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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Trust

The security of order, a belief that others will do what society expects of them.

Two years ago we learned, more and more each day, that what many of us suspected–or knew–to be true is a harsh reality. Every day, it seemed, another man in power was accused of sexual misconduct, and while there may have been a woman or two crying wolf (no pun intended), most were credible. They are credible in part because we know this happens.

Early on in the “Me Too” movement I listened to a reporter on NPR, Mary Louise Kelly, interview the head of that organization over the resignation of an executive after allegations of sexual harassment were revealed. She was professional, but you could hear the anger in her voice as she asked direct questions. When did you know…why didn’t you do more….? She was the voice of so many women, and while I’m not going to say she spoke for the victims (because I can’t speak for them), her words resonated with me.

She was also the voice of hundreds of NPR employees, angry and frustrated at being scooped on this story by the Washington Post. I get that anger. It’s a professional slap in the face, as well as a betrayal by those internally who knew this information yet kept it secret. But the larger frustration comes from all those who knew what was going on and were waiting for something to be done.

It’s hard to trust those who just let things slide, no matter how fearful they may have been of the consequences. Well, let me qualify that–fear of some consequences may be understandable, and what you choose to understand is up to you. But ducking your head when you have the power to do something is hard to forgive.

Does the movement continue, even without news coverage? I know that to some extent it does, for a man I suspected of sexually harassing women has just been accused of such misconduct by several women who previously worked for him. I say I suspected him of doing this because I believe I received an objectionable phone call from him when I worked for him. I reported it to the phone company (at the time they handled these things) and was told that under no circumstances would I be told who made the call, but it would be investigated. So I don’t know if he made the call or not, and I never will.

A short time after I reported this phone call I was fired for fuzzy reasons by the man I believe was the guilty party. I reported this to the phone company as well, and was told they would investigate, but I knew that the situation was hopeless.

I hope this man is brought to justice. Circumstances today are much more conducive to action.

In the meantime, all you who face this sort of manipulative, frightening, infuriating behavior, I hope you have the support you need to come forward and point fingers at those who should be held accountable. I know it isn’t easy, and I know accusations don’t always lead to the desired result. Get good counsel.

God and friends be with you.


Image Credit: © Bigstockphoto.com

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

 

Who’s In Charge Here?

A few years ago a co-worker told me about some research she’d read stating that, if we own cats, our lives are controlled by these feline friends. I laughed at the time but now I’m thinking that study may have been correct.

What’s the first thing I do in the morning? Feed the cats.

Where do I sit? Anywhere the cats are not.

Have I ever changed the channel on the TV to pacify my cats? Of course. If one of them seems agitated by what they’re hearing or seeing on the screen, click goes the remote. Well, sometimes I just mute it for a time.

20190606_185007 MimiIf both cats are showing me a lot of attention, I’m fairly certain that in their furry little minds it’s time for dinner. Even if it’s only 3:00 in the afternoon.

My world is better with my cats, so I don’t mind their control. I do, however, sometimes get annoyed with others controlling my life. For example, my local grocery store chose to stop stocking my favorite juice. I know the manager there so I asked him why, and he didn’t have an answer. They sold plenty of it. Perhaps it was a supply issue, he suggested.

At my job I had to work a series of pretty crummy shifts because of a co-worker who took a whopping eight weeks off for her daughter’s wedding. As you might imagine, this woman is pretty controlling in a number of ways–how many brides would allow their mother that much oversight?

Management approved this time off and couldn’t hire anyone to replace her or they would have been overstaffed when she came back. Not that they should be worrying about that. She’s asked for another three weeks off in the short time since she’s returned.

I don’t know who I’m more critical of in that case, my co-worker or management.

Of course as I gripe about this I wonder if there are areas in which I’m taking advantage of anyone else. I don’t think I am–I’m pretty sensitive to that sort of thing–but you never know who might be muttering under their breath about you.

Anyway, the bottom line is, none of us has complete control of our lives.

I just wish the cats would give me my chair back.

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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Open Door

Yesterday I was cutting fabric–in the course of my job at a fabric store–and noted that all nine selections of my customer’s featured cats.

“Someone is a cat fan,” I said.

kitty no bkgd lr“You said it,” he replied. “In fact, she’s such a fan she had her name legally changed to Kitty.”

I was taken aback by that piece of information, or I might have asked what her given name had been. Instead I uttered a weak, “Wow.” Inside I was saying, “Are you kidding me?” but of course I was too polite to say that, even though my customer clearly understood that not everyone would understand his friend’s motivation.

Which led me to think, just how much of a cat lady am I? I’ve written on this subject before, albeit in a different context, but at that time made the observation that “cat lady,” in my experience, refers to someone with, say, eight or more kitties. The two I have qualify me to be merely a pet owner.

Yet you look around my house, and it’s clear I’m a fan of cats. My salt-and-pepper shakers, for example, are a cat (salt) and bird (pepper). My dish towels–the decorative ones–have kitties I’ve embroidered on them. Go out of my kitchen and you’ll find pictures of cats in my living room, bedroom and spare room. There’s a mirror and a couple of figurines as well.

We’re drawn to the things that make us happy, and cats make me happy. So do books and writing (did I mention the poster in my basement hallway of a cat reading “To Kill a Mockingbird”?), and there’s plenty of evidence in my home to support those interests as well.

We give ourselves away in less obvious ways as well. My Prius–actually a Prius C, the smallest of that model–is so small it may tell others I’m single. Hopefully it says I’m concerned for the environment as well. One might think it says something about my income level, but that would be deceiving. My Toyota dealership had a really good option for purchase that has me paying for this long-lasting car over seven years.

I shop a lot at Walmart, but that’s mostly because I live near that store’s headquarters and you can’t spit in this area without hitting a Neighborhood Market (Walmart’s grocery store). Shopping there will mean different things in different parts of the country.

I don’t know all the  things that give me away, and maybe that’s just as well or I’d become self-conscious. But you open the door to any of our lives and aspects will be illuminated.

But frankly, I’ve revealed so much on this blog I’m not sure I have any secrets any longer.

Image Credits: Open Door ©quickshooting – stock.adobe.com; Cat © puckillustrations – stock.adobe.com

Leafy Lace Top

Some of you know of the physical limitations I’ve experienced in the last few years that have kept me from knitting for a time. While I’ve completed a few smaller projects, this, at last, is something I can call substantial. It was a challenge–in a good way–and I’m very happy with the results. I’m reblogging this from my knitting blog.

Designs & Words

It’s been awhile since I’ve completed what I would consider a substantial project, and here it is–my version of the Leafy Lace Top from the Vogue Knitting Spring 2017 issue. It took me some time to complete, in part because I had some challenges with the pattern and in part because of the physical limitations I’ve experienced lately.

VKSPR17 Leafy Lace Top--BlueI knit it in Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima in color 3727, a quite pretty shade of blue. It took me five skeins, or 1100 yards, which is nearly exactly what the pattern called for. The yarn used in the pattern–Brown Sheep Cotton Fine–is 222 yards per skein while the Ultra Pima is 220.

Surprisingly, while the stitch gauge precisely matched what the pattern called for, the row gauge was way off. I knit two extra repeats of the 28-row lace pattern to reach the same length. I didn’t catch this until I’d…

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If I do move, the laws have to make sense

My mom very much wants me to move back to Minnesota to be closer to her. Right now that isn’t a possibility, financially or emotionally. But I’ve agreed to consider it a few years from now.

However, the longer I stay where I am, the happier I am here. Still, I think the desire to spend as much time as possible with my mom while she’s alive will eventually drive me back north.

No, the cold doesn’t bother me. Well, it does, but I can live with it more easily than many others. I have to say this about winters in Minnesota: if it snows, there are plenty of plows to keep the roads clear. Where I live now that isn’t the case, not in the least. It isn’t unusual for some roads–and some parking lots–to never get plowed.

And while the law in Minnesota requires people to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes, the law here is tricky. If you shovel a path and someone later slips and falls, they can sue you. If you never tend to the sidewalks, there’s no recourse for the fallen. The law is similar for parking lots.

A few years back someone had the brainy idea to publish obscure or wacky laws throughout the United States. I don’t know if shoveling laws from any state made it on that list, but a quick Google search uncovered these fun facts:

  • It is illegal for women to drive while wearing a house coat in California.
  • In Texas, it is illegal to milk another person’s cow (that one has a germ of sense–it could be theft–but in practical terms is a tad foolish).
  • In Los Angeles, it is illegal to wear a zoot suit. That has to be problematic on some movie sets.

No doubt each state has it share of crazy laws, and no doubt each of these laws had some common sense at its inception. We all know how, in our nation’s capital, laws that make it through Congress usually have some sort of attachment that seems completely unrelated (and likely is) to the law in question. That’s crazy, but that’s politics.

Well, I titled this post “If I do move, the laws have to make sense,” but we all know that isn’t wholly possible. I’ll just have to leave my house coats and zoot suits at home when I visit my relatives in California.

Image Credits: Map © Bigstock; Zoot Suit © stock.adobe.com

Winter Can Stick Around As Long As It Wants

Well, spring looked like it was on the way earlier this week — but today we reverted back to winter.

This isn’t as difficult for me as it is for some of my neighbors. They’re ready for summer by now. Or so they say. Last year we got no spring. Not one day of it. We went straight from coat weather to 80 — then 90 — degrees. So they complained about that.

As for me, I lived in Minnesota long enough to believe March is still a part of winter. Spring comes along in April. Plus, I rather like winter, certainly more than summer. Now I can do without the sub-arctic cold experienced by much of our country earlier this year, and I don’t like driving in the snow, but overall I like the coziness of the cold.

My heating bill is generally lower than that for air conditioning (both electric, the only option in the rocky terrain I live in). And I love having a bowl of chowder simmering on the stove or a pan of rolls baking in the oven. Yes, I can do those things in July, but it just doesn’t have the same effect.

So winter can stick around a little longer.

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Vacuuuuuum

I just bought the most wonderful piece of housecleaning equipment — a vacuum designed to pick up pet hair. It still scares the cats (they look so bewildered when I dare to use it, as if I’d promised not to clean the carpets ever again after the last vacuum pooped out.) I’m embarrassed by how much cat hair I’ve pulled up already, but that’s not going to stop me. Next step is to shampoo the carpet, which will pick up even more.

You see an adorable kitten or a forlorn cat waiting to be rescued, and you think, “I must take this sweet baby home.” You know about the food, toys and litter. You’ve factored in vet visits. But it’s easy to forget in the passion of the moment of adoption just how much that cat hair is going to invade your life.

It’s all over my clothes and forget trying to get it out. If I wear something black, I’m bound to get a knowing look and this question, “how many cats do you have?”

Now hairless cats are an option, but I’ve learned a few things about them. They secrete an oil that’s just as difficult to eradicate as the hair. A co-worker owns six (and two “hairies”) and she’s brought one in to meet us. Actually, she brought Kate in for a brief stop before her (my co-worker Kelli’s) husband could take them home, but regardless, it gave me a chance to meet and hold one.

Their skin feels like a shammy cloth and they are super sweet. That’s apparently characteristic of the breed. Still, I like my cats to have a full body of fur. Those wrinkles in the skin freak me out.

But back to the vacuum cleaner. It’s like a new toy for me, which is good for the carpet. But not so good for the kitties!!

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Three Weeks

A month ago I had a routine mammogram, and a few days later I got the news.

The news, via the Internet, telling me (in somewhat technical language) that they didn’t like what they saw and I needed to come back for further testing. I was on the phone in a heartbeat, making that appointment, only to be told they couldn’t get me in for three weeks.

I’ve had so many mammograms and they always came back negative (as in nothing wrong), so it hadn’t even occurred to me this one might be problematic.

I did a self-exam (something admittedly I’m typically lax in doing) and felt a small bump. That’s what they tell you to look for — a lump the size of a pea.

I went to work that night knowing my life might change in three weeks. Three weeks! I had to wait that long.

The next day I contacted my doctor’s office to see if they had any clout in getting me in earlier. They didn’t.

Three weeks!

It was, as you might imagine, a long three weeks. I was able to put it out of my mind for short periods of time, even telling myself they couldn’t have been that concerned about what they saw or they would have gotten me in earlier. But I wasn’t sure about that. Still, for the most part, I was able to maintain my equilibrium. I didn’t tell anyone and as far as I know, no one suspected anything.

I didn’t check the bump again. I didn’t get on the Internet and research everything. I figured the testing would tell me everything I wanted to know.

So yesterday I went in for the ultrasound. Even longer than the three weeks was the wait in the lobby. The television set was airing an episode of Love It or List It. I didn’t care what the homeowners did.

And longer than that was the wait between the time they did the ultrasound and the time they gave me the news — which I’m guessing was five or ten minutes.

When the tech came back in, I could see the relief in her face. It was only a cyst, she told me. Very common. Didn’t mean an increased risk of cancer. Be sure to have my annual mammogram on time. Did I have any questions?

The obvious one, although I didn’t voice it. Why did I have to wait three weeks? For an appointment that altogether took less than 30 minutes?

I don’t have the answer to that, but at least the answer to the other question weighing on me for three weeks was the one I wanted to hear.

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Perspective

Today we received a laughable phone call at work. Let me set this up a bit: I’m working for H&R Block, doing taxes for individuals. Now HRB has policies about using their name in social media, so out of respect for those policies, that’s all you’ll hear me say about the company.

Anyway, the call was from a man wondering if he could claim his “elderly” mother on his taxes (the answer is yes under specific circumstances). How old is this elderly woman? Sixty-four.

That’s not even retirement age!

Now his mother could be frail or disabled, and he’s taking care of her financially and otherwise, so I’ll cut him some slack. The reality for me is, my mom and some of my friends are in their 80s and the last word I’d use to describe them is “elderly.”

Where would we be without generational differences? I recently saw an episode of a favorite series of mine, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” in which Rob is trying to set up his older, but spry, uncle, with a “mature” lady. The woman he ultimately comes up with barely looks older than the two younger couples to me. I wonder if the writers of that show (yes, some are still alive) roll their eyes now at what they perceived to be mature.

Well, if they even pay attention to the work they did fifty-plus years ago.

Old age for pets comes a lot earlier, and I’m reminded of the time shortly after my cat Paco died. He was sixteen, a good long age for a cat. But when I told an eight-year-old friend of mine how old Paco had been, Gavin grew alarmed.

“He was only sixteen?” he said. He started to cry.

“Oh Gavin,” I said. “That’s old for a cat.”

Gavin clearly was not convinced, so I told his mom about it in case she wanted to talk to him further. She told me he hadn’t yet comprehended life expectancy for different mammals, and it was a point of confusion.

At the age of eight, I think I believed sixteen was the height of womanhood. I give Gavin credit at having a more realistic perspective.

Perspective is everything when it comes to age.

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Cloud Talk

Today I was early for work, so I leaned back in my car and watched the clouds float by. It was a windy day and they were moving quickly.

Like Charlie Brown and friends, I sought images in the sky. First face I saw was a cameo-like profile of s woman. It morphed into the Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame, and then became nothing more than abstract poofs.

I moved on to the image of a mountain lion, and began to wonder if some legends of old found their start in cloud formations. I know the stars inspired some stories, but what about clouds?

What inspires stories, the tall tales or myths of today? We hear sometimes of odd prompts that influenced an author, songwriter or other artist. We don’t see the connection, but it’s there in the mind of the creator.

As for me, I watch the clouds float by and listen to hear what they might be saying.

Photo Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy – Fotolia

The Simple Things

Life’s simple pleasures are the best, the ditty goes, and this is a time when I agree. I’ve been following the Facebook posts of a college friend — who lives 2,000 miles from me but is close in my heart — about her husband’s battle with ALS.

First let me say, Sue is just about the nicest person you could ever meet. I loved her spirit and humor in college, and she was a loyal friend. When she met her husband, he was a widower with a small son. She ultimately adopted that little boy and they have a healthy, supportive relationship today as he seeks the answers we all sought in our 20s.

It hurts that a friend has to watch her husband deteriorate, knowing the worst is to come. Sue has been very honest about her feelings, and one post tugged at my heart. In it she told us the hardest part was the little things, like holding hands when they take a walk. Jerry has to work so hard to walk that that simple show of affection is now lost to him.

So I say, think about the simple pleasures in your life and treasure them, for they may be lost to you tomorrow. Appreciate all that you have without fearing losing it, just  recognizing that we can take nothing for granted.

Because simple pleasures are the best.

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