You can’t make this stuff up

I am in South Africa at the moment with a super busy week of teaching on my plate.  I had no plans to write a post, but noticed this little tidbit in the Guardian, and couldn’t resist.  Apparently, there is a new fad going around (by that I mean in places I don’t normally navigate like Instagram and Pinterest) which involves shelving your books with the spines facing backwards, in order to maintain a neutral colour scheme.  For your enlightenment, a photo:

book shelf back to front

Photo from The Guardian, online International version, January 16, 2018; see link

You can’t make this stuff up!

The article, with the fantastic title, “Shelf effacement: how not to organise your bookshelves”, notes:

“Back in October, design blog Apartment Therapy shared one of these backwards bookshelves on its Instagram account, with advice for emulating the look. (“Books don’t match your decor? Don’t fret … Flip them for a perfectly coordinated look.”) US morning show Today called it “a beautiful thing to try”, and, naturally, it’s all over Pinterest.”

Perhaps I am the last person on earth to have seen this trend (alas, I have failed at Trends R Us), but surely this is a scam perpetrated by a blogger on a slow news day?  This is so ridiculous I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

News alert: There is no single prettier thing to have in a room than a bookshelf filled with a riot of books. (Dare I say it? Even a bookcase full of YARN cannot match up to it.  That’s how much I believe this!)  Who needs order and bland beige-ness when one can have disorder and colour and BOOKS!

The whole joy of a bookshelf is in reading the titles (hopefully followed by reading the books).  What do they say about the owner?  How many fantastic conversations can you start by examining the shelves?  How can you make a rainy day lovely?  Will you discover a kindred spirit?  How can we make your heart go pitter-pat and your fingers start to tingle just by the proximity to the lovely written word?  And, far more importantly, what little treasures are there just waiting for you to read, or at the very least, drool over (figuratively, of course)?

And now, rant over, we return you to your regularly scheduled entertainment.  Tune in again soon for some knitting news (guaranteed to not match your colour scheme).

Just like every other day

Yesterday was April Fools Day.  I was heading into the city on the train.  As I was leaving the train station, I noticed a hand-written sign on a large white board.  It said:

Thought for the day:

Today is April Fools Day.

Don’t believe anything you hear.

Don’t trust anyone.

Just like every other day.

I did a double take, and stopped and stared at the sign while commuters streamed around me in annoyance.  This was obviously supposed to be funny; a little bit of humour to set you on your way.  I found this sign very depressing.  I left the train station feeling very down and sad about the state of the world.

I was in the city to conduct some interviews for an ongoing research project on stakeholder engagement in the mental health care sector.   My last interview of the day was with someone who had a very sad story to tell.  A sad and harrowing story.  One that didn’t end well.  Imagine, if you will, the kinds of sad and harrowing stories that could be told when discussing mental health.  Well, this was one of those stories.

The person who told me this story was elderly.  Life had dealt him a very bad hand.  He could have been profoundly pessimistic.  His story had ended tragically, but he believed in the power of change.   He believed in the power of people to make changes.  He believed in the power of people to be good.  He believed that he could make a difference.

I walked back to the train station late in the day and the sign was still up.  But in my head, I re-wrote that sign.  In my head, it said:

Thought for the day:

Someone today is making a positive difference in the world.

Just like every other day.

Mom will find it!

“Mom will find it.”

This is a recurring phrase from my life; we could even call it a leitmotif of motherhood.  Along with its companion phrase:

“Mom, I can’t find my [insert any item]”

The latter is usually accompanied by shouts, whining, a bit of hysteria; the former by conviction and (a perhaps misplaced?) optimism.   I have spent much of the past 21 years finding things that no one else seems capable of seeing.   In my general experience these are frequently things that are right in front of our proverbial noses.  Why can’t they see these things?

Since I manage a cognitive neuroscience lab, I am aware of visual neglect, a condition often following brain damage, which affects vision on one side.  Here is a definition from WIkipedia:

“Hemispatial neglect […] is a neuropsychological condition in which, after damage to one hemisphere of the brain is sustained, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed.”

What I am describing in this post is not a form of brain damage but is nonetheless a well-documented phenomenon which I shall call “Mom-is-in-the-room neglect”.

Mom-is-in-the-room neglect is a neuropsychological condition in which, when one’s mother is in the room, a deficit in attention to and awareness of any item which one wishes to find is observed.”

This condition is unrelated to the size of the object one wishes to find.  For example, while I frequently hear “Mom, I can’t find my glasses!” or “Mom, I can’t find my homework!” it’s not unheard of to hear “Mom, I can’t find my cello!”

The condition is also notable for the inherent ability of moms to see whatever it is that others can’t see.  What is it about the condition of mom-hood that mediates this?  My own opinion is that it is a Superpower, along the same lines as Superman’s ability to fly, or perhaps a more relevant analogy, his x-ray vision.

My kids have both flown the coop and I am now an empty-nester.  Yesterday, I had the house to myself, and needed my laptop.  I looked for it everywhere.  I looked upstairs and down.  I searched every room; not once or twice but three times.  I looked under things.  I looked around things.  I finally gave up.  I ate lunch.  I did some knitting.  Then, I walked into the living room and saw my laptop right in the middle of the couch.  Right out in the open.  Not disguised or hidden in any way but so apparently obvious that only someone with a neuropsychological impariment could fail to notice it.  Could it be that there is a statute of limitations on Mom Superpowers?  Do they fade away when one’s kids leave home?  Have I developed a new condition, called The-kids-have-left neglect?  Or maybe I just need my eyes checked….