Archive | Appreciation RSS feed for this section

Mother’s Day

10 May

I’m not able to spend Mother’s Day with my mother–she lives halfway across the continent from me.

I’m not going to spend it with my daughter either, although she lives closer.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t both on my mind.  I love them both, more than there are words to even express.

I’m a bit blue though too, as I think about long ago Mother’s Days.

I remember my Grandma W telling me all about what the flower corsages meant.  You wore one color if your mother was alive, another if she was dead.  I don’t remember what color meant what now though.  She was big on traditions like that.  Mother’s Day meant that soon it would be Decoration Day, which most of the country calls Memorial Day.  That meant it was time to start making the rounds of the cemeteries, putting flowers on graves.  It was a time when she would tell me stories about people who were long dead, stuff like how they died, or things that they had done when they were alive.  Sometimes, she would mention things about some extraordinary act of kindness they had done during their lives.

Most of those extraordinary things weren’t about spending money, or not much anyhow.  It was about simply being kind when they didn’t have to.  They lived on, through that act of kindness.

 

Funny how that works.

Then, my mind drifts forwards to my own adulthood.  I remember one year, my son was very small, he’d just turned two that spring.  My daughter was older, she’d be turning ten in a few months.  I was a single mom, and money was usually pretty tight.  I’d bought my own Mother’s Day gift that year, in the form of a cheap wheelbarrow.  I needed one.  My mom and I put it together with an adjustable wrench and a pair of pliers on the front patio.  We had then left the tools lying, and gone on to other things.

That next morning, the kids were outside playing, including my son.  I don’t remember what I was doing, so it probably wasn’t something important.  The next thing I knew though, my son had taken the tools and disassembled his wagon, a small metal red one.  We never did get it back together.  I was still impressed though.  He had learned how to use the tools from watching us the day before, and had put his new information to work figuring out how to take the wagon apart.  Not bad for a toddler, actually.

He died in 2000.  I still miss him.  He was my fishing and hiking buddy.  I still cry sometimes, and the grief will wash over me as fresh and raw as it was on that awful unbelievable day.  How was it that I was alive and he was dead?  My mind still can’t wrap around that.  It makes people uncomfortable though, so I generally keep that grief locked away tight.  I take it out for airing in private.  It’s just better that way.

I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.

Now though, I focus more on the future.  I have a granddaughter that is the light of my life.  She’s my little hot shot, the celebrity of our clan, you might say.  She is a miracle in my eyes, something I never thought I’d get to see, let alone hold her hand.  Her bright eyes light up when she sees me, and that alone is worth more than all the money in the world.

Her mother isn’t doing so well though.  She has Type 1 diabetes, and a lot of complications.  Her kidneys and her eyes aren’t in as good of shape as they should be.  I often make the trip to her house and chauffeur her to doctor appointments, as well as spend time with my little girl.  There is almost no chance of a second child, but we don’t let that bother us.

The little one absolutely cannot understand that her mama is my baby, and I am her mama’s mama.  To her, mama is HERS and HERS alone still.  Of course, I’m her grandma, and nobody else’s.  She’s right.  She is my only grandchild.

I was able to go on her first and second camping trip with her.  That was a riot, and something that I’ll always treasure in my memories.  Next week, we’ve got another first.  I will be going to her very first dance recital.  That’s special too.

I get to see my mother too.  She came for a visit shortly after the baby was born, and has come each year.  This year, she was here far longer than she had originally planned.  Her great granddaughter was very sad to see her leave, screaming “Great Grandma!” at the sky for days, as though she was hoping she would hear and come back.  She went home in March, but just a couple of weeks ago, I was wearing a pair of shoes that my mother had given me over a year ago because she didn’t like wearing them.  (We wear almost the exact same size.)  My granddaughter looked down and immediately informed me that I was wearing Great Grandma’s shoes.  We had to laugh, even though we were surprised that she remembered a pair of plain white tennis shoes from over a year before.  I guessed that the reason was because I never wear white tennis shoes, as I am a stick-in-the-mud.  I had worn the same pair of Keens since she was a baby, along with the same pair of knock-off Crocs.  It was the first time in her memory that I was wearing something different.

But Mother’s Day is more than about your own mother.  It’s about every mother or potential mother that you know.  It’s about your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your sister-in-law, your neighbor, your own mom, your aunts…about women, really.  Of all ages, all sizes, all shapes, all colors, and all types.  It’s a time to honor that femaleness and appreciate it.

Spend a bit of time alone and think about the women that helped shape you into who you are.  Some were related, but a great number of them probably weren’t.  Some were teachers.  Some were just friends.  Some were probably people who never knew who you were, like Billie Jean King.  She helped me become the woman I am today, and I’ve never met her, nor am I likely to do so.  She stood up and stood out, in a way that said it was okay to be different and expect fair treatment anyhow.  Watching her, I realized I could be whoever I wanted to be, not who society expected me to be.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t pay the price though.  I learned about how painful standing out could be at an early age, and how to just grit my teeth and get through it.

I must have done a lot of gritting my teeth over the years.  One tooth after another has been sacrificed after cracking or decaying.  This year, I will be getting false teeth.  While I’ll be a bit sad, and I’m really dreading the pain of the extractions of remaining teeth, I’m looking forward to something I have not been able to do in years.

Chewing my food.

Funny how false teeth reminds me of my Grandma W though.  When I’d stay with her, I’d bring her a container of water for her teeth to soak in overnight.  On the other hand was my own mother, who had to have her teeth (which had no cavities at all) pulled when she was in her late twenties.  I remember the first time I saw her without teeth.  She had forgotten to put them in after showering and dressing, and when I said something, she clapped her hand over her mouth and ran up the stairs again.  I still have to grin about that.  Years later, she had to spend an entire day without them while they were being repaired.  She was mortified.  Now, she has to take them out at night, and thinks nothing about me seeing her without them.  Maybe its the difference in our vanity between being ThirtySomething and SeventySomething.

Corsages, cards, false teeth, wrenches, pliers, wheelbarrows and wagons…for me, they are part of my memories of Mother’s Day.

Most of all, I want everyone to remember to tell the women in their life how important they are to you, as well as how much you appreciate what they do for you.  Tell them you love them, treasure the moments.

Because one day, it can all vanish in the blink of an eye, and instead of a warm hug, you will be standing at a cemetery.  It really does seem that quick and they are gone.  I remember my grandmas, all of them.  My daughter remembers one of them, as the others had died before she was born or when she was too young to really remember them.  One great grandmother that I never met, my daughter did meet once.  I only knew her from stories from my mother, and I wasn’t along on that trip.

I look over our family tree when working on tracing our genealogy.   There are a lot of women there, women that are strangers to me.  I can’t help but wonder about their lives.  What were they really like?  What were their dreams?  What did they most fervently want and did they ever get it?  What made them laugh?

History.  Too often, its just HIS story, and we need more herstory.  Listen to the women in your life.  What is her story?  Tell your own story too.  After all, that’s what it is really all about, our stories weaving together to create a rich tapestry, and our mothers’ stories are interwoven with our own.

It’s about love and kindness, cruelty and dismissal, unfairness and justice, dreams, of watching  your hopes be dashed, or seeing them come to life.

Mother’s Day though, that’s all about the stories and the love.  Mothers give up a lot, even now, to be a mother.  Once, it was often fatal to bear a child.  That’s not true in most countries today, but it still is about sacrificing for the next generation, whether it is time, social activities, career advancements/choices, or even marriage.  It’s about putting that next generation’s needs above the current one too.

Maybe we need more mothers in Washington?

 

Random Acts of Kindness

29 Apr

You will often hear of random acts of kindness, also called RAOK for short.  But what is it?

It’s some deed that is kind and given without anticipating anything in return.  I look on them as a deposit in my karmic bank balance and payments on karmic loans, you might say.  I have been the recipient of many RAOK that were needed badly when I received them.  I have no way of thanking the person responsible, and in some cases, I never even knew who the person responsible was.  The only way I can repay for that RAOK is by paying it forward.

I’m not talking about big deeds, or even all of them being medium sized RAOK.  Most of them are small, after all.

But even the small ones have a cumulative effect.  Imagine it like this.

A flood is coming.  One man fills one sandbag and puts it in front of his house.  The flood comes, and that sandbag doesn’t stand a chance of protecting anything, does it?

The whole equation changes with small acts.  Change that story to the man fills a sandbag and puts it in place.  Someone sees it, and sees the empty sandbags waiting by the pile of sand.  She fills one, and puts her bag beside the man’s sandbag.  Many other people do the same thing, until they are running out of sand and bags.  Someone brings another load of sand and dumps it where the old pile was.  Someone else brings more bags.  Somebody brings hot coffee and donuts for the people filling sandbags, and more people come to help and get a cup of coffee too.  Before they know it, there is a huge wall built of sand bags and when the flood comes, the house of the man is protected, as are his neighbors.  Everyone is happy.

RAOK are like those sandbags, the empty bags, the pile of sand, the pots of coffee, and the boxes of donuts.  It all adds up.  Sure, the coffee and donuts didn’t fill any bags, nor did  they keep the flood at bay, but they still helped build the wall, because it made people happy, satisfied hunger, and made them able to work together longer.  It all helped, just  like each and every shovel full of sand helped, like each pair of hands that laid the bags into place helped.

It’s a case of giving that smile to that harried clerk at the store, it made her feel better, and despite a really rotten day, she was able to go home and be pleasant to her mother in law after work.  Her mother in law, surprised at the visit with her son and his wife going so well, comes home happy.  She’s asked for a donation to the local youth program, and she donates just because she IS happy.  That donation pays for after school programs that helps kids with homework, and because John Doe got better grades at school that year, he continued to improve and learn, ultimately going to med school.  As a research doctor, he cures diabetes.

Granted, it’s not an instant thing, and this example is highly accelerated, but…it IS a plausible story.  That would mean that merely smiling at that clerk ultimately found the cure for cancer!  Just for the cost of the small RAOK of a smile and compliment to a store clerk.

But we can shift that story around too.  Instead of smiling at the clerk, you verbally assault her for a computer error that caused you to be overcharged for a sale item.  You cause a big scene, and storm out of the store, leaving the clerk shaking and stressed.  She goes home, but has a fight with her boyfriend because she is in such a bad mood.  They break up, and instead of getting married to him, she marries someone else and never has children.  John Doe is never born. Her mother in law hates her.

Being simplistic, it’s now obvious that you, the clerk assaulting consumer, are responsible for preventing the birth of the man who discovered how to cure diabetes.

We don’t have to try to save the world by curing world hunger.  We start with smaller bites.  Our own neighborhood. Our own town.  Our own county.  Our own state.  Just do it.  Be a little bit nicer, give a little bit more freely.  Commit that small random act of kindness this week.  Imagine its ripples moving outwards.

It’s a great thing.

 

Birthday freebie!

12 Apr

Next weekend is my birthday.  Specifically, the 19th is.  So, while I’m keeping my mouth closed about my age, like any lady older than 21 tends to do, I am letting everyone know that I’m celebrating by giving away books.

Lots of books, I hope!

To start with, there are two books being given away.  (See Gulf Coast Foods blog to see which ones.  It’s right here!)  I’m writing about a totally different book here, even though you don’t have to choose which one you want.  You can get them all, and there are no strings attached.

They are Kindle books, however.  That doesn’t mean you are only given the option of Kindle–they are also available in paperback from Amazon.com.  You don’t have to have a Kindle either–there are free apps to let you read Kindle books on a variety of devices. (It’s right here.)

So what is the mysterious book being given away for my birthday?

It’s Freak Files: The Unexplained Tales.  It’s a collection of tales that were told to me or experienced by me, and are all from real life experiences.  Normally, it retails for $2.99 in Kindle format and $6.99 in print format, with less than 100 pages.  I hope you enjoy it, and that you leave a review!

So mark your calendar and remember, the book is free on April 19th and 20th.  (Yes, that includes Easter Sunday!) Enjoy the book, and thank you for your support of my writing efforts.

Freak Files 09 15 2013

Spittin’ in the wind

12 Aug

Well, the cable company was even less patient than I’d hoped.  They hit us this morning with a cut off.

Thankfully, courtesy of the donations we’d received, we were able to pay the minimum payment to keep it on for now.  So…even though we were $75 short of paying the whole bill, we have internet for a while longer.

We didn’t get much response, compared to the number of listeners we have.  I guess I would have been inspired by more response, even if the response came without a donation, but…that’s the way it is.  We haven’t even gotten any response on the poll we posted on a previous post on this blog.

I really need a bit of encouragement.  So does Greg.  

In the middle of all of this, our little feist was failing fast after another stroke, and she passed away early Saturday morning.  Granted, she was very good at annoying people, and not very nice to most of them, but we loved the little dog anyhow.  The show Saturday evening was tough for Greg on the heels of digging his little buddy’s grave.  She was a “daddy’s girl” dog, and they were especially close.  Despite having other dogs, we are still depressed over losing her.  Our dogs are like our four legged children, I guess.

But…with all of that aside, I’m done begging for donations.  It was a very difficult thing for me to do anyhow, and I didn’t like it.  Beggars also have a tendency to suddenly become invisible, and that’s the last thing I wanted.  We’re going to have to consider alternatives to the donation method of funding, that’s obvious.  We’re exploring those avenues now, and it will likely result in advertising, sponsors or pay-per-listen for the podcasts.   Maybe something will come up, but I’m leaving that to the Universe.  If we’re meant to stay on the air, we’ll find funding somewhere.  If not, well…we won’t be.

It’s kind of like spitting into the wind, you never know what will happen for sure.  You might get a face full, and then again…maybe you won’t.

In the meantime, the next month’s worth of shows are coming to you courtesy of Steven and Elaine, our benefactors.  I’m very grateful that they donated.

Does social media reflect our society?

16 Jun

I’ve been looking through various social media sites today, having a few laughs at the creative ways people solve problems.

And then, I would read the commentary from people that I don’t know. It was interesting but also concerning. Judging by that commentary, our world is made up of a high percentage of very vocal people who feel an obligation to pass their moral judgement on someone else. They can’t see any further than single snapshot of the story, but because of THEIR opinion, that person should be imprisoned, have their kids & pets taken away, and be restricted from interactions with others…at the least.

I’m not talking about photos of blatant cruelty, deviant behavior, etc. either. Some of it revolved around creative punishments for kids after some rule violation, which was never described. Having been a parent with kids who were creative about rule violation myself, I know that I had to be creative with finding appropriate punishments that reflected the rule violation. I wanted them to understand why the rule existed and why it was important to follow the rule too. It wasn’t about retribution usually (sibling wars sometimes do involve that though.)  I was a mother who actually made her daughter wear a sign that stated “I lie to my mother” much to her chagrin.

Sometimes it was about outdoorsy stuff–fun things to do with kids while camping, having a bonfire, etc. Sometimes, ideas don’t work so well in practice as they do in concept. I’ve done a lot of things, ranging from cooking on hot rocks to cooking stuff on a stick. I’ve eaten food that had more sand in it than the average ocean beach too. I’ve tasted things that were rather unpleasant along the way. It’s part of the fun we share with our kids.

After due consideration, I have concluded the following.

Too many people spend too much time worrying about what other people are doing.
Too many people lack fun in their lives, and therefore must stamp out the element of fun in other people’s lives.
We have too many “holier than thou” people in the population.

We have way too many people who object to hearing laughter or seeing smiles.

Too many of those who are “experts” and free to make decisions about what we can or cannot do have no idea what we are doing or why we are doing it.

Too many people actually feel they have not only the RIGHT but the moral and legal obligation to control what other people do in the privacy of their own homes–and I don’t mean what we consider illegal normally, but how they talk, what they think, how they dress, what they eat, their manners, etc., stuff we consider the small individual choices of life.

It’s no wonder that as the mysterious “They” say, the nation (or world for that matter) is going to hell in a handbasket.  Everybody is too busy worrying about everyone else’s thoughts and actions to take care of their own business!  Surely these trolls (yes, they are trolls…people who habitually do this negative commentary are even called trolls, for crying out loud!) cannot be doing much for their own personal economy or relationships if they are devoting this amount of time to tell everyone else that they are doing it all wrong.  Just like those parenting experts that have never had a child of their own, these trolling experts don’t seem to have a life of their own.

Not that the world or the masses are always right either.  I agree…too many people deface historical or archeological artifacts, whether in vandalism or theft.  Too many people do dumb things like chop down living trees to build a bonfire or break glass bottles at a beach.  Other people destroy the environment with the foolish use of a fire or flare.  There are people who do abuse their children, spouse, parents, or strangers for that matter.  We have laws trying to protect society from acts of stupidity and viciousness.  We have an appropriate process to deal with the people who are believed to have violated these rules of society too.

But just because I let my granddaughter pick a wallflower alongside a country road, that doesn’t mean I’m letting her burn down the forest.  Yes, I know it is a wildflower and it won’t produce seed because she picked it.  I also know that it was one of thousands in that area alone, and that the roadside will be mowed in a week or two.  It’s not endangered, and I think she is smart enough to learn (over time, she is still a toddler) to respect and appreciate our natural world.  Meanwhile, the child of the pompous troll who passes judgement on us as being among those who rape the environment will miss learning what beauty and joy is to be found in the natural world as s/he learns instead to judge others with no tempering by mercy or common sense.

If this is the direction society is headed, my apocalyptic prediction friends are apt to see it become a reality.  These people are so focused on finding fault with others around them that they can never see the real threats to their world aren’t the people who laugh and do silly stuff, but rather those who work in secret, trying very hard to stay out of sight as they figure out how to make a few extra dollars.  My conspiracy theorist friends can undoubtedly figure out how these trolls are actually secret government agents, designed to keep people irritated and aggravated, unable to focus on real issues while they deal with the dumb stuff the trolls come up with.

Like education.  Genuine education that actually teaches kids critical thinking skills…now there is an idea that has been long forgotten as we deal with the “No child left behind” concept that ultimately was translated to “thou shalt only teach kids what they need to know to pass the federal tests” because that is going to determine whether or not you keep your job as a teacher.  Critical thinking isn’t necessary, especially if you are raising the next crop of trolls and troll victims, now is it?

It’s no wonder we have the FDA pursuing small farmers who sell raw milk while we have organized crime moving drugs throughout the  nation, or that towns across the country are more concerned with whether or not someone is growing vegetables in their front yard than they are with the number of people in town that don’t have access to fresh, healthy produce at all.  Yes, I know that raw milk is a potential carrier of horrible disease and that was the original reasons for pasteurizing milk, but if people were educated to understand what the word pathogen meant, then they could make an intelligent decision about whether or not to use raw milk, couldn’t they?  We’re far more likely to hear about a school teacher having inappropriate sexual relations with a student than we are to hear about all of the teachers who managed to help a child learn and maybe even make something of their lives via education.  We’ll hear every small detail about some celebrity’s life, right down to whether or not she had on underwear when she was at location x than we will hear about that local activist who managed to put together a community farm that ensured that everyone in that town had fresh vegetables in season.

It’s time to quit worrying about what everyone else is doing and go do something.  Have a glass of milk and eat a cookie, made with real butter and sugar, while sitting on an unmowed lawn and letting the sun warm your body.  Wear some goofy outfit and go to Walmart, and while you are there, smile at people and ask them how they are doing and really listen for once.  Go eat a hot dog with mustard and kraut while watching a baseball game and cheer for both sides.  Pick a dandelion flower and hold it under your chin to see if you like butter.  Have a lemonade stand and give the stuff away to people, just for the heck of it.  Put a lawn chair in your front yard one evening and wave at everyone who drives by.

Just don’t be a bland piece of milk toast in a milky, bland world!

Pay it forward?

27 Apr

The past few months have been really tough for Greg and I.  We’ve been struggling, barely keeping things together.  Sometimes, it would be very easy to get very depressed about it all.  But then, I stepped back and thought about what was going on.

It’s not that we have failed, but rather I see it as a lesson we needed to learn.  Maybe me more than Greg, to be honest.  It’s a lesson in humility.  I was arrogant and reluctant to let people help me, even after becoming disabled.  I kept on insisting I could do it on my own, even when it was becoming blatantly obvious that that was not a true statement.  Still, I refused to admit defeat and give in, accepting help.  It was hard to even ask Greg to help me when I couldn’t get dressed or undressed.  To let someone else see that I was struggling was unthinkable.

I thought I was better than that, it seems.  That’s a risky thing to do, because when you don’t learn your lessons, they just get harder.

That’s what the universe did to me, it seems.  I wasn’t getting the lesson with just the physical aspect, so they delivered a secondary version.  It’s like those Ladies of Fate looked down at me and frowned, saying she didn’t get it the first time, let’s hit her in the pocketbook this time!

And then they cackled.

Okay, so I have a wild imagination.  Even so, I am convinced that they did in fact cackle.

So the financial woes hit, and as we navigated those rapids on the river of life, apparently, I wasn’t learning fast enough to suit them.  So then, Greg has his heart attack.  While he could have died, he didn’t, for which we’re both very thankful.  But it scared me and scared me good, as well as put him in the hospital for a week, leaving me to cope on my own.

It was like watching a house of cards when a stiff breeze struck them.  It all began to fall apart for me.  Greg has no idea how fragile my world suddenly became–he missed those melt downs.  I had no idea how I would cope, with anything.  The stress was killing me.  The fear was paralyzing me.  All I had was a fragile thread of hope binding us to manage to get through this somehow.

And people helped me.  Some of it was financial, some of it was emotional, and some of it was very intangible.  Even the rude people who upset me and made me angry actually were helping me, because then I had at least anger to help keep a stiff spine and keep on going.  When Greg got out, we managed to find more help to get over those first weeks as we tried to figure out how on earth we were going to get by.  Family helped too.  It seemed to be strings of minor miracles coming together, creating a ladder that looks like we might actually survive it all after all.

And I learned.  At some point in our lives, we all need help.  This is important because if we fail to accept those times, we’re also depriving someone else of their own lesson.

Because at some point in our lives, we need to help others.  It might be a small thing, it might be a bigger thing, it might even be a huge thing.  It doesn’t matter what the size is, the whole point is that by helping someone else, we’re learning how to be a little less selfish and a little more giving.  Like the Grinch…our hearts can grow a size larger.

And then, at some other point in our lives, it’s time to pay that debt and pay it forward.  I’d already been in that position.  Long ago, on several occasions, total strangers helped me, for no reason at all.  I hadn’t asked for it, even though I really desperately needed help.  I did manage to accept it graciously and thankfully.  Since I don’t even know who they were, there is no possibility of ever paying them back for that help.

Or is there?

To me, it was a case of paying it forward.  Random acts of kindness to others doesn’t hurt.  It doesn’t even cost a lot usually.  It might take a bit of extra time, a bit of extra attention, a dash of true consideration…but that’s a small price to pay really.

Because you never know when you will be suddenly thrust into walking in their shoes for a day or longer.  You never know what life is going to dish out to you, and suddenly leave you in a position of desperation and loss of hope.

I know most people get on the bandwagon for donating time and money around the holidays.  That’s really nice.  The fact is, there are people in desperate situations every single day of the year.  Get up, go and do something.  It’s like making a deposit in  your karmic bank account–and you never know when you’ll need to make a withdrawal.  Finding a cause is great, but it doesn’t have to be something that well defined.  Maybe its giving a ride to a neighbor, buying a package of diapers for a young family, a box of groceries for an elderly person, or a donation to the local food bank.  Even something as simple as carrying in a trash can for an aging neighbor might do more than spare them the effort–it might restore their faith in humanity and make them feel like someone cares.

Make a difference, somehow, to someone.  Make someone’s day a little brighter, not so that they will like you or do something for you, but just to see them smile.  You might be really surprised at the side effects that it will have on  you.

Most people are liars?

9 Apr

How often do you hear someone ask you “How are you?”

What do you say?  Do you honestly answer them or just respond with the expected “fine” response?  Better yet, do they really care at all about how things are going for you or how you are feeling?

I don’t think they do.  They don’t want to hear about your problems or worries, challenges or defeats.  They MIGHT (and that’s still up for debate) want to hear about some spectacular triumph, but definitely, they don’t want to hear your honest reply about your woes or defeats.

The same thing goes when something horrible happens, people say “Oh, be sure and let me know if there is anything I can do for you!” or ask “Can I help?” While some of the offers are genuine and heartfelt, the vast majority are empty words.

So why is this kind of lying socially acceptable if not expected?  Why do they go through the lip service when there is no intentions on even listening to the response, let alone taking any kind of action?  What motivates them?

I”m not sure.  I avoid making promises that I can’t keep, and when the offers of help are made, it’s genuine, and the one that receives the offer usually knows me well enough to know what I can, or can’t, do to help them, and is expected to realize those limitations.  Is that true of family, acquaintances, etc. when they make these offers too?  Are they expecting us to realize that it is merely lip service?

How many times have you gone out of your way for someone, whether it’s to help when tragedy has struck (from car break down to something more profound) or to merely be an extra set of arms when they are moving, only to have those same friends/family members ignore your own requests for similar help later?  How many times have you had someone who has given help, whether or not you had previously assisted them, only to have them use it like a dangling guillotine over your head for eternity afterwards?

It’s easy to be generous, and then after repeatedly being left standing alongside a dark road in the rain, figuratively speaking, to become cynical and unwilling to help others. It’s that old “once bitten, twice shy” routine.  We learn by their later rejection that our efforts to assist will not be reciprocated.  It happens too often too, whether from our so-called friends or less-than-loyal family members.  Bitterness, however, does not improve your own  emotional state, nor will it improve your “karmic bank balance.”  It’s just plain not good for us.

When it happens, do we need to forget it ever happened and then the next time they ask for help, go ahead and offer it freely, knowing there is no hope of “return on investment” in the relationship?

Probably not.  Sometimes, we try to teach by example.  With those people who are only concerned about what they are getting, versus what they are giving, they aren’t going to ever get the message or lesson we are trying to share.  So should we do it at all?

Help should be freely given, without expectation of anything in return, and done with a cheerful heart.

That’s something my mother has tried to teach me.  I’m not sure I’ve totally got the lesson down pat, but…it does go a long ways towards maintaining my own contentment.  It’s still hard to accept the rejection of a plea for help, and I’ll admit–that hurt doesn’t magically disappear, but it also won’t kill me.  I’m a lot tougher than that.

The whole deal of helping others is sort of the idea behind the concept of paying it forward.  I’ve had total strangers freely offer me badly needed help, on the spot.  I often didn’t know their names and never found out.  There is no way to repay those people for the kindness they showed by putting their backs into making a bad situation better.  Therefore, by my own rules, the only way to repay those people’s kindness is by paying it forward, and random acts of kindness to strangers is one way to do that.

Okay, I’m not wealthy, and I can’t do amazing things.  Sometimes though, it is the little things that make the difference to someone.  Like giving a loaf of bread to a homeless guy, or a few dollars to someone who’s in a jam and will never pay it back.  Maybe it’s used clothing donated to someone, just because they needed something more.  Maybe it’s a ride to a guy with a flat tire and no spare, or a quart of oil to someone at a rest area.  It might be donating food or my labor to a church or organization to prepare a holiday meal for those who may not have one otherwise, whether due to living alone or lack of funds to buy the food.  It might be herding stranded travelers to an impromptu shelter at a local building.  It doesn’t matter–as long as it is help that I give freely.

You have to care.  Even if its a plate of cookies to your neighbors for Christmas, you have to put effort into it.  The gift of a smile to a stranger might be the only thing they are given all day, so why not make it yours?

Don’t promise what you won’t give.  Do more than what you think is “necessary” to make your world a better place.  If every single one of us donated just 24 hours in a year to making our communities better, we’d all be living in a world that looked a lot more like paradise.

Stop being so self-centered and selfish.

The truth is, he who dies with the most toys won’t win a damned thing.  So, what are those “toys” doing for you?  Is your fancy McMansion a happy home, filled with laughter and love?

Think about your own life.  All too often, we will look back and realize that our happiest times were often the times we thought were the “tough” times, when money and material goods were nearly non-existent and we were able to experience life with family and friends without worrying about our wallets or our toys.

Love life as it is.   Pay it forward.  Share your “toys” with others.  Life is an amazing thing when we’re no longer concerned about whether we’re going to be “wasting” our time and effort helping others.  Maybe it will make the difference to them, and maybe it won’t…but in the meantime, it will make a world of difference in the person you are now, as well as in the future.

 

The heart attack

17 Mar

I have not been posting as often as usual.  I’ve been a bit busy, which sounds like a very trite excuse.  For those who don’t follow me via my radio program or Facebook, I have decided that I had best explain myself.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband had a massive heart attack.  We did everything wrong, starting with not recognizing it as a heart attack and not seeking immediate medical attention.  When we did seek medical attention, we never did get a clear answer on whether it was another one or the aftermath of the first that caused Greg to become unable to breathe easily, but that was the symptom that sent us to the local ER.

Fortunately for us, especially Greg, he survived, despite our mistakes.  The bad part is that the longer it takes to get medical attention, the worse the damages to the heart are.  He had complications, and despite angioplasty and stents being put into place, his heart wasn’t going to magically repair itself.  He had a very large blood clot in the apex of his heart where the blood had pooled when the artery was clogged and the flow of blood stopped.  That required a week of heparin drip, as well as starting him on a blood thinner to prepare him for release.

What didn’t get prepared was our minds.  Greg wasn’t in a high risk group for a heart attack, and we weren’t prepared for the changes that it has brought to our lives.  I am already disabled and limited in what I can manage physically.  Compared to Greg now, I’m the able one.  I had to figure out how to do things that he had done before, somehow. I still haven’t gotten the trash cans out for our trash pickup.  That’s for tomorrow night!

Then, there were the dietary changes.  We already ate mostly low sodium meals, and we did monitor fat content, but suddenly, all of that became more critical.  In addition, I soon learned that our vegetables were all “high” for Vitamin K, and as a result, needed to be restricted as much as the sodium or fat content.  In fact, it was perhaps more critical for the short term because it directly and immediately  interferes with the blood thinner.  Now, grocery shopping was a huge undertaking, as was meal preparation.  I’m a very skilled cook, but this was a new facet and I found myself seeking out recipes online that would serve as starting points to create the foods that we could enjoy eating.

Greg isn’t “out of the woods” as the saying goes.  He’s still adapting, and there are concerns about his physical well being.  Even more important, is the non-physical aspects of his recovery.  He seems to have lost the optimism that always was his trademark.  His temper is often on a hair trigger, and inanimate objects seem unusually capable of causing a melt down.  His chivalry is assaulted daily, as I struggle to do things like carry in groceries, laundry, or whatever physical task I’m tackling.  I have to argue with him, and it isn’t a quick argument, since I have to break it down into smaller steps, usually requiring many trips rather than one or two.

It isn’t possible for him to reasonably help with daily routine activities.  He’s exhausted by the simple things, like walking from the house to the car.  He doesn’t want to go anywhere, perhaps because of the exhaustion that the trip would result in.  Last week, we had a relatively simple appointment to keep, which required an extensive wait in a reception area.  We followed it with a short stop at a small grocery store.  The result was he was so exhausted that his speech was slurred and he staggered as he walked from the car to the house.  It’s as though his brain starts shutting down too, and he then becomes quite childlike at that time.

For those who know Greg, that’s a shocking change in personality.  As his wife, I find it more than merely shocking, it’s horrifying.

I had talked to his cardiologists assistant last week about his medications and expressed some concerns about his physical well being, particularly the level of exhaustion that was resulting from even below the approved level of activity.  (His restrictions were to walk around the house, short store trips, and to lift nothing over 25 lbs.)  We haven’t tested his lifting ability–it’s pointless when the house walking exhausts him.  Sitting in his chair at his desk exhausts him, and where he used to work for hours there, now, he is forced to retreat to bed, where he can recline and use his laptop.  The assistant said it could be adjusting to the medications, but to continue monitoring his activities and responses.

Some things, I know are exhausting.  Showers and baths, once accomplished so easily, are always difficult when confronted with physical disabilities.  In my own case, I know that I can’t jump out of bed, into the shower, and then run off to a long day of driving, shopping, and appointments.  Once I considered that normal, even desirable.  Now, I’d be in trouble at the jumping out of bed portion.

Since I had my accident, I had not driven much, and avoided distances of any kind, usually just driving locally if I was “going solo.”  Now, I don’t feel Greg is up to driving himself, because the exhaustion is as hazardous as being impaired by medications.  I know which medications I use that cause me to be less attentive than usual, and on the days when I drive, I don’t take them.  Granted, this results in some discomfort, and I do have alternatives to help take that discomfort down a notch, such as a very expensive topical NSAID my doctor prescribes for me to use.  I do the driving, and the used SUV we bought last year has features I need to make driving safer and easier for me, such as most of the controls in the steering wheel, good visibility, easy access in and out, and easy to operate doors.  I’m very glad that I annoyed the car salesman that day with my insistence that I tried every single door, got into the back seat, laid down the back seat, put it back up, tried the hatch several times, and then did a test drive to check the visibility and ease of operation.  I was having a hard time with our wheezy old mini-van, with everything from visibility to getting into it, and found the back doors and hatch almost impossible to manage.  While we still have the van, it hasn’t been anywhere in a while, and I have no intentions of trying to drive it now.  It’s sort of a “back up plan” more than a used vehicle now, especially with Greg out of commission.

Our lives have changed.  I’m not going to say for the worse, because change doesn’t always come down to good or bad, and trying to decide that while you are still adjusting is just not the brightest idea.  We’re having to learn how to ask for help.  Nobody likes to do that, especially when they have a lifetime of self-sufficiency behind them.  Now, we’re struggling with everything from financial difficulties to difficulties doing yard work, house work, and repairs on the house.

Usually, when our son in law and daughter come to visit, we’re at a loss for what to keep him busy–he’s somewhat hyper and becomes bored if we don’t have a project to complete.  Now, I have a list of things for the next visit, ranging from replacing a light fixture to some digging and trimming I need completed outside.  The real trick will be keeping Greg from trying to help, something that is apt to result in disaster right now.

I have to take a more active interest in everything from his medications to his activity levels now.  We had always had a somewhat independent view of each other, supporting each other but not interfering.  Now, I have to interfere and nag, and the nagging is something I really don’t like having to do.  I’m going to also have to take a more pushy attitude towards interacting with the doctors, including calling tomorrow to ask for an explanation for why he cannot do the walking he is supposed to be doing, and double checking the levels of his prescribed medication compared to that of what the assistant thought they were.

So yes, I have been busy.  I’ve also been scared and worried.  I’ve been concerned, and I’ve gone through every other emotion that a person can experience.  We’ve had to change everything from dreams  to hopes to our present reality from what it had been even a month ago.  We’re still adjusting.  At the same time, we’re still trying to keep doing the things we had always liked and enjoyed.

Greg missed one radio show (he hosts Voice of the People on Saturdays at 6 pm Central)  while he was in the hospital.  The first show after his release was the first Saturday he was home.  He intends to keep doing them too.  Yes, it did leave him exhausted.  Even so, I had beat him on exhaustion level, as I had planted 1 blueberry, 8 peppers, a rosemary plant and 2 tomatoes yesterday, as well as preparing two meals.  I’ll confess, after we ate dinner (after his show), I passed out trying to watch some program.  I  think it was something about ancient Alexandria.  I slept for two hours, and felt much better afterwards.  Of course, a late “nap” like this meant I had trouble going to bed, which then rippled out even further to a late start the next morning.

For now, its just a case of adapting to the things we can’t change.  It’s also a case of exploring the parameters of these new restrictions, and identifying permanent and temporary ones.  Maybe it is always a case of your point of perception.  I have decided that it isn’t so much a case of “can’ts” as it is a case of “how”?  It’s a new experience, and the things we learn can help expand our own world as well as be shared with others to help them escape things that can be so restrictive.

I love Greg, I want him to be as healthy as possible, I want him to live as long as possible, and I want to share the things that make us both happy with him.  We aren’t giving up dreaming, but we may adjust those dreams to deal with the people we are now and the ones we will become in the future.

Nobody enjoys lessons in humility, and perhaps that’s what we are now experiencing.

Happy…something? At least TGIF!

21 Dec

Well, it’s the Winter Solstice.  It’s almost Christmas.  It’s the Mayan Apocolypse Day, but I’m not too convinced that even they actually thought the world was ending today.

I would rather it didn’t end today.  I’m having cocoa with my granddaughter.  She’s feeling much better after being left behind when her mother and great grandmother went to town, despite the fact she had put her watch on.  I’m not sure why a watch meant she should be going somewhere, but she has held it up as proof that the universe was all wrong at least a hundred times.

It’s nice when a few hugs, some hot cocoa, and a cartoon and the world is all right again.

We’re getting down to the wire though.  It’s almost Christmas, and we do it kind of weird.  We’ll have Santa Claus and Christmas dinner like everyone else, but we won’t exchange gifts until January 7th.  I guess we’re not too big on the lavish gifts and going-into-debt-thing though.  We do it pretty simple.

Today may not be the official apocalypse so many people have been predicting and waiting for, but…it’s cookie baking day.  We’re going to make sour cream sugar cookies for a two year old to decorate.  This should be very interesting.  Once in a while, she still remembers she got left behind…despite the magical pink digital watch.

I think her Grandma needs another one of those magical pink digital watches.  They seem to have amazing powers, even if their success rate isn’t perfect.

Christmas lights, sugar cookies, two year olds dreams, and a long winter’s night…all are coming together to make a rather magical effect.  She had her first “real” Santa Claus pictures, and they came out beautiful.  Not that her grandma is prejudiced, right?  It’s the first year she has a bit of understanding of what is going on, even if she refuses to not open a present put under the tree.

Apparently, two months ago when she turned two, we did a very good job of teaching her how to open a present.  Maybe too good.  She certainly wants to practice.

Sometimes, it’s a very good thing to connect with our inner two year old, it seems.  It reminds us that if we have the people we love, our own blanket, and a cup of cocoa…that life is just plain good.  A two year old doesn’t worry about ancient civilizations, apocalyptic events, or whether we are keeping up with the Joneses.  Our inner two year old is a much easier to please character, but perhaps it’s also a version of ourselves that is more honest and more in connection with the here and now than we’ll ever be again.

I mean that seriously.  A cake pan can be a hat, a drum, a swimming pool, a foot bath, a shoe, a chair, and a hundred other things too.  A wooden spoon can be a drum stick, a sword, a spoon, and so very much more, especially with that cake pan.  Those two items can entertain us for hours, and then become the items that those of us who have grown up and become altogether too serious have designed it to be.  That cake pan and spoon may be discarded items from someone’s cast off heap, but when we’re two years old, that doesn’t matter.  It’s magical.  It will stay magical for a few years before that two year old learns about materialism and consumerism and a few other beginning isms and becomes a proper child on the treadmill to adulthood.

Yeah.

Being two is pretty magical, isn’t it?

What can you say?

10 Oct

Today is my brother’s birthday.  Unfortunately, it’s also the anniversary of my father’s death, which really probably puts a damper on my brother’s celebrations.  It also happens to be a milestone birthday this year for him.

He’s reached the big Five Oh, as they say.  I remember when thirty was practically retirement age, at least in my opinion.  Forty was really ancient, and fifty, well…you were just occupying space until you died.  After all, what could you do when you were half a century old?

Little did I know then, right?

You can do a lot after fifty.  Most of the nation’s population is now at that age, and we’re doing a lot of stuff.  We hike, bike, backpack, tour, write, read, make movies, do business, create, innovate, and a lot of other things.  I’m now suspicious of those without a few gray hairs, because after all, what can someone without a bit of experience under their belt possibly have to offer me?

What can you say?

It seems I suffer from prejudices.  Pretty arrogant of me to not want to admit it too, actually.  It takes a two year old, or rather an almost-two-year old, to remind me of the things that youth has to teach us.

Like in the purely sensual pleasure of taking a mini cupcake frosted with luridly colored “buttercream” (it actually contains no butter and way too many chemicals to possibly pronounce) and licking it with a rapidly flicking tongue as though you were a lizard is pure delight.  You don’t notice the greasy texture of the frosting, but your tongue will positively spasm with delight at the sweetness.  It takes a good fifteen minutes to enjoy that tiny bit of frosting that way, compared to the two bite “adult” way of eating a mini cupcake.  Then, you still have the cake to enjoy too.

You don’t have to worry about what to say then either.  She isn’t into verbalization much, it’s all about sound, facial expression, and tactile expression.  Jabber a bit, laugh a lot, smile more, and give hugs and kisses with total spontaneity, and hey…life is good.

What can you say about that?

Grief.  There are no words to ease that pain.  I know that, I’ve been there.  I’ve mourned a lot of people, from childhood friends to my son, to my father and all of my grandparents and great grandparents.  Aunts and uncles, cousins, co-workers, acquaintances…I’ve lost them too.  It hurts, and it’s different each time.  With the intensity of the grief, people are under the misconception that it gets better over time.

Hogwash, total hogwash.

About all I can say about it is that you get used to it.  It’s like a scar, it’s always there, you never forget it is there, and it never goes away.  You just get used to looking in the mirror and seeing it.  When my son died, it felt as though I had this massive hole through the very center of my being, and part of me was shocked that the sun still shone, the birds still sang, and I still breathed.  How could that be, when my world had ceased to be?

Now, it’s been over ten years.  Longer than I got to have him, I have grieved for him.  I still feel tears well up sometimes when I think about it, and we still talk about him, as well as talk about “That Day.”  I still will cry, and I still remember him, every day, not just on the anniversary of his death or his birthday.  I still miss him.  We still laugh about some of the things he did, as well as some of his idiosyncrasies, and that’s good too.

I grieve for my father too.  Not in the same way, for we know from childhood that our parents are probably going to die before we do and that we’ll have to grieve for them then.  Part of my grief with my father is over our rocky relationship, which we had managed to repair in the last years of his life.  I grieve for the fact that there were so many missed opportunities, so much more that the relationship could have been, if only things had been different.

Grief comes with guilt too.  You second guess yourself, you wonder what you could have done different over time, if you could have changed some of the worst parts of the relationship in some positive manner if you had been that perfect person we all strive to be.  That’s normal too.

But it’s also normal to be normal and not that perfect person.  I think the perfect person, the one that I hold as a mental image of who I’d like to be, would scare me half to death.  Who could be that calm, that rational, that loving and considerate, and not have angel wings and a halo?  Most of us don’t interact daily with angels, and if I suddenly became one…well, I’m not sure anyone would see me or even admit that they had seen me.

Come on, what would you say if you saw an “angel” walking down the street or shopping in the local store?  What could you say that didn’t have your family wanting to lock you up?

That doesn’t mean we should quit striving for the impossible goal of becoming that perfect person we’re striving towards though.  I may not be an angel, but sometimes, you don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to have a halo, and you don’t need angel wings to make a difference to someone else.  Angels come in many forms, you know.   Sometimes, they are a middle aged woman bringing groceries to a single mother who is struggling to feed her children.  It might be coats for someone who can’t afford to buy coats that actually fit their kids.  It might be stopping to help someone change a tire on a summer Sunday morning, getting dirty and making yourself late for church in the process.  It might be helping a neighbor move in or out.  It might be giving some bread to a man standing on a corner begging, or to a young homeless couple that is probably addicted to drugs.  It might be helping an old woman get her groceries from her car to her door.  It might be hiring a guy who has been looking for a job so long that he has nearly given up daring to hope that his application will ever get any attention.

All it takes is to care actually.  To do more than merely go through the motions.  Sometimes it means not only doing the letter of our “job” in the course of the day, but actually putting real effort into it, going an extra inch or two to help someone.  Other times, it cuts into our “play” time, or means giving up something that we’d rather be doing in order to make someone else’s journey a little bit easier.  Other times, it may be as simple as reaching into the groceries that you just bought, and taking out the bread you don’t really need…and handing it to someone outside the store that does need it.  Another day, it might mean that you simply do your best to solve your own problems.

Sometimes, it is also a case of minding your own business instead.  That is especially the case with gossip.  Too often, gossip is mostly fiction, but presented in a manner that makes it sound perfectly plausible.  It may seem innocent, but the problem is…it can seriously damage someone’s life and cause them a great deal of problems, all for something they never did or said.  It can lead to real financial hardship on occasion as well.  I know in my own case, I was once upon a time merely amused about gossip about me, never realizing the damage it was doing and would continue to do even years later.  (Gossip had my life far more interesting than reality ever was!)  Ultimately, it almost cost me my job, and had repercussions that pursued me for over a decade, and the truth is…none of it was even based on truth.  I was judged guilty, plus never had the “fun” of committing the acts!

What can you say?  Your mother was right.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If you don’t know that it is true, don’t repeat it.  In addition, sometimes, things aren’t exactly what they appear to be.  Be kind.  Be considerate.  Try walking in the other person’s shoes.

If all else fails, along with words, there is always the option of opting for non-verbal communication too.  And no, I don’t mean giving someone “the finger”, but rather a smile.  Don’t wait for Washington to bring us change, be the change yourself and be the change.

It takes something, someone, some act to be the catalyst for change.  It can be you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,684 other followers