Pages

Pondering... Close


In this week's Pondering With A Purpose, Brenda has begun a new series of posts pondering words that have double meanings.  This week's word is CLOSE.  What is interesting to me about this word is how, depending on pronunciation, it can be used to talk about opening your heart to be close to people, or the exact opposite... to close yourself off from from people.

I think most of us have reached out to someone a time or two, trusted them and opened ourselves to them, only to be rejected and shut out, either initially or at some point in the relationship. It's frustrating, it's confusing, it hurts... but that's life.  Sometimes people are not what they appear to be initially, sometimes things happen that cause them or the relationship to change.  There are times that a relationship is worth fighting for, and there are times when it is just better to walk away.  The tricky part is knowing which is which.

I tend to open my heart easily to people, I love easily, I care easily, I share too much of myself at times.  When I am blindsided or that trust is betrayed, and the connection I thought existed proves to be something different, I get angry.  I don't like being manipulated, and I don't like being led astray.  For better or for worse, I find it very easy to close someone out of my life if I feel that my trust has been violated, or if they turn out to be something different than I initially believed.  I'm not saying this is a good thing, it's just how I am.  Being real is incredibly important to me, so is being open and honest. Good communication is a must.  So while my feelings get hurt if someone rejects me, I know it is also within my nature to do the same.  Maybe in a way it's being pro-active, saying that I am not going to allow this situation to become one where I can potentially be hurt. Sad but true.

At the same time, I think it's really important that we don't get into the "rock" routine where we close ourselves off from relationships with everyone, where we let our past hurts weigh on our heart so heavily that we are unable to open up to or trust anyone.  Maybe people can survive as islands unto themselves, maybe, but you miss out on so much joy and encouragement that can be gained by reaching out to others, by sharing your thoughts, dreams, and lives!

There are going to be times when we get burned by relationships, but I hope that the day never comes when I decide to give up on people altogether, because by and large, most of the people I meet and interact with are pretty darn cool!  We all have our quirks, but that doesn't mean we can't work together, and enjoy each other in the process.  Thanks to Brenda's prompt, I think I am going to ponder a bit more on my tendency to close people out.  Maybe I'm the one who is missing out when I do that!
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's writing prompt is "close"

Midweek Meandering 1-30-13


Random Thoughts Drifting Through My Mind Today...

~ I look at the clock on my phone, it's 9:30 AM.  I've only been at work for only an hour and I've already come to the conclusion that I don't want to be here... I think it's going to be a long day.

~Saying thank you for gifts given seems to be out of style. I'm amazed at how often my husband or I send something out to family or friends and never hear back if they even received it, much less liked it.  Seems like common courtesy to me.  It's so easy now days with email, Facebook, and texting, it doesn't have to be a fancy, formal, handwritten note... make the effort to say "I got it"!  Remember that someone took the time and effort to do something nice for you.

~ Sometimes I DO understand what you are saying, but I disagree. Understanding does not necessarily result in compliance. If you want me to see things from your perspective, I need more information.

~ I value consistency and stability in my relationships, that what you say or do today will be the same tomorrow, that you aren't going to do a 180 turn-around on me.  People do change and evolve, but it doesn't happen overnight. Communication is the key... always.

~ I love "winter" weather in West Texas, as opposed to what it was like growing up in South Dakota.  We do have some cold days - in the 20's or 30's here,  but many are in the 60's and 70's and I can get buy with wearing sandals all year round, the only exception being when it snows.  I hate bulk coats and clothing, and I'm so much happier when a light jacket or a wrap is sufficient.  It's true that you appreciate what you have more if you know what it's like not to have it. Snow is pretty to look at, not so fun to live and drive in.

~ It puzzles me when people do something that they know is going to displease you, and then say "don't get mad".  Mad is my option, I am responsible for my feelings, and it is not your right to tell me how to feel. However, it is also my responsibility to handle my anger in an appropriate manner.  It is not ok to fire a volley of four-letter words in response, or to hire a hit-man, even if I am angry. Give me a little time to deal with it.  I am the type that gets mad and then gets over it, with very few exceptions.  Life goes on and I wake up tomorrow ready to try again.

~ Belittling my writing is a sure way to end up on my "don't trust" list. Writing is at the core of who I am, it is my passion.  If you don't understand that, then don't understand me at all.

~ This morning we were having a humorous discussion at work about "The son of a bitch deserved to die" defense in murder cases.  Seriously, there has been a time or two in my life when I think that applied, and although I didn't commit murder, I really wanted to! I can understand how one can be angry enough or fed-up enough to lose control and just do it!  I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying I understand.

~This month I've experienced the highest number of pageviews on my blog ever... that's exciting! Now if a few more folks would just take time to add a few words of comment, that would be nice.

~ Eating chocolate when you know you are allergic to it isnt' very smart, is it?  My response is "But I LIKE IT!"  Then I realize that's the same excuse folks with other kinds of addictions use.  Gulp.
And on that note... time to finish up my lunch and get back to work.  You don't see that Hershey's Kiss sitting next to my printer waiting for it's demise... do you?! :-)

 Hope you're having a good Wednesday, wherever you are!

C is for Cantankerous


For Round 12 of ABC Wednesday I'm presenting a vocabulary word we don't often hear in everyday conversation, accompanied by a short story or verse.  This week is all about the letter C.


can·tan·ker·ous  

Adjective: bad-tempered, argumentative, and uncooperative
Synonyms: quarrelsome - contentions - peevish -  shrewish

Carlos the cantankerous cat
Would bite at the drop of a hat
When folks tried to pet him
He'd turn round and get 'em
He relished his role as a brat


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Stop by ABC Wednesday, link up your own C-word post, and read what other folks had to say!

 

One Last Time


Sitting on the damp sand not far from the water's edge, Felicia watched as the sun slipped from the horizon beneath rolling clouds that promised yet more rain.  The salty ocean breeze carried her back in time to their first meeting here at this very spot. She had just completed Jr. High that summer; Toby was two years older.  Her dad had frowned at their budding romance, but her mom had smiled and told her to follow her heart.  Her mother had always trusted her to use good sense, and she'd never let her down.  

After that, they met up every summer as the their families returned to the same cottages year after year.  In the months between they exchanged countless texts and emails, and spent an hour or more every night talking on their cellphones until one or the other drifted off to sleep.

When Toby graduated from high school he joined the Air Force, just as his grandfather had two generations earlier. Felicia understood that he felt this was his destiny, but their first summer apart was the hardest of her life.  She drew hearts in the sand and sent him  pictures, then watched as the waves wash them away. 

The summer following Felicia's graduation was the most exciting time of her life. She and Toby were getting married on the beach when he came home on leave.  All their friends and family gathered at sunset in a fairytale ceremony complete with tiki torches, bare feet, coconut drinks, and flower leis for everyone.  Felicia and Toby were deeply in love; it was a magical time in their lives.

Toby returned to duty, and soon received orders sending him to Iraq.  Felicia began college and tried hard to focus on the time when his dangerous tour of duty would be over; when once again they would stand hand-in-hand at the water's edge and plan their future together.

Then came the night when she answered the knock at her apartment door to see her father standing there sober-faced, with an Air Force officer along side him.  Felicia began to tremble, sensing that her world was about to fall apart.  The officer informed her that Toby's plane had been shot down during an encounter with the enemy.  American forces had recovered the plane along with Toby's remains, there hadn't been time for him to eject before it crashed.  Felicia crumpled into her father's arms.

The following weeks had been a blur of people coming and going; Felicia was too dazed to remember most of it.  She stood at the funeral service as the young Airmen folded the flag that had flown with Toby's squadron in Iraq and handed it to her for safekeeping.  She didn't cry, couldn't cry, not yet. She had to be brave for him, just as he had been brave.

Then finally it was over, families hugged and parted, leaving  her alone with the small box that she now cradled in her arms.  Then, as the sun disappeared and the shadows of night moved slowly in, Felicia did what Toby had always said he wanted, she walked down the beach slowly scattering his ashes on the waves as they slipped back out to sea, setting him free to become one with the very source of life.

Task finished, she began the long, slow walk back to the beach house she had rented so she could be near him for just a little while longer, Toby's dogtags now jangling from the chain around her neck. The heavy skies opened up and began to weep, and Felicia folded onto the sand and wept with them.
 *~*~*~*~*~*~
This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "sea"
TWO SHOES TUESDAY

Two Shoes Tuesday #22 - SEA


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline. You are not required to use the actual word in your post, but please use it as the theme.

The writing prompt for Tuesday, January 29th
(as chosen by Old Egg at Robin's Nest)
will be "sea"

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... tell us about the "sea"!

Monday Quiz - 1/27/13

Acting Balanced

It's time to join Heather at Acting Balanced  and Wayne at Touristic for their blog hop Monday Quiz About Me.

 There are FOUR QUESTIONS for everyone to answer, and then you have the option to add a fifth question of your own for those who are visiting your blog to answer in the comment section, along with commenting on your answers to the week's questions.

Here are this week's Questions:
1. On a long road trip do you prefer to be the driver or a passenger? Or do you prefer to travel a different way all together?
2. Do you use a slow cooker? Favorite thing to make?
3. Which type of festival would you rather go to... Wine and Food, Music or Sports?
4. What is your favorite fallacy?
 
And here's my question for you to answer in my comment section on this post:
5. What is something you've learned about life in the last ten years?


HERE ARE  MY ANSWERS TO THE ABOVE:

1. On a long road trip do you prefer to be the driver or a passenger? Or do you prefer to travel a different way all together?  I love road trips! I love heading out on the road by myself, and I love being a passenger when I travel with Papa Bear. (Although I don't enjoy big city traffic, either driving or riding.)  I much prefer a road trip to flying if time permits. Going down the road, especially to somewhere you've never been, is an adventure, sharing it with someone just makes it that much better!
 2. Do you use a slow cooker? Favorite thing to make?  Not as much as I  could or should, it requires pre-planning and that isn't one of my strengths these days. I love coming home to a ready-to-eat meal after a hard day at work though!  We use it most often to make Anasazi Bean Soup.  We order the beans/seasoning mix from a place in Colorado add our own leftover ham (and sometimes potatoes), and it's delicious! 

 3. Which type of festival would you rather go to... Wine and Food, Music or Sports?  My favorite event would be a Celtic Festival, along with traditional music, food, drink, crafts, and exhibitions! Wonderful fun. I'm still trying to convince my Scottish/Irish husband that he should own a kilt, no luck thus far! :-)

 4. What is your favorite fallacy? This is probably one of the most common, and one that I subscribed to for a period of years: My ex's  were "buttheads"...my ex's were men... therefore all men are "buttheads"!  Then Papa Bear came into my life, and I had to amend that way of thinking! :-)

5. What is something you've learned about life in the last ten years?  (In addition to learning that #4 above is not true... God did make a few good men),  I have learned that no matter how dark or hopeless a situation - or your entire life - feels at the time, life has a way of changing in ways we can't even imagine.  If we hold on tight to faith and hope, and do our best to get thru it one day at a time , the right answers will come to us, the right doors will open, the right people will come into our lives to guide us, and the right path with appear.  Life cycles, if we learn to accept that, we can get thru the hard times and will appreciate the blessing of the good times all the more!

Testify


Most folks in the small mountain community in Appalachia subscribed to the practice of taking up serpents, or snake handling as it was known to the outside world, as evidence of salvation. They based their belief on verses found in the book of Mark in the Bible...

"And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."  (Mark 16:17-18)

It was a tradition that had been handed down from Zach's grandfather to his father, and now it was his turn to testify.  Zach's faith was strong, but fear was proving even stronger, and he wasn't sure he could go through with it.  It hadn't been that long ago that a well-known pastor from a West Virginia parish had been bitten by a snake he was handling at an outdoor revival service and had died just a few hours later.  If a man like that could be bitten, how was Zach to be certain that he fell under God's protection from the serpent's bite?

On Saturday evening, folks began gathering at the old stone barn used by the community for praise and worship.  There was no cross or outward sign where the church met, the taking up of serpents being squarely against the law in their state.  By the time the service started,  the barn was filled to capacity with God-fearing people who sang and prayed, and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit overtook them.

Things reached a point of fervor as Zach stepped forward after a quick glance at the wife he had married just a few months ago, and gently laying his hand on the rounded bump of her belly where she carried their unborn child.  His last thought as he left her side was that he hoped their baby was a girl and didn't have to grow up to face this experience to prove himself a man of God.

Moving to the altar almost on auto pilot, sweat beads forming on his forehead, Zach repeated the verses that were the foundation of his faith silently to himself, and then shouted them aloud for all the congregation to hear as he took up the serpent from the Elder and lifted it high into the air.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Megg at  Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "subscribe".

Winter Halo


Years ago Santi's grandfather had told her that bands of light ringing the moon signified a time when spirits were free to walk the earth.  She recalled that now, as she trudged down the long dirt road leading from the highway to her house after being dropped off by a friend on their way home from the evening shift at the café.  It had been a slow night, and the few dollars she had made in tips were barely enough for a bag of groceries, much less money to pay for reconnecting the electricity that had been recently shut off due to her delinquent bill.  It would be another night of cold and darkness in the cottage she had inherited from her grandfather; a flashlight and a heavy quilt would have to suffice.  Stunned to find the window panes glowing with light as she rounded the curve, Santi entered the cottage to discover a fire blazing in the fireplace and the old rocking chair rocking slowly on its own.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin for Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "ringing"  

The Whole Truth

Honesty is always the best policy!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 
I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday...  join us there!

Pondering... Balance


In this week's Pondering With A Purpose, Brenda asks,  "Do you feel out of sorts? Off balance?"

That could be me up there on the high wire stretched tightly between work and homelife, between want to do and must do, between resentment and forgiveness , between yesterday and tomorrow.  It is a rare time in my life when I feel that I have things in balance. It is a rare week that something doesn't seem to come along and take away my sense of calm and direction.  I tend to lurch back and forth from being on the right path to swinging widely off kilter, and I ponder often what it would be like to have a life of true calm and inner peace that lasted more than a day. 

I fantasize that maybe if I didn't have to go to work, or maybe if we had a bit more money, or maybe if people understood me a little better or I didn't let their lack of acceptance get me down, maybe then I'd feel more balanced... but I suspect that then I would just blame other reasons for my sense of discomfort and being "out of whack".  (What is whack anyway and why is it in such short supply?? :-) 

The hamsters running in the wheel of my brain seldom seem to take a break, even when I'm sleeping. I over-think things, over-analyze things, and over-react to things.  I am introspective, I am sensitive, and I am deeply affected by the sensory input of the world around me.  I find it hard to be detached and less caring, hard to say "oh well, nothing I can do about that," when deep down a nagging little voice says "but maybe there is."  Maybe, if I had a hundred hours in a day, and enough energy to fill them, maybe then at the end of the day I could say "Ahhhh, this has been a good one!" As it is, I am always feeling cheated and wanting more time, more energy, more freedom.  To much wanting leaves one unbalanced. 

I know the answer is to find acceptance that life is what it is, and brings what it does, that people I care about will come and go despite my best efforts to prevent it, and that life itself will change in ways I am unprepared to deal with.  Peace is what happens when you learn to go with the flow.  I will be fifty-nine years old next month, maybe I will reach that point of spiritual balance yet before I leave this world. It's possible... anything is possible if your heart desires it!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
               I'm linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
here this week's writing prompt is "balance"
 

B is for Bodacious


It's time for ABC Wednesday and this week is all about the letter B.  I'm presenting a vocabulary word each week, words that I like but don't often hear or use in everyday conversation.  My word for this week is actually Papa Bear's clever suggestion.  He prefers women with natural curves and has been known to use this word a time or two :-)

bo·da·cious
  
Adjective - 1.  Excellent, admirable, or attractive 
2.  Audacious in a way considered admirable  3. Sexy, voluptuous

Synonyms - arresting, bold, brilliant, catchy, commanding, conspicuous,
dramatic, emphatic, eye-catching, flamboyant
 
Felix was captivated by Carlita, the bodacious new soprano at the contemporary San Francisco Opera House.  He attended her every performance, working overtime at the office to afford tickets for the shows.  He spent his work hours daydreaming that she would one day notice his face in the crowded audience, staring up at her in rapt attention.  At night he dreamed of her goddess-like beauty and angelic voice.

Felix's coworkers were well aware of his longing for Carlita.  Bored, and seeking ways to amuse themselves, they secretly arranged to have an usher hand him a note as he left the opera house one night.  In beautiful, flowing script it read, "Meet me at my dressing room door tomorrow evening after the final performance, bring a bottle of red wine and a ruby rose."

Felix felt like he was in a dream, and he could hardly contain himself at work the next day. He was so distracted by his anticipation of the coming night that he failed to notice the snickers of coworkers as they whispered about him at the water cooler and photocopier.  They rolled their eyes at him believing that he could ever have a chance to gain access to the Italian beauty's presence, and they looked forward to seeing his crestfallen face the next morning with a pathetic sense of glee.

What the coworkers hadn't counted on was the usher's friendship with Carlita.  He had told her of Felix and his devotion, and of the mean trick his coworkers had played.  Carlita was so very weary of men trying to impress her with their wealth and status, enamored only by her physical charms, and caring little for her musical talent or gentle heart. 

When the usher escorted Felix backstage that evening following the show, a bottle of wine in one hand and the most magnificent rose he could find in the other, Carlita met him at the stage door and the two slipped away into the night, the music beginning  to work it's magic in their hearts.

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Stop by ABC Wednesday, link up your own B-word post, and read what other folks had to say!

 

The Real Heroes


Mother Teresa is my hero... because she understood the joy that comes from dedicating your life to serving God and caring for His children.  She also understood that people are far more valuable than things, that judging others is a misuse of our time, and that unconditional love is something everyone needs.

My Grandmother is my hero... because she was a strong woman.  She raised four boys on her own and ran a farm after her husband died, and she taught them all to be men of faith and character. She was a breast cancer survivor in the days when many weren't.  She loved her grandchildren dearly and taught us many things.  Time spent with her are wonderful memories of childhood.

My Father is my hero... because he grew up a poor farm child during the Great Depression, and went on to be a very successful business man with just a high school education.  He took care of his family and handled his affairs with honesty and integrity.  He valued his employees and he showed them. He also served both on the City Council and later as a County Commissioner and had many, many friends in his community, as was evidenced at his funeral.

My Husband is my hero... because he has never used his childhood as an excuse in life, though it was anything but idyllic. His father died when he was three years old.  He grew up in a home with very little money, and an abusive alcoholic step-father, and was moved from school to school and town to town, never having the chance to settle in.  He has held down a full-time job since he was sixteen years old. He will be sixty in just a few months, but still works six days a week without complaining.  He has raised a family, survived the death of two wives that he loved dearly, and experienced more hardships than any man I know, and yet he is a role model of kindness, caring, responsibility and integrity, and has a wonderful sense of  both romance and humor.  He is a very good man.

My Children are my heroes... because their growing up years were not always in easy, happy situations, yet they made the best of it, did well in school, and both went on to be successful adults with good careers that enable them to support themselves well.  My daughter is a Registered Nurse, my son is an Air Traffic Controller.  They are both intelligent, independent, responsible, kind and caring adults, who treat their mother with love and respect.  I am incredibly proud of both of them.

Parents who parent are my heroes... because they realize that their first priority and most important role in life is to care for their children and to teach them, to raise them to be responsible, caring, independent adults.  Parenting requires long hours and the ability to be the "bad guy" when called for, the willingness to be an authority figure rather than a best buddy, and to say "NO" and mean it! It's the toughest job in the world, and the most rewarding.  Good kids don't happen by accident, it takes a conscious and consistent effort and and knowledge that sharing quality time is worth far more than providing every freedom and expensive item they desire.

Teachers are my heroes... because they put in far more than 40 hours a week to teach our children not only fundamentals but skills and knowledge they will need for a lifetime.  They do this with pathetically poor pay, often with children in the classroom who have been taught nothing in the way of respect or proper conduct by their parents.  They have to deal with endless government interference in the teaching process, disgruntled parents, and never ending budget cuts. Yet somehow they still manage to inspire students, and are often the one person who makes a difference in the life of a child.

Nurses are my heroes... because they work unbelievably long hours, with nearly impossible nurse-patient ratios, caring for people with critical life situations, are expected to retain an incredible amount of information regarding each condition, medication, and the patients themselves, and must also deal with egotistical doctors and stressed families, yet they manage to walk into a patient's room with a smile and caring words, and provide comfort and encouragement, along with good medical care.

Firemen are my heroes... because they have the courage to risk their lives every day to rescue people in all kinds of critical and dangerous situations, and then have the heart go back into a burning building to rescue someone's beloved pet, or climb a tree to rescue a frightened kitten, understanding that our pets are important family members too.

Animal Rescue workers are my heroes... because it is left to them to find the funding, facilities, medical care, and compassionate individuals needed to care for all the animals that heartless people neglect, abuse and abandon.  They have to live daily with graphic examples of how cruel people can be, and yet somehow retain the heart to continue working tirelessly to end animal suffering.

The clients I work with are my heroes... because they must deal with life-changing illness or injury, chronic debilitating pain, emotional struggle, financial strain, and uncertainty about their future every single day.  They have often lost their jobs, their homes, their income, and sometimes their families.  Some have no where to go and live on the streets.  They wait endless months and sometimes years for the slow wheels of our Social Security security system to come to their aid, and yet somehow the find the courage to go on living, to go on hoping for a better tomorrow.

Survivors are my heroes... because it takes courage and determination to face the trials of life head on, and to decide that despite all, it is still worth living.  It is far easier to give up, or to live in the role of a victim.  Survivors have discovered their own true worth and have learned that they are ultimately in control of their destiny.  I am a survivor, and I am proud of everyone who wears this label with me.  We can learn take control of our own lives, we can find joy, fulfillment, and inner peace.  When we have found it, we can reach out to others... that's what survivors do.

Those who encourage and uplift others are my heroes... because they understand that we are not put in this world to journey alone, we are here to reach out and help each other along the way.  We learn and grow by caring and sharing.  We are all related, what we chose to do, or not do, with our life impacts other lives. Those who love and care for others are my heroes.... and that brings me right back to the beginning of this list! :-)

 *~*~*~*~*~*~
This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "hero"
TWO SHOES TUESDAY
and
at this week's edition of Thirsty for Comments
Acting Balanced

Two Shoes Tuesday #21 - Hero


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline. You are not required to use the actual word in your post, but please use it as the theme.

The writing prompt for January 22, 2013
is "hero"

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.  Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.
 
NOTE: This week (and every other week) the first person who adds a post link to the Two Shoes Tuesday Mr. Linky will be given the opportunity to choose the word prompt for the following week!

Now let's get down to business... tell me about a hero!


Monday Quiz - 1/21/13

Acting Balanced

Just for fun I've decided to join Heather at Acting Balanced  and Wayne at Touristic for their blog hop Monday Quiz About Me.

 There are FOUR QUESTIONS that everyone can answer, and then you have the option to add a fifth question of your own for those who are visiting your blog to answer in the comment section, along with commenting on the four standard questions you answered!

Here are this week's Questions:
1. What was your favorite lunch this past week?
2. Do you shop online?
3. Do you get the "Winter Blues"?
4. Slippers, Socks, Shoes or Bare Feet?
 
And here's my question for you to answer in my comment section on this post:
5. What do you hope people will say about you after you die?


HERE ARE  MY ANSWERS TO THE ABOVE:

1.  What was your favorite lunch this past week?  My husband and I go out for a "date lunch" every Saturday afternoon when get gets off work at 3 pm.  This time we went to Abuelo's, our favorite place for Mexican Food. I had what I always have... the Alambre de Cameron, which is wood-grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapeño strips and cheese. It is soooo good!

2. Do you shop online?  Yes, it's so convenient, especially for books and gifts.  Amazon.com is my favorite website, they have so many different things and they ship fast!

3. Do you get the "Winter Blues"?  I don't like the cold, it makes me achy, and the short days/long nights are a little depressing too.  Saturday and Sunday it got up into the 60's here in West Texas after a week of cold, so that was really nice!  We went out and did some target practice yesterday afternoon, it felt good to spend some time outside without a coat on.

4. Slippers, Socks, Shoes or Bare Feet?  Definite bare feet in the house, shoes go off as soon as I enter the door!  If it's cool, I have some soft house slippers I wear.  Outside, I wear sandals 12 months out of the year, unless it snows.  My toes hate being confined in socks and shoes!

5. What do you hope people will say about you after you die? That I was kind and caring and tried to encourage people.

That's enough about me for this week... now hop on over to Monday Quiz About Me and get to know some other folks!   (And if you enjoy blog hops, stop back by here tomorrow and participate in my Two Shoes Tuesday writing prompt!)

Acting Balanced
 

Overwriting Memories


Many of us carry painful memories from the past which have a tendency to sneak into the forefront and make us sad or depressed.  I have talked often here about overwriting memories and making new memories to replace those negative tapes that play in our heads.  I wanted to share an example of that with you. 

On a Saturday near the end of October in 2006 I hit a turning point in my relationship with my then husband.  It was on that afternoon that push came to shove.  His drug use and subsequent violent outbursts had been escalating for sometime, and I finally realized that if I stayed with him I was going to get hurt.  I secretly made plans that day, and when he headed out the door to his band gig I waited an hour to make sure he didn't return for anything, then rounded up the cats, and put them in the car with the suitcase I'd already placed in the trunk.  In the dead of night I headed down the highway toward my daughter's house six hours away. 

By the time I reached Abilene a few hours later I was exhausted from the fear, stress, and sadness. I had cried most of the way, and the cats had responded with plaintive meows.  I pulled into a small motel on the edge of Abilene and rented a room for the night, knowing that I needed some sleep before completing the trip in the morning.  I was far enough away to be safe now, and I collapsed on the bed exhausted.

My husband got home after the bar closed, finding me gone with a note on the counter telling him I was going away for break, he called my cellphone at 2:30 in the morning asking "Where the hell are you?"  I told him I was headed to spend a few days with my daughter.  I didn't tell him that while I was away I'd be making arrangements to leave him for good, but I'm sure he knew something was  up, since I had never just disappeared without warning before.

Ever since that fateful night, passing thru Abilene when driving down the Interstate has given me chills. I see that crappy little motel and it all comes flooding back... the fear, the sadness, the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and  despair that had overtaken my life at that point.

A few months ago I did something to change that "Abilene connection" in my brain.  I arranged a weekend getaway there with my beloved Papa Bear. We stayed in a nice hotel, ate great food, and did some sightseeing, the highlight being a trip to the zoo.  We had a wonderful time!  Now, when Abilene crosses my mind, or we drive thru there on the Interstate, as we did at Christmas time, I smile, remembering the weekend he and I shared.

We can't erase the memories of our past, and we can't always revisit those places to make new ones, like I have in this instance, but we can add so many new happy memories to our lives that they crowd out the old dark ones and push them far away into their dusty attic boxes where they belong.  You will often hear me say "Make good memories!"  I mean that, be intentional about having fun moments in your life that you can look back on, and that you can replay when you need a bit of cheering up. 

Oh, and you're probably wondering what's up with the photo of giraffes at the top of this post... Papa Bear took that photo, and many others, at the Abilene zoo.  A bridge spanned the giraffe enclosure and you could stand up there and feed them from your hand.  We did, and it was fun! 

I'm sure we'll return to Abilene from time to time.  It's a nice city and I'm looking forward to it.  There will be no tears on the drive, and no sad memories of a night long, long ago.  Just look at how far my life has come since then!  I am truly blessed, and I am grateful!

Forgotten Child


Hiking in the woods, the owners of a newly built cabin found a simple headstone bearing the inscription WILLIAM T. JAMES, BORN JULY 26, 1864 - DIED APRIL 19, 1873.  Through research at the local Historical Society they learned that eight-year-old William had died while rescuing his mother and siblings from their burning cabin that had stood nearby.  He had led them out one by one, but then collapsed, overcome by heat and oxygen deprivation, never to recover.  Rumor had it that his father had started the fire in a drunken rage and then stumbled away into the woods and was never seen again.  William's mother and sisters had moved away, leaving him behind, abandoned and forgotten until the night that lightning struck the new cabin, and the owners were awakened just in time to escape the flames by the terrifying screams of a small boy accompanied by someone unseen pounding on their windows and door.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin for Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "forgotten"  

What If No One Found Out

 
“The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew
he would never be found out.”  ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

What If No One Found Out?
 
Yesterday one of my chronically late coworkers remarked to new employee who is following in her footsteps and arrived twenty-five minutes late, "It doesn't matter, our supervisor isn't here," with the implication being that since he wasn't present to note the tardiness it wasn't a problem. We see examples of that kind of thinking everyday, no only in the workplace but also in our relationships and at home.  (My wife doesn't know I'm cheating on her, my parents don't know I'm skipping school, my brother doesn't know that the money he loaned me is really so I can buy drugs, my friend doesn't know I told her that I'm sick so I could hang out with someone else, etc.)  What they don't know won't hurt them, or us.  Or will it?  Whatever happened to personal itegrity?  Just as the quote says above, true character isn't about the public image we portray, it's about the kind of person we are inside... what we believe, how we determine right from wrong, and how we conduct our lives whe no one is looking. 
 
 There are so many ways we cheat at life... petty theft, little white lies, half-truths, cutting corners when it comes to being stand-up people who follow thru on what they say and keep their commitments. But when we do that we are only fooling ourselves.  Deep down we have that little nagging voice that says "you're faking it, you're pretending to be someone/something you're not."  When we allow ourselves to start chipping away at that line between true and false we allow for further erosion of our character, until we become someone who is no longer capable of determining right from wrong, who finds a way to blur the black and white line in everything they do... situation ethics, always finding some way to justify our behavior.
 
The bottom line is that you may have other people fooled, or at least think you do, but you can never really fool yourself, and in the end you will have yourself to answer for.  Isn't it better to conduct your life in such a way that when you look in the mirror you like the person that you see?  Spend a moment reflecting on the content of your character, what would you do if you knew no one would find out?  Would you still do it if you knew they would?
 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday... join us there!
 

Pondering... Love Thyself

 In this week's Pondering With A Purpose, Brenda asks, Do you love yourself? A seemingly easy question, but the answer is more complicated.  It is well known that if you ask most people to list their weaknesses and faults, they can go on at length, citing trait after trait they dislike about themselves; but if you ask them to list their strengths and assets, they  mumble and fumble and seem almost embarrassed to suggest two or three things they maybe do well, or are ok with about themselves.  Rather sad if you think about it.  
 
Why is that, how do so many people grow up to underestimate their worth as human beings?  Part of the blame undoubtedly lies with the messages we receive as children from parents, teachers, clergy, peers, and others in our lives.  Messages that told us we weren't smart enough or good enough, unimportant and sometimes unwanted. Messages that led us to believe the problems in our homes were our fault, messages that weigh heavily on our impressionable young minds and tender hearts.
 
As we grow older, we discover that there are some things we do better than others, and in fact some things we are good at.  Hopefully, we will encounter individuals who will encourage our interests and talents and help build our confidence in our abilities.  Even more important are those who instill a sense of self-worth in us, and who guide us in learning to navigate life on our own terms to successfully achieve our goals and dreams. Blessed are those who teach us we are responsible for our lives, and that we have not only the power and right, but the obligation to direct what becomes of us.
 
Once we reach adulthood, it can be easy to blame our upbringing for our failures now.  While it's true that what happened during our formative years has a powerful impact, it isn't a life sentence.  Each and every one of us has within us the ability to rewrite the script of our lives, to overwrite the negative messages that replay in our brains every time we try something and aren't instantly successful, or are afraid to even try.  Focus on the things you can do, and add small steps, one after another to build in the direction you want your life to go.  Above all, don't give up on yourself!
 
It took me many years of adulthood, well into midlife, to adjust my attitude to be in harmony with what it says at the top of this post.  We need to stop judging and condemning ourselves, we need to stop hating ourselves for whatever perceived shortcomings and failures we think we have.  We need to be willing to revisit the mirror for a closer look not only at what we do have and what we do right, but also in the light of our potential, to see in ourselves the spirit of love and light we all are endowed with, and to realize that we have the ability to  make a contribution to the world that is uniquely our own.
 
I haven't always loved myself, and I am still filled with imperfections, some obvious and some known only to me, but I believe that I'm a decent, caring person, that I have integrity and a fair understanding of human nature and life, that I have acquired a bit of hard-earned wisdom along the way, and that I have not only the ability but the responsibility to reach out to and encourage others.  I may not be all I'd like to be on the outside, but inside I've grown to like the person that I am.  Today I can honestly answer yes, I do love me now!  It's important for you to love yourself too, find your own sense of awesomeness! :-) 
 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~  
I'm linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's writing prompt is "love thyself"
 

A is for Acrimonious


Round 12 is starting up at ABC Wednesday and I've decided to join in the fun!  A week ago on Two Shoes Tuesday we had "earworm" for a prompt, and we all enjoyed learning a new word, so I've decided to present a vocabulary word each week for ABC Wednesday, words that I like but don't often hear or use in everyday conversation.  Starting off with the letter A, today's word is...

ac·ri·mo·ni·ous  

Adjective (typically of speech or a debate) Angry and bitter. 
Synonyms: acrid - sharp - biting - pungent - caustic - bitter
 
The breakup of Leslie and Jarrod wasn't pretty.  They'd been dating since Jr. High but had headed different directions for college, him to Texas on a football scholarship and her to a school of theatrical arts on the East Coast.  All was fine until she called him late one night, lonely and downhearted after a poor performance on stage, and some giggly girl answered, slurring her words and sounding much like a bimbo he'd picked up at a bar.  Slamming down her cellphone, she picked up her tablet and soon line after line of acrimonious words were flying across her Facebook page for all her friends and his to see.  If only she'd given him a chance to explain that he'd rescued his visiting sister from a kegger and was keeping an eye on her until she sobered up. 

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 
Stop by ABC Wednesday, link up your own A-word post, and read what other folks had to say!

Unaware


I didn't really know "Marlene" all that well, we shared a couple classes at our small-town high school and both worked as candystriper volunteers at the local hospital.  Although raised in a middle-class family, my friends and acquaintances tended to come from blue-collar families. I related to life in their homes better than I did to my own, where things were so concerned with maintaining image and keeping up with the Joneses.

I remember the Saturday afternoon clearly, a call from Marlene telling me thru tears that she had ingested a large quantity of aspirin and was now afraid, and having second thoughts about her intention to die. I had no idea until then how bad things were for her.  She'd been walking around school with her arm and shoulder in a cast for months, the result of an injury sustained while struggling with an old clothes washer, or so she'd said.  People didn't talk about other, darker realities back then. If there were secrets in the house, they kept them to themselves... until the day she reached out to me.

Turning to my mom for help, I got the usual admonition... "don't get involved, call the authorities".  Thanks for understanding mom.... not.  Instead I called my mentor/friend, the school nurse who also served as the coordinator for the candystriper program.  Telling her what was happening with Marlene, who lived several miles out in the country, she jumped quickly in her car and headed that way while alerting the hospital of the emergency situation. 

Marlene was brought to the hospital is serious condition, her body fighting to function despite the deadly does of aspirin.  After she got thru the initial 24-hour period and her body began to stabilize, they let me in to see her.  I brought her a pretty nightgown and soft robe, things she'd probably never had before.  She wouldn't say exactly what had happened, to me or to the doctors, but she told me she  wasn't going back there, back to where her step-father ruled the family with a angry hand. There was more, I knew it as well as she did, but it didn't matter.  Her sense of shame and humiliation was too great to tell anyone how it really was. 

My father was most unhappy that I somehow found myself a part of this, with rumor and gossip swirling in the school and small town.  Everyone wanted to know what I knew about the situation... had she really tried to kill herself, and why?   "Don't get involved" he admonished as I railed against  our community's lack of compassion and understanding.  "This is a bad situation and we don't need any part of it."

 "Don't get involved" was my father's mantra, "don't get involved, you might get hurt."  I understand that in his own way he was trying to protect us, to shield us from the harsh realities of life, but I saw it then, and still now, as a reluctance to take a public stand against things that were wrong. In some ways that shaped my determination to be different, to be one who was willing to speak out.

Back then things such as mental health units or in-patient counseling didn't exist in our community.  A few days in the hospital and Marlene was released to the care of Social Services, who placed her with a single teacher for awhile. From there she bounced to living with a mom and kids in a small apartment, the only person they could find that was willing to take her in, and then to another home.  She kept to herself when she returned to school, but seemed to be ok.  She graduated high school and eventually became a full time nurse's aide working at the same hospital in our town.  We didn't stay in touch after high school but I think of her now and then, and wonder if she is happy and how her life has played out.

Several years later, while visiting with my Dad on the phone, he mentioned that Marlene's step-father had died.  Then he said something that took me totally by surprise, something I'd never heard him say before... "That son-of-a-bitch deserved to die, abusing those girls like that."

He knew!  He had known all along, and if he knew, then his friends who were also members of the business community knew.  And yet all those years ago no one said anything, no one spoke out, no one reached out to help, no justice was handed down.  Yes, he deserved to die, and I  hope it was slow, painful death.  May God have mercy on his soul.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "aware"
TWO SHOES TUESDAY

Two Shoes Tuesday #20 - Aware


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.  You are not required to use the actual word in your post, but please use it as the theme.

The writing prompt for January 15, 2013
(as suggested by The Ranting Monkey)
is "aware"

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... tell us about being "aware"!



I Question


I question.  I question everything, I always have.  You can call it being inquisitive, or blame it on Aquarian curiosity and I'm sure it's both, fueled by my need to be aware of what's happening in order to feel secure about my life.  If we don't know... anything is possible, and anything could be bad.  If we know the facts we can at least attempt to come to terms with the reality they represent.  It is the not knowing which leaves me unsettled.

Why is, of course, my favorite question.  I want to know not just the facts of what is, but also why it is that way.  What caused it, what is the reason or purpose for it, and what is the potential for change?  To that end, I ask lots of questions, as most of you by now know.  Not trivial questions about the weather or why you chose those red shoes, but deep questions that get at the heart of the matter. Given the opportunity, I could and would gladly occupy an entire afternoon or evening asking you questions about yourself, your life, and how you view things.  I use that information not only to form a picture about you in my mind, but also to weigh against my own beliefs and actions, to reconsider if they are still solid or in need of adjustment. 

I also like to ask questions in the possibility that I will learn something new, as often happens.  The study of human nature fascinates me! It is said that everyone has a story to tell, and that is so true. We often think we know a person well, based on what we see and hear on a surface level, and if we take the time to get to know them on a deeper level we are surprised, often in a good way!  Nothing delights me more than finding out that someone is a much deeper thinker than I would have suspected. 

It goes without saying that people often see me as nosey or intrusive because I ask so many questions.  I think it's fair as long as I am willing to accept their choice not to answer (obviously), and also to be willing to answer questions posed to me.  I am pretty much an open book, and there are very few, if any topics that are off-limits if someone sincerely wants to know more about me.  In fact at one time we had "One Question Wednesday" sessions on my blog in which anyone could pose any question and I would answer, and in return I got to ask one of them.  We had a lot of fun with it!

I am good at asking probing questions, I probably should have been a news reporter.  But I am not so good at staying emotionally detached from issues, and so much of news is tragedy or pure stupidity.  What I am not good at is guessing what other people are thinking, or trying to read between the lines.  I am uncomfortable in situations and relationships where the other person leaves you always trying to guess what they really think, or what message they are trying to convey without coming right out and saying it.  I will often say in exasperated tones, "Just tell me!"  Make it plain and clear!  Because my mind is often running in several directions at once, I tend to miss subtle things like hints.  Subtle just doesn't work with me.  And of course it goes without saying, that if you are a more closed person that prefers to keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself, I will probably not be  having a great deal of interaction with you, since I get quickly bored with superficial chit-chat.

I would like to think that I have enough common sense to know when and how to ask things so as not to be over-the-top rude or pushy, though sometimes if I get shut down I might try re-asking or re-phrasing the question at another time, if I feel I have a legitimate reason for wanting to know.  Some people welcome questions as an opportunity to share a bit about themselves and to interact on a more personal level, while others quickly take offense or put up a protective wall.  I had an ex who would get angry any time I asked a question about anything, even a "how do I do this", or "why is it like that" that wasn't of a personal nature.  I eventually learned that questioning was strongly discouraged when he was a child, children were to be seen and not heard, and to just do as told without ever asking why.  He frequently got in trouble for asking, so learned not to do so, and that carried over to his adult intolerance for questioning.  I think he also at times felt insecure and wasn't able to just say "I don't know" if he didn't, believing that it would somehow make him seem less in my eyes if he didn't know all the answers, when in reality who of us does?  "I honestly don't know", is a fair answer as far as I'm concerned, a jumping off point for us to see if we can both find out and learn something new!

Sometimes I do wish I had more of a tendency to just accept what happens without question. It has caused me many problems in life, one example being when the pastor of the church I was raised in nearly refused my participation in confirmation rites at the age of sixteen, because I asked too many questions that made him uncomfortable.  I had just wanted to understand more about the beliefs I was about to adopt as my own.  Needless to say, I am no longer a member of that church, it wasn't a good fit.

The reality is that I will always seek to know more, to understand better, and to learn knew things. It it who and what I am, and I honestly don't think it's such a bad thing.  Wisdom comes from understanding, as does learning to get along with each other in this world!  Once we understand someone, it is less likely we will have reason to fear them or to draw the wrong conclusions.  My advice is to "Speak up"! Make yourself and your intentions clear, and when in doubt, question! :-)

A Door Slammed Shut


“You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It wont happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.” - Joel Osteen

~*~*~*~

It started out like every other Monday morning, with me dragging myself out of bed after hitting the snooze button a couple more times and fantasizing about ignoring it altogether.  First order of business before getting ready for work - checking Facebook and my email to see what's new.

At that point, reality took a sharp turn to the left, taking my breath away and causing my heart to stop mid-beat. I found an email from someone I care deeply about, basically saying that they needed to put distance between us.

What?  I read it again, and again, surely that's not what it said? But it did.  No explanation was given.  My mind went into spin cycle, trying to go over everything that had been shared in recent weeks.  Had I said something wrong, had I done something wrong?  Nothing that I could think of. 

I wrote back, asking questions.  They reply was every bit as vague and un-informing as the first note.  I was told to just understand and accept it.  But there was nothing said to understand, and five days later I still don't.  Papa Bear was as confused by it as I am.  He found it hard to believe, and said it was something he never expected.  I never expected it to happen either.  I thought this relationship was good for a lifetime.

I have gone thru the typical process of coping with sudden changes this week... disbelief, anger, frustration, depression, and doubting myself.  I had to paste on my happy face at work, but outside of work the face was not so happy, tears flowed, and words wouldn't come easy as I struggled to blog, only because focusing on writing is often my salvation.

We can't make people be a part of our lives if they choose not to do so, nor can we force them to explain if they won't.  Still, it hurts, deeply, as this was the first time I had truly opened myself up to anyone in a long, long time.  The crossing gates go down, the warning lights flash, the bells go off in my head... "Warning, danger, don't cross this way again, you'll only get hurt!"  Lesson learned... until next time I stick my head out of my turtle shell and put my heart on the line, and despite my strongest intentions, I know I will.  The desire to reach out and connect is strong in all of us, that's one of the reasons I blog.

It's been a week of intense emotional struggle, and coming to terms with life again (refer to quote above).  It is what it is.  I don't understand and I probably never will.  Communication is so important to me in relationships, and the lack of it goes against everything I believe in.  It is cruel, it is unfair.  Life is unfair.  Get over it Josie, and move on... and move on I will, because I must.  

Writing out my hurt and frustration has always been my therapy, today was the first time I could put it into words.  It's over now, done, trust damaged beyond repair. I took someone at their word, and their words proved to be empty.  A door may have slammed shut this week, but I'm going to pick myself up and move forward.  In reality that's all we can do when life knocks us down.  I am, after all, a survivor. 

To Have And To Hold... Or Not


I have written some about where I work before - a law firm that specializes in assisting people with Social Security disability claims.  Our clients are not your typical folks filing frivolous lawsuits or engaging attorneys in high-dollar divorces.  Most often, when someone secures our services to assist them with their claim, they have been disabled by illness or injury, and have been out of work for a period of months or even years. They have often tried to negotiate the Social Security Disability paper maze on their own, and have been unsuccessful.  A high percentage of disability claims are initially rejected by the SSA.  

We assist with initial filing (step 1), requesting reconsiderations (step 2) and hearings (step 3), and Appeals Council Reviews (step 4), and our firm is generally quite successful.  However, our attorneys are not miracle workers or magicians, and they cannot pull a rabbit out of the hat.  Contrary to popular belief, we have no way to move a claim faster thru the Social Security system, or to circumvent Social Security Regulations. 

Our clients are often in extremely difficult situations both financially and emotionally. They come from all walks of life, but now find themselves with no source of income, dependent on family and/or the pitifully small amount of government assistance available. They are sick, and often getting sicker; some are terminally ill. They have injuries that are irreversible, or cannot be repaired without expensive surgeries that they have no means to pay for.  They feel worthless because they can no longer work and provide for their families; they are losing or have lost their homes and their vehicles, and sometimes their spouses who can't cope with the long term problems they are facing. 

Many of our clients suffer from various forms of mental illness, and/or are addicted to drugs or alcohol.  Some have low-functioning IQ's, some have a been recently incarcerated.  More than a few are homeless, in and out of local shelters, and living on the streets.  Some feel so hopeless about their situation that they have attempted suicide, and a few have died waiting for their claims to be settled, which can easily take a year or longer. It is the nature of our business, and it's not pretty... it's tragic. 

Generally, I love working with our clients, both on the phone and in person.  I feel like I can make a difference in a small way in their lives by treating them with dignity and compassion.  I am ever mindful that there but for the grace of God, go I.  I am the friendly voice on the phone, or the smile behind the desk in the reception area, willing to take a few extra minutes to ask them how they are doing and show them someone cares enough to listen.

This can also be a brutally hard job, and it takes a toll on me.  Day after day I receive calls from  people who are at the end of their emotional ropes.  They are in pain, they are out in the cold, they feel despair, and they have no one to focus that anger and frustration on other than their connection with the Social Security system... us.  I explain as patiently and kindly as possible, that we are a law firm, that we are there to try to help them win their cases, but we are unable to help with food, housing, and medical needs.  We refer them to what agencies our city has that might be able to help in some small way, but it's rarely enough to be of real assistance.  To say they are desperate is an understatement.  They don't know which way to turn, and we have few, if any answers.  The Social Security Disability process is a waiting game.  Waiting isn't easy when your survival is on the line.

Now let me tell you about our offices.  We lease a suite of six offices on the ninth floor of the bank building downtown.  Our offices occupy the West end of our floor.  Due to the layout of our suite I cannot see anyone coming down the hall  until they are just outside of our door.  Along with the entrance to my reception area, there is only one other door, for exit purposes only, which is just on the other side of the reception area at the front end of the long row of offices.  Our head attorney's office is across from mine.  Once you head back down the hallway to the four remaining offices, it dead-ends.  There is no emergency exit, nor is their a means of window exit... nine floors is a long way straight down.

The point of this post is to provide you with a background regarding an issue that has come to the forefront lately... our safety.  While we have a security guard in the building for five of the nine hours it is open, he is not issued a gun! He carries a flashlight, pepper spray and handcuffs.  Although semi-retired, he is certainly strong enough to subdue trouble makers, but... that would not be effective against someone with a handgun.  Also, the time it would take for him to take the elevator to our floor would not make for instant intervention, should we be able to summon him. 

We recently dealt with an upset employee that had been terminated, and we encounter agitated clients every day who feel that we have not done enough for them. I sit at the reception desk, I am first in the line of fire.  I pride myself on being able to deal fairly well with most folks who are upset, and am generally able to calm them down to a more rational level of communication.  But.... if someone was looking to make the news as a final statement of desperation and came down the hall with a handgun, I am a sitting duck, or more likely, a dead duck. 

We've been talking about it at work lately.  If the staff in the offices heard a commotion in the reception area they could call for help, but it would be highly unwise for them to come charging down the hall to assist me without some kind of weapon at their disposal.  A can of pepper spray can't stand up to a gun-wielding crazy person! It would likely mean the loss of more life.  So I have instructed them not to be valiant idiots, but rather to lock their doors, crawl under their desks, and summon help.

Yesterday we had a visitor to our office who was clearly there for purposes other than just to inquire about obtaining our services.  When he entered downstairs, he asked the security guard where the restrooms were, and was directed to the 2nd floor. (Oddly enough, we have no public restrooms on the first floor.)  The guard watched the hallway/elevator monitor cameras and noted that the man did not stop at the 2nd floor, but came to our floor instead.  So the guard quickly came up and followed him down the hallway as he entered our office.  The man sat in the chair in front of my desk as I responded to his questions and explained disability regulations and the process of filing claims.  He said he was 62, and thus would automatically qualify for early retirement benefits. 

Only myself and one other co-worker were present in the offices at the time, since it was shortly before lunch.  I went over the facts and issues with him several times, and also discussed the worker's comp claim papers he had gotten from the state employment service.  He was unhappy with his treatment there too, claiming no one would help him with the forms and that no one there spoke Spanish, which is highly unlikely due to the large Hispanic population here, and the volume of Spanish-speaking people government agencies deal with. 

All the time I was talking with him,  the security guard was standing just on the other side of the doorway listening.  The visitor was nervous, eyes darting around, and asking more than once if someone was knocking at our other door.  Finally he accepted that I was unable to assist him and as he got up to leave he asked where the restroom was.  I directed him to the one next to the elevators on our floor.  He left, but did not go to the restroom.  The security guard watched him get back on the elevator, ostensibly to leave the building. A short while later security cameras filmed him exiting the elevator on the 11th floor, clearly  roaming the building for some reason - possibly looking for a  place to sleep, as we have indigents frequently trying to hide in the building overnight to keep warm.  We have a couple unoccupied floors that make this possible, if one is very careful and clever.  It has happened before. 

Sooo... we had no further problems with this visitor and he didn't reappear, although we all were on alert.  But once again the issue came up that if someone meant to cause harm, or was emotionally unstable, it could have quickly become a very bad situation.

Our senior attorney, in his mid-thirties, is talking about obtaining his concealed carry handgun permit, and for the first time, so am I.  I have a handgun, an awesome Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm semi-automatic.  I use it strictly for target practice, and for security at home.  John has a concealed carry permit and  his handgun is with him when he is away from home; he has encouraged me to do the same, but I have been resistant to the idea.  I have never felt the need or desire to obtain a  permit or to carry my gun.  Old woman packing heat... it all seems kind of surreal.  The whole idea really disturbs me, to think that we are now living in a world where folks need to walk around armed.  And yet... given my work environment, maybe it's not so dumb after all.  

Do I really want to  just sit there unable to do anything realistic to defend myself and/or my co-workers should the need arise? I believe in the sanctity of life, and in co-existing peacefully in the world.  I  believe in using communication and all other means of diffusing a situation before resorting to violence.  But if the situation demanded it, if my life was in jeopardy and there was clearly no other option... could I retrieve a handgun from the shelf under my desk and use it?  Maybe.  I'm still contemplating it.  I'll get back to you on it once I decide.