Sunday Scribblings: Don't Follow Me

This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is "follow". I'm not much of a follower, and never was. I can follow instructions, and I will most often do what I'm told, but I don't enjoy it. I have a stubborn streak and much prefer to do things in my own time and in my own way. That also means that I've had to learn most of life's important lessons the hard way - sometimes repeating the same mistakes two or three times before the futility of the situation sinks in and I begin to consider the wisdom of choosing other options.

To follow in someone's footsteps or follow their advice is a choice, and not usually the choice I've made, though at times it would have been so much wiser. I'm not terribly proud of many of the choices I've made in my life, and for some the only plausible explanation is temporary insanity. :-) But I have also learned a great deal by taking the winding path instead of the straight one. I have experienced so much more than some my age. I have known and befriended people of all ages and from all walks of life. I have witnessed how brutal life can be, and how ugly people can be toward their fellow human beings, but I have also witnessed moments of transcendent beauty and love. I have learned first-hand not to judge another if you haven't walked in their shoes and lived their life. It's always so much easier looking from the outside in.

While I have acquired an array of emotional baggage and battle scars by choosing to march to my own drummer rather than following the norm, I have also learned the greatest lesson of all... compassion for others who are struggling on their own paths.

I observe my co-worker who at 27 conducts her life more like I did at that age than I would like to admit. Sometimes I have to smile, knowing now what I didn't know then, and remembering how clever and wise I thought I was at the time. Sometimes I have to cry, knowing how she really feels inside and how some of the choices she is making hurt her and others. Sometimes I just shake my head realizing that all the talk in the world probably won't influence her enough to prevent her from making some really bad choices that will impact the rest of her life... but talk to her I do.

"Don't follow in my footsteps", I tell her. "Don't make the same mistakes I did." Don't limit your choices and close doors to your future by stubbornly refusing to see the obvious, and neglecting to consider the long-range ramifications.

"You did that when you were my age?" she inquires, at first doubtful, and then shaking her head in laughter. She has come to know that the dowdy middle-aged woman sitting next to her has been around the block more than a few times and has lived a fairly colorful life - and a relatively foolish one... too many unwise choices, too many lost opportunities, too much time trying to force situations that were never meant to be, too much acting out without first really thinking it thru.

"How did that work out?" I ask after her latest failed love affair. "What were you expecting to happen?" " Did you really think he would leave his wife for you?" "How successful were you in your plan to not let your heart get involved?" She listens to me, and quietly considers her answers, and she smiles in the awareness that no matter how she replies, I know the reality of her experiences. She knows that I will challenge her, encourage her to think harder, to consider her own worth more. She also knows that I will not condemn her.

I do not truly regret anything I have done in my life, or anything I have experienced, because all of that has combined to make me who I am... and I am not ashamed of who I am. I have learned, and I have grown, and I have finally in my 50's arrived at a place of peace and understanding.

"Don't wait until you are 50 to start making wise choices", I admonish her. "Don't follow in my footsteps, don't live my life. Be smarter, love yourself more, care about others more, consider where you want to be and what kind of person you want to be. Don't be afraid to love, and don't be afraid to believe that you are lovable. Respect yourself, respect others, respect the wisdom of those older who understand what you are going thru better than you can imagine."

"Don't follow me, don't do as I did. Your life doesn't have to be that hard. You can learn the lessons younger, you can arrive at my age with less baggage and fewer scars. You can have more fun along the way. You can feel more successful. Listen and choose wisely... don't follow me."

Relaxin'

I'm at my daughter's house in San Antonio, and loving it. Very relaxing with just the two of us... and two sweet kittys and one very hyper dog. At my suggestion we are teaching him "Stay" this weekend. As in stay in one spot anywhere for more than 10 seconds! LOL Really, he's sweet and is doing very good. He waits so intently for the command to release him from sit still hell. Last night we took him out for a long walk in the area they've moved to. It's beautiful - so many trees and lots of big houses. Living in West Texas I sometimes forget how much I miss trees and grass and water. However, I do not miss humidity and would not want to live here mid-summer when the steam starts rising. The kids new house house is so pretty - two story this time, with lots of floorspace and beautiful fireplace and a wall of real wood paneling in the livingroom - how I love that stuff! If I lived here, I would have to take over the large screened in porch room as my own. What a great reading spot!

Yesterday we headed out for some much-needed clothes shopping. I came home with four pair of jeans, three tank tops, two shirts, and a wonderful lightweight denim jacket that has dark blue floral embroidery all over it - subtle yet very feminine. Totally my style! My kid is so good about helping me choose things that look half-way decent on my fat body.

Yesterday we happened by a cross-stitch store, a rarity anymore, and she saw a wonderful piece that is birdhouses done on an oatmeal colored background with several of the little 3-D button dodads stitched on - birds, flowers, a ladybug, and a cat. So I got all the supplies, including the damned high-dollar hand-dyed yarn, it requires and will begin working on it as a gift for their new house. At my usual speed of completing things, should be done by Fall, LOL. I haven't done counted cross-stitch for a few years and I really miss the peaceful feeling it gives me - good therapy. I love the way a palette of colors formed into x's creates a piece of art. Something to do with my hands while watching tv with the Papa Bear in the evenings. I'll post a picture when it's eventually all finished.

Today we are soon heading out to shop for a new kitchen faucet set - her choice for a birthday gift. I also want to drive by the hospital where she works. Then I'm going to bake some peanut butter/kiss cookies for Jason's birthday gift. He'll enjoy coming home to those much more than cake.

Our guys are having a fishing adventure at Lake Amistad, including the discovery of a crack in the boat hull that required welding (thankfully not large enough to cause a capsize). Hopefully they'll have some great fish stories as well! We meet up with them in Del Rio again tomorrow for the return trip home.

Time always goes way too fast when I'm with my daughter. We have so much fun together. How I wish she (and my son) lived close enough to do this often. But I'm also so very proud of them for their independence and how well they are doing with their lives.

Time to hit the shower! Will be back around and reading blogs on the trip home.

Ok, So I Blew It

I screwed up. Not that I don't do that fairly often, but this was a big one. Last night I was having my regularly scheduled phone conversation with my father, who is 83. (Yes - he schedules such things and one must account for being absent or unavailable at the appointed time. Groan.)

Anyway, I started the conversation by asking how his Easter was. My younger sister and her family had gone to visit him, and they had a nice time. He loves to cook and made a great dinner with both turkey and ham. (I haven't heard her report on the day yet, so I imagine I have somehow displeased her. She usually calls or writes me when she returns home to tell me how it went. Ahhh, my family can be such "fun". )

Then he asks me if I got my Easter lily. Hmmm, scratching my head, and wondering what Easter lily he's referring to... "I got your pretty Easter card and the $20 in it", I said cheerily. "We really enjoyed the Easter buffet, thank you!" (Each year my father sends cash with his Thanksgiving and Easter cards which he designates to be used toward our dinner.) "I didn't get an Easter lily though??"

"What?!" he sputtered. "You didn't use the money to buy an Easter lily?" I could sense his blood pressure rising and I was totally confused.

"What are you talking about, Dad?" I asked.

"I wrote in the card that you were to use the money to buy an Easter lily and then whatever was left over should go toward your dinner. Didn't you read the card?"

My mind drew a total blank as I struggled to remember what the card had said. I recalled the picture on the front - a purple background with a beautiful cross and lily. Surely I'd read it, what did he write?

"Go and get it and read it", he demanded. Well.... I couldn't because it was somewhere in the stack of clutter on my counter.

"I'll check it in a little while, Dad", I said. "I'm sorry if I misunderstood what you wanted."

"I think you intentionally forgot what I said to do so you could spend all the money for dinner," he accused.

Oh, Lord, here we go again. "We have enough money to eat dinner out, Dad" I said, "it's just that you always say to use it for dinner, so I guess I must have misread the card or forgot what it said."

"Well you find it and read it and let me know what it said next week when I call!" he blustered.

"Ok, I will Dad" I said, feeling very blindsided by the whole thing. He's never sent money for anything other than eating out before. The rest of our visit was shaded by his unhappiness with me, making it very clear that I had once again disappointed him. Story of my life.

As soon as I hung up I dug thru the pile on my counter for the blessed Easter card. Sure enough - in it he clearly wrote that I was to buy an Easter lily for our home, and use any remaining money for our dinner. He had instructed my two sisters to do the same, and he had placed one on the alter at church in memory of my Mom. (His church does that each Easter.) It was a really nice sentiment and I was touched. I could understand his disappointment. Both of my sisters has followed thru and I blew it. Always me, just as he has come to expect. And then I felt really bad.

No real way to undo this one, just apologize, as I did, and wait for it to blow over. I'm still wondering how I could have missed that in the card. Didn't I read it?? Surely I did. Did I just space it out? Very possible, I have at least a hundred things on my mind right now and I am so forgetful. But of course this is implausible to him, even though he is forgetful too. So I guess I'll just take the rap of doing it intentionally or whatever he wants to believe. Sometimes you can't win for trying. SIGH

If these fun little encounters serve any purpose it's to remind me NEVER, EVER to lay guilt trips on my children. The burden of trying to please parents can be immensely heavy. My kids already know how proud I am of them, how much I respect the people they've become, and how much they are loved. I don't care if they screw up now and then, we all do.

This and That

It was a quiet Easter weekend here. With no family around we really didn't do much in observance, other than enjoy a really nice buffet at one of the local hotels. They arrange all the dessert offerings in a circle around their fountain on beautifully decorated tables - much too much temptation! John threatened to chop off the bunny cake's head for his plate, but I insisted it would traumatize the many children attending. :-)

I thought about attending an Easter service but I'm really not impressed by people (including myself) who only show up at church on Christmas and Easter, kind of misses the point. I'm still unchurched and will probably remain that way at least for the time being. I have heard very good things about one of the local pastors here who is also the hospice chaplain. John knows and likes him too, so we may end up visiting his church to see what it's like.

I hate to admit it, but one of the things holding us back from regular church attendance is that it breaks up Sunday too much. This is the only day we have off each week and we like to get up, eat and be actively engaged in some project before noon. Most church services here start at 11, which means getting out at noon and then fighting crowds for Sunday dinner out. So you don't really get much done before it's time to dress for church and tend to lose the desire to be productive afterwards. I realize that's hardly an insurmountable obstacle, just one of the things I consider. I remember that the Catholic church in the town where I grew up started a Saturday evening service for folks who couldn't/wouldn't make it on Sundays. Used to be kinda funny though to see those folks leave church and then head out for a night on the town. While I am a spiritual person and a Christian by my definition, it's always been difficult for me to find a church home that fits right. I have been a member of several denominations over the many years, but it's more about the people who make up the church. My social anxieties make participation a struggle not a joy. I also tend to get easily irritated about the oft found blatant hypocrisy. Yes, I know church is for sinners, not saints. Still, I'm a practice what you preach person and I like to associate with folks trying to do the same. I've become a little cynical I guess. I see spirituality as so much more than being religious, maybe that's why churches feel confining to me. I am not comfortable with having my own personal beliefs limited by tenants I don't necessarily agree with. Stick to the Book, and let us figure out the rest of our relationship with God for ourselves!

On a lighter note, Saturday afternoon we got the storage shed from John's old house moved over to our lot. It is wired for electricity and is just the right size to turn into a great workshop. We're excited about having a place for woodworking, repairs, etc. and to store our tools and equipment. Talking about getting a turning lathe at some point. They are fun to work with!

We'll be taking Thursday, Friday and Saturday off this week, heading south to meet up with my daughter and son-in-law. I'll be spending the weekend with her at their new house in San Antonio - a girl's weekend, while John and Jason are off on a fishing trip to Lake Amistad on the border between Texas and Mexico. They are so excited - John texts him a picture of our boat. He sends back a picture of a new lure he bought! :-) Saturday is Jason's 34th birthday so this is a really fun way for him to celebrate, and I'm so glad for John to have a chance to get away from it all and enjoy doing what he loves most!

My son called last night and we had a nice visit. He was reminiscing on the Easters of his childhood and the fun of those treasure hunt clues to find their baskets. He's in the process of buying a house in Clarksville, Tennessee - his first, and I'm so proud of him! He said he's been living in apartments for ten years now and at 30 is ready to have a place to call his own. He's very careful with his money and his decisions so I know he's got this well planned out. I am grateful that my kids have both turned out so amazingly well, able to support themselves, and above all are really wonderful, caring people!

The furkids are adjusting to being a threesome, Stormy is out and around the house and getting comfortable. The girls are still a little leery of him, especially since he's made it clear that they are not to mess with him. Now he tries to make time with Sophie and she goes wide-eyed. There have been no fights though, and all are living peacefully with doors open. Saturday night one of them, most likely Emily - since she likes to walk the kitchen counter (even though she knows she's not supposed to be on it) - managed to knock a bowl of kitty snacks on the floor, and get the lid off. Needless to say, they indulged in a snack party and the bowl was nearly empty when I found it. Guilty faces all around. :-)

The Sunday Scribblings theme for yesterday was "Scary" with the assignment to write about what scares us. Reflecting on it, I realized that there isn't all that much scary in my life anymore. That sure wasn't true two years ago! The only fear I sometimes harbor in the back of my mind now is one we all share - that of losing one of the people we love. Rather than dwelling much on that, I try to make sure that the people I love know it and that every encounter ends up on a good note. It's about quality of time shared, not the quantity. None of us can foresee what the future holds anyway, so no point stressing over it. All in all, my life is good - I am so blessed with John that it would seem trivial to sweat the small stuff. His positive, "I can handle this" nature is comforting and encouraging. I know that whatever comes, we'll get thru it!

Almost time for lunch here, just two and half days of work remaining this week - sure wish every week was like that. :-) I hope everyone has a good week, it will be what you make of it!

Taking a Stand

Knowing right from wrong is relatively simple. Knowing what kind of person you want to be isn't all that hard either. Living within that framework sometimes proves to be much more difficult.

When I began working at my new job I bonded easily with my supervisor. She's a few years older than me and we have a good deal of life experience in common as well as a shared perspective on the way things should be, and how an office should run. She is a talker. During my job interview she reviewed my resume and asked a few questions and then we quickly moved on to swapping stories of our children, etc. Her desk sits directly behind mine in the business office shared by three of us.

The other occupant of our space shares the long window counter with me. She's the AP clerk and is a single mom of two, not quite 30 years old. In some ways she's a mini-me, a mirror reflection of what I was like at that age. We talk about it and I use the advantage of my experience to tell her how the choices she's making now will affect the rest of her life. We've become pretty close, and since her relationship with her own mother isn't good, she often turns to me with what is happening in her life. We also banter back and forth and laugh a lot, doing our best to keep each other entertained and break the monotony of office routine.

On a good day, all three of us have fun together - laughing, joking, swapping stories and exchanging ideas and information. But on a bad day the mood darkens and the atmosphere in our office very quickly drops to sub-zero temperatures. This happens far too frequently. There are many contributing factors, but high on the list is a bit of jealousy on the part of my supervisor because the AP clerk and I get along so well. Deep down they don't really like each other much and had a major falling out before I came. When my supervisor hired me I think she assumed I would be on her side and join in her very negative assessment of the clerk (who she hired about 18 months ago). But I try hard to get along with everyone and find things in them I can appreciate, even if there are things I don't. Nobody's perfect, including me.

In fairness to my supervisor, the AP clerk has passive-aggressive tendencies and does everything within her power to egg our supervisor on. Since she is totally lacking in respect for authority, a state of contention often prevails. If she is told to do it one way, it is nearly guaranteed she will do the opposite. (In the old days people were fired for insubordination but I think that concept has been lost along the way.)

Additionally, my supervisor is by far the most gossip-addicted individual I've ever met. She does not waste a moment when she and I are alone to tell me everything I never wanted to know about each and every individual who works there. In addition to the "facts" she reports, she feels it necessary to make negative remarks about everyone. It is unending and the few people she likes can quickly be relegated to her permanent shit list for any small infraction or any comment that she interprets to be in reference to her. She is clearly a very lonely and unhappy person.
Thus, I quickly found myself in a situation much too similar to what I used to experience with my sisters - being in the middle while both spend their energies trashing the other to me. At first I attempted to ignore it, or just smile and continue with my work. But apparently they took this as a sign that it was ok to continue. It reached a point where my head would be pounding by noon and by the end of the day I was ready to kill someone!
I have worked very hard in the past two years to overcome my negative tendencies and focus on the positives in my life. It has had a wonderful effect. I like being that kind of person and I am now a firm believer that positive energy attracts more of the same and causes good things to happen. Sadly, the same thing is true of negative energy expended. More than once I spoke to both my supervisor and co-worker about how uncomfortable all the sniping and gossip made me and that I'd like to be left out of it. Things would improve for a few days and then my supervisor would rapidly return to trashing and bashing. It was so frustrating because she IS my supervisor and I don't really want to be put in position of having to confront her repeatedly regarding her behavior. But finally one Saturday I had enough. She came down to the office to visit while I worked (I work alone on Saturday mornings), and spent the entire time on another rant about the AP Clerk. I spoke to her very directly about my unhappiness with the negative work environment but she pretty much blew me off and implied that the problems were all with the clerk's behavior.
I came home from work that day more furious and frustrated than ever before. I sat down and wrote an email addressed to both of them with a carbon copy to our General Manager that I respect very much, and who is very aware of the issues in our office. I told them that as of Monday (now Monday three weeks ago) I was officially declaring myself and my corner of the office a NO NEGATIVES ZONE and I didn't want to hear any more shit about anyone from either one of them! I explained yet again the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects all this contention was having on me and that I was sick and tired of it. I said that it would either stop or I would leave. I sent it off, feeling better than I had in weeks, but also a bit worried about what the response would be.
In typical fashion, the AP Clerk responded immediately with an apology and a pledge to try harder to get along and leave me out of their battles. I didn't hear from my supervisor, but she rarely checks her email at home so she probably didn't read it until Monday morning. I returned to work that morning to find her subdued, but no comment was made (nor has been since) regarding my email. However, she FINALLY got the picture and took my message seriously and has ceased all the gossip and backbiting. The last three weeks have been wonderful - no more stress, no more headaches, no more being angry with myself for getting sucked into the fray. Yes, she has made a couple slips and said something catty about the AP Clerk or asked about her personal life. My response is a direct look and a quick "I don't know anything about that", and then I turn around and pick up some paperwork, making it very clear that any such conversation is not going to continue. It's working and our relationship has greatly improved.
I am by no means a saint and somtimes I say or do things I'm not proud of, but at least this one time I got brave enough to take a stand and it has resulted in a much nicer and more positive work environment for all of us. The General Manager stopped by my office last Saturday morning to thank me for my intervention and the notable effect it has had on reducing tension in the room. There are still days now and then when one of us is out of sorts and things are bumpy, but there are no more attacks. It is a really good start, and maybe - just maybe - practicing her conversational "filtering" skills at work will help my supervisor to be a bit more positive in other areas of her life.
The message here is, "If you are unhappy about the way things are, see what you can do to change them. If you can't change what's happening, see if you can change the way you are responding to it, and remember that attitudes are contagious." I like myself so much better when I am trying to live what I believe!

A Day of Grace

I am a morning person, it is my favorite time of day. My mind is clear, my senses are alert, my spirit is hopeful for the day to come. One of John's daughters has a morning habit that I really like - now and then she sends a text message with a greeting and her love. Receiving one of her texts begins the day with a nice warm feeling and I've started passing that on, letting a few folks know I'm thinking about them as my day begins.

I enjoy my twenty-minute morning drive to work, it's a quiet, peaceful time for a few moments of reflection and a time to offer up prayers for the people I love. This morning I was thinking about how many people I care about are going thru some really hard times right now, with worries piling up and no simple solutions in sight. I know that at the times when my life has been the darkest and most difficult what I longed for was just one day when I wasn't struggling, didn't have something major to worry about or deal with... for one day when I didn't feel so overwhelmed.

When you are going thru hard times it seems to snowball, and in actuality if often does, since negative energy attract more of the same. You reach a point where you don't think you can endure one more moment, and each day the feeling of of desperation and hopelessness grows until you fear that you will suffocate under the weight of just trying to survive. It is so hard, if not impossible, to believe at those times that things will turn around and life will once again be good.

What I wish, what I pray for today, is that God would give each person who finds themselves overwhelmed with life, just one day of grace. One day now and then when all the weight is lifted or at least temporarily suspended - a day to walk by the lake, play in the park, or curl up with a good book. A day to rest and relax and rediscover a few things in life that are good and beautiful.

Supposedly the original plan was for us all to have a day of rest once a week, but it doesn't often work out that way in today's world. For working people, Sunday or any day off becomes a day to catch up on chores, errands, and obligations or catch some much needed sleep. So we end up going on an on in an endless cycle, rarely pausing to enjoy the things that can revitalize and sustain us, and even more rarely setting aside time to just BE.

When was the last time you recall having a day all for yourself where you were able to totally free your mind from the worries and what ifs and have to's and should be's and spend a day in child-like innocence and fun?

Today Lord, I pray that you give each person who is struggling just one day of grace so that they can feel your love and know that they are not abandoned.

The Return of Stormy

In the fall of 1995 my ex and I bought a new manufactured home and moved it to the farm where he grew up. This was the first place we'd lived that actually belonged to us and where we could have pets if we wanted, so as soon as litters of kittens for giveaway started appearing in our newspaper we set out to adopt some furkids. We chose two six-week-old brothers named Smokey (by me) and Storm (by my daughter who was temporarily staying with us after graduating from college).

Smokey quickly became my cat, and Stormy adopted my ex, following him everywhere - even sitting at his feet in the bathroom. Whenever my ex was away for the evening, Stormy would mope and soon come dragging out a sock or t-shirt from his laundry basket while meowing pitifully. While Smokey was chubby and not the least bit interested in grooming, Stormy was lean and kept his long silky fur immaculately clean. Smokey was an alpha male who did all the talking and ran the house. Stormy was shy and quiet, hiding from visitors.

When I left my ex in December of 2006, I had to leave my cats behind. There were no apartments available in town that would permit pets. It broke my heart. I missed them far more than I missed my ex. Smokey went to live with my daughter and her husband enjoyed a good life there. Stormy also went to them (since my ex refuses to scoop litter boxes), but he didn't like being around so many other animals and missed his "Daddy" greatly. His Daddy missed him too. So I returned Stormy home to the farm where he also became very attached to my ex's girlfriend. I was worried that he would be very lonely without his brother... boy was I wrong! He became Mr. Sociable - taking over laps, talking non-stop, and welcoming visitors.

But now my ex is in the process of foreclosure on the home we purchased. He will be going to live with his parents down the road at least for the time being, and his girlfriend will stay with her mother. There is no place for Stormy. With John in agreement, I offered to take him in, knowing that he will be fine here with Emily and Sophie for company, and the guest room to call his own if he wants privacy.

So today I met up with my ex and his girlfriend at a town half-way between us, to facilitate Stormy's transfer. We ate lunch and visited a little, and then we loaded up my car with his dishes, litter box, etc. When the time came for them to tell him goodbye my ex's girlfriend began to cry, and my ex fought hard to hold back tears. Cats are so very telepathic and Stormy curled into a ball with his nose in the back corner of the pet carrier, meowing pitifully. They loved Stormy deeply and they will miss him. Right now their entire lives and relationship are in a state of upheaval and uncertainty, just as mine was when I left him over two years ago. I remember well how much it hurts to walk away from pets who have been like children to you. It was very hard, and I felt sad for them.

Stormy obviously remembers me, and quieted down quickly as I talked to him and petted him while driving down the road. We are home now, and he is settled into the guest room, resting quietly under the bed and probably trying to comprehend what is happening in his world. Emily and Sophie are very curious about this new visitor and they met briefly thru the carrier door before I took him to his room. I'll give him a chance to settle in before I bring him out for a more proper introduction but I'm sure they'll get along fine. I am so glad to have him here where I know there is adequate money to keep him well fed and cared for, where he can live safely and comfortably in his senior years. He will celebrate his 13th birthday this month!

It is strange how life comes full circle... a relationship once full of love and promise began with a pair of kittens and ends sadly and so symbolically with Stormy's return to me.

Frank's Rules

One of my favorite fellow bloggers can be found at Ranting Monkey: The Last Stand Story. There you'll find rants covering a wide range of topics, timely political commentary, bluntly honest introspection, and some incredibly poignant personal stories. I was delighted when Frank recently returned to blogging, coincidentally on the very same day I did.
Today Frank wrote a post called Frank's Rules for Internet Blogging in response to my previous one . He's listed some well thought-out rules for hassle-free public blogging that are definitely worth a read. Stop by his place and take a look around, there's something there for everyone and Frank is always up for a good discussion or debate! :-)

Incognito

It frustrates me to no end that I am forced to keep my blog private, thus preventing fellow bloggers from easy access and the ability to follow my new posts from their readers. How I would love to put myself back out there as I once was for all the world to see! But I know I can't. I learned that lesson the hard way.

My older sister somehow managed to find my public blog, though I'm certain someone assisted/directed her since she didn't even know what blogging was and is nearly computer illiterate. She didn't know I kept a blog, but once she found out she obviously read (and has allegedly printed out) every post I wrote during the year following my departure from my ex-husband and the farm.

Blogging was my therapy back then, and those of you who were reading my posts will remember that I held little back. My whole life was pretty much out there, along with some pretty colorful information that definitely wasn't for family consumption. Although I didn't use my real name, there was obviously enough identifying information for my sister to be certain it was me.

While it might be uncomfortable to be discovered in such a manner and have all your secrets come to light, the larger problem is with my sister herself who has some serious mental illness issues and has since made me miserable with references to things she read there - threatening to share them with my father and my younger sister. My little sister knows her for who and what she is, and in the past year my father has finally seen the light as well and admits she has some "problems". He told me I didn't have to take any shit from her, those were his words. It was highly surprising since he's expended so much energy in past years trying to convince me to be nice to her.

I haven't bought into her blackmail efforts. I told her to do whatever she wanted but to leave me the hell alone. I have made countless efforts to give her another chance at acting like a sister, and each time it's come back to bite me in the butt. So I've had to declare my life off-limits to her and ignore her efforts to draw me back in to the chaos that swirls around her. My life is much more peaceful when she's not a part of it. Even family members can be toxic I have learned.

What all this goes to say is that I learned painfully from that experience. Blogs such as mine, blogs where you bare your soul and sometimes more, need to be off limits to family and coworkers. The only exception to that is my husband who I hide nothing from. Not only does he read this blog, but I maintain a private one that I write for his eyes only.

Blogging is a safety valve for me. It's the one place I can be 100% myself and not have to worry about the repercussions. If I censored my writing to make sure there was nothing that family would find offensive or coworkers would find appalling, then it would no longer serve its purpose. It also wouldn't be much fun. It's not my way to work at disguising my identity, my location, my relationships or the details of my life. I write like I talk... at top speed without censure, my thoughts just tumble out.

The thirty seven people who currently have access here were invited into my world because I have some sense of who and what they are, and I trust them. Hopefully, that trust will continue to prove itself well-placed. On my profile it notes that anyone interested in reading my blog is welcome to email me for an invitation. I have been blessed by a couple new friends who have joined my blog that way, and I hope that more will come.

I will always wish that I didn't have to write behind locked doors, and I apologize for the nuisance, but it is the only way that I can be me and share with you who I really am. Since most of you do maintain public blogs, I am curious about how that works out for you. Have you had any negative experiences from being accessible to everyone?

Where's Chuck?

I answer the phones at the truck dealership where I work. About mid morning today I got a call from some guy asking to talk to Chuck. I informed him that we don't have anyone named Chuck employed with us. He said "Chuck's not there?" I once again assured him there was no Chuck.

An hour or so later I received a second call for Chuck, on another phone line, from a man whose voice was different than the first caller. Now I was puzzled. I was wondering if perhaps there was a Chuck working at one of the other four regional shops in our dealership. I informed the caller that this was the Odessa store, and we didn't have anyone named Chuck working for us. Yet the calls for Chuck kept coming, and it was beginning to bug me. Each caller (all different male voices) seemed quite sure that Chuck should be available at our shop.

After more than a dozen such calls throughout the day, I was becoming a bit annoyed with the whole Chuck thing and really wanted to say something less than professional regarding Chuck whoever. Then I received a call from none other than Chuck himself, asking if there were any messages for him!

"What?" I sputtered.

"Didn't anyone call to leave a message for me?" he asked again.

"Who are you?" I inquired, and "why are people trying to contact you here?"

With that he started laughing, and so did the staff in my office and the front showroom. Seems I'd been "April Fooled" by all of them! Since early morning the AP clerk in my office had been busily recruiting coworkers, friends, family, and anybody else she could think of to call me and ask for Chuck! Needless to say, my professional office demeanor and years of practice made them certain that I would continue to respond politely no matter how many times I received the errant call. And of course they were right.

I couldn't help but laugh. Good joke! I had a feeling something weird was going on, but one never can be sure, and I certainly didn't realize this prank was a team effort. Even my boss got a good chuckle out of it and failed to take my charges of harassment seriously. Maybe because I was laughing so hard at the time. Needless to say, Chuck jokes abounded until closing time when I announced over the intercom that Chuck had left the building. I'm certain this won't be the last I hear of him. All in all it made for a fun day and I was happy to be of service in adding a little humor to our workplace.

Now if a real Chuck should happen to call sometime I feel sorry for him, because he's likely to be greeted with a good deal of suspicion and a less than warm reception!