(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Once upon a time a decade or two ago, I believed the tales told to me in business school. Perhaps they weren’t tales before some of the financial ravages occurred that changed how we do business. But those were days before right-sizing and outsourcing and all those great buzz words that might help the bottom line—and I’m sticking with “might” because I believe in a bottom line that reflects more than the latest quarter, but one that also looks to future earnings and growing customer goodwill—were quite so prominent.

Basically, I fell for operations management, not because I am some mathematical wizard who can analytically detail the best way to manufacture a product or provide a service, but because I believe the human decisions about the whys behind a process make a difference in how well an entity serves various stakeholders.

And part of the whys should be having a plan for how that entity responds when the goods are not delivered as promised or when promised or whatever. The manner in which a website is designed or a phone tree is built indicates something of the sort of service that is most valued by the organization. Resources, especially when limited, tend to get allocated toward what matters most.

When I access a website or a phone tree and note that my particular concern isn’t prominent, then either my current difficulty is not common or it isn’t considered as important as other problems to the organization.

This is where I find myself this week. Does a company so famous for its delivery systems not often have a problem with delivering packages to the wrong homes or does it focus more on resolving problems for the businesses that procure its services? Even though I pay the shipping fee to the original business, it’s that business that chooses which shipping provider to use—for all its shipping needs. They are the bigger stakeholder.

Of all the FAQs listed on the website, there is not one that says: Tracking says a package was delivered but the package was not received. Not sure if the “How do I determine what address my package was delivered to?” instructions work since it is their records available to me that show it was delivered to my address.

After a couple days of calling back and forth to the local hub for our neighborhood’s deliveries while waiting for the driver to tell the office if she recognized my house, I have found out she did not. Then I was told to call the original shipper to have them file the claim.

In my perfect little fairy tale world, this isn’t my responsibility. The company, recognizing that it has likely made a delivery to the wrong address, then takes charge of the mistake and does the legwork for me. The company facilitates this because it wants the problem corrected for me, the individual stakeholder, as well as for the larger stakeholder that is the business that chooses to send its deliveries to me and all its other customers through this particular shipper.

Beyond that, the company also tries to understand if something in the process led to the mistake in the first place in order to make changes that will reduce future errors. Plus, perhaps said company realizes that making the initial contact more customer-friendly and efficient in the face of delivery difficulties will improve the experience for all stakeholders—including its own employees and the productive and cost-effective use of their time—which in the end improves that ever important bottom line.

And then we would all live happily ever after.

As it stands, I left a phone message with the original business that sent out my package in good faith last week through the shipper. Any sweet dreams I expected from using the ordered little pillow to better position my oh-so-sensitive “princess and the pea” back for restful sleep will have to wait. If I were really living in a fairy tale, then all these challenges would simply be part of my hero’s journey to reach the happy ending.

Since I no longer believe in such tales, I’ll just say that this whole saga is not an example of best practices—for any of the stakeholders.


But there’s more after all! In between writing and editing this piece, the doorbell rang. A man I did not recognize was standing there with my package. When he told me it was mine, I had to ask where he lives—inquiring minds want to know how all this really happened. His house is on the 3500 block while ours is on the 3800 block—no wonder I didn’t know him by sight. (And, yes, the correct address was marked on the box twice.)

So while what I said about businesses still stands, it turns out that sometimes you can depend on the kindness of strangers. In a world of people busy not taking enough responsibility for their actions, there are always those who take on more responsibility than is their due. As so often happens, just when my experiences seem to indicate that believing in others belongs in a mythical tale, then something happens that reminds me that there are plenty of people (and entities) living out the hero’s journey every day—in both big and small ways.

Don’t know if my pillow will be the magical solution for which I sought, but I’ll rest easier having remembered that some tales are true—which makes for a much happier ending for this particular tale.

When I was young, my mom stopped telling me in advance about special plans because I got so upset if they did not happen. When she told me we couldn’t do something because so-and-so was sick, I’d respond with “But you said . . .” Tired of my very vocal expressions of disappointment, she would wait before she let me know about what was supposed to happen.

She just couldn’t convince me that some things were unforeseeable. To me a plan was a plan and a commitment was a commitment.

Sadly, I still feel that way, even though I’ve lived long enough to know that stuff just happens. When a promise doesn’t come through, I just want to say, “But you said . . .” And in that same whiny voice, too. I try not to do so, really I do, because everyone—including moi—makes mistakes.

Plus, I’ve studied operations management. I know how unrealistic it is that nothing will ever go wrong, no matter how airtight the system or the human intent. There are still acts of God (FedEx was monitoring volcanic eruptions in Iceland when I first tracked my recent package delivery) as well as times the system and/or the human fails.

Our dogs in the vehicle while it shows the first temporary license.

Our dogs in the vehicle while it shows the first temporary license.

Nonetheless, yesterday was a frustrating day in our home. In the first case, I don’t think we’re wrong to believe the entity really isn’t doing its job. We still don’t have a license plate for our vehicle that we bought almost four months ago. The first sign of lack of attention was the company not charging our Discover Card (don’t worry about our financial decisions—we were ultimately using investment funds to round out our purchase the vehicle) for the 65% of the purchase price not covered by the cash we paid. And then when the charge appeared (after our notification to them), it appeared twice. Got that fixed only to not receive a title before having to pay for an extension.

With my husband’s constant reminders, the organization continued to search for the title, plus—reluctantly—agreed to provide us with another temporary license to get us through until the arrival. When the title finally came to us, it showed up with a dealer name change form. Instinct told us there still might be trouble, so we did not wait to bring in the title until the temporary’s expiration. Good thing because the name change form is not valid. So we wait again.

But they said they would sell us a vehicle. Why is it nothing has been done correctly and on time—well, except for the fact that the car itself appears to be as good as promised. Surely it is the dealer’s job to know how to do the facets of its own business, such as processing credit cards and meeting government documentation requirements?

And then there was my pillow—out on the FedEx truck at 3:44 a.m. yesterday. I was anticipating a better night’s sleep last night since the special pillow my neuromuscular massage therapist had suggested was finally arriving. I spent much of yesterday in my home office, cleaning off my desk for a project that will be on my desk later this week. Also, I wrote and posted another blog post. From my desk window I can see and hear the delivery trucks that come through my neighborhood. All afternoon I looked for the package, but it had not arrived when I left at 5:30.

Imagine my disappointment when I arrived home at 7:30 and saw that tracking stated my package had been delivered at 3:15. No one else in my house had seen the package either, despite what the records said.

“Describe your house,” the representative said.

"3 Margaritas"

Our PINK house.

“The numbers are clearly legible from the street. There’s a large Colorado Blue Spruce in front of it. It’s stucco—and it’s pink. You can’t miss it.”

Not only did they say they would deliver it, but also they said they did deliver it. So either they did deliver it and someone very quickly stole this odd-shaped pillow or they left the pillow on the porch of some not-pink house (or the driver is stockpiling packages or sleeping on the job—scenarios not very likely with FedEx’s strict operational and employment policies.)

But they said . . . and I remain disappointed.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Been so long since we’ve had a wet summer that it has almost seemed like a new experience. Usually by this time the need for relief from a well-baked summer is palpable, but this year summer has played nice and served up cooler temps and moister air. Nonetheless, I welcome September’s return.

This dawn’s cool breeze woke me with a whisper of September. Ah, September, how I’ve missed you. From snuggling under a blanket thanks to temperatures as low as 44 degrees to basking in afternoon suns some 40 degrees higher, this is how I spend summer’s end.

But this year, the September blooms flourish with a boldness not seen in years—no thanks to my efforts. For once, my hanging plants don’t suffer if I take a day or two off from watering them. Since nearly all of them are mostly covered, it’s not that they’re getting a lot from the unusual rains. Instead—thanks to summer’s lower temperatures and moister air—they aren’t nearly as thirsty. Plus, we’ve also been lucky in that our neighborhood has missed out on the worst of the region’s hail storms.

The ivy geraniums that came home leggy and mostly bloomless from wintering at my husband Sherman’s office have rebounded in a glorious manner. The new growth is drinking in these unusual weather conditions. The already cooler nights feed not just geranium blooms but also zinnias, impatiens, and Gerbera daisies. Our yard is exploding with color.

September—so good to see you dressed up so well and ready to dance. Let the wild rumpus begin . . .

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

So now to explain what’s right about how we interact with our mostly grown/grown children and their friends these days. I am not always as cranky as my recent post on the topic might have led you to believe. Though I continue to believe there is a lot of vulnerability in the informal relations these days between generations, I also know that if I really wanted to keep the stronger boundaries of earlier times, I would do so. Just as there are negatives to our squishy relations, there are positives.

For one thing, the more time we spend in fellowship with people of different ages, the more we understand the perspectives of people who are not our age peers. It’s easier to stereotype and minimize the concerns of others when you keep your distance—no matter your age. However, the world is not just made up of people at one stage of life; the better we understand one another, the better we are at creating a society that works for different kinds of people facing different kinds of stresses.

But for another, why limit your interactions to those who are just like you? By mixing only with your own age group you might be missing out on enjoyable times with people who—who knew?—are enjoyable too.

There’s some good that comes from acting silly, even for those of us who have long been the grown-ups in the room. And to do that with our kids and their friends can be a joy. Growing up and being grown up takes a lot of energy for anyone dealing with the hard facts of life, whether young or old. Is it any wonder that both sides are prone to exacerbating the friction by resorting to an “us vs. them” mentality?

Whether or not the kids or their parents are all right I can’t say, but we’ll never know if they (we) never spend time together. Mea culpa for suggesting there was no middle ground.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Good morning! And, yes it is. Yesterday, no matter how the day progressed, I could not find any energy. What’s different today? Not a whole lot—that’s the crazy part. Do you suppose that our energy levels ebb and flow naturally but our controlling natures just refuse to accept that?

Of course, since my personal controlling nature doesn’t really want to accept that I’ve been thinking maybe I should get a Fitbit device that records the quality of my sleep and maybe the results would explain all about my inconsistent energy. Then I could say, “Ah ha! No wonder I felt tired.”

Or not, right?

Yesterday, neither my brain nor my body had any desire to do anything. Was neither depressed nor distressed so I thought if I would just get up and move to a new space, my perspective would change enough so that I could get myself going. However, despite this strategy and its frequent application, I could only manage to putter at best. Was the sort of day when I needed non-negotiable activities on my agenda but, unfortunately, had very few of those scheduled.

It wasn’t the prospect of an open day that did me in—it was who I was that day and how I felt that slowed me down so much. I tried to write, really I did. I was certain that if I went outside and moved a little and focused on some minor gardening tasks that the change of location and activity would get either my brain or my body to sharpen and move forward. But no, after said gardening tasks, I went back to a torpor in which I could not even write about something as minor as those gardening tasks.

Today I am writing—in the morning—and looking forward to getting out the door to exercise. I also have other tasks in front of me on my desk that don’t seem daunting at all.

What’s different? I had a similar amount of sleep, similar aches and pains in the night, similar diet, etc. The only thing that seems different today is my energy level.

Are these patterns just part of the mystery that is life or is there something I can do about them, for goodness’ sake? Should I accept the consistency of inconsistency or—by accepting—am I giving in to something over which I could have power?

Maybe while I have all this energy I’ll go climb some mountaintop in order to find some guru to ask.

P.S. I know that it’s afternoon by now, but I’ve been too busy being active to sit back down and edit these words until now. This morning’s run was not easy but at least just the thought of putting on my running shoes did not make me tired as it did yesterday. Have not climbed mountains nor spoken to gurus but I have been moving. Hooray for today’s energy.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

When I was the same age my kids are now, my parents knew so much less about my social connections. For one, in my case, college and young adulthood happened away from my family. They were not part of those worlds for me, partially because of the distance.

But also, that’s just the way things were in those days. Did I feel alone sometimes? You bet I did. Did I wish for my parents’ advice? I can’t even remember but I don’t think that was how my generation operated.

Times change—so now most of us remain so much closer to our growing and grown children, even more so because of this trend for young adults to continue living in our homes.

Because of all this closeness, we experience our kids’ relationships with friends and partners in a much different manner than our parents did. All that drama of sorting out connections in our teens and 20s was somewhat removed from our parents, even though it most certainly happened.

My only children are twins so we in our family are always firmly in one particular developmental phase at a time. And maybe because my kids have no other siblings, they make the mistake of presuming other relationships will mimic the give and take of that twin relationship without having to set up boundaries or without having to articulate what they need from others because so often in their own relationship, they have known how far to push and when to give.

Both of them, though such different people, have very similar problems with others. Time and time again, when someone does not respect their boundaries or when others expect them to be the one whose wishes are subsidiary, they spend more time worrying about the other person’s pain and needs without realizing that their own concerns are not often reciprocated.

That is until they explode in the presence of those of us who are not the primary source of their anger, frustration, and hurt.

Whatever difficulties I may have experienced from my own growing-up years and despite whatever hang-ups I may have retained, I remain a somewhat naively-open and friendly person who presumes the best of people unless they show me otherwise. I expect to like my kids’ friends and partners and I want to believe that who each is is good and decent and worthy of my respect.

For a brief moment in my daughter’s life, when I was still in charge of driving her friends and her around, I forgot how complicated relationships in those years can be and just enjoyed spending time with various young people. But one-by-one, the self-interests rose to the surface. I did not like how my daughter was being treated, nor, how we parents were being treated. Somehow the clear boundaries between anyone’s parents and younger people that were present in my younger days made it easier for us to know that whatever we were experiencing with our friends, we should never, ever bring that into our dealings with their parents.

It’s as if by being friendly instead of formal, that we have invited ourselves into the disagreements of their age. Did one of the kids’ friends just use the passive-aggressive speech pattern he uses on them on me because he did not feel he received the proper attention from me? Did another young person get snippy around me because I did not concede on a casual matter? Perhaps there really was something to the Mr. and Mrs. titles we called our friends’ parents even years after we’d left our parents’ homes.

All I know is I’m tired of reaching out to people who respond to me with behaviors and attitudes we should only feel comfortable showing our own parents—if only because we are their own kids. It’s just good manners to be on better behavior in someone else’s family’s home or table or company.

And if this is how you are treating me or my family members when you presumably are tempering some of your behavior and words, I shudder to think how you are really treating my kids, who seem to continue to have soft hearts for people’s pains, even when said people cause a lot of pain to their hearts. No one said they or we were perfect, but it’s time for everyone—regardless of age—to figure out that none of us is. Barney was right when he sang that each of us is special, but he should have also explained that doesn’t mean some people get to be “more special” than others. Being in relationship means reasonable give and take, as well as forgiveness, comes from both parties.

As for me, just call me Mrs. Lambert and leave me out of your drama.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Desperate times call for—a little laughter. OK, any times call for a little laughter, but especially when the news surrounding us is so tough to digest.

My deep water exercise class each summer brings out way more than a little laughter, class session after class session. The challenge is still hearing the teacher’s instruction while doing the workout—and not getting a mouthful of pool water at the same time. Pool maintenance staff may put a lot of chlorine in that stuff, but we all know what all they’re trying to kill in that water—my classmates especially know since I’m prone to telling them whenever I read studies about what’s in pool water.

During most of the summer we share the pool with kids taking swimming lessons, but the last few sessions each year we are the only ones in the pool. The water is pretty still when we first get in, which means it’s easy to see all the way to the bottom of the 12-foot plus deep end. So last week a few of the women saw something at the bottom they thought might be a mouse or some other critter.

The pool maintenance manager was called in to pull out—a broken pair of sunglasses. The water park’s general manager also witnessed this rescue and promptly promised a free eye doctor visit for all of us at our next session.

Well, what if a (rubber) rat did show up at the pool for our final class?

One woman volunteered to seek out the rat, which she found at Reinke Brothers, a local store with a focus on Halloween, magic, costumes, and the bizarre. Though the man behind the counter had two types of rats to sell her, he apologized because the Halloween shipments had not really started arriving so he could not offer her more variety.

But she was good with the scary-looking black rat with evil red eyes—which she later handed me as she declared it was now my job to provide said rat with a raft and sunglasses to complete the effect.

Thus last night found my husband and me scouring Target for something that could float a rat. How often is it that you find a salesclerk who really gets what you are saying when you’re looking for something for all the odd reasons? But that’s just what happened when I told the clerk in the toy department that I didn’t know what I wanted but that it had to float a rat.

His quizzical expression changed as soon as I clarified the rat was a toy. “Ah,” he said, “you’re pranking someone.”

Armed with the “raft” (a Sky Bouncer by Maui Toys—which the clerk confirmed did float since a friend of his accidentally flew one into a lake recently), my husband and I headed for home to make sunglasses for the rat and then attach him to his raft. When you want to put together something really creative in this house, you either involve our daughter Christiana—who, alas, returned to college last week—or my husband Sherman—or both. She gave us the idea for using aluminum foil, I came up with wrapping it around a pipe cleaner, and he molded the shades and then taped the shades and the rat to the raft. My big task? Coloring the tape he had affixed across the shades. Voilà—and then that rat was one cool dude with his blue-lensed glasses.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Mr. Rat (whose real name shall remain anonymous since we named him for the water park’s general manager—he of sarcastic wit) floated along with us as we did our workout this morning, even startling a few women as he crept up on them. When we complained to the pool maintenance manager about the rat, he laughed and ran to get his phone to record the interloper. He even managed to prank the kid who had made sure the pool was ready to go this morning.

Well, I made off with the “raft” because I have a few grand-nephews who plan to visit, but what about the rat?

What about the rat? We shoved him under the opening in the cashier’s box and left him as a gift for the water park’s manager. What water park manager doesn’t need his own shade-wearing rat to help chase away the wintertime blues—and to remind him of patrons, such as us, who delight in plaguing him every summer?

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Though I have the occasional nightmare, what I have more frequently are what I call stress dreams—dreams that are more like nighttime anxieties on daytime themes. Mostly I dream of not getting to places on time or of misplacing important items or not being able to find where I’m supposed to go—you know, things like missing flights or not being able to find my classroom or misplacing whatever it is I need to do what comes next. I’ve always made my flights and found my classrooms, and even though I have misplaced things from time to time, still my days are not nearly as stressful as these dreams. I’ve never thought of these dreams as anything more than an over amplification of my desires to be responsible—until today.

Last night’s dream was slightly different because it involved experiencing these sorts of anxieties while visiting a dementia care center. As I shared the dream with my friend Lenny who, like me, lost her mother to Alzheimer’s, and who, unlike me, is also guiding a father with dementia, she said, “Oh my gosh—you just got an insight into what people with dementia must be thinking and feeling.”

Talk about raising the stress level on my lifelong stress dreams. But really, with that insight, no wonder I found last night’s dream particularly upsetting—and it wasn’t even about my having dementia.

What the dream did do was bring me back to those days when my mother was trapped in her increasingly unreliable mind—and essentially trapped in her care facility. Now mind you, this was the place where the well-designed purpose-built setting and the wonderful caregivers helped her to relax into where she was and make it her home. She loved being around the people who provided her care and, unlike so many, did not need to be coaxed into eating the well-cooked meals. Though I can’t speak for how she felt about the betrayal of her own mind, I can say that she seemed much calmer and lost much of her agitation in that safe space. This, however, was not true of everyone.

When you visit your loved ones in those settings, you begin to know and reach out to the other residents. Often you thank God that it isn’t your mother who knows her name but who has no idea how to find her room—every time you visit. Or that it isn’t your mother who worries out loud about “being naughty” and who begs for forgiveness in one breath and then tells you you are going to hell in the next. Thank goodness there are others who have more good moments than bad.

When your mother’s music is silenced, you sing hymns with someone else’s mother. You listen to another woman describe how the Vienna of her youth is the only place where you can find the best schnitzel. You know to be thankful when the woman who has not been very nice to your mother all of a sudden relaxes and smiles—because your teenaged son has such nice hair. You do your best to meet these people in their realities—unless, of course, that involves agreeing that there can be no redemption for you or the other residents.

The amazing thing is that after awhile you start to lose much of your fear of visiting your mother in this condition in that place where everyone is lost or has lost something. You are in awe of the love and kindness shown by those who work with the lost day in and day out. And, if your mother only sleeps while you hold her hand, you chat with the other residents and the staff who also have social needs.

So my dream didn’t exactly start out stressful. I talked to residents and provided help, if needed. Staff members came out and said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Then my mom found me—she was wearing that pink shirt of hers—not that pink was her color, but no doubt she had bought it because it was on sale. We sat together, me with my arms around her, as if she were a child, and rested into one another. Then she left to take dinner with the other residents.

That’s when the stress began. Where was the bathroom? Did they change the colors on each residential section or had they also remodeled them? I had to leave, but first needed to put away all the supplies I had pulled out. Plus, where did they all belong? And then where was the bag I brought with me? Where did I leave it and did one of the “shoppers” (what people with dementia are called when they tend to take off with things that don’t belong to them) find it? And if I didn’t find the bag, how was I going to get to where I was supposed to be? With so much to worry about, I just couldn’t find my way to the door even though it was way past time to leave.

Oh, Lenny was right—those must be the sorts of thoughts that run through the minds of those with dementia. What a nightmare for them.

Thank goodness I was only dreaming—let this be a wake-up call to live well now and to quit stressing out over minor details.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

In the Bible there are all these stories of Jesus removing demons from people—and I confess that I have prayed for such miracles in our times and in our homes. To those who have never been touched by or loved someone with a serious mental illness, sometimes all this darkness seems clinical, at best—and, at worst, something people and/or their loved ones have brought upon themselves. But, truly, for many the darkness is a demon that strikes no matter what they or we do.

You can expound all you want about the evils of treatments such as psychiatric medications or the benefits of diet and exercise and positive thinking, but it appears that for some people it is just so much harder to feel hopeful than for others.

For anyone other than the person who is feeling suicidal to say that he or she is weak or only selfish shows a lack of understanding about the beastliness of suicidal feelings. How does any of us know that these people haven’t been required to face more darkness than we can ever imagine—and that they haven’t battled valiantly, time after time, year after year, against the darkness that descends upon them like some demon?

What do we know of their pain, especially if we have not been given a similar level of pain to fight in our lives? I don’t speak of the pain that comes from specific life experiences but of the pain of an organic darkness that for whatever medical reason overtakes certain people no matter what is happening in their lives.

How humbling to know that sometimes love for us is the only reason our loved ones continue the fight. That in those moments of pain and darkness for them, it is not a love for this life that keeps them here, but simply that love for us. No matter how grateful we are for this gift of continued living, wouldn’t you rather the demon be exorcised—for good—so that life itself—with all its normal ups and down and lightness and darkness—would be more than enough reason for them to stay amongst us?

While we ourselves might not often have the power to cast out demons permanently for others, we can bring as much light into this world as we can by being kind to one another and by providing whatever help is at our hands—as well as by refusing to judge those whose pain we can only pretend to understand.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep praying for miracles . . . both for those possessed by the demons of mental illness and for those of us who have also been touched by the darkness within those whom we love.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

(c) Trina Lambert 2014

(c) Trina Lambert 2014

Though I don’t miss eight-track cartridges, cassettes, or albums, I do miss how listening to one set of works at a time allowed me to get to know a particular set of music well. When we upgraded our stereo system to include a CD player that let us listen to five—five—CDs, either one after the other or shuffled together, I still felt I could really get to know the individual pieces of works. Sometimes that song I didn’t think I liked grew to become one of my favorites, something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been forced by the industry to take my music as a set.

At the time when we built our CD collection, I would have told you the options were almost overwhelming. What did I want to listen to for the next three hours or so? But for the most part I did come to know the songs on those discs, some in an intimate way. Remember reading the words from the CD cover, not just looking them up online where you hope that person sharing the words hears well enough to get them right? I wanted to know what they meant and write some of the words on my heart.

Now I can access my songs shuffled in so many ways: randomly, by album, by artist, by genre, by playlist, etc. Yet all those songs are there for me at the same time. With my CDs, I never stopped before to count just how many songs I had available to me. Despite not having converted all those songs from the original format, just the sheer number listed on a screen of what I own overwhelms me. And the new stuff acquired—some individually, some in album groups—has never grown as near to my heart and memory. Somehow it seems almost wrong to focus on an individual song or album when I can listen to some endless random loop.

Having too many choices has weakened my connection to this song or that album. I feel as if I’m losing my ability to come to know a work so intimately that it becomes part of the soundtrack of my own head. Instead, so often it’s all this grand, big collection of music I like versus something really personal to me.

So while I’m open to new songs and new artists, the expansion of music options available to me seems to keep me quite a bit in the past. These days I hear songs I like then promptly forget about them. Without repetition they just don’t stick with me.

Though it’s easier to live without physical representations of music cluttering my space and gathering dust, I feel that when all my music is contained in one small box or a cloud, the too-muchness of the formats puts a barrier between me and true love for that music individually.

The other day after driving around in my car while listening to a mix CD made several years ago, I realized just how often I had fallen into singing along with those songs without even knowing it. I, not some random algorithm, picked those songs. Sure, I made the “playlist” myself, but first I had to know those songs well enough to want to choose them.

Yes, even with a car that is smart enough to allow me to bring along all my music at once, I prefer to put a boundary on what I can hear in that small space, even if that means cluttering up the car with specific CD jewel boxes. How else am I going to live up to my “Caution—driver singing” license plate holder? I can’t sing along with every one of the songs in my collection, but give me 10 to 15 at a time and you’re going to need that warning.

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