Choices

A friend of mine readily admits some of her fondest memories involve watching “Pretty Little Liars” with her grandmother. Her nana.

Nana told me she had no interest in the program, but it was a way to spend time with her youngest grandchild on a regular basis. Despite her lack of concern for the fate of the various characters, she could handily talk through any given plot line from the show. Heather, her granddaughter, would proudly ask Nana a question about the series, and Nana would give a complete answer, smiling as she relayed the tale.

I’ve written before about the right or wrong of spending time doing something you don’t enjoy for the sake of one you care about. I believe sometimes you suck it up and go to the shower you’d rather avoid, because your love for the cousin who’s being honored is greater than your disdain for ditzy party games.

I understand the thinking of those who say “life is too short for me to do something like (fill in the blank), no matter who’s involved,” and in some ways I endorse it. There are certainly multiple opportunities to honor a loved one (and if there truly is only one chance, consider that fact carefully).

How do we balance looking out for ourselves first without being unnecessarily selfish? With children, it’s an easier decision. Sometimes the best way to build trust with a child is to watch a television show they love or read aloud a book that sends you screaming.

It would be a rare situation where I’d watch The Young and the Restless just to make a roommate happy. And yet, that’s exactly what happened nearly 30 years ago. My then-roommate and I weren’t getting along. We liked and respected each other, but living together presented challenges. We also had one television set between us. Compromise was essential.

We agreed to air the taped episodes two nights a week, and reluctantly I joined her. I never did embrace soap opera fandom, but watching and safely gossiping about those shows created a bond. We are friends to this day.

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In today’s world this example is a bit moot. With the ability to watch your favorite program at your leisure on your choice of devices, you can easily distance yourself from the undesirable family member or roommate.

But where does that get you?

I offer no answers, only questions to ponder. When is being selfish cutting yourself off from healthy relationships? On the flip side, when is it saving you from an antagonistic experience?

Life is full of choices, and the answers so often are ambiguous. The thinking process, however, needn’t be so vague. Ultimately, the decision is yours. And sometimes taking care of others is taking care of yourself.


Image Credits: © stock.adobe.com

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Unexpected Blessings

Today I was helping a friend pack up multiple boxes of household goods to give to various local charities. She’d had a garage sale a couple of weeks ago, and we were clearing out what remained.

This was in her previous home, which she plans to put on the market as soon as it’s clear of clutter and the carpet is replaced. Until the last few days, the weather has been mild, but the temperatures dropped below freezing last night, and the inside temperature when we arrived was 48 degrees.

Jo handed me a coat she planned to give to Goodwill, asking me, as she helped me put it on, if I had a good winter coat. “This one’s vicuña,” she said with a smile. I turned around. “It looks good on you.”

It fit, too, but I have a winter coat, and declined her offer. Later, I got to thinking about. Vicuña — isn’t that a luxury fiber? I’d just been wondering what coat I would wear if I had the opportunity to go somewhere dressier than my usual haunts (that is to say, something that required more than jeans). I hated to see such a lovely coat go to Goodwill…it could end up belonging to someone with no appreciation for vicuña.

Vintage vicuña, at that. A coat like this can go for thousands of dollars today. I accepted her offer.

Suddenly, I felt like a princess. Trust me, this coat isn’t being worn on a regular basis. It won’t be stuffed in a locker at work or thrown in the back seat of my car because the day has warmed up. It will be treasured.

Vicuña are the endangered cousins of llamas, adorable creatures whose wool was once only permitted for the clothing of Incan royalty (you see why I felt like a princess). Fiber made from this precious fleece is like spun gold.

I’m running out for cedar blocks to hang in my coat closet. No moth better even think of chomping on my coat.

I’m in awe of this treasure, and thankful my friend thought of me.

Some days bring unexpected blessings.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Narrow Path of Middle Ground

Recently I was tempted to very loudly tell a salesperson to shut up and leave me alone.

I’ve worked retail long enough to know management puts a lot of pressure on sales associates to push the company credit card. They provide all sorts of helpful tools to overcome objections, and expect their workers to talk a certain percentage of customers into applying right then and there.

Most of the time, a bored sales associate rattles off a line something like, “Would you like to save ten percent today with a (company name) credit card and receive notices about special sales exclusively for our card-holding customers?” I smile and say thank you, no, and we proceed with the purchase.

Recently, however, my mom and I were shopping, and it didn’t go so smoothly. After the initial question, I replied, “We’re not interested.”

“You’d get special discounts throughout the year, and can easily take advantage of our already low prices.”

“We’re not interested.”

“It would only take a minute to apply. I’m sure you’d be approved.” Seriously? You’re sure?

“We’re not interested.”

“We have so much wonderful merchandise, I’d hate for you to lose out…”

Angry WomanThis was the point where I wanted to shout, “WE ARE NOT INTERESTED. JUST RING UP OUR PURCHASE AND STOP HARASSING US ABOUT YOUR DAMN CARD.”

It was my mom’s birthday, and we were shopping for her, so I stopped myself. Okay, I may not have done it anyway. But I really wanted to let this whiny-voiced woman know how offensive she was being.

Moderation in everything. I can’t say it’s outside the realm of possibilities that either my mom or I would apply for that company’s credit card in the future. If we do, I can guarantee it won’t be because of pushy sales tactics.

Persuasion is a game for diplomats. To truly bring someone around to your side, you need to find some common ground, build a rapport. I don’t know how you’d do that in the above situation, except to say I do know most of us expect the question and know whether or not we want to save ten percent today. Your best bet at winning me over is a friendly attitude and understanding smile.

But what if what you’re trying to sell is something far more personal, something that people feel passionately about? Never discuss religion or politics, the saying goes, and we all know why. You’re likely to end up in a fruitless argument.

Today I (somewhat foolishly) responded to a friend who is a true believer in an Unnamed Politician. Okay, Donald Trump. I’m not. Wisest to stay away from any confrontation, because I won’t change my friend’s mind. But he had written something on Facebook I strongly disagreed with, so I felt compelled to respond.

Flag 2 scI knew what not to say. I laid out the reasons for my feelings in a straightforward manner, and sought the narrow path of common ground with my friend. “I don’t expect any president to be perfect,” I wrote in part, “and I respect that it is a challenging job. I want all of our presidents to succeed, just as I want our country to succeed. I just don’t trust President Trump.”

My friend, who has different ideas than I do about what will make our country successful, replied in a gracious and kind manner, saying (among other things) that while he didn’t vote for President Obama, he was willing to give him a chance, but disagreed about the direction he was taking.

We will never agree about politics, but we will listen to the other, and maybe learn something valuable.

And we’ll remain friends, and that is more important than any argument about politics.


Image Credits: (Path) © studioturburu — Adobe Stock/Fotolia (Screaming Woman) © Igor Zakowski — Adobe Stock/Fotolia; (Flag) © Bigstock

A Year Later

Hard to believe it’s been a year.

Last year on this day, at about this time, I got a text from my friend Laurie letting me know her brother, Monte, had died. We’d been expecting this news; he’d been battling cancer for several years. His treatment had been compromised in the beginning because he developed an infection after surgery, and eventually, it was evident he was going to lose the fight.

I’ve detailed Laurie’s story before, so I won’t go into it here, except to say, a few months before her brother died, her mother had passed away. I imagine yesterday, so close to the anniversary of Monte’s death and only the second Mother’s Day since losing her mom, might have been emotional.

Several of my friends lost their moms last year, and my heart goes out to all of them as they face the day with a sense of sorrow and longing. At least one woman had a challenging relationship with her mother, which brings with it a different, yet equally difficult, set of emotions.

My mom is still with me, and I’m grateful for every day. My dad, my brother and my sister are all still alive and healthy, and I know I’m lucky for that blessing as well.

To those who faced the loss of anyone you loved in the past year (and I include beloved pets, because their loss brings its own pain), may you find peace.

Peace, and purpose.


Photo Credit: © Bigstock

Make ’em Laugh

I have an offbeat sense of humor, and sometimes things I think are funny fall flat.

Cat had no idea
Even the best jokes draw a blank sometimes.

I guess that’s true of many, if not most, people at one time or the other, but it doesn’t feel terribly universal when you’re sitting with a group of your peers and realize either you weren’t as hysterical as you thought, you were totally off with your reference, or your peers are your peers because of job title, not age, and they’ve never heard of the (very famous, Oscar-winning) film you used as a punch line.

In my case, I was working at a major bookstore, and we were having some annual pre-holiday training. The staff was split into small groups, and the various managers led their groups in practical exercises.

Quentin, one of the assistant managers, was in charge of my team, all seven of us. I was in my 40s, Quentin was maybe 30, and the six others were no more than 25. I should have known better.

“You have a customer who’s going on vacation to Turkey with her husband in January, and she wants to put together a Christmas stocking with things he can use for their trip. What would you suggest?” Quentin asked his bored employees.

The suggestions were made half-heartedly. A map — a travel guide to Turkey — some games or crossword puzzles for the plane trip. My team members were missing the obvious.

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Honestly, I swear to you, it’s funny.

“A DVD of Midnight Express,” I said.

No one got it. In fact, they’d never heard of the movie. As it turns out, none of them were even alive when it was released. Well, Quentin may have been in diapers, but he still wasn’t familiar with this iconic film. I was left with the option of either explaining my joke (usually a bad choice) or telling everyone to ask their parents.

For those of you not familiar with Midnight Express, it’s a fictionalized account of the true story of a man arrested for smuggling hashish out of Turkey.  It was a tortuous experience, and eventually he escaped, before certain death in the Turkish prison.

Okay, maybe not the film to watch before a vacation to that beautiful country. Still, I laugh at my own joke even today, more than ten years later.

The stereotypical requirements for a desirable spouse go like this, “attractive, intelligent, with a good sense of humor.” Translation? “Someone I’m attracted to, who is as smart, but not too much smarter, than I am, and who laughs at the same things I do.”  I know there are people out there, even other people on that same job (who sadly were on a different team), who would have laughed at my joke.

Cat holding his stomach in laughter
“Midnight Express”? Ohmigosh my tummy hurts I’m laughing so hard!!

My friend Laurie would laugh. That’s one of the reasons she’s been one of my best friends for more than 35 years. We may find humor in odd things, but we’re sharing the joke. Her husband has the same brand of humor, and it’s helped get them through some tough times. In fact, they can joke about the pitfalls of marriage, something some of my friends forget to do.

You have to laugh, or you’ll go crazy. Find the humor and share it.

And hang on to the friends who can’t help themselves and laugh with you.


Images © geosap — Fotolia

Please Forgive Me

Yes, I told her what had happened. Actually, I sent her a copy of the newspaper article, along with a card. I knew she’d never see the story herself, and I doubted anyone else would tell her about it.

AdobeStock_110950857 [Converted]So I told her. I’m sorry if I hurt you, that wasn’t my intention. In fact, if anything, it was just the opposite.

Of course I’m on your side. And I think you secretly wanted me, or someone, to tell her, but you didn’t know how to ask.

No, I didn’t tell anyone else about it. They don’t need to know, and I don’t think they’d understand what we both know, that she isn’t evil, she isn’t a terrible person. She just was the wrong person for you.

AdobeStock_141244605 [Converted]But some ties are hard to break, even when others are splintered beyond repair. Despite your pain you know that’s true. She deserved to know.

I’m still on your side. Please forgive me.


All images © geosap – Fotolia

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Everything in its Time…

…but I hope that time is soon.

I’ve written about one of my best friends here in the past before. Laurie has been through a series of heartbreaks in the last few years, but it looks like things are turning around. Fingers crossed, knock wood, please God. Please.

Sand storm

Her husband has been through two major health setbacks, and I do mean major. He had a benign brain tumor that slowly had taken away his ability to function in life before it was diagnosed and removed, days, if not hours, before certain death. A few years after that, doctors discovered he had colon cancer. It took three years for him to be cancer-free.

Laurie’s brother, Monte, wasn’t so lucky. He, too, had been diagnosed with colon cancer, sometime between Dave’s brain surgery and cancer treatments. He developed an infection after the initial surgery, which postponed chemotherapy and allowed the cancer to ravage his body. He died last year, a few months short of his 50th birthday.

Her mom had died only seven months before Monte.  Laurie is heartbroken and emotionally drained. Her reserves are depleted. She finds joy in her children, who thankfully are healthy, happy and on the right track, both in college, both sharp as tacks. Yes, they no doubt carry scars from the years of their dad’s decline, not to mention the trauma that followed, but Laurie and Dave are good parents, there to support them.

A couple of weeks ago I got a message from Laurie telling me Dave was interviewing for several jobs, and the interviews were going well. One lasted 75 minutes, and he was called back for a second interview. He hasn’t worked in seven or eight years, and that’s hard on most men. He wants to work, wants to contribute to the family income, wants to be a vital part of the community in that particular way.

Vorsicht Rutschgefahr!

This job sounded perfect for him. I was so excited, and I believed he would get the job. Moments ago I found out he didn’t, which has crushed Laurie. I told her how sorry I was, that I had thought this was it, and at least we know he interviews well, a very important part of the job hunt.

I suspect that piece of good news isn’t important to them right now, but soon, I trust, he will take hope in it.

I always interviewed well, but I remember a period of time where I was getting this close to several jobs, and inevitably I’d get the call: “I was up all night trying to decide, and finally I chose the other candidate. I’m so sorry. If we have any other openings or she doesn’t work out, I’ll call you.”

The first time, the rejection only stung a little. The second time, I was discouraged but had other interviews in the works. The third time, I admit I wasn’t even able to be upbeat when my prospective employer called with the disappointing news. I couldn’t summon the strength to say, “I understand, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about the job. I hope we meet again sometime,” or something equally trite yet professional. I did say thank you, of course, but I was feeling deflated and overwhelmed, and it showed.

At some point after that, a former employer called and offered me a job with his new business. Okay, the story doesn’t have a truly happy ending here. It was the dream job from hell. Shortly after I accepted the position, but before I recognized the reality, I got a call from one of the companies I’d interviewed with, asking if I was still available. Given the opportunity to go back in time, yeah, I would have taken that job. But hindsight and so on.

I believe Dave will get a job. I pray it’s something he’s happy with, at least content with, for the time he is there. Yes, I’d love it if he could find something he was passionate about, but right now I believe he’d take a job that was less than his dream position, as long as it was rewarding in some concrete way.

Timing is everything. Persistence is critical. Hope is a gift we must make use of every day.

Remind me of this post in the weeks to come. My own job hunt is underway.


Photo Credits: (Desert Trees) © Nico Smit — Fotolia; (Leaves) © Marion Neuhauß – Fotolia; (Sunrise) © Pellinni – Fotolia