Attitude, Ahoy!

Wow, getting back into the swing of things–in this case a full-time job–is difficult after so many years of part-time work. On top of that, the last time I had full-time work I was working out of my home, so there was a certain amount of freedom there. Now, I’m at the workplace Monday through Friday, eight hours a day. And frankly, the job is not much of a challenge.

However, I’m at a point in my life where good benefits are just as important as the job itself, and I have good benefits. For example, I get three weeks of vacation next year, not to mention two floating holidays. That’s on top of the 3.33 days of vacation I’ll have earned by the end of December. I’m not comfortable taking those vacation days before my 90 days is up, which will put me smack dab in the middle of December. Instead, I’m carrying them over to the third week in January.

AdobeStock_158786624We get MLK day off, which of course is a Monday. My birthday is the very next day, so I’m planning on taking that entire week off and celebrating or crying, whichever mood strikes me at the time. Actually, I’ll probably spend the week housecleaning and maybe clearing out some of my spare bedroom–a.k.a. the junk room. All that extra stuff weighs heavily on me. Ideally I’d like to get down to just enough stuff to fill a one-bedroom apartment, but that’s a ways off. Still, it’s good to have a goal.

Back to the benefits. The one big drawback is the High Deductible. Fifteen hundred dollars, and that includes prescriptions. That’s a big chunk of change and the out-of-pocket goes even higher, another fifteen hundred. That’s a high percentage of my annual salary, so knock wood and lift up my prayers that I’m never burdened with hefty medical bills.

Still, I’m grateful for the work, as dull as it is, and I’m certainly grateful for the benefits, imperfect as they are. Three paid weeks of vacation is a big deal for me. So, as the song says, I’m going to accentuate the positive.


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Shades of Prejudice

Is prejudice so ingrained we can’t overcome it?

I don’t know. I believe we can work past at least some of our racism (or other -ism) when we become aware of it, but is there a residual element that lingers? I was listening to the radio the other day–most likely NPR–and heard an interview where a young man who’d broken away from a white supremacy group still found himself battling the hate. There’s little, if any, support for those who are trying to change their thinking in that situation.

There’s more support for us ordinary folks who sincerely seek to broaden our thinking and become better people. Still, it’s sometimes hard to admit exactly what we are thinking, especially when we don’t the root of it ourselves. Did I dismiss an author because he’s black, or because I thought the premise of his book was trite? Did I think the premise of his book was trite because he’s black? The latter I feel fairly confident is not true. Trite is trite and this was trite.

I’ve experienced a modicum of prejudice in my life because of my Polish heritage. A few weeks ago a friend made some snide remark about how you wouldn’t expect a Pole to have blonde hair. Sitting directly across from us was another friend, also of Polish descent, who is about as blonde as they come. Naturally blonde. She just grinned and I rolled my eyes, but like a game of Mad Libs, I could easily see substituting blonde hair for having a high IQ. I’ve heard that one plenty of times. And it doesn’t take too much imagination to take the Mad Libs analogy a little bit further.

There are shades of prejudice and I don’t know which is worse, the subtle shades or the sharp ones. All I can do is seek the truth and see the shades of difference that make each of us unique and our stories valid.


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The Beauty in Instinct

“I went with my gut.”

Perilous words for some. For others, it more likely means a wise decision. It depends in many ways just how informed your gut is about a given situation, and how finely tuned your sense of intuition might be.

I’ve read articles by renowned thinkers that tell us intuition is nothing more than a response to how much we know. I believe intuition can kick in when there are tiny details in our lives that don’t add up, or perhaps do add up to something dangerous. Things we aren’t consciously aware of but our brain registers them nonetheless.

Still, there is something to be said for the unknowable. The renowned thinkers I just referred to were all men, and while I have great respect for their credentials, I think they are missing something. I think there is a sixth sense some people have about the world around them. There is something to the phenomenon of woman’s intuition.

Now it could be that this so-called sixth sense is an awareness of a dimension of existence not everyone sees, hears or feels. It could be a gift from God. Don’t get me wrong–I have a great respect for science. I just believe there is a side of our existence that can only be explained in part by the physical. The rest is a mystery.

I don’t want to limit myself to what the human brain can understand. I believe in God, and I believe that by definition he can’t be fully understand by mere mortals. That’s not to say he hasn’t put things in motion, giving scientists something to discover. Without science, we would be living in chaos.

And going with our gut doesn’t mean there isn’t perfectly logical reasons for doing so. We may not be able to articulate those feelings, but they’re valid. Still, there is the unknown. I’ve said it before in a different context: You don’t know what you don’t know. Time will reveal more scientific discoveries, but there will always be that which cannot be explained.

That’s the beauty of it.


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Anticipation

Thin Mints. Once a year.

Are Girl Scout cookies really better than anything else out there, or do we savor them more because of the short window of time in which they’re available? I have friends who buy cases of them and put the extras in the freezer. Wouldn’t do me much good. No matter how many I buy, they’d be gone within a month.

bigstock-red-retro-tv-set-7338444 [Converted]Used to be you could only watch certain movies once a year, perhaps at the holidays. Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, for example. Certainly The Wizard of Oz. Annually, that wicked witch had me running to hide underneath the bathroom sink. But it was only once a year, and as scared as I might get, it was an event.

I don’t know how often I’ve seen that the Harry Potter movies are playing on cable television. I’ve never watched any of them, and perhaps part of that reason is I know I easily can watch next week, next month or, worst case scenario, three months from now.

Of course there’s always the DVR to record those movies you think you might want to watch at some point, or the DVD player if you choose to buy them (or in my case, check them out at the library).

There’s something to be said for the specialness of specials. I miss those annual events, like the made-for-TV movie of Cinderella. Not the Disney film, but the one starring a very young Lesley Ann Warren. They remade it several years ago, and it was a decent remake, but not as special as the one you had to wait for annually.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the fact that if I have a favorite movie on DVD I can watch it when I want, or if there’s nothing on TV I want to see I can pull out The Mary Tyler Moore Show. 

Television has changed, and many, if not most, of those changes are good. Still, I remember when “Hallmark made-for-TV movie” meant an Emmy-worthy program. Those Hallmark Hall of Fame films were good, really good. There was a sense of anticipation when you saw them advertised, because you knew it would be a quality show. You don’t see that anymore, at least not on Hallmark.

When we usher in the new, we end up tossing out both the good and bad about the old. Something to consider when we jump on the latest technology simply because it’s the latest technology.

Thank goodness the Girl Scouts are smart enough to build up a demand for their products.


Image Credits: Retro TV Set © Bigstockphoto.com; Calendar and Clock © Stillfx–stock.adobe.com

 

Truth to Tell

A few years ago I was having a healthy discussion with a friend’s husband about some political brouhaha or the other. Now, I like Greg. He’s treated me well over the years, but more importantly, he’s treated his wife, Jamie, like the treasure that she is. We’ve always disagreed politically but have never lowered ourselves when talking about this issue or that. Perhaps we both recognize there is fault on either side.

However, a few minutes into our animated talk I realized something I hadn’t caught on to before: Greg was a proficient storyteller, and he had no issue straying from the truth. As he rambled off some “facts” to me, points I knew objectively to be false, I glanced over at Jamie. Did she know he was lying?

Of course she did. Over the years mutual friends and I have more fully recognized the extent of Greg’s, shall we say, misinterpretation of the facts, but none of us have ever said anything about it to Jamie, nor has she said anything to us. It is understood that this is a fault, and a somewhat benign one in context, nothing of which we need to take issue. Frankly, I doubt most conversations between me and Greg would end any differently if he did diligently adhere to the facts. We would agree and disagree in the same measure.

I need to make it clear that as far as we know, Greg doesn’t lie to Jamie about issues important to their marriage. He limits the falsehoods to certain types of storytelling and political debate. It doesn’t make us question him in other conversations–he has seemingly never exaggerated his children’s success, for example, or for that matter, their failures. He is an honest businessman.

Integrity is a difficult issue to define at times. Some would say if Greg can’t stick to the truth in his storytelling you can’t trust anything he tells you. Knowing him as I do, I trust him. Has he perhaps told me Jamie wasn’t home when she simply didn’t feel like talking? Maybe. But that doesn’t bother me.

I appreciate spouses who can lift their partner up without pulling the rest of us down. This is perhaps doubly true because of another couple I’m friends with who will protect each other to the point of lying in a manner that belittles me. When I know the truth, and you know I know the truth, why would you lie about something just to make a fool of me?

It’s a delicate balance and it’s part of the reason relationships can be so challenging. Our perspective shapes the way we evaluate the veracity of other’s conversations. What some consider wrong others don’t even hear.

We all have to live with the faults of others, but as Millie Helper said in one of my favorite episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “People would be pretty dull without them.”

And therein lies at least one truth.


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Multiple Paths

Here I am, waiting for the next phase of my life to begin. Except it’s already started. I just don’t know where it’s going.

For so long I’ve been waiting for this point, and now that it’s here, it’s harder than I imagined. Those of who’ve been following my blog for any length of time know that I suffered a terrible setback in my life, an injustice that nearly destroyed me. Now I’m beyond the worst of that, but thrown into a whole new slew of obstacles.

It’s hard to job hunt when you’re over — a certain age. I’m there, and while it didn’t hurt me a year ago (I eventually lost that job), now I believe it’s holding me back. There’s that, and the fact that I’ve been freelancing for so long that I don’t have any recent office experience. So now I’m looking at starting a new chapter in my freelancing, and the prospects are intriguing.

Fortunately I’ve been able to find part-time work, even though the pay is horrid. But anything helps.

I’ve heard it said before if you don’t have goals you’ll end up nowhere. But what do you do when your goals appear to be unreachable? I’m trying to set new goals, but that’s a challenge, too. Things are never what you expect them to be.

Ah, life. It seems to challenge some of us more than others. Having said that, I don’t know what unseen challenges others face. Still, I think it’s fair to say some of us deal with more than others, but how do you determine levels of pain in another’s life? You don’t.

Most of my life people have assumed I’ve been very sheltered and I’m naïve about the world around me. I don’t know exactly why they believe it, but it frustrates me. Even people I’m close to, those who know in detail what I’ve dealt with, come around to thinking I’m wide-eyed and innocent. I’m not, but I’m not about to try to prove it.

The best thing I can do at this point is set daily and weekly goals and leave the future a bit undefined. My current long-term goal? Financial independence. I’m trusting one of the paths I’m following will lead me there.

If not, I’ll have to forge a new path.


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I Will Literally Die…Ironically, Of Course

Trends are a funny thing. I tend to stay away from them because in the end, they just date you. Fortunately I recognized that back in the 80s when multiple ear piercings were all the rage. I had friends, conservative mom types, who had up to seven piercings. Now they’ve got a series of tiny scars.

I don’t know that those scars are so horrible. Certainly not like some of these tattoos are going to look as people age. If you must get a tattoo, look at your parents — or grandparents — and picture it on their sagging skin before you decide where to ink up.

Today it’s those cold-shoulder tops you see everyone — I mean everyone — wearing. I was in line while shopping when the woman standing behind me called over a 60-something friend.

“Oh, I just love your t-shirt!” she said in reference to a blue peekaboo number. “Your shoulders are beautiful. You look ten years younger.”

I couldn’t help it. I turned to look. The top was cute, if you like the style, but for crying out loud, I’m quite sure she didn’t look a day younger because her shoulders were on display. Well, wearing something current would help. I’ll give you that.

Are you reading this post ironically? If so, tell me what that means. Okay, I know what it means, so I know you’re using the word incorrectly. I looked it up in case there was an obscure definition people pulled from. That would have impressed me. There’s  not.

Fashion, body art, vocabulary — it all comes and goes. For those of you using the word ironically to mean you’re doing something you normally wouldn’t do (we used to call it guilty pleasure), you may have started something. Ten years from now “ironically” may have an additional definition.

Like literally. I’m told it’s now acceptable — according to some word gods out there — to use it when you mean figuratively. That ticks me off. A decade or two of misuse and we just change the meaning of a well-defined word?

I apologize to all of you learning English as a second language for such thoughtless acts. Well, it’s not my fault, so I can’t apologize. But I empathize.

And not ironically. Literally.

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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.

AdobeStock_157759079

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.


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How or Why and Peace of Mind

Last night I dashed out to the local CVS to get some candy. I admit it. A quick trip, three miles or less.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a car, different make but similar style and color to mine, parked in the same corner I was headed. Then I noticed something else. The license plate number was almost identical, save for one number. Instead of an eight, hers was a zero.

A second later the driver of this car appeared. An attractive yet otherwise unremarkable young woman carrying a prescription and another small bag (maybe candy, who knows?). Yet it got me to thinking.

What if she’d just robbed the place? In the rush and panic that would ensue, what if someone mistook my car for hers?

Now that’s my active imagination,  no doubt. Here’s the problem: these things do happen. Given that she had long blonde hair and was clearly a good twenty years younger than me, chances are I wouldn’t suffer the worst. Still, in the world we live in today, I could.

The odds are worse for minorities, and we’ve all seen the stories. I remember one particularly troubling report on a news magazine, perhaps Dateline, of a man who was imprisoned for nearly 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Some might say, well, maybe he didn’t commit that crime, but surely he was guilty of something just as bad. Only in this case, there was no evidence of that.

He could have gotten out on parole years earlier if he’d confessed and shown remorse, but he refused, saying the only thing he had left was his name. I hope he was able to find peace once he was released, but odds were still against him after all those years of incarceration.

I hope others helped him find dignity, because he’d lived a long time without it.

We learn when we’re young that life isn’t fair. Yet we can’t live life with a constant awareness of our alibi for that moment or our excuse for doing something others might find odd. That, in and of itself, is going to raise red flags for some.

Why are our lives at times devoid of justice and peace? I don’t know. I don’t understand the imbalance in the world. But I do believe in a God who is just, even if we can’t comprehend how or why.

And that’s my peace of mind.


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A Good Time Ahead

There’s a lot happening this weekend.

It’s been a year (is that all?) with our current president. I’m with the majority of Americans, embarrassed by and weary of him. The news is full of analysis of his time in office, and it’s a little overwhelming. Enough said on my part.

On the exciting side of things (for some of us, at least), the NFL playoffs are this weekend, and my beloved Vikings are on fire. Could last Sunday’s game be any more exciting? I knew it was a good match — New Orleans is an incredible team — and I believed, right up to the final seconds, the Vikes would win. And indeed, it was during those final ten seconds when they pulled it off.

I don’t expect the same kind of excitement this Sunday, but I hope for a good game (ultimately defined by who wins).

I’m waiting for some news that could change so much for me, but more on that when it actually happens.

And, Sunday is my birthday!! Not only is it MY birthday, but two of my co-workers are due any day now. I’ve become friends with one of them, and would love it if her son was born on Sunday.

I haven’t been a good blogger lately. Other things have been pulling at my time, and by the time I get to my blog, I’m spent. I’ve missed out on so many of your posts as well, and I apologize. I hope to catch up soon.

Here’s to the coming weekend. Oh, I forgot, I get my hair trimmed tomorrow — always a good feeling. It’s going to be a good couple of days.

Go Vikings!

sentence JAN 21 written with chalkboard on a wooden table with t


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Consistently Changing

“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”
― Bernard Berenson

Hmmm. I get his point, but there’s value in consistency, too. Depends on your consistent pattern. Do you routinely come home, watch the same TV shows and eat one of the same three frozen dinners? Or are you someone who can be counted to stay up-to-date with current events, give comfort to a grieving friend, or dare to have your hair cut shorter than its ever been?

If you’re consistently exploring, you’ll be wiser and more informed a year from now.

A balance of routine and exploration helps prevent both chaos and lethargy. There is comfort in routine, although in the first scenario described above, I’d recommend you add a class (or perhaps a book club) and learn how to cook at least two new meals.

Having a regular pattern gives you structure, a foundation to build on the daring side of you. It also helps you be on time and maintain healthy habits. But the person so committed to that same schedule that they pass by on the bountiful opportunities our world offers is somewhat boring.

I got to wondering what I’ll learn in the next year. I’m not anxious for tough lessons, but rather, new insight into the world around me and the people I love. It means I have to get out of my comfort zone a little more and be willing to ask questions that might leave me vulnerable.

Vulnerable, because I don’t like looking ignorant or naÏve. Thank goodness for the Internet and search engines. But there are limits to what you can learn from Wikipedia, and I want to break those boundaries.

I’ve changed so much in the last few years, and sometimes I forget what I’ve accomplished. The difference is subtle sometimes, but I’m proud to say I’m consistently changing.

 

Three Years Stronger

Annually, I re-post my very first blog post.

Written on Christmas day 2014, it reflects the pain I was feeling then, as well as my resolve and hope. The latter, thankfully, still remains, but the loneliness and pain have left me. I’ve grown and changed since that day, and while the truth of what I wrote still reflects a part of myself, I’m standing stronger, in part because of the process of writing and the support of fellow bloggers. Thank you.

So here’s the original post, just as I wrote it then. Many of you likely haven’t seen it, but I know some of you did when I previously re-posted it.

Blessings to all of you!

resolutions and revelations

you bought me the book

I’m not motivated by New Year’s Resolutions. No surprise there, most people aren’t. No surprise what does motivate me either: trying to impress someone important to me is always a big one. Problem is, that comes and goes. Here’s the reason that actually works: finally realizing my life is truly better and I’m going to attract better things when I do things the right way. And typically it has taken failure in my life, and some humiliation, to get to that realization.

My friends say, oh, we each worry about those things a lot more than others do. After all, we have to live with our own failings, our stupidity, our repeated efforts to resolve what’s gone wrong with yet one more foolish gesture.

Right now I’m faced with what seems to me to be huge failure brought on by circumstances I had no control over. Wisdom from others tells me to learn to control what I can and live with what I can’t, but what I can’t control has taken over and felled me. Now I need to stand up and return to where I was only a short time ago. But will I fall again? Probably. That which I do not control will always be with me, and I fear that those I care about will leave me.

So I must do what I can to perhaps ward off the beast that follows me everywhere for longer than before. I must learn from this and pray I have another chance that will allow me to succeed. I weep at the thought I won’t, and realize I now have little control over that, but in and of itself there could stand a truth I need to learn. Truth that belies what I have held so dear for so long.

I face difficult yet not insurmountable odds. I tell myself I can take advantage with hard work and fierce resolve, with fortitude and purpose. No trite quotes for me, but strength of mind and character prevail. This year was better than last. I can’t guarantee next year will be better than this, but I’m hopeful it will be.


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Misunderstood

For several months now I’ve been avoiding a man I used to work with.

These days he’s the manager of the grocery store I frequent, and I refuse to drive an additional five miles to the next store just to keep from seeing him. Why have I been so reluctant to so much as say “hi”?

Because I assumed I knew why he was avoiding me.

The reasons for this awkwardness aren’t important, except to say, it has nothing to do with a failed romance (or any matter of the heart). We got along well when we worked together, but events transpired and each of us made an uncomfortable departure from that company.

Finally, I decided yesterday, enough is enough. The opportunity was right, so I started the conversation.

Turns out, he had no idea what had happened in my life. He thought I didn’t remember him, or worse. His discomfort had more to do with what he believed I thought of him than vice versa.

I’d seen him once shopping with his son, who’s adopted, and interracial. I asked if that was his son I’d seen him with, and he said yes, his eyes lighting up.

“He’s tall, like you,” I said.

He agreed, and smiled. Then I remembered what a friend had told me years ago: adoptive parents like hearing about nothing more than connections with their children, no matter how small.

Later I sent a text message to a friend who also had worked at the same company. “I completely misread his reaction,” I wrote.

My assumptions about what he was thinking were logical and consistent with what had happened with others, yet, they were completely wrong. How often do we assume we know what’s going on, even go so far as to say, “what else could it be?”

We don’t even have all the puzzle pieces of our own life, let alone others.

It could be plenty of other things.

You don’t know what you don’t know.


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Treasure for the Future

What happens to our words when technology changes?

What happens when the media we rely on today is more outdated than eight-track tapes, and no one can access what we’ve written, the pictures we’ve taken, the record of history our present day communication will someday become?

Who are we counting on to save the gems of personal expression we take for granted today?

It’s phenomenal how much data we can store on a tiny piece of finely-crafted metal and wires, surrounded by plastic. Over time, those drives will corrode or be replaced by newer devices, and much of what you store on them is likely to be lost forever. Think of what you saved on disks just ten years ago, and tell me where you can go to retrieve all of it.

We cherish diaries of our ancestors, no matter how mundane they may have believed their lives to be, as a peek into hearts and minds of the people whose history shaped our own lives. How do we leave this same wealth of information for generations to follow?

This information will be a treasure someday.

I love blogging, but I fear what I write here will be lost eventually. The alternative seems to be print out my entire blog, and that isn’t going to happen.

If anyone has an answer, a real answer, not optimistic speculation, I’d love to know about it.


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Never-Ending Wonder

There is something about endless skies and rolling fields that bring out the dreamer in me.

Perhaps it is the seeming unlimited nature of the view, the what-is-just-beyond wonder that this vista presents. It is vast, yet it is contained in our world, it is out of reach yet somehow attainable. It is our dreams spilling out before us.

Dreams for ourselves, our children, our country, our world. The belief more is possible.

Dreams are salvation for some, drive and determination for others. Dreams grab us and hold tight, tell us what we ought to do.

Never-ending wonder, unlimited possibility.


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