Encyclopedias were my Google

I am not that old, but I did not grow up with the Internet at my fingertips. Instead, I had World Book Encyclopedias. They were not cheap either. At one point my mom sold encyclopedias. I always found it kind of odd. However, looking back I have a hunch she sold them so that we could have the sample set in our house. Whenever we would ask a question about something my mom would tell us: “Look it up.” I was never really a fan of pulling out the volumes that were massive like “S” and always wondered what was in the volumes like “Z.” “Q” (like Z) were in mint condition because they were rarely opened.

I had not really thought about encyclopedias in years, until I read this in the book: “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family” by Kathleen Flinn:

“Encyclopedia salesmen were a fixture of suburban America in the 1950s and 1960s, widely mocked by comedians. Regardless of the brand, the hard sell invariably included an expression of grave concern that a potential client’s children would suffer without having a ‘library in the living room.’ Most offered a payment plan to help ease the impact of the investment, which could be the equivalent of half a year’s rent.” Page 81

Her book is such a great memoir and reminder of so many items long forgotten in life, such as Chef Boyardee (which I wrote about a few days ago). It is actually incredible if you think about how fast the sharing of information has changed over the years. In addition to encyclopedias, we also had issues upon issues of National Geographic. While some of the covers and photos inside horrified me, it was a view into other parts of the world. Now we can do that in just a few clicks.

Today we are spoiled rotten. We do not have to wait to print a new version of encyclopedias and know that the money we shelled out for an entire edition of encyclopedias are old the second they are printed. We can read more than one can ever imagine after a few key strokes. We have instant access to good information and instant access to time-wasting information. It makes it much harder to know the integrity of the details, but there is plenty of it, and it is fast. We never have to worry about having a “library in the living room.”

eunoia

I am a lover of words. I never was able to take Latin in high school or college, but somehow throughout the years I became addicted to words and their meaning. I always remember the saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It is not true. Words hurt. They infiltrate our minds sometimes, and never leave us. We go over and over them in our thoughts when they hurt. We never forget the first time someone tells us they love us, or the last time.

Recently, I came across a new word:

eunoia (n). beautiful thinking, a well mind

I love the word. Somehow a word rolls off your tongue, or makes you think what does that word mean? eunoia is Greek, and is the shortest English word that contains all vowels. I think of all the people in my life that inspire me with their eunoia. Maybe it is a bit harder to put into a sentence, nevertheless, I like the word. Who in your life has eunoia?

Ah words. Somehow on most days, I make up my own words. I cannot tell you how often I have woken up in the middle of the night and not so gracefully and illegibly written down my own words. When I wake up in the morning, I would try to make out the newest word that oozed out of my half coherent brain. When I am not sleeping, and my mind is going a mile a minute I still make up my own words. They always make sense to me. Somehow over the years, they now mostly make sense to Chris. When I asked him for an example, he said: “That is so hard, because you do it all the time. It is hard to remember them all. I mean, you say it and I repeat the word to you, and you say, ‘Go !&@%&!$’.” Usually he is laughing so hard he does not hear me.

Ah, maybe I do not alway have eunoia. I can dream.

Unthink outside the box

I am not getting old, or maybe I am. This book has reminded me to be a child again. As always I have been reading like crazy. I just finished “Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius” by Erik Wahl. A book that has opened my ideas to how much and how often we try to fill in the blank, find the easy answer, and not use our brains. Early on in his book he explains this in such a succinct way:

“The short story goes like this: Our education taught us to memorize the predetermined answer or study the predetermined method in order to deliver the predetermined solution. There was nearly always one right way to one right answer, and an A+ job meant finding and then following that path repeatedly. There was rarely if ever room for what we so fondly call ‘thinking outside the box.’ You and I were rewarded for—often literally—making a check mark inside the right box. We were taught to be art critics but not artists. To think but not to unthink.” Page 17

How true is that? We were taught to score well on the SATs, to do well on standardized testing for our states and counties, because that is what determined if we were learning in school and if our teachers were doing a good job. Did it teach us how to think creatively? Did it teach us to solve problems? No, it taught us to fill out the correct answer on the scantron test and accurately use our #2 pencil in the oval, being sure not to color outside the lines. So how did we learn how to think outside the box?

I cannot remember when I started to think differently. At a certain point I think it happened in college when I got so sick of the status quo. A part of it had to do with being a woman and yet not treated fairly as a woman. It made me think I am going to do better than a man can do, I am going to learn what I can so that I can never be in a situation where I get stuck or cannot do something I cannot handle. I think it also was being so clear that I do not want to live how I grew up, that I wanted a better life. That desire and drive taught me that I do not want to live inside the right box. At a certain point we end up stuck in our ways, or our routine causes us to not take risks or live life differently. Which is why I love this quote that Wahl shares from Anais Nin:

“Older people fall into rigid patterns. Curiosity, risk, exploration are forgotten by them. You have not yet discovered that you have a lot to give, and that the more you give the more riches you will find in yourself. It amazed me that you felt that each time you write a story you gave away one of your dreams and you felt the poorer for it. But then you have not thought that this dream is planted in others, others begin to live it too, it is shared, it is the beginning of friendship and love…You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings.” –Anais Nin page 183

Aw man does that resonate with me. “…the more you give the more riches you will find in yourself.” We cannot give when we check the right boxes, when we fill out the scantron test. We give when we live outside of ourselves, and when we are raw, authentic, and real. Stop caring about the A+, and think like an artist…outside the box.

Voracious desire to learn…

What I remember most about my mom was that she loved children and that she was a teacher. From before I even went to school, there were kids and babies underfoot in our house. When I was really little until about second grade, my mom ran a day care in our house. I had a love/hate relationship with her job. I loved the constant and instant access to playdates and friends. I can still remember the names of the children and some of our many adventures on our back porch, quasi above ground pool, outside riding bikes, etc. Even the time when one of the boys proposed to me and gave me a ring, (yes I guess courting starts young doesn’t it?) What I hated – was that I had to share my toys, my bedroom (babies sleeping), and my mom when I came home from school at the end of the day.

A few years later she moved to her main love, teaching elementary school. Again, I had a love/hate relationship. When I was in second grade, she was the secondary teacher in the “other” second grade classroom. For anyone who knows what it was like to have your mom teach in your school, or be highly involved in your school, there were times when you loved that they were nearby, and other times when you were going through growing pains, teased, or gaining your own independence, that you wished you were dropped off at school only to see them at the end of the day.

Either way, we do not get to pick what our parents do for a living or how they are present (or not) in our life. We do eventually have the opportunity to look in hindsight and see what we learn, or how these experiences evolve us into the people we are today. I am grateful to have had those years with my mom, watching her extreme patience (I wish I was granted with such patience). She valued education and learning and even now thinking about it, she got her masters in teaching in her forties, not an easy feat with three growing kids and a job. Maybe that is why I have such a voracious desire to constantly learn new things.

I am not a teacher. I absolutely love children, but I do not think I would have the patience to spend my day in a classroom and then come home sane to my family. I admire, commend, and appreciate each and every individual that teaches in a classroom. You shape the world for so many little (and not so little) beings each and every day. Thank you, mom, for teaching me to solve problems, crave ideas, and to continuously try new things. Miss you.

Have you Spritzed yet?

Have you heard of Spritz? A new app and technology that allows you to speed read. Spritz, the company that invented “Spritzing” defines it as: “…reading text with Spritz Inc.’s patent-pending technology. When you’re spritzing, you’re reading text one word at a time in our “redicle,” a special visual frame we designed for reading.”

I have tried the examples and am interested, although I have to say it does make my head spin a bit. Your eyes do not have to move back and forth across the page, rather your eyes stay in the exact same place and the words move fast right in front of you. Allowing you to focus on the words and thus read faster. Elite Daily explains it well:

“The “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters. The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen. In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.”

You can try it for yourself on the Spritz website – just “click to Spritz” on the top right part of the page. Here is more Q + A on Spritzing. Currently this technology is only available on the Gear2 and S5 Samsung phones. I have to say it does sort of remind me of Chuck. Did you ever watch that TV show? He would put on these glasses to review intel that would go into his brain very, very fast, and sometimes it effected him for the worse. Are we to the place where we have to absorb words so fast we no longer “read?” Is curling up with a good book a thing of the past? 

What do you think about Spritz?