My Dreams

mullein (2)

My dreams are dandelion seed-fluffs
floating
on random
breezes. Instead,

I want to be
a mullein plant.
Sturdy,
confident,
reaching
in
one
clear
direction.

Social Media as Magic Mirror

mirrormirrorI’ve been thinking so much about the whole social media universe lately. My thoughts are not all sweetness and light. In fact, I’m feeling pretty dark about social media these days. I think it is due for a shakeup!

Here is an example. Have you visited Wattpad.com? I just heard about it a couple weeks ago and decided to check it out. Wattpad is a platform that allows you to post your book or short story or other pieces of writing (read: fan fiction) from your profile. You can follow other writers. You can collect a library. You can create a reading list. It’s pretty cool. It’s also pretty young. In fact, Wattpad.com seems to be a huge collective of many, many young (ages 14-22 I’m guessing) writers, kids who are used to a dynamic of “following” and “following back” that is akin to a smile–something polite and nice to do to make the other person and yourself feel good, but not an actual indication that he or she is actually going to read your work.

Because, how many writers(bloggers/Tweeters/Instagramers/Pinners, etc.) can one person actually read/follow/interact with? Certainly not 700…or even 350 or 200!

I think it is the same with all social media, including Facebook and Instagram and the like. People may “like” you or “follow” you, but it MAY be only a feel-good,reciprocal thing with no real intention of visiting again, or a politeness thing, or maybe even a way of trying to entice you to visit their account in hopes they get one more tick on the counter. Or, less cynically, maybe they stumbled onto your account and liked what they saw enough to give you a “like” or a “follow,” but your posts then become so lost in the avalanche of notifications piling onto the erstwhile follower’s in-box or notification tab that he/she never stumbles back onto your page again.

In this way, your follower number on your social media account(s) becomes nothing more than a meaningless numeral, or at best a tally of notches on your belt. Certainly it is not an indicator of real readership.

I’m told (by young people) that this doesn’t bother them at all. This meaningless number is fine in a world of people who are interested only in self-expression. For them, social media is a magic mirror. The larger the number, the bigger the mirror, but it is still reflecting back only one image. The Self.

I post, therefore I am?

But what about actual communication/community? What about the real spread of ideas?

I’m wondering if the only way this will be sustainable will be people coming together (the way planets formed after the big bang) to create their own worlds within worlds, so to speak. Social circles. We’ve seen the big bang, the social media explosion. It has happened.

Perhaps now people will combine naturally into their smaller social media circles–communicating with each other, reading each other’s posts, commenting, adding to collective knowledge so that an individual piece becomes more of a springboard or topic sentence for the larger “work.” A collective piece of art. If this is how things end up, a blogger with 10,000 followers could not be considered more successful than one with 1000. In fact the one with 100 might be considered MORE successful, especially if those 100 actually read and comment on the work and vice versa. In fact, 100 might be too many.

How many blog posts do YOU read in one day? How many do you comment on? And do you read the comments of other followers?

I predict there will be a weeding out frenzy soon as we come to realize we are all just hanging our posts/work on a wall and gazing into the mirror 99% of the time. Or maybe I’m just getting too cynical.

And to that end, I’m going to do some housekeeping. It is time to officially pare down my “following” and “friends” and “likes” lists. If I’m not really and truly interested in investing my time in a social media site, I’m going to delete it. Please do the same here. I won’t take it personally. In fact, I’ll applaud you.

And to my real, constant readers out there…thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond in the little time you have in your day for such activities.

Fashion and Fiction at Goodwill

Take me to the flower show!

Take me to the flower show!

Dear Reader:

As Polyvore.com automatically posts my new sets to Localista, you may be wondering if I’ve forgotten my original mission: to shop local sources rather than big box retailers.

I haven’t. I’ve just been very busy and captivated by my new fiction project, 52 Flash, where I create a fashion look on Polyvore and then write a story inspired by the graphic. However, a trip into the nearby city of Biddeford gave me a chance to drop into my fave Goodwill store, and while I was there I decided to search for some pieces to recreate one of my recent fashion sets: the Flower Show look, which is an easy, casual but classic look I imagined a youngish woman donning for a meandering walk around the Portland Flower Show scheduled for later on this spring (click that link to learn more!).

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The pink J.Jill blouse jumped right out at me. I wanted something over-sized, so I went right to the rack of clothes one size up from my norm. All shirts (and sweaters and pants) are grouped on the racks first by size and then by color, making shopping for particular items pretty straight-forward. I liked the pleating on the front and the swingy cut that I believe would make this a “smock” shirt. (Check out this guide I just found on internet world called Fashion Terms and Styles for Women’s Garments from the Oregon State library! If I’m going to ever get serious writing about fashion, guess I should read up on my terminology!)

The J.Jill blouse was more than reasonably priced at $4.99 and had not one mark or stain on it. Then it was on to pants. I found only a few grey jeans and none that were skinny. I tried on the most promising pair for the photo above but decided they were too big for me. Still, I’ve found ALL my recent pairs of jeans at Goodwill–at prices much too amazing to believe–so I wasn’t too disappointed. The search for the perfect grey skinny will continue.

I was actually very excited to accidentally grab my slimmest pair of jeans this morning–the ones I couldn’t zip up right after Christmas–and had them on and zipped before I realized they weren’t my big-girl jeans. Guess the French Women Don’t Get Fat philosophy is working. More about that in a later post. I’m obsessed with all things French right now, and if I can ever carve out a workable schedule for myself, I will spend some time learning la langue Francaise. I already have the champagne at dinner thing down pat.

Colorful Rain Boots

Colorful Rain Boots

But I digress. I already had rain boots at home, thanks to an earlier trip to Goodwill a couple years back. All that was left was a grey puffy vest with a fake-fur collar. Now, I really had no hope of finding that exact item, and I didn’t. What I did find was possibly even better! An olive green puffy vest with a brown, pink-spattered velvet collar originally from Old Navy. Parfait!

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Look at this pretty detail on the vest.

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I did not find a floral bag, at least not one big enough for a tote. For me, it is nice to have something out there still, awaiting discovery. What I DID find, though, were…

photo 1 (1)

. . . Books! Janet Fitch’s Paint It Black, Jane Green’s Jemima, and Elizabeth Buchan’s Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. See, fashion and fiction DO go together (at least in my world.)

And I snapped a photo of this amazing prom dress. Only 14.99, but not the right size for my dear daughter. (Plus, I’ve brought home so many fancy dresses from this store over the past couple of years there is no way she will be able to wear them all.)

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Oh, Goodwill, how I do love you.

So what about you, Dear Reader? Have any luck with the local shopping lately? Drop me a line, a link, or both. I love to hear from other Localistas out there.

And check out some short stories–flash fashion fictions–at Localista’s sister blog, 52 Flash.

A Very Cranberry Christmas

Chutney in Bowl

Chutney in Bowl

(This article also appeared in the Waterboro Reporter newspaper, soon to be found online, but for now check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheWaterboroReporter)

Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of another holiday season, singing along with the carols playing non-stop on 94.9 WHOM (if you live in Maine), finishing up our shopping and wrapping of presents, and turning thoughts toward special holiday foods.

Yes, this is the season of Christmas cookies, nut bread, fruit cake, and eggnog. Peanut brittle, peppermint bark, snickerdoodles, and hot cocoa with whipped cream. Depending on our family traditions, we may enjoy turkey, ham, lasagna, baklava, corn-bread stuffing, sweet potato casserole, or those glorious Franco-American pork tourtieres.

And anything cranberry.

In my family, a traditional treat is cranberry bread. My mother serves it on a silver tray at her Christmas Eve dinner of fish chowder and crackers, jello fruit salad, and homemade sour pickles. Cranberries are fun to string together and hang as a garland on the fir tree. Frozen into an ice-ring, cranberries add a splash of color to a holiday punch bowl. Added to champagne cocktails, frozen cranberries not only keep the beverage chilled, but look very pretty rolling around in the glass. (A mint leaf provides good contrast, too!) There are cranberry sauces and jellies, cranberry pancakes, and don’t forget cranberry nut muffins with a little spread of butter to warm up chilly winter mornings.

There is something just so festive about those bright red berries that contrasts with the uber-whiteness of the snowy winter world outside!

As more and more people are coming to realize that eating locally with the seasons makes sense from a health and environmental perspective, here in New England we can feel confident about choosing cranberries in late fall and early winter. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, cranberries–along with blueberries and Concord grapes–are a native North American fruit. Native Americans used the cranberry in a sort of protein bar called pemmican which was made of crushed berries, deer meat, and melted fat. They also used the berry as a dye and as a medicine. Later, American sailors took cranberries with them on sea voyages to stave off scurvy as the cranberry has a high vitamin C content.

Cranberries are also grown commercially right here in Maine. According to the Maine Cooperative Extension, cranberry production is a new “old” industry since cranberries were grown here in the past, disappeared in the first half of the 1900’s, and then experienced a rebirth in the 1990’s when new commercial production began. Last year, I bought a ten-pound box of the ruby-red berries from a local food co-op organized by Ossipee Towns for Sustainability (check out their Facebook page). The group orders from Crown o’ Maine Organic Cooperative which markets products from Maine growers.

I had good intentions when I bought those berries, but somehow after sticking that box in my freezer I forgot about it…until last week. All of a sudden, as we rounded the corner to Christmas, it hit me. Cranberries! I decided I wanted to try making chutney to include in my Christmas dinner menu and also to give as handmade gifts. It doesn’t get much more local than your own kitchen, right?

I searched the internet for a recipe, found one I liked on the Ocean Spray website, gathered my ingredients, and set the pot to boiling. The first batch came out a little more runny than I wanted, but the flavor was tangy-sweet and spicy. Making a few modifications the following evening, I ended up with a firm, spreadable chutney with a glorious dark garnet-red color and just the right blend of spices. I can’t wait to serve this with my Christmas turkey, not to mention all the leftover turkey sandwiches!

If you would like to try it yourself, here is the recipe.

Shelley’s Second-Batch Christmas Cranberry Chutney

1 ½ cup water
1 ½ cup sugar
2 cups frozen Maine cranberries
1 cup vinegar
1 cup raisins
½ cup small dice apple
½ tsp each allspice, ginger, cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves

Put sugar and water together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often to avoid sticking. Pour into glass bowls and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Stir before serving to show off all that chunky deliciousness.

If you like your chutney more saucy, reduce cooking time. The longer you cook, the more “set” your chutney will become. Happy holidays!

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Black Shoe Tuesday

Black Shoe Tuesday

Dear Readers:

Are you planning to indulge in some Black Friday shopping after indulging in multiple helpings of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie? Don’t forget Goodwill and consignment and local shops this year. Remember, the closer to home you spend, the more money stays circulating in your community!

For inspiration, I hit the Gorham, Maine Goodwill on Tuesday afternoon. Found: For $15, this funky pair of black, suede, high-heeled clogs. For $10, brand-new thermal underwear in celebration of the first real dusting of snow. For $20, a new, fashion-forward red wood coat for the Teen in the exact style she was craving last winter while looking at the catalog of a popular teen retail store (price for the retail coats: $70-80).

I could have snagged three pairs of Talbot’s pants, two prom dresses for the Teen, and a pretty pink sweater with a pink floral embroidered motif–but I’m trying to pace myself:)

Shopping locally never fails to surprise and thrill me. I almost always find more than I expect, and my wardrobe has never been more interesting as the cost of trying something unusual is so very low compared to the mall or big-box store.

So, my Dear Readers, enjoy your long weekend, your Thanksgiving celebrations, and your Black Friday shopping.

Love, Localista

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Compromising Positions

Compromising Positions

I recently watched a documentary called Patriocracy which explores the current state of gridlock in our government. I’m wondering: is it possible/ethical to cooperate/compromise (against one’s private principles) when making decisions that will affect the general public? Is that actually what wise governance is all about once arguments have been laid out and consensus hasn’t been reached? I know some would say “no.” However, I’m wondering what would happen if conservatives, liberals, libertarians & progressives compromised while continuing to debate and discuss and write. Would we have a shining, perfect utopia that each “camp” envisions? No. Would we devolve into a dystopia? Probably not. Maybe the best we can hope for is a society that is “okay” and “functional” rather than perfect.

Boomerang, Boomerang

flower and teen

So, the Millennials aren’t growing up.

As an aging Generation X-er, I feel concerned about the future of the Millennials. These young people–the generation coming of age behind us–are graduating from college and discovering their parents were wrong. Going to college does NOT guarantee you a really good, white-collar job in the field of your choice as soon as you graduate. Thanks to a stagnant economy, these young college graduates can’t earn enough to do the things adults do: pay back their loans, buy a house, start a family. Instead, they are struggling to find work, coming back home to live, and putting off babies indefinitely.

Millennials also grew up with lots of privileges and material goods, and they aren’t about to give those goodies up if they can help it. Can we blame them? They were brought up with cool clothes, video games, mobile devices, and lots of social activities like recreational soccer league and summer theater camps. Is it any wonder that they believe they should be able to have them after putting in the hard work of earning a college degree and doing everything else their parents told them would ensure their success?

Instead, they are faced with unpalatable choices. Pay for rent or pay for an unlimited data plan? One is a necessity to the Millennial…and it isn’t the apartment.

To add insult to injury, the Affordable Care Act is now forcing them to purchase health insurance they perhaps do not need in order to “make the numbers work.”

Behold: “If the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges are to function properly, it is crucial that a substantial number of people ages 18-34 join them. This age group that is young and relatively healthy must purchase health insurance on the exchanges in order to “cross-subsidize” people who are older and sicker. Without the young and healthy, the exchanges will enter a “death spiral” where only the older and sicker participate, and price of insurance premiums will increase precipitously, says David Hogberg, a health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research.” (ObamaCare’s Success Is Dependent on Young Adults

So the poor and the aging are going to suck off the young and healthy like economic vampires. No wonder Twilight and The Vampire Diaries are so popular with this age group!

It should come as no shock(with the economy struggling and jobs still scarce and apartments still expensive and giving up technologies like iPhones unthinkable), Millennials are boomeranging back home once they finish college. See Adulthood Delayed by Derek Thompson, in the Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 14, 2012.

We Gen X parents are dismayed by this turn of events. Will we have our aging Boomer parents living in the guest rooms and our frustrated Millennial children living in our basements? We’ll do it if we have to–family is important to us. But egads! Can’t something be done?

It got me thinking. What if some smart landlords invested in creating “low-income housing” for 18-30 year-olds with a college degree? Sure, this demographic doesn’t make much money at their service-industry or entry-level jobs, but that doesn’t mean they have no intention of bettering themselves. They aren’t your typical “low-income housing” demographic, are they? They were brought up expecting to dress well, drive a decent car, hang out with other college-educated people, pay their bills, and vote on issues important to them. They want to grow up, have a good job, and be good parents.

They would probably be good tenants, especially if the complex offered free wifi.

The parking lot might be full of six-year-old Priuses (officially, I guess the plural is Prii. Puh-lease) passed down from Mom and Dad. There would have to be a coffee shop in house. Millennial tenants would be passably content, I imagine, to hang out in a cafe–socializing and networking while looking for professional-type jobs on their tablet computers and doing all the other stuff they like to do on their iPhones (texting, making videos, watching movies, reading magazines, checking Instagram and Twitter, etc.).They could grab a latte on their way to work at a)the mall b)temp agency c)restaurant d)support service for the disabled. A fitness center in the complex would provide them healthy exercise and socializing opportunities.

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There should be bike storage and a bus stop. Perhaps the apartment complex should be placed in an area with some microbrewery pubs, good restaurants (for dining and for working in), a natural food store, and some consignment shops.

It would be like a college dorm–without the studying.

It would be Melrose Place for a new generation of young adults who happen to be on a really fixed budget.

Housing of this sort would give Millennials some time and a safe, comfortable space to figure out the next phase of their lives–well out of earshot of Mom and Dad who really love them AND truly are hoping their children can be the self-actualized individuals they raised them to be.

Our (guilty as hell to have helped create this poor state of affairs and I’m not just talking about the current administration which really inherited the problem) government could allow entrepreneurs to create these specialized housing units without all the red tape of “equal opportunity housing” rules that would derail such a project. There are plenty of traditional low-income housing spaces out there (and more could be built for the poor and uneducated among us), but they are not the places our college-educated, potentially upwardly mobile Millennials want to be or should be.

I’m not sure this has much to do with being a Localista except we all have these young people in our communities. I would like to see them move up, follow their life-plan, and reach full adulthood . . .

. . . somewhere other than in my basement.