Say What?

Given that I am more than a half-century old and somewhat set in my ways, I like to think that I am still able to keep up with current times and adapt to new ways of thinking and doing things.  Each generation of adults has had to learn the language of the young generation coming after them.  Remember when "cool", "groovy" and "far out" were part of our everyday vocabulary?  A new bit of youth-speak has developed in recent years that annoys my husband and me to no end...  when you say "thank you" to almost anyone under the age of thirty the common response now is not "you're welcome" as were taught is appropriate, but rather "no problem". 

What?? I didn't really anticipate that it would be a problem for you to assist me in whatever way, since most likely you are in a job or situation where being of service is part of what you are paid for. Sometimes I want to blurt out "Well that's certainly a relief!"  Yet I know that my oh-so-clever response would only be met with a blank stare or a look of pity.  Where the hell did "no problem" come from? Who woke up one day and decided that was the better response to "thank you", and how many young lemmings followed blindly along?

I really don't think I am a fuddy-duddy, at least not yet, but I would so love to hear our young people return to a time of better manners all the way around, and saying "you're welcome" would be a great start.  On the rare occasions that it does happen, I am pleasantly surprised and think to myself that some actual parenting must have taken place at this person's home.  Am I just behind the times? Do you think "no problem" is the standard of the future?  Or do we just have a group of young people who are so self-focused that they feel the need to let you know that at this particular moment we have not placed an unnecessary burden on their lives by requiring of them a bit of assistance or service.  Ok, ok, I'll end this little rant now and focus on bigger issues, no problem! :-)

Note: This post is being shared at Sunday Scribblings where today's writing prompt is "modern".

I Am No Angel

Way back when I was attending a small church-funded college in the Midwest, a pair of friends among the faculty referred to themselves as the Reverend Marv M. and the Irreverent Dan R., and it was so true - both ordained clergy, they were as different as day and night, one philosophical and serious, the other playful and spontaneous. I admired them both for the men that they were.

Embracing both sides of my nature... the spiritual and the corporal, the sacred and the profane, has always been my way of approaching life, even if it sometimes causes inner conflict. I have people from both ends of the spectrum in my life, and I treasure them equally.  One calls me to my higher self and helps me to become more of what I am intended to be, the other gives me respite from the daily struggle and makes me laugh. That it a true gift as well.

 Being of both natures, as we all are, I am uncomfortable around people who wear their halos too tight. Sometimes they have a pinched look on their faces! :-)  Yes, I wish - at times - that I could stay focused on being in a state of grace, one with the universe, all day, every day.  But I can't, and I don't struggle against the side of me that enjoys stomping in mud puddles now and then - if only to laugh at myself and some of the places my life has taken me. 

I live a pretty simple life, one could probably say I am a "good person" most days, though that term is highly subjective and I have no doubt you could find dissenters. Because I am often quiet, (really, imagine that, bet you'd never have guessed it by my wordiness here), that is mistaken for being aloof, which is not me at all.  I can also be VERY outspoken if I think something is wrong and needs to be called to people's attention.  Seeing others being treated wrongly will get me on my soapbox for sure!  I like to see things done my way the "right way"!  I get impatient with slackers and those whose primary goal in life seems to be to make other people miserable.

There is also the playful side of me seldom seen by others, that just loves to toss out random comments to shock and awe, or to throw in a dissenting opinion to see people responding with looks of utter horror.  Back in my younger days I was more so, and tended to dress a bit radically  for effect too. 

These days, if you haven't take the time to know me well and/or don't read here often, you would think I was a conservative old woman who has a cat fetish and believes in fairy tales like "happily ever after".  Well, all of that is true except for the conservative part.  It can be said that I consider my position and responses more carefully these days. I don't blow up nearly as easily, I am less confrontational.  I choose my battles.  I am a bit more careful about what I share. But there is the part of me that is a bit bawdy, loves to laugh about past adventures and how free life was in the late 60's -70's. Sometimes my husband just rolls his eyes, when I toss out an off the wall comment to see if he is listening.

I remember reading a book for a college course called "God Loves Laughter".  Due to my strict protestant upbringing, the concept of a laughing God was difficult to grasp. Our god was stern and quick to condemn.  The image of a loving father didn't really play into it.  Of course my dad was stern too, so that was my frame of understanding.

But you know, the memories I loves best of my dad are the few times when he let go of that hard line image and did something really silly or funny... the the day he went around quacking like a duck because it made us kids laugh, or the time he sprayed mom with a water hose thru the kitchen window.  So maybe fathers do love laughter, even if there wasn't a whole lot of it in our house growing up.  And maybe God, however you define God, loves laughter too.  Maybe a bit of silliness and careless joy adds to the light and positive energy of the universe as much as does our thoughts and prayers in more spiritual directions. 

Sometimes I think we as humans are like the character from the book Stranger in an Strange Land, in the scene at the monkey cage, where he comes to the realization that we have to laugh and make fun of the absurdities of life at times to keep ourselves from crying.

I make no apologies for being occassionally outrageous, for saying or doing things that others might consider inappropriate. Two old farts nearing sixty engaged in a food fight at their table in a restaurant over a shared piece of cake?  Yes, we did that once... and it was FUN!  I spent too many years with no laughter in my life.  Laughter is good for the soul!  Everything I was and everything that I am, make up the sum total of me, without any part of it I would be a lesser person.  I am grateful for what I am, and I'm pretty much ok with myself most days.

Life is not always a kind and gentle experience, sometimes it is difficult if not impossible to respond in a saintly manner and to rise above.  What is possible is to take it one day at a time, and to stay focused on the desired outcome... to bounce back, perhaps a bit wiser or at least stronger.  And if we find ourselves stuck in the mud, to be able to climb out of the pit and get back into the game of life, headed in the right direction. I may stumble and fall at times, I may grumble and behave in ways that aren't "user friendly" but beneath and above it all, I love life, I love people, and I believe that God is good!

Reclaimed What??

One night last week while channel surfing the tv, we stumbled upon a strange reality show called "The Virgin Diaries".  The episode depicted three adult female roommates who profess to be virgins, going out on a group date with three guys who also turn out to be virgins. There is no way I'm going to believe that occurred totally by coincidence, but moving on....

While two of the women admitted to never having had sex, the third calls herself a "reclaimed virgin".  Huh? That got my attention!  She went on to say that she had sex with her last seven boyfriends, but has not been sexually involved since. Since when? If a time frame was given I missed it while contemplating her obvious "lack of experience" and how one rationally justifies reclaiming something that is in reality a bit technical and not possible to undo once done.  Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that you have chosen to be abstinent? Since she certainly didn't opt for abstinence previously, I also found myself wondering if her current status was due more to a lack of opportunity than conscientious choice.

Needless to say, the entire show - which also included another equally weird segment involving a guy who was still a virgin - was awkward and clumsy and not something we will watch again.  I found myself wondering how many people would actually bring up that bit of personal information over dinner, early into a first date, how difficult it will be for the producers to find a steady supply of virgins for the show, and if there will be a future episode entitled "Losing It".  :-) 

Now before you start hitting the comment button in righteous indignation over my assumption that adult virgins are few and far between, be aware that my commentary is somewhat tongue in cheek.  Still, good or bad, it happens a lot more frequently and at a much younger age than it did back in my day... and if you've slept with seven different guys can you really get up one morning and just decide to "reclaim" your prior status?  Hmmmm.   Most surely my good friend The Ranting Monkey will have something to say about this! 

Note: I'm sharing this post on Sunday Scribblings since today's writing prompt is "wit," which prompted my reactions to the show. Drop by Sunday Scribblings and see what witty things other bloggers have to say.

The Tales It Could Tell

A single dresser looking much like the one above, it's finish was now a bit worn on the edges, it's once shiny drawer pulls tarnished with age; a simple piece of furniture, bought for my son when he was about eight years old.  We lived in military housing on an Army post in Texas back then.  He had his own room and finally a place for his underwear, sox and pajamas, and the many small toys and objects that boys are known to collect.  I was married to his father, it was far from a happy time in my life.

From there we moved off-base to a rental house, and then back into housing a couple years later; the dresser coming with us.  It was moved again when my husband transferred from active army to the National Guard and we were stationed in a small town in New Mexico where the children would do most of their growing up, with my daughter graduating from nursing school there.  We lived in two more rental houses before the marriage finally dissolved, then the kids and I moved out on our own, the dresser moving with us, not once but twice.

My son reached junior high age and it was decided that should go to live with his Dad in another town in New Mexico. I agreed because I believed it was the right thing to do - a boy needs his father, but it broke my heart to let him go.  This time when he moved the dresser stayed with me.  My daughter had also moved out on her own and  before long I moved to another house where I was soon to meet the man who would become my third husband. 

Together he and I moved to a rented townhouse at first, and then to a beautiful manufactured home of our own on the land where he grew up north of town.  In the years ahead, the man I thought I married turned into someone/something entirely different. Although the house was lovely, and the little dresser stood proudly in the guest room, the marriage became a nightmare that I was lucky to escape with my life and some semblance of sanity ten years later.

When I finally found the courage to say "enough", I left the marriage and our home on the farm and moved to an apartment in town, the little dresser being one of the few pieces of furniture I took with me. Once again it served me well in the small space.

It was there that John found me, a little more than a year later.  A whirlwind romance ensued, and just five month after that my belongings were packed and loaded in a truck once again.  This time the dresser and I were headed 100 miles down the highway to west Texas and to a new life with the man of my dreams.  For months afterward I expected to wake up and find that it had all been a dream, but nearly four years have passed and we remain deeply in love and committed to each other; I dare to believe in happily ever after.

Up until just last week, the little dresser, now nearly twenty five years old, was once again doing duty in the guest room.  My son is now grown and has a beautiful home of his own.  He lives in a distant state as does my daughter, and visitors to our home are rare.  We decided it was time to re-purpose the guest room, our house is small and we can better utilize this space as an office/exercise/craft area.  Deciding to give the queen-size bed and dresser to a family my husband knows who cannot afford good furniture, we loaded the truck and delivered them, happy that they could be put to good use by a child who finally has a place to store his or her things.

Although I was ready to see it go, as I polished the little dresser and mirror for the last time I couldn't help but reflect on all the miles this humble piece of furniture has travelled with me, the stories it could tell from the places it's been, and the little boy hands that once opened and closed its drawers.  It doesn't really seem all that long ago.

Airing Dirty Laundry

When I was growing up we were taught that it was not appropriate to "air your dirty laundry in public." By this was meant that if you had stuff going on at home that wasn't pretty,  you didn't share it with the whole world, you kept it to yourselves and dealt with it behind closed doors. 

Of course it can be argued that this philosophy has a negative side, that being that sometimes horrible things were going on at home and battered wives or abused children were afraid/ashamed to tell anybody.  But that's not what I'm talking about here.  In a way this post ties into yesterday's topic about what we call entertainment.

Tonight I'm watching the latest episode of Orange County Choppers on tv with my husband. I've been watching this show since it's inception several years ago.  In the early years Paul Sr. screamed and yelled a lot, and Paul Jr. yelled back.  It wasn't pretty but it made for great tv ratings, and they always made up after things cooled down.  Recent years have seen their relationship deteriorate to the point that they parted company in a now famous scene that has replayed across our screens countless times, and eventually went so far as to sue each other over company assets and financial losses.  They barely communicate, and do not hesitate to snipe at each other on national tv.  And of course we have the Discovery Channel billing these past two seasons as Paul Sr. vs Paul Jr, and you know that they do all they can to promote the animosity because it builds ratings and draws viewers.

Sad, really sad. Heartbreaking really.  Each one talks about the efforts they have made/refuse to make to meet the other half way and restore peace and harmony to the family, both blames the other for the breakdown in their relationship and communications.  Yet guest star after guest star mentions to them that they ought to get their proverbial act together and mend fences.  But then again, that might make ratings fall and ratings translate into dollars and continuing production.

I can't imagine anything as heartbreaking as being the families of these two guys and watching your "dirty laundry" being displayed week after week for the entire world to witness.  Both men should be ashamed, Discovery execs should be ashamed for promoting such fare.  I hoped last season would end in a true reconciliation, it didn't. I hoped this season would head in that direction, so far it hasn't.  I wonder what it's going to take... one of them dying to realize that they played the game of public war a little bit too long... at what cost?  What's been lost?  And would things have gone this far if it hadn't been for tv cameras and lucrative contracts? 

We watched the similar demise of relationships and a breakdown of family in the final years of "Little People Big World", a show that started out with strong family values and was infused with Christian principles.  In the final two years of the series all we saw was how miserably unhappy Matt and Amy were with each other, how the kids lives seemed to be ambling as opposed to directed, and one wondered if the marriage would even survive.  Again, tv cameras were there to record every hostile word spoken, every tear, every sad and depressing detail of a marriage unravelling  and a family struggling to hold together.  Again I wondered if things would have ended up in the same place had there not been a public display of "dirty linen", if their lives had remained private and off camera. 

Does all the publicity and the fame and fortune that go with tv reality shows have a tendency to intensify small  problems?   What would happen if any of our lives were followed by tv cameras 24/7?  What if the producers were delighted with anything incendiary that might increase the ratings?  I don't know the answers but it certainly is depressing to watch what appears to be relatively normal, sensible people behave in ways that would have a child standing in the corner or being sent to their room.  The tragedy is that real relationships are being damaged in the process of churning out tv episodes, maybe beyond repair. 

Once again I ask, is this really entertainment?  Or do we watch to make us all feel better about the glitches in our own lives... after all we certainly aren't like THAT... or are we?

This is Entertainment?

Our weekends often include a trip to the movies. Our tastes differ with John preferring action and intrigue and me preferring drama, but we rarely have a problem choosing something we are both likely to enjoy.  Enjoy being the key word here.  Today we saw The Descendants, kind of a last minute pick after reviewing the options yesterday and thinking there wasn't much worth viewing.  George Clooney is undeniably gorgeous, and usually acts in quality films, so when John proposed this one I didn't hesitate. 

Unfortunately, it turned out to be drawn out and dreary, with a weak plot offering very little in the way of interesting interaction between characters.  The subject - family members coping with the mother who is in a coma and about to be unplugged - was downright morose, as were the scenes of her laying there in her hospital bed in a deteriorating state.

Ok, so there was the underlying message about valuing your relationships and being active participants in each other's lives, points about being an attentive spouse and parent, etc.  But we all know this already and in my opinion the movie did nothing to stir you enough to want to go out and improve your own relationships.  We left the theater with a case of the blahs, and little to talk about.  Depressing to say the least.

I'm not saying that every movie has to be pretty or have a fairytale ending, but I at least want it to be good enough to emotionally involve me.  After all, the whole point of going to the movies is to be entertained, isn't it?  Isn't the idea to let those two  hours transport you out of your own life and into another place and time, something interesting and either relaxing or uplifting?  There seems to be a new trend of dishing  up depression and calling it entertainment.  I'd much sooner have been home watching "reality" tv, or reading a good book or blog.  If I want to be depressed, I can do that for free by reading the online news, or thinking about the various struggles people I know are experiencing.  I go to the movies to get away from it all, not to have the joy sucked out of me. Maybe I'm missing it, but I just don't see dark minimal-plot dramas as being entertainment.  I think of all the truly  memorable movies in the past that gave us something to talk about; the one I saw today was another sleeper, and a gloomy one at that. Definite thumbs down.

What Are You Doing....

This is one of the bits of humor being shared on Facebook this morning. I love Maxine... my kind of woman because she tells it like it is!  I think there is a serious point to this cartoon as well. 

The Ranting Monkey and I have been talking about dying lately, or rather coping with someone dying.  The flip side of that is that those left behind must go on living, that's what we are here for... to live, to experience, to love, and to encourage each other on this journey we call life. 

I am  not who I was yesterday.  What I can be today is not bound by those limitations.  We're all familiar with the saying "Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present." It sounds trite, but it's true. Every day when we wake up we have a choice, we start over with a clean slate and can make anything of the day we want. We can take a step in becoming the kind of person we want to be.  

What are you doing with the rest of your life? Are you happy with the way it's going?  Are you headed in the direction of the person you want to be?  You can wake up tomorrow and start the day determined to do things differently, to be different... to make a difference.  It doesn't have to be a radical transformation, think baby steps. Think about the things you admire in other people, think about the way you like to be treated, then decide what you can do to manifest those qualities in yourself.  We all have them within us and we all have the power to change.  Just as Maxine says, you have another chance... as long as you are still breathing it is never too late!

Note: This post was written for today's Sunday Scribblings promt - "rest".  Stop by Sunday Scribblings and read what other bloggers have to say about rest.

Life Stories

My new job is all about life stories.... while my primary function at the law firm is to handle phone calls and facilitate an endless mountain of paperwork,  the reality behind this work is the individual life stories that I encounter each day. 

Our law firm handles Social Security Disability and SSI cases.  We assist people in working thru the SS system to obtain the benefits to which they are entitled.  It is a complicated, step by step process that is difficult for an individual to negotiate on their own.  The wheels of the Social Security Administration turn very S-L-O-W-L-Y, often many months pass from when the claim is initiated to the point where one actually receives monetary benefits. 

Most of our clients are already experiencing difficulty in their lives when they contact us because they are unable to work and have lost their source of income. For them, the waiting can be an eternity with no guarantee of the outcome.  For sure, there are some slackers we encounter who are trying to work the system to avoid having to work themselves. They generally get weeded out along the way.  But for the most part, our clients are dealing with hard situations, sometimes desperate, and all too often heartbreaking. 

In recent weeks I spoke with an individual who lost a teenage daughter in a car accident, the emotional aftermath of which led to the loss of his marriage, his job, and eventually his car and home. He lives on the streets now and looks 20 years older than his chronological age. He sits in my office with tears running down his face as he shares the story of how he got to the point where he is.

Just a few days ago I took a phone call from a mother whose son was just involved in a car accident out of state and has sustained severe brain trauma. His eighteenth birthday is on Valentine's Day, and at this point he is fighting for his life and struggling to communicate with his family members on the most basic level. His mother is there with him, helping to care for him. It is not what she expected to be doing this month. I am a mother too, and my heart is breaking right along with hers for all those shattered dreams she had for her child.

There is the lady who lost her husband not long ago, then her job due to illness, and is now about to lose her home because she can no longer make the mortgage payments. She is near my age.  I have no way to quickly rescue her from the collapsing house of card that is her life, and there are few resources she can turn to. 

There are clients with cancer in advanced stages, who are unlikely to see their claims settled before their lives end, and their are clients whose mental health issues leave them incapable of handling their own life affairs much less holding jobs. 

Homeless clients, some who stay at local shelters and some who don't, come into our office in poor condition, unbathed, tattered, worn and weary, and often dealing with mental health and/or addiction issues as well.  I have a choice... I can roll my eyes and try to  pass them off on other help as I've seen done, or I can remember what I have been taught... to look for the face of Jesus in everyone I meet, and to show true compassion. What remains foremost in my mind every day is that there but for the grace of God go I.  I pray that if I or one of my loved ones ever find ourselves in that situation we are treated with kindness.

Life stories... I hear them every day.  I see the pain in people's eyes, I hear the struggle in their voices.  It is hard to remain emotionally detached, though to some extent I must.  What I can do is to listen and show compassion. I can take the time and make the effort to let them know that I hear what they are telling me, and that I understand the seriousness of their situation, to agree with them that the process of obtaining help is slow and frustrating.  So often just the fact that someone listens and cares can make a difference, even a small one.  I pray for them throught the day too, I believe in the power of prayer, I know that it can sometimes move  mountains.

I take the time to smile, to listen, to ofter a friendly touch or greeting, to show interest - not just in their legal case, but also in their lives.  It gladdens my heart when hardened voices respond to gentleness, and when shame and humiliation can be put aside with caring words.  I don't have a college education or great sums of money to use for great purpose, I don't have the ability to solve the world's problems, but I feel that God has put me in this place to share the one thing that is so often missing... a tiny glimpse of His love - a true connection between human beings that says, I care about you and what is happening in your life... a moment of dignity for a fellow human being. This is a gift of grace, and I feel blessed to be in a place where I can make at least some small difference every day. 

Mother Teresa said to "Do small things with great love"...I try, every day I try... and at night I sleep in peace because I know that to the best of my ability I have tried.

Birthday Girl

In the wee hours of this morning, at 2:52 AM to be exact, I celebrated the 58th anniversary of my birth. Wow! I can remember turning, 30, 40, and 50 and now as I am edging mighty close to 60 I realize that I have already lived over two-thirds of my allotted lifespan.  My body reminds me of that every day as it creaks and complains.  And yet, as I look back over the many chapters that comprise my story, I have to say it's been a good life all in all... and in truth God has saved the very best years for last, when I am able to appreciate them the most.  I am so blessed with family, friends and furkids, all my needs are met, and I am loved by the most amazingly wonderful man.  No need to blow out candles, what more could one wish for?