lakes although all of them are man made, the only natural lake in all of this giant sized state is Caddo Lake in East Texas. As with everything else in Texas, when it rains, it rains BIG. Flooding, in particular, flash flooding, is a very real hazard. The lakes are mainly for flood control but they are also the only source of drinking water for the majority of people living in a very wide area surrounding them. They are also a great recreational resource.

The Highland Lakes on the Colorado river, which flows through Austin, were formed by a series of dams. There are seven lakes in all. One of the more popular is Lake Travis, it is our favorite and we have gone boating and fishing on Lake Travis for years. Plus, it is the source of all of our water supply. The last three years of drought have seriously depleted the levels of all of our lakes and Lake Travis looks very sad indeed.


In this photo the levels are down very slightly

In the photo to the right, you can see just how bad things have become. This is almost exactly the same view, the island showing above the surface to the left of the picture is known as Sometimes Island, as it only sometimes appears. However, in the past three years it has not only been visible, it has developed a lush growth and has turned from an island into a archipelago, and then into a peninsula.




This website has some very interesting information on the lakes, including the chart below, which is interactive on the website. 




As you can see, at the time of writing, because we have had a few weeks of healthy rainfall, the level is rising, but we are still seriously below normal:










What truly amazes me is that people who have lived in this area all their lives, and have seen serious flooding - flash flooding, and severe drought, still waste water at an alarming rate, and with every flood event, there will be deaths and frequent rescues as people ignore the warnings, and the road closed signs and still drive, or attempt to drive across low water crossings.




Most homeowners and businesses in Texas have sprinkler systems to water their lawns and green areas, and the water they use is coming from the same source as the water we drink, the sadly depleted lakes. It is one of the more painful sights in Central Texas to see a sprinkler system running, often during the hottest part of the day, and the precious water is flowing across sidewalks and down the street.






Just slightly less painful is to see a sprinkler system running during a heavy rainfall. Less painful because at least it is raining.

And I have finally learned to welcome the rain.




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to deal with the difficult or crazy people in your life

...and everyone has at least one, if not more, difficult people they are obliged to deal with.

I got started thinking on this topic when a friend posted a link on Facebook to an extremely good Forbes article on the subject:

I thought it was too good to not share, and what a good subject to blog about. However the more I researched the subject, the more I found that people way more qualified than I had already written really interesting articles and I would better serve you, my readers, by letting you read these yourselves.



I was interested to read in one article a suggestion to do something I have observed my mother in law do - very effectively - she will wait quietly for a natural pause in a conversation she does not want to engage in, and then say something totally unrelated - always managing to pick a topic that will be guaranteed to distract the speaker - and it always works. As soon as I realized that was what she was doing, I wait for it to happen and observe mesmerized. It is like watching a little old lady redirect a flow of lava.

Here are links to some of the better articles I found.

WebMD
Psychology Today
Think Simple Now

However I couldn't resist posting some of my old and new favorite quotes on the subject. This first one was extremely familiar to me - I wonder if this is where she got the idea.
"...When dealing with someone difficult, interrupt the pattern by asking a question completely off-topic..." — Paramhansa Yogananda
"You cannot control other people. You can only control how you respond to them.
You must change how you react to people before you can change how you interact with them,”
— Rick Kirschner, N.D., coauthor of Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.
“Most of the time, difficult people just want something different than we do,
— Ronna Lichtenberg, author of Work Would Be Great If It Weren’t for the People.
"To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee"
— William H. Walton 
"Hating people is like burning your own house down to get rid of a rat."
— Henry Emerson Fosdick, American author (1878-1969)
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
 ― Wayne W. Dyer
Buddha never said this, but had he been Irish he might have.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Please! It is Paddy's Day!

Or, St Paddy's Day, or St Patrick's Day .. or just Patrick's day.  But never, ever Patty's day.

I am normally a very mild mannered person. There are only a few things that will spur me into an argument. Obviously, if anyone hurts one of my children in any way, shape or form, I will assume the perfectly normal protective mother lion pose. But I am not talking about that here.



I mean those debates people appear to enjoy, political, religious or otherwise, I don't get involved. It isn't that I don't have an opinion, or that I don't care; I do, and I do. But I do not care to debate, argue, bicker or discuss. However, when I hear someone say Patty's Day I can't keep my mouth shut. I respond as to whistling. I hate whistling! (read my blog entry here).

This time of year, I hear it a lot and I have not been able to prevent myself from explaining to the offenders - St Patrick was a man - what man in his right mind would admit to being call Patty, even if he was?

This blog explains it better than I ever could, so in future I will just refer everyone here - and I will be doing them a favor because it is a blog well worth reading.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Are you happy?

My 5 year old grandson has appointed himself the 'barometer' for the level of happiness all around him, and he takes his responsibilities very seriously. If you spend any time in his company, you will be asked 'Are you happy?' and he will expect an answer. I don't know what he would do if the answer was no, but I am fairly sure he would do all in his power to rectify the situation because he genuinely cares about other people and their state of mind and general well being.

I mention this because my mind was on the theme of happiness, recently my son said that he hoped that I was happy, and indeed I am, but the question sent me down the rabbit hole, thinking about happiness and how different the definition is for each person.

Like the song said '.. different things to different people...' And it is most certainly relative to your last experience. If you have been going through hell and misery, then any level of improvement can be described as happy.

What I believe is, if you are not happy then you are doing something wrong and you need to change your direction. Your happiness is not only your responsibility, it is something that only you can control, it is something you should control. I not only believe this, I do try to live by it. And, as always, I refer you to my book. I also think that helping out those less fortunate generates a sense of happiness and well being.


I love to read The Good News Network, just reading about the things people do simple because it is the right thing to do, or because they feel a need to help out someone less fortunate - that makes me happy and it certainly balances out the constant flow of bad news that media believes is all we want to hear.

Some Quotes on Happiness:
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
―  Gandhi
"Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won't have to hunt for happiness."
―  William E. Gladstone
"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."
―  Lincoln
“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
“Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others...By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley
"Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


Friday, March 6, 2015

Some thoughts on travel


I have been lucky enough to have traveled a lot, lucky because I enjoy it and because much of my travel, at least within the US, was for work, so cost me nothing. My international travel is entirely personal, costs quite a lot but is so worth it.

For at least 15 years after moving the the US from Ireland, I returned to visit at least twice year, at first visiting both Ireland and France in the same trip, then alternating. My sons lived in Ireland and my daughter lived in France. In the last few years my visits have reduced to just once a year, partly due to the cost, but also because I can't stand another winter visit to Europe. I have become too spoiled by the constantly heated homes in the US, in Europe the cost of home heating is so high that no matter what form of heating you have, it is only run for short periods of time, such as early morning and late evening. If you live like that all the time, you do grow used to it. I am no longer used to it.

When I was traveling for work, naturally I had to use the cheapest, or the company recommended carriers. As a result I have had the misfortune to have experienced just about every US domestic carrier. I have spent long hours hanging around airports, and occasionally unexpected overnights due to missed connections and canceled flights. When I have a choice, I fly Delta. I chose Delta originally because they fly directly into Dublin from Atlanta, and flying from Austin to Atlanta is an easy trip, and if you have to spend any time waiting in an airport, Atlanta is a good place to do it. I continued to fly Delta because I started to amass a considerable amount of frequent flier miles, but also because I have had a better experience with them than with any other carrier, and taking in to account the fact that I have flow way more times, and way more miles with Delta, that is a fairly good recommendation.

I used to have a yearly membership to the Delta Sky Club - as much as I was traveling, it was worth it. But now that my travel is reduced, I will just buy a day pass if I am going to have a long lay over, that is if it is 3 hours or more, which it frequently is with International Travel. The comfort and facilities in the Sky Club make it well worth the cost.

I stress - not just about travel, I stress about everything. However, with travel it is very easy to find things to stress about, missed flights, lost luggage, luggage overweight - the list goes on, things I do to reduce the stress of travel:
  • I always book flights with lengthy lay over times, I prefer to hang around the Sky Club than make a mad dash for a tight connection, or worse, risk missing a connection altogether.
  • Pack all my liquids in my check in bags - no plastic bags to worry about at security
  • If I am traveling with carry on only, I do so without liquids - I have actually been known to mail the minimum makeup needs to my daughter, ahead of my travel, so that all I need is there when I arrive. Every woman has bottles, tubes or jars of makeup with just a little in the end, these are what I send ahead and leave behind. My granddaughter has great fun with them after I am gone.
  • I carefully weight my packed check in to ensure it is not over weight, just a couple of extra pounds can cost $100. If I have to check more than the allowed weight, two smaller bags, each within the allowed weight, is cheaper than one large, overweight bag.
  • I take a photo of my packed bags - I know, this sounds really OCD but if you have ever lost your luggage and, after an 8 hour flight and 1 hour search for bags in a very large baggage claim area, then had to describe in detail the lost bags - you would also start doing this.
  • I always bring my Kindle, with an extended battery pack, loaded with a number of books and a couple of movies and my favorite music.
  • My carry on consists of a backpack which contains my laptop, kindle and one change of clothes - in the event my check in luggage does go astray, or I get stranded overnight, at least I do have one change of clothes and generally lost luggage is rounded up within 24 hours
  • I also purchase comfort seating, early boarding reduces stress for no apparent reason because I do know the flight will not go without me so long as I have checked in and I am at the gate on time, and I do know I have a seat and will get on eventually, but comfort seating is also .. comfortable, not that I really need the extra space, but early boarding and early deplaning is definitely less stressful
  • And finally, I have my Global Entry TSA Pre Clearance (see below).
  • When ever possible, my European port of departure when returning to the US is Dublin, Ireland. There you clear both US Customs and US Immigration before boarding your flight. So arrival in the US is as easy as domestic travel within the US. This is particularly useful when making a connection once you land - tired, jet lagged and disorientated, just get off that plane and head for your connection.

I have to say, I have no issues with TSA, if they are doing their job right, they are keeping me safe, who can argue with that? But Global Entry Pre Clearance is a real luxury.

This allows me to by pass most of the queues at security and I don't have to remove my shoes nor unpack my laptop.


Anyone else got any good tips?


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Osmiroids

Osmiroid nibs
When I was at school, which was a long time ago, and not for very long. Chapter 4 of my book describes that short episode in my life, and my Peeling The Onion Facebook page illustrates it. As I was saying, when I was at school, one of the items on our school list was an Osmiroid fountain pen, with an italic nib. These pens came in an assortment of colors, so although everyone had exactly the same pen, they were not all identical. The nibs were, or they were supposed to be.

Because this was in the 1950s and cartridges had not yet been invented for fountain pens, we all had to carry bottles of ink in our school bags in order to refill the pen. Most of us had ink stains in the bottom of our school bags, and across many of our books, from leaking bottles of ink. And we always had ink stains on our hands - not just from the messy job of filling the pens, but because they frequently leaked while in use.

This is how we were expected to write, and most did.

This is my butcher boy hand writing
We had handwriting classes, and we were all expected to write in exactly the same italic script. I guess I just had a different drum beat in my head, because while all the other girls were practicing writing in exactly the same way, I didn't see the point.


I really don't think that I was a rebel, because I wasn't trying to stand out, nor was I trying to be difficult, I just didn't see the point in changing my writing, and writing the same as everyone else, so I didn't. At one point I remember a very frustrated Scottish nun look at my exercise book with absolute disdain, she told me with disgust that I wrote like a butcher boy. Apparently part of what disgusted her about my handwriting was the presence of loops.

To be honest, I really didn't care. I hated school, and it wasn't long before I figured out the system and avoided going altogether.

Naturally I regretted it later and (read my book) I did manage to do some catch up, but looking back, I think I probably ended up with a better education that most of my peers from that era, even if it took me a lot longer and my handwriting is not as good.

I still wonder from time to time, how Mother George knew what a butcher boy's writing looked like, and did she believe they too were all forced to write in exactly the same way?

I found this blog about Osmiroid Pens, apparently they have quite a cult following, and not just nuns.