Everyday Life

Happy Left-Hander’s Day!


It’s Left-hander’s Day!

Generally speaking, lefties are more likely to use both hands comfortably than righties are. Personally, I think that this is probably because it’s sometimes just easier to use the computer mouse as it is, or because steak restaurants tend to have table knives that are beveled to favor righties, or the scissors at the craft table are all righties, or the swipers on credit card machines are almost all built to favor use with a right hand, or whatever. (The Edinburgh Inventory is a ranking of how “handed” a person is. I’m personally about 40 points left of ambidextrous. Would you like to know where you rank? There’s a little test here.)

As it turns out, the habit of switching hands might be good for your brain.

It seems to be popularly suggested that using your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks builds additional connections and pathways in your brain.

Now, think of your brain like a library. Everything you know – from algebra to how to brush your teeth – is on a shelf in the Brain Library. A physical library has different pathways – main aisles and side aisles, shelves can usually be reached from either end, and sometimes even through the bookcases. Then, for whatever reason, the roof collapses! And you very much need some piece of information, but the main aisle is completely blocked. That’s quite all right – you know how to access the needed information by walking down a side aisle or reaching through the stacks. Those multiple pathways come in handy.

In the real world, brain damage and degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia are very similar to those roof cave-ins.

The more neural pathways you have, the less devastating that cave-in is. The damage is still there, to be sure, but you have taught your brain how to do things in different ways.

Give it a try. Go out and be sinister today! Try and be a lefty (even if just to brush your teeth) – your brain will thank you!
Note: I first encountered the brain-as-a-library analogy when listening to an episode of the podcast “Two Guys on Your Head.” (I’ll update when I’ve tracked down which one.) For the whole catalog:


Additional reference:



My Spiritual Adviser is a Grocery Clerk

There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. – Edith Wharton

I cannot count how many times I’ve heard phrases in the family of “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Or, “God is bigger than your worries,” or “Give God your weakness, and he’ll give you his strength.” There are probably 10 different memes telling me this on my facebook news feed, right now. Sometimes, it feels kind of aggressive, to tell you the truth. Have you ever just tried to vent a little bit, and gotten a very assertive affirmation that if you just “Give it to God,” it’ll all be okay? Many times, I would rather sit for a few minutes in a quiet, empty church on a random Tuesday, than be told it all again. (My youngest child and I are alike, in that. We find our peace in quiet places.)

The thing is, there is a clerk at my local grocery store who says the same thing. But there is something about the way she says it – I believe her.

Perhaps the other folks I’ve heard the same message from are just not the people I’m meant to hear. Perhaps Ms. J doesn’t resonate with everyone, and there are folks who find her as jarring as I find some people. But she resonates with me. Perhaps because she’s quiet, like my favorite churches. She’s a very soft-spoken woman.

She’s not a trained theologian. (At least, not that I know of.) She’s a grocery store clerk. An elderly woman, whose son and his family have just moved in while they build their own house. Who raises chickens, but because the rooster is just too much of a character to get rid of, she sells chicks instead of eggs. Who cannot manage to keep her kitchen garden alive. Who loves to go camping. Who remembers her regulars, and asks after my kids and how they’re doing in school, and lights up on school holidays, when they go with me to the grocery store and she gets to see them.

I will wait in a longer line, just to be checked out by Ms. J. It is entirely possible that I have decided to cook a dinner I do not have all of the ingredients for, as an excuse to visit with Ms. J. (I’m not saying it’s absolutely true, but it’s possible.)

Does she know? Does she know that she has customers who prefer her? (I know I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken to other customers who agree that “Ms. J is worth waiting for.”) I hope so. I made it a point to tell her, today, that she brightens my day.

I want to make it a point to tell people that they matter.

We’ve had some losses this year. Our own family is missing some loved ones, and friends (both close friends and developing friendships) have lost people, too.

Tell people they matter. Tell the grocery clerk that she brightens your day. Tell the guy who patiently walks the limping dog every morning that you look for him when you drive the kids to school, and were happy and excited to see the dog running yesterday. Tell your kid’s teacher that for the first time ever, your daughter thought the math homework assignment was fun. People are surprised, when they find out they did something that matters to you. And I’ll bet you don’t know the impact you’ve had on other people, either. You and I, we may never know.

I don’t know if Ms. J knows that she is special. How many other people don’t know? It’s time to go reflect some light back at them.

This is not something to be proud of.

confederate battle flag

I don’t care where you’ve got it tattooed. I don’t care about your bumper sticker, the hood of your car, the shade in your window, or the flagpole in your yard. I don’t care what battle your 5 times great-granddaddy fought in.

This is not something to be proud of.

This is not even the Confederate Flag. It was the battle flag of General Lee and the army of northern Virginia. It was used by civil war veterans’ groups after the war, but it got into popular usage in the 1940’s – as a symbol of segregation. This is a flag whose current popularity was built by hatred.

The legislature of South Carolina has – unintentionally, no doubt – done an excellent job of illustrating the perversity of this symbol. A confederate battle flag flies at the South Carolina statehouse, at a monument to confederate soldiers. It is affixed to its pole. It cannot be lowered. It will never sit at half staff. It may never be allowed to show deference or respect to anyone – even on Confederate Memorial Day. I would go so far as to say that this sort of refusal to offer respect to its own history as a battle flag disconnects it irrevocably from that heritage.

I cannot respect anyone or anything that does not show respect to anyone else. Period. And I will teach my children the same.


This is the actual flag of the Confederate States of America.

1st conf flagIf you want to fly a visual symbol of history, fly this one.

I am all for replacing the publicly displayed battle flags with this one. But only if we publicly call it what it is. Announce it loudly. Pass official resolutions on the state and federal levels. Make this part of the history books. Make it so that every single time anyone looks up this flag, anywhere, this is listed as part of its history:

This is a symbol that we have committed evils on one another. Actions that can never be corrected, and are a stain on our past. This is also a reminder that we must constantly be striving to be better. To remember that we were wrong. To remember that it is in our power to learn from our heritage, and be better people than our ancestors. We are better than our past. And this is a symbol that coming together is not easy. That we must strive to unite ourselves under a quest for decency and respect for one another. That we must all work for our country to be the great one that it should, and can, be.

When the Civil War ended, the Confederate states were not assimilated as conquered territories – though that was considered by more than one Congressional session. They were ultimately readmitted as sovereign states (albeit, with some requirements). It was messy and ugly. But they were readmitted.

To put it mildly – they screwed up, in one of the worst ways possible. But they were readmitted.

This flag should remind us of that, too. We are a country that has had a dark past. We hurt our fellow human beings. We killed each other over whether or not we had the right to hurt each other. But then, we decided to try to stitch ourselves back together, in the hope that it was possible to do so.

It’s a travesty that it has been 150 years, and we are still stitching, and that it is still messy and ugly.


Under the First Amendment, individuals have the right to free speech. Even it it’s distasteful and hateful. The confederate battle flag cannot be banned. It can’t even be forcibly removed from state houses or state capitols. No matter where it is, we cannot remove it without violating one of the tenants that makes this country great. But we can think about what we are saying to one another when we display it. We can talk to one another about it. We can learn. We can stop accepting it.

This is going to offend somebody. But I’m leaving comments open. Leave a comment. I can’t learn if you don’t explain things to me.




Nobody asked me – grocery store edition

I’m taking a break from a recent spat of striving toward positive thinking to grouse for a minute. File it under MRB Chapter 11 – If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.

It’s one of those, “If they had only asked me first…” moments. Everybody gets them, right?

Sometimes, I feel like the folks who design things must not actually use them.

The grocery store closest to my house just got remodeled. It’s been finished for a couple of months, now – just long enough to notice the things the designers didn’t seem to have considered.

1. The bakery counter. Or rather, the lack thereof. There is a beautiful display case, but no counter. The book to look at for cake designs sits on top of the display case – a good 4 1/2 feet off the floor. And it’s on a stand angled upward. I am 5’4″ – I can’t see it. Even if you do already know what you want, there is no surface on which to fill the form out. The deli has a counter for ordering party trays, and the floral department has a counter for ordering balloons and flowers – even the wine and beer aisle has someone on hand to help you pick the right stuff. You can easily get everything for a party except pastries.

2. The floor. They pulled up the dated laminate tiles, and sealed the concrete floors. It looks nice, in a pseudo-industrial sort of way, and blends nicely with the new addition. But it’s very slippery – the kids like to hang on to the cart with stiff legs, and “ski” behind it, even in tennis shoes. I also imagine that it is super hard on the knees and feet of the employees. It’s hard on MY knees to shop there! (Though I think it might be kind of fun to try the kids’ game – anybody want to come pull the shopping cart for me? We can take turns!)

3. The bread aisle. Quick – if you have to grab something quick on the way home from work, what is it? Probably bread or milk, right? The bread used to be the first aisle, but that’s alcohol now. (As I was writing this, I just now made the connection that alcohol is near the floral, deli, baker, and barbecue-needs sections. AHA! Now I know what the designers use grocery stores for!) Bread is in the center aisle now, and is not easy to get to, mostly because of:

4. Navigation. The distance between the ends of the aisles and the cash registers is tiny. The whole store got expanded outward, but the aisles themselves and the cash registers didn’t move. So there is now lots of space between the registers and the exterior walls for customers to move around each other after they’ve paid, but the space for people to stand in line is still just as cramped as it always was. Now, imagine folks trying to cross that space (to get to, say, bread?) – because, of course, there are no cut-throughs in the center of the aisles – you can only change aisles at the ends, right where folks are waiting in line.

5. The parking lot. There are two door areas, and both have a wide ramp space for moving carts onto and off of the the sidewalk in front of the store. However, after that, navigating the parking lot is up to you. The redesign included a little bit of parking lot work – they did expand outward, and that affected the whole front part of the parking lot. While they were at it, it might have been nice to include spaces to move around the parking lots without being in the driving lanes.

That being said, having only five real complaints about a place I have to go at least once a week, to accomplish a chore, is pretty good. I mean, it’s actually a pleasant place to shop. The employees are crazy friendly (I have been known to stand in a longer line, just to check out with my favorite cashier). The produce section is amazing. The freezer cases have these great motion-sensor lights (I admit, it gives me a little power trip to go in there at night, with few other customers, and the lights in frozen-food come on just for me!), the bathrooms are worlds better, and the new skylights really do give a better feel than the old fluorescent lights did.

But I still wonder if the designers ever go to the grocery store for anything other than non-pastry-centric party planning, at non-peak hours.

This is NOT what I planned to do today.

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.  -Woody Allen

A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles. -Mignon McLaughlin

I had grand ideas for the day today.  You see, Tuesdays are my day off.  Youngest Progeny has MDO (Mothers’ Day Out, for those not in the know) on Tuesdays.  (Thursdays, too, but those are my volunteer days.)

For a while now (specifically, since August of 2011), I’ve been cheerfully following the idea that, “When you don’t HAVE time, MAKE time.”  Turns out, I’ve had the quote wrong in my head all along.  A quick internet search takes me to Planet Claire Quotes (http://www.planetclaire.org) and tells me that it’s actually supposed to be,

Oh, you should always waste time when you don’t have any. -The Doctor (Dr. Who, series 6, episode 8, “Let’s Kill Hitler”)

Although, making time when I don’t have any has sort of been working for me, so I’m going to continue on with it.  Maybe it’s a subconscious effort to work harder and faster.  Maybe it’s re-prioritizing.  Anyway, it works.


Hey! – since I’ve had the quote wrong all along, does that mean that this is a Me original?

When you don’t have time, make time. -Me


Although in this case, the time was sort of built in, so I got to waste some without having to make some.  Not enough to knock out some of the more involved things on the to-do list, but enough time to do a quick quote search and blog about it.  This kept my brain busy while the carpet steamer heated up (we bought the steamer before having kids, because the house came with off-white carpet – little did we know what a sanity-saver it would be AFTER having kids).  Which is kind of what altered my plans in the first place.  When “steam-clean a child’s bedroom” becomes an impromptu and necessary addition to one’s to-do list, it’s generally because it is something that absolutely can NOT be put off until tomorrow.

So, off I go, to my now-warm carpet steamer.

My wish for you all today, is the ability to laugh at all your discombobulated plans.