Thursday, April 15, 2010

Five Rooms in a House


Do those words put together in list form remind you of anything?

No? Then what about this? Kubler-Ross model.

Some of you may have guessed the reference after two words. (You would have guessed after one word if you had had any inkling of where this post is going.) Others may have had their memory jolted with the name Kubler-Ross. For everyone else, here is the answer:

The Five Stages of Death.

There is a wikipedia link Here. Included in the link is a rebuttal by one George Bonanno[2], professor of clinical psychology of Columbia University. Professor Bonanno claims that two decades of serious scientific research reveals no basis to support The Five Stages of Death theory.

I don't know. Considering that the only claim is that people suffering catastrophic pain/loss will pass through at least two of these stages - in no particular order - at least once, I find the claim that there is no evidence strange.

For one thing, two of the stages are at odds with each other: denial and acceptance. By definition, if you aren't accepting what has happened/is taking place, then you are denying it. And if you aren't denying it then you must be accepting it. So that means EVERYONE goes through at least one of the stages.

What about the other three? Anger. Bargaining. Depression.

I find it very difficult to believe that less than the majority of people who learn they are dying, or that someone they love is dying, or that someone they love has died, or that their spouse has filed for divorce, or that they've lost their job, or whatever catastrophic event you care to consider, does not at least get depressed about it. The two most common reactions to horrible events are anger and depression.

My personal biggie is depression. According to the Kubler-Ross model, people not only pass through the various stages, skipping some and visiting others, they may actually shift back and forth between a couple of stages.

This means one can be angry on Monday, accepting on Tuesday, angry again on Wednesday, depressed on Thursday, accepting again on Friday, depressed again on Saturday, bargaining on Sunday, and angry again on Monday.

Or some other combination.

Leaving a stage does not mean that stage is over. And entering an accepting stage does not mean it either. It may not last.

And to further complicate the idea that the theory is bogus, the theory clearly states there is no time limit. Moving from one stage to another may take weeks, or months, or even years.

I have experienced all five stages in my life at various times and dealing with various events which, in my opinion - sucked.

Denial is probably the one I understand the least. It tends to be connected to bargaining, I think, and I am a bargainer. If I'm bargaining for some kind of reversal, then I must not believe it's a "done deal". So, I have to plead Guilty to denying the truth when I don't like it at all.

Anger. Well - yeah. Of course. I can remember slamming billiard balls over the pool table. Hitting them so hard with the cue stick they actually flew off the table. Using the cue as a bat and hitting all the balls at once. Yelling at God. (It's always God we blame, isn't it?) Swearing at him. Demanding to know just what in the hell he thought he was doing anyway? Oh, yes. I have become angry when devastation strikes. Then I'm grumpy around those I care about.

Bargaining. I've already admitting to being a bargainer. My problem is I generally never have anything to bargain with. I mean, what can I offer God that he doesn't already have? Myself? He's already got that. Had it for years. I keep worrying he's in the market to trade up and a better model, or just give up and toss this one aside. Fortunately, God is more gracious and has far more patience than I'll ever know. But I still worry about it. I'm a real pain in the spiritual ass.

Depression. Hell, it's not unusual for me to be depressed when nothing has gone wrong. All I have to do is remember some trauma from my past and - whoosh! All the feelings of goodness and contentment are submerged beneath waves of emotional pain and anguish. Yes. I get depressed about catastrophic events.

Acceptance. This is a strange one. It's the one that frustrates me most. Why? Because it doesn't always stick around. I'll get to a place where I have accepted the truth of a matter, feel fine about it, and actually being to move on. Then, without warning, there I am - denying, bargaining, getting angry or depressed. Those four feelings/attitudes never seem to want to leave. But acceptance? It can hardly wait to get away from me. I think acceptance really hates me.

Part of my problem is my sensitivity. Things that other people let slide away like water from a duck's back just crush the hell out of me. It's like we all have this invisible umbrella, and for other people it sheds the water, because they're holding it properly. Somehow, I hold mine upside down, so instead of channeling all of these negative feelings away, I collect them - right on top of myself. For a person with an I.Q. many people would drool over I'm not very smart.

But the core of my problem - I think - is that I appear to define my self worth on people, things and events outside of myself. Instead of looking at myself with my own eyes, I try to see myself as others must see me. And their actions dictate far more to me than their words. So when I talk to someone who tells me I'm wonderful, but then refuses to have anything to do with me, I have to discount the words and assume there is a problem of some kind.



I'm not sure which of the five rooms I'm in, but it's quiet. So it must be either depression or acceptance. Certain actions I have taken recently suggest acceptance but, like I said, acceptance doesn't really like me. It might be depression in disguise. We're good friends.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Bottom's Looking Bigger and Bigger All the Time

Edited at bottom:

So I just got an appointment to go in to be checked so I can renew my diabetes medicine. Now we're waiting on a call back to tell us how much the whole thing is going to cost us.

That's US, as in WE. NOT U.S. of A.

So far we have been told it will cost $150 to show up and leave. Nothing done. Nothing checked. Just boom! We're out $150 for gracing them with my presence. I knew people didn't like me, but I didn't realize it was going to cost me $150 just to have them look at me.

Once I'm there someone (or more) will take my pulse and blood pressure. This is extra now. Not covered by the $150. And since this is a diabetic appointment someone will need to draw blood from my arm. Someone else will need to test it. And it will need to be reported. Not free either.

As things sit now I would not be surprised if we were told it's going to cost us $300. Or MORE. If we're lucky it will only be about $250.

At $250 my decision becomes difficult. That's a lot of money. With milk at $3 a gallon and bread at $1.25 a loaf and butter at $4 a pound that's still a lot of groceries.

The telephone/internet bill is about $70. That's three months worth. (Why have internet? It's getting so one can hardly live without it. Even son's band practice is done over the internet now. No exceptions.)

So, at $250 I have to choose between medicine and other things - such as food. And what makes that so aggravating is that $150 of that bill is for absolutely NOTHING. Just showing up is worth 50 gallons of milk. I'm not sure that it is.

If the bill turns out to be $300 or more the decision becomes significantly easier. I will cancel the appointment and quit taking diabetic medicine. We can't afford to do anything else.

Can we afford the consequences? Well, let's examine that.

I have no job. Therefore I generate NO INCOME. So my loss represents a no-change status regarding income.

If I am gone there is less food being consumed. Less water being used. Less electricity.

From a strictly financial perspective it actually looks to be a good deal.

But there's more to life than money.

Unless you live in the United States of America. Then that's all there is, I'm beginning to think.


Got a call from the clinic. The final guess they're giving is $250. So I will be going to the clinic next week.

I signed off by telling them, "Be sure to send a thank you to the governor". The woman chuckled grimly and assured me the governor's office would be hearing about all of his cuts to healthcare for the poor.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Graveyards are Where We Make Them

After Daddy died we would visit his grave often. As often as we could. It was nearly 100 miles away.

We would go to the graveyard, tucked away in the trees just outside of a small town, and walk to the grave site and stare down, as if expecting something to happen. Perhaps wishing it was just a bad dream from which we could awaken. Like nightmares, when they are so out of control your brain forces you to wake up.

I often wake up screaming. Scares Spouse nearly to a heart attack.

Daddy used to have dreams like that, too.

I remember a long time ago at Spouse's brother's house. Spouse was talking about my dreams and how I would wake up screaming at least once a month, and sometimes more often. Then Spouse made the comment, "I wish I knew what you were dreaming." To which I replied, "No you don't."

When Lynahr died we did the same thing. Visited every spring. Lynahr was buried beside Daddy. Mother is terrified being buried and so she arranged to have herself cremated instead of buried beside Daddy. (Personally, the idea of being burning - even dead - is terrifying to me.)

Daddy died in '74. Lynarh died on 911.

By the mid-80s I didn't visit Daddy's grave so much. Now we don't visit Lynahr's much either.

I guess it comes down to being used to the idea that someone/something is dead.

For years I would take monthly drives back to the place where I grew up. Then it kind of just - stopped happening. The last time was last year, or the year before, when I brought Son there and took pictures.

It's not the same. It isn't home anymore. Not my home.

Acceptance of unpleasant things comes hard and slow. For some it is very hard and very slow. For others it is like waiting for the next glacial age. But for all of it, it is happening. We may think we have frozen in time, but life does go on. And sometimes I hate life for that very reason. Why does it go on? What right did life have to continue when Daddy died? When Cile died? When Grandma died? When Stephen died? When Lynahr died? But it does. And it asks no questions and seeks no approval for doing so. It just - goes on.

And so when a friendship dies what do we do? Often - but probably not always - we visit the places where that friendship meant the most. And we continue to go there until such time that we accept it has truly died - and life is moving on.

I don't want life to move on anymore. I want it to go backward.

The problem is, if life returns to those happier times in my past, it means I will not have the happier times which took place later. Spouse. Son. My friends here online. And so returning to the past will bring the same result: loss.

Life seems to be one constant lesson about gaining people and things - and then losing them. Not all at once. But eventually.


I don't always like it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Heart of a Fool

So. I'm posting again.

Hadn't meant to.

Didn't think I would again.

Not for a while anyway.

But here I am.

Like the battered woman returning to her abuser I come back for more punishment.

Why do people do the very thing they know is going to cause them grief?

I can't answer that.

I don't know the answer.

But I'm unhappy. In case you hadn't guessed.

Been unhappy for a few weeks now. I lost a friend.

They didn't die.

That almost would have made it easier.

They just don't like me anymore.

REALLY don't like me. And they have made it impossible for me to talk with them ever again. So I'm never going to know the reason why.

Just that it has something to do - with me.

Have you ever had someone turn on you?

Generally, it happens before they are willing to say it out loud. But you can tell. Their manner is different. All wrong. They are stiff. Resistant. Cold.

And what do they do?

They begin to look for reasons why they shouldn't like you. Why they should be angry with you. And every little thing you do and say suddenly becomes something to add to their list of complaints against you.

They blow up violently at you. Even when there's no reason. And when you ask about -

They ignore you.

Until they finally screw up the courage to do what they have wanted to do since their heart turned away - kick you away.

And it's your fault.

It's my fault.


You know. For a person like me, and I wonder how many of us there are, losing a friend is like - dying. Or taking very ill.

When I was younger the pain just found a quiet place and went there. But now that I'm older I seem to be running out of places to hide my sorrow. And I spend the days in tears.

I remember a saying from my youth: Life Sucks, And Then You Die.

Isn't that the truth sometimes?

I shouldn't have posted. Surely there was room for this one to hide, too?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Living Forever in History

You know, life is full of lessons. Some are fun to learn. Some are dull. Some are painful.

The painful ones are probably the ones we learn best. Or, perhaps I'm better in saying, are more firmly grounded into our hearts. Whether we learned them best or not is a matter for debate.

For instance, why do we return to a painful relationship looking for joy and acceptance when we know it just isn't there? But we do. A lot of us do anyway.

One of the more painful - or at least humbling - lessons we can learn is how little we matter in the Grand Scheme. Assuming there is one. But even if there isn't, the truth is, our importance is fairly relative. Or, should I say, our lack of importance is relative. In other words, none of my relatives are important. haha

But I have been reminded in the past week that before I entered this world people were living lives just fine without me. They had no concept of me. And life was grand. And when I leave this place some day, people are going to continue living their lives just fine without me. Eventually, there will be nothing left to tell people I was ever here. And nobody will care.

I guess that's what makes the present so much better for most people. They weren't there in the past. And they won't be in the future. Their time is now.

For myself, I find I don't think of the future so much - except as an extension of the past. My life takes place within a chapter of a much longer story. Relatively speaking, I guess I'm a paragraph, or a sentence, referring to some obscure character who may, or may not, seem interesting to the reader, but who the reader will never learn more about because the story has moved on - while I have not.

Most of my stories send out tentacles into the past. It's the way I write. WHY is this person like this? How did his come to be? Who are these people? History is such a fascinating thing.

I believe it is possible to traverse time in reverse. Some day, barring the world's destruction, people will find a way to do it physically. For now, memory is the road to the past.

Written accounts are best for going beyond our time. Some times they are needed for our own lifetimes, too. Memory brings us back. The page in the diary. The entry on a blog. A letter written to a friend. Email saved and not destroyed.

The past is the reason we can change. The reason we won't sometimes.

This blog contains memories of people who were most precious to me: Daddy. Stephen. Lynahr. Cile. Grandma. They're all gone now. But part of who they were while they were here is contained in this blog. So others can know they existed. And that they were interesting people. Worthy of being loved by anyone.

I guess that's why I'm finding I can never leave this blog for long anymore. I've tried to quit it. Several times. But if my time is short I want there to be something left that says I was here. I want people to be happy about some of the things I wrote. I would like people to say, "Bevie James seemed like such an interesting person. Wish we had met."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cyber Vacation

Hello. I'm back. Been away for awhile. Not physically. But then this isn't a physical place, is it?

No. I've been away in the cyber world. Or, to put it better, I've been to another cyber world. One of those online gaming places. It's the cyber version of these week long camps where people go to dress up like knights, Romans, Klingons, Civil War soldiers, 18th century farmers - or what have you.

I can't do that in real life. Costs real money. A shame. I think it would be a lot of fun.

So I did the next best thing: I went to a cyber camp and have been role playing there. Very addictive.

I won't tell you which one I'm in, although I have tried a few. Just in case we bump into each other. More fun if we stay in character. You know? haha

It's fun to play dress up. Even as an adult. I learned last year that my grandmother did that all the time in the 1930s and 40s. She would get all kinds of people to dress up like 1800s lumberjacks, school marms, and what have you. Then parade all through the countryside on horse drawn wagons. She knew how to have fun.

Most of the games are war related, which I'm not particularly keen on. I prefer the socialization and play-acting. I don't like taking it seriously, like some do. No sense of humor at all.

You tease these guys - and most of them are guys (I think. In play acting one never knows. haha) - and they get angry. As though people never laughed hundreds or thousands of years ago.

I think they've seen too many movies.

But that's where I've been. And that's where I'll be going.

Like I said: it's addictive.

See you later. I've got to get into my cyber costume.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What Makes Us Choose What We Choose

Priorities. It's how we live our lives, isn't it? In fact, we can't live our lives without them.

Which is more important? Go to the movies? Stay home and save the money? Stay home sick and risk losing one's job because they're not that understanding about such things? Or go to work and risk having it get worse and then you lose even more time?

Some priorities are easy. Some get complicated. To others, our complicated priorities generally aren't complicated at all. For some reason we can all see with perfect vision and clarity when it's somebody else confronted with a dilemma. But seldom when it's ourselves.

I have canceled most of my medical visits over the past eight months. Why? Because we don't have health insurance and we also don't have a lot of money. So I skipped my diabetes doctor. Canceled my heart scan. Canceled my colonoscopy (not a difficult decision). And have skipped going to the dentist.

The result is I now have at least two teeth with fillings falling out. One major. Back to that. A few years ago I went two years with broken teeth until we saved up the money to pay for repairs.

My feet have also swollen. My long, slender toes now look like stubby little sausages. The skin is stretched to where it actually hurts. The feet feel both warm and cold at the same time.

Now. Priorities.

Getting these things taken care of is important to me. PAYING somebody to help me deal with it is important to somebody. I have been in debt to medical facilities before. The only creditors worse are banks and the government. So, the choice: Go to the doctor when I know I can't pay for it and will then get phone call after phone call every night of the week for the rest of my life demanding payment; Or not go to the doctor and know that I am slowly but surely killing myself?

I have chosen the second of those two choices.

But that doesn't amaze me. For me, the choice was obvious and hardly worth debating. What amazes me is what took place this week.

Spouse and I stopped at the vet to get Firestar more food. He was out. And after he nearly died he's been on a special diet food only available at the vet. It's expensive, but it lasts a long time. Only it's prescription. So in order for us to continue to purchase it, we had to bring Firestar in to be examined.

So I did.

I spent $66 so Firestar could eat special food which prevents him from getting sick and dying. But I won't go myself.


I based this one on the truth that Firestar's condition is not of his doing. At all. All of my problems are my own fault.

Firestar has no choice in his life. His health is in my hands, not his paws.

I am responsible now for both of our lives. But it's easier to let mine slip than his.

Why is that? He's just a cat.

Except - he isn't. Is he?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things He Did

I only knew my daddy for seventeen years. And of those years I only remember a dozen. Not a long time to get to know somebody.

What I most remember of him is his laughter. Daddy was a knee slapper. He When he laughed it was loud and hard. He put all himself into his laughter.

After he was gone I learned more things. Things that took place before I was born. Some of what I learned surprised me.

I knew Daddy had wanted to fly airplanes. For a short time he actually had a pilot's license. That was before I was born. By the time his second child was born he had lost it. To keep a license one must fly so many hours at month or something. That costs money. After he got married Daddy never had much of that.

All of that I knew. How Daddy had taken his mother, his step-father, and Ranlen up to fly. Ranlen was about two. He was sitting on grandma's lap, having a great time. And then grandma told him to look out the window. Up to that moment Ranlen had thought they were on the ground. Once he realized he was in the sky he threw up. All over grandma.

The piece of information I found most amazing I only learned last year. Daddy had wanted to go gold mining in Alaska. Mother didn't even try to stop him. "Go ahead. Go." That was her response. He was packed and ready to go. Then, the night before he was to leave, he changed his mind.

Now I know where I inherited my fear of trying something new comes from.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Times They Are A-Changing

Those of you with grown children will know all about this from your memory. Those of you with teenagers are living it now. Those of you with younger children may have an inkling. And those of you without children haven't got a clue.

Son is a teenager. That says a lot. And yet it doesn't really say anything. Teenagers are as different from each other as one tree from another. No two oaks are the same. No two ash. No two beach. No two any trees are the same. And yet all oak trees share common traits. Same with teenagers.

Today we were out. Shopping. A rare occurrence as we seldom have money. But our federal taxes arrived on Friday and we had money in our pockets. Enough to actually eat at an Old Country Buffet restaurant. For those of you who do not know, OCB is an all you can eat establishment. It's a favorite with the very old and the very young. And the poor.

Son used to love going there.

Actually, there was a time when Son always wanted to go with us. It didn't matter where we were going. He wanted to come along.

That was then. This is now.

If it were possible, he would have us go without him even when his presence was required.

The days of not minding being seen with us in public are over. At least for a few years. No longer are we brilliant. We haven't a clue. Our behavior is no longer eccentric. It's embarassing.

But I'm not being fair. The truth is, whatever he feels inside, he is nothing but manners on the outside. I'm only guessing at the clueless and embarassing. He's never said a word. Never acted different.

Except he hates going with us when we leave.

It's his independence coming to the surface. Very necessary, but also lonely.

I appreciate him growing up. Hopefully, he will do better with his life than we have done with ours.

But sometimes I miss the boy.

He used to want to go places with me.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who is That in the Mirror Anyway

I'm a suspicious kind of person, I guess. Have been for a very long time. And the tendency has only gotten worse as I have gotten older. Don't really much like it. But it's a matter of self-preservation, you know.

The sad thing is that despite all of my suspicions and doubts about virtually everything, I have not been immune to playing the fool. Which only makes me more suspicious.

I suppose my family taught me to be that way first. They who loved the practical joke. Anything to make someone look and feel foolish. When you played the fool in my family you got no sympathy anyone. Even Daddy and Mother laughed. In fact, often it was Daddy or Mother who put you in position to be the fool.

It was meant in fun, but it didn't always go over well. And the absence of the reverse - positive reinforcement - only made it worse.

As a child I learned a big lesson: Don't trust a good thing. It's a trick. You will look foolish.

I have also had my share of people who have feigned friendship with me in order to use me, get something from me, or just make me look stupid. Men aren't the only ones with "one thing on their minds", and women aren't the only ones hurt when the truth comes out.

The result, of course, is that I have some incredibly wonderful people in my life who I don't entirely trust. Not because of them. But because of a past filled with people who weren't so incredibly wonderful.

Not trusting others, fearing them even, means not being involved when fun things are happening. I rarely attended parties or things of that nature. And when I did I usually sat alone and watched. Still do that at family functions. I'm an observer. Not a participant.

A few times I have joined in, and usually I have had a good time. But for whatever reason, these memories are not enough to inspire frequent attempts to repeat.

I have also been victim of more than one financial scam. When I was doing well, had a job that paid very nicely, money in the bank, etc., I laughed at the scammers and shook my head at those who got scammed. How could they be so stupid? Well, now I know. It isn't so much stupidity as it is desperation. To use sports terminology, it is the Hail Mary pass at the end of the game. It's throwing the basketball (as opposed to shooting it) from 80 feet away.

Yes, playing the fool does make us wary the next time. But it also makes us wary of a good thing and good people when they come along. And if we're too wary they just keep going.

I don't particularly like being afraid and mistrustful. At the same time I don't particularly like being a fool. But my real concern is this: What is that is exactly what I am?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Have you ever noticed how some people just can't sit still? Not ever. Not even after a long and difficult day at a regular job. They return from work and immediately start finding things to do around the house/apartment. They can't sit still. Not even when sitting still is exactly the correct thing to do.

Spouse is like that. After thirty years of marriage we have NEVER sat down and watched a movie, or even a television, show straight through. There is always something that needs to be putzed with. (Putz is my word for activities which don't need to be done and don't really serve much of a purpose at the time.) The result of this is that Spouse never knows what's going on in a movie or television show. And during those rare moments when Spouse returns to watch there is a constant barrage of questions about what's going on which would have easily been answered had Spouse just relaxed and sat still to watch.

After thirty years I'm at the point where if it doesn't interfere with my relaxing I don't really care. It drives Son nuts. He's entering the stage of annoyed replies to questions about the show. Or sullen silence. Teenagers have their own ways of communicating dissatisfaction.

I suppose people like me drive the active people insane, making them think I must be out of my mind (or a completely lazy slob) for being able to sit down and not move from my place for extended periods of time - such as fifteen minutes or more.

Remember Rudyard Kipling's, "If" poem? There have been a variety of comic takes on it over the years. My favorite came from the Flintstones, the stone age cartoon created by Hanna-Barbara back in the 1960s. Fred was going to umpire little league. In the rule book he reads the If poem - as it related to umpiring. It concluded with, "If you can do all of this then, and only then, are you read to be an umpire. You bum."

Whenever I'm around people being active and I'm being calm, I find myself thinking of the If poem and wonder if they're thinking something along this line.

If you can remain calm when this entire mess is your fault,
If you can sit there calmly while there is a floor that could be vacuumed,
or a bed that could be made,
If you can type on that keyboard when there are things that could be rearranged,
furniture that could be moved,
Then just what in the h*ll is the matter with you? Get off your a*s and do something! Anything. Just quit sitting there like that. You're driving me nuts!

Ceste la vie. Right?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fuzzy Icicles

We've had light rain for the past week. Other parts of the area got bonified rain and snow. We didn't. But we still got icicles hanging from the roof around us. Being on third floor gives us a closer view of these things.

Today we have light snow. It's supposed to keep getting worse and worse. Nothing like the east coast just got, but snow nonetheless. It's a dry snow, and it's sticking to the icicles. While waiting for our tax guy to arrive I chanced to look out through the deck and saw them. So I took some pictures.

This was the first thing I saw.

And I did a close up.

The snow keeps falling off the top, but the stiles got their share of now.

Our third floor neighbor never uses his deck.

Our second floor neighbors had a nice Christmas scene.

And on the other side it looks like an avalanche under construction.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fortuna's Wheel

Time is something we humans have been fascinated with for a long, long time. Even as individuals many of us think about going backward, or forward, in time. Backward to relive old experiences and possibly correct some errors in judgment we made. Forward to see what life will be like. We hate unpleasant surprises.

Not everyone is afflicted with this condition. Many people are quite content to live life in the moment. They could care less what happened in the past, or what is in store in the future. Now is the moment, and now is where they live.

I'm not one of those people. I'm a past person. I see past joys and wonder why they had to end. I see past sorrows and wonder if I would have averted them - if I had only known then what I know now.

But were past joys more joyful than current joys? Or is it simply that now that I can see them with a beginning, middle, and end, I recognize them as joys, whereas now I'm never quite sure what I have until it's done. I suppose that's the advantage of living in the now. Every moment is its own beginning, middle, and end.

There's an addage (I don't know exactly how it goes) that says we can only know the heights of joy by knowing the depths of sorrow. And vice versus, too. In essence, if I understand this aright, one cannot be any happier than they have been sad. Neither can they be any sadder than they were happy. Sounds safe enough. Also sounds dull. Almost robotic. I don't live that way. I don't want to. I'll take my great sorrows, because I know that coming my way is great joy.

Meanwhile, once again I haven't got anything intelligent to say.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Similar Parents

Stephen's relationship with his parents was what I considered to be - odd. It certainly was not like mine with my own parents. Although his mother was constantly yelling at him. But she didn't call him names and say she hated him. She just yelled at him all the time. In fact, everyone in his family yelled at everyone else. I think it was how they communicated.

But his parents could be so capricious. Without warning they would turn from yelling and screaming to complete and utter generosity. Or the reverse.

Every so often his dad would try to join some of the things we did: billiards, basketball, football, fishing, movies. He was better than average at billiards. He completely sucked at the rest.

I remember one time Stephen calling me up on a Saturday to ask if I wanted to go out that night. I said sure. He said he would be right over. I went outside to wait for him. It was a nice day.

Since Stephen only lived about five miles away it didn't take long for him to show up. Our house was on a corner and I saw him driving to the stop. Right behind him was his dad, laying on the horn. Stephen stopped and got out and he and his dad engaged in a loud exchange. I was too far away to make out the exact words, but the end result was both cars turned around and drove back to Stephen's house. I went inside to wait for the phone call.

I could hear the yelling in the background. It still wasn't clear what the problem was, but Stephen wasn't going to be able to use the car that night. I would have to drive to him. So I got permission to use the car and went to his house. He was eager to leave. The yelling continued until we were both in my car and driving away.

What had happened was this. Stephen's dad had decided to clock Stephen's speed. But he didn't want Stephen to know it, so he waited until Stephen was well away before getting in the other car and following. But to clock Stephen's speed he had to speed to catch up. When he found himself going 70 m.p.h. to catch Stephen he concluded that Stephen was going 70 m.p.h. Stephen, of course, argued that if he had been going that fast then his dad would have had to have gone even faster to catch up. The argument fell on deaf ears. All his dad knew was how fast he was going. Therefore, Stephen had to have been going that fast, too.

Now that I think of it, Stephen's parents were a lot like mine. They didn't make any sense at all.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What We're Comfortable With

Life is a series of milestones. Most of then quite insignificant. For instance, just a few seconds ago I won my 930th consecutive game of Reversi. You know the game. It comes free with most computers. Basically, it's Othello. I bought Othello back in 1977, I think. That was when I was living alone in a one room flat near the Har Mar Mall. It was also the place where I was unknowingly on display for the world every night. But if you're interested in that you'll need to look at post history. (See What to Watch When the Television is on the Fritz - 1970s Style)

I spent a couple of days getting the hang of the game before Stephen showed up. We played a few games - which he lost every time. Then Randy came over and I beat him. Eventually, Randy would take computer programming in college and he wanted to write an Othello computer game. He was always so frustrated because his program never beat me. He would ask me my strategies and I would tell him. No sense lying. All he had to do was watch me play anyway. So he would go back to the college and input all of the new facts. Then he would invite me in and I would play. And win. And I did it by not following my own strategy. When he asked me why I changed my strategy I replied, "Because what I wanted to do wasn't going to work." That was the element he could never program. The ability to completely toss out one strategy and adopt an entirely new on on the spur of the moment.

There was a time I was very into strategy games. Not all strategy games. For some reason I found (and still find) checkers boring and chess annoying. And I didn't like Go. But games out of the ordinary often fascinated me. Othello, Twixt, and number of others I can't recall the names of.

My sister-in-law had a game we used to play almost daily. I forget the name. I always won. Every time. And for a long time that didn't bother her. Then she decided that it wasn't good for me to win every time. And she decided to quit taking it easy on me.

I suspected she had been. She was (is) hardly a dummy. Her high intelligence and wild sense of humor was what kept us friends. So she decided she would win. She actually gave every move considerable thought. And suddenly, I found myself on the defensive.

It didn't stay that way. The game went back and forth. She had the advantage. I had the advantage. Stalemate. Repeat the cycle. There were only a few pieces left to each of us. It was a game in which you would jump opponent pieces and remove them from the board. Similar to checkers, but with a LOT more twists, from having different kinds of pieces making different kinds of jumps to a diamond board instead of a square. But the game had reached the point where neither of us was allowed any more mistakes. The next mistake, or miscalculation, would result in defeat.

To be honest, the strain was awful. It was so tempting to just give up. But I was convinced I had two things going for me that would result in my winning: my pride in having never lost would keep me going; she didn't believe she would win.

I don't mean she didn't believe she couldn't win. Of course she could win. She had proven that over and over again. But she didn't believe it. It wasn't in her heart. But she had already achieved her goal. Her goal was to prove to me that she could beat me. She had done that - even without winning. My goal was to never lose. Ever. And she knew that.

What I was counting on was her not wanting me to fail. In her heart she didn't. And so it was she who made the fatal mistake which allowed me to win. She didn't let me win. Not consciously. The move I made to claim victory came as a complete surprise to her, and I had to step through it again (slowly) so she could see its legitimacy. But I believe(d) she wanted me to win.

Stephen and I were like that. Stephen NEVER beat me at tennis. I NEVER beat Stephen at basketball or pool.

I NEVER beat my brother at much of anything. Even when I'm clearly better.

We all have relationships like that. There are people who will always win over. There are also people we will never defeat. It has nothing to do with ability. It's something in the heart. Something which tells us that if an alternate result were to occur, not only would life not be the same anymore, neither would it be as good.

My sister-in-law put the game away after that match and we never played it again. I don't think it was so much that I couldn't lose. After that match winning no longer mattered. But we had moved the game from something fun to do together to something which pitted us against each other. And we didn't want that. And so the game wasn't fun anymore.

In the years since I have lost that drive within that tells me to never lose. I hardly try in games anymore, and often lose when I could have - and should have - won. But it doesn't bother me. I find a peace in defeat which I never found in any of my past victories. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, it isn't about winning anymore. It's just about playing.

Unfortunately, I seem to have taken the same attitude toward life in general.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Willard Slough

Willard was an oddly sort and that was putting it nice
He never washed his hands just once he had to wash them twice

When Willard walked about the town he brought with him a sack
And when he put his smock coat on the front was in the back

One shoe was red, one shoe was blue, the other shoe was green
And Willard walking through the town was something to be seen

He wore pink gloves with the fingers out and carried a candy cane
Which he used to bonk folk on the head when they dared call him insane

One day I chanced to see the man he was in a backward run
I followed him so quickly then to see how this was done

It’s the eyes in back of my head, you see, was Willard’s quick retort
Then off in a flash he was gone again to seal up his fort

I miss the days of Willard Slough, running through the town
For when Willard Slough was with us then, who had a need for clowns

Happy Rabbit Hole Day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Happened Then

Here's a question for you: Do you ever dream about being in school again? Not as an adult returning, but at the same age you were 'way back when'. I do.

Actually, I also dream about returning to school as an adult. What's interesting about these dreams is that they do NOT take place at my old schools. The school are larger, more modern, and filled with new technology.

But when I dream I am young and back in school all is as it was. Kind of like Ebenezer Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

For years I even remembered the combination on my lockers. Now I only remember a ten and thirteen. But I don't think they went with the same locker.

Memory is an odd thing. Back in the 1980s I worked at a small town newspaper. It was a rewarding job, albeit not with money. I earned $10,400 a year. Before taxes. Spouse worked three jobs and earned another $10,000. We paid roughly $6,000 together in state and federal taxes, as well as FICA. And, thanks to the Reagan Administration, had to pay an addition $1,600 at tax time. Apparently the 30% we had already paid wasn't enough. (The reason I remember this so well is that I was talking with a city administrator who was earning $70,000 that year. When he did his taxes he got a return of $7,000. Life is just so fair.)


While working at the newspaper I got wind through a school contact of a man who was celebrating his 105th birthday. I went out to interview him and take pictures. Not being the best photographer, my editor-owner sent the other reporter along to do the pictures.

He was a frail old thing, but still sharp as a tack. He had these tiny vials of brandy, and every night he would set one on his night stand. In the morning, the first thing he did was drink the whole thing.

He had served in World War I and remembered World War II. He grew up without electricity or automobiles or telephones. He told a lot about his life, but mostly he concentrated on the late 1800s and very early 1900s. And at one point he made a curious statement which I can now relate to much better (being about half his age now).

I find now that it is easier for me to remember something that happened back when I was five years old than it is for me to remember what happened yesterday.

Memory is kind of selective, isn't it? And not entirely reliable. I don't think I make too many mistakes with mine yet. But I have known several people who don't do well at all. And they're still quite young!

There is a theory - I don't know who's it is - that stored inside our heads is a record of everything we have done, seen, heard, felt, spoken and even thought. It's all there. Everything. Only the chemical pathways which allow us access aren't all connected for us anymore. But I remember reading some scientist's theory that there was a place in the brain which, if found and activated, would replay our lives for us in detail. Some think that is exactly what is going to happen when we stand before God for judgment. It's all going to play back for us. An irrefutable record of who we have been. For real.

Sometimes memory seeks to hide things from us. I remember a guy I worked with. He had been bicycling through Anoka when he crossed an intersection. He had the green light so he didn't think about traffic. Mistake. A woman ran the red light and struck him. According to witnesses, he never lost consciousness. He even spoke. Amazingly, he had no broken bones or other internal injuries. But he couldn't remember what happened. Everything from the moment he was struck until he left the hospital was gone from his conscious recall. Three years later it was still gone. I don't know if it ever came back to him.

Every so often I find myself wondering if I have any blank outs like that. Considering some of the things I do remember, if I do, whatever it was I'm not remembering must have been quite traumatic. Good thing I don't remember then. Right?

Memory. It plays such a critical part in how we get through each day. Without it we would have no hope of survival.

But that's just my opinion.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Horses are Gone. Who Gives a Damn About the Gate.

So, we've lost the house, right? That happened a few months ago. But what do we get in the mail yesterday but a letter from the bank informing us that we now qualify for a vast reduction in interest rate. Just over two percent! (We were paying over five.) This "offer" lasts until the end of February. It reduces the monthly house payment by $800. Pretty fantastic.

Where were they two years ago when we begged them to cooperate with us and they refused? That extra $800 a month could have made the difference between us keeping the house or not. Now the house sits empty. Deteriorating.

When we left the roof leaked over the dining room and the foyer. The siding was damaged on the north and west sides. There was no siding on the west side of the garage. The carpeting was all original from the year 2000. (We were only in it two years when our income dropped from $95,000 a year to $30,000 a year. And since then it has dropped to about $15,000.) The walls in the major rooms need to be repainted. Some of the sinks were beginning to leak and a couple of the bathroom fixtures needed replacement. The house sits in a low area (weren't we brilliant to build there) and so the sump pump runs almost constantly. Year round. We actually went through one and had to replace it.

Sitting empty the ceiling will continue to leak. The already worn and dirty carpeting will not be vacuumed. Condensation around the windows (a problem in this house) will not be mopped up, thereby collecting and becoming a breeding place for mold. Should the sump pump quit running for any reason the lowest level will flood. And for whatever reason there is, houses simply tend to break down when nobody is living in them. I don't know why, but they do.

Spouse believes the bank has the house up for sale at the low price of $169,000. That's about $100,000 less than what we owed, and $80,000 less than it would be worth were it in good repair. My estimate is that it is going to take upwards of $100,000 to restore it to excellent condition again. The roof and siding will take up at least $30,000 alone. But most of the double glazing has popped and the windows should really be replaced. Lets' see: 10 windows on the south side alone; 2 more on the west; 7 on the north; and 2 more on the east. That's 21 windows. Windows aren't cheap. Neither is carpeting. Living room. Family room. Study. Three bedrooms. The vinyl flooring in the kitchen and foyer should be replaced. And since one is at it, might as well replace the vinyl in three bathrooms (the downstairs one is unfinished anyway).

I'm sure the letter we received was some kind of form letter, for it makes no mention of the fact that it's been more than a year since we made a house payment. The thing is, now that our income has dropped to where it is, even at an $800 a month discount we couldn't afford it. What a pity. What a waste.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It Sounds Easy

Faith in oneself. Believing in oneself. This makes an excellent foundation for achievement and success. How man times (as an adult) have I been told to "just believe" in myself, as though this were such a simple thing to do.

I expect that for people who grew up being told, shown, and supported in doing this it IS an easy thing to do. Something that comes as naturally as breathing. And these people are completely confused, frustrated, and sometimes even disgusted, by those who "won't" do it.

What these people fail to understand is that believing in oneself begins young, not old. Not that it can't begin when one is older. It's just that it's a h*ll of a lot harder.

As adults we either use what we learned as young people to help us continue to grow, or we have to overcome what we learned as young people to grow. The child who is told by parents (especially), teachers (also important), family and friends that they are special, gifted, intelligent, entertaining, athletic, creative, stupid, useless, unloved, unwanted, is going to become an adult who believes these things deeply in their heart. And what we believe deeply in our hearts will greatly affect how we live our lives.

One of the reasons my family has been 'unhappy' with me is because I kept my son from them. We seldom visited, and only once left Son in the care of any of them. My reason (and it was my reason)? I did not want my family to do to my son what it had done to me - and itself. What I saw it do to nieces and (especially) nephews. Disguised as humor, the constant barrage of harassment would have destroyed Son. He's a gentle sort. I didn't believe in my own ability to successfully combat the environment. So I kept Son out of it. The price I paid is that I went lower and lower in the eyes of my family. A price well worth the reward.

You see, Son has something I do not. Son believes in himself.

I know I have a high I.Q. I know I have ability in this and in that. And yet I find myself held back by a very strong conviction in my soul that none of that matters. I still can't do it.

Losing a negative self-esteem is a lot like losing weight. Those not suffering have a difficult time understanding why it's so hard to change. But it is. A good many of us never do.

What's the solution?

I have only one thought. Stop looking at fat people as "fat" people. Look at them as individual people. You might find they're worthy of your friendship after all. And the same goes for the broken down. What often happens is that "fat" people don't eat so poorly when they're around people who just accept them for who they are. And the same goes for the insecure. It has been true for me anyway. When I'm talking with my friends (all online right now) I find I'm not thinking about snacking, drinking pop or second helpings. And I find myself inspired to try again after my latest failure. When I'm with people reminding me of my weight and my failures all I want to do is find a place to hide and eat a bowl of chips with a liter of Pepsi.

My friends have not made me thin (yet). Nor am I a stalwart of confidence. But I do like my friends. They make me happy. Which is something I relish far more than success.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We Are Often Our Own Worst Enemies

There is something about losing a job which leaves a brand upon a person. Or so I think anyway. So it has been with me. I think.

It's funny, too, how using a different word to describe a thing can totally change the meaning of what has happened in the minds of many. For instance, when I lost my very nice paying job seven and a half years ago I told people I was "fired". My sister Judayl would become almost livid with me for saying this. "You were not fired! Stop saying that. You were laid off. They eliminated your position. Didn't they give you a letter stating your termination had nothing to do with you?"

My termination. Officially, it means something has come to an end. But it has a sense of death about it.

Yes, it is true I got a letter stating the reason I lost my job had nothing to do with me. All of us who were "terminated" at that time got the same letter. Except RT, who argued and fought for a better letter and got it.

But in my mind I was told they didn't want me and that I should not come back. That's as good as fired in my book. Six of one. A half dozen of the other.

And to say my being chosen to be in the department half which was "let go" had nothing to do with me cannot be entirely truthful. There were several reasons, I'm sure, which had very much to do with me, which explain why I was chosen. Four of those reasons stick out in my mind.

A major factor, and one which the company went to great lengths to hide, was my age. Of the sixteen people let go that day, twelve of us were over forty. Three of the four younger employees let go that day were chosen simply to lower the average age. Being over forty I was given a sheet (without names) indicating the ages of all the people being let go and the average age of those people. The average age was 39.8. Only two people over forty were kept. And they were the only two people who knew how to do their jobs.

A second factor, but not nearly so formidable as the first, was my salary. I had been with the company fourteen years. While not the highest paid in my department I still was making a comfortable wage. More money was going to be saved by dumping me than by dumping someone at half my salary. And it wasn't like I couldn't be replaced. I had just written a piece of software which made it possible for anyone in the department to replace me. Wasn't that brilliant of me? [haha]

Formidable as the first factor was, I think the next two were what really sealed the deal against me.

The manager was newly appointed from the ranks. To be honest, he had been promoted too soon and wasn't really ready to take on the position. But the other manager saw an opportunity for his own promotion and took it, leaving his position open. The new manager's insecurities made him paranoid. And he quickly latched onto a Yes Man. The yes man was, of course, the most incompetent person in the department - if not, in fact, the entire company. In fact, he was being fired from the company by another department when my manager took him on. (The yes man had seen the writing on the wall and had maneuvered his way over.) Despite warnings from other managers, he brought the yes man on board. And the yes man immediately became a problem for the department. But nobody could touch him with any piece of evidence. He told the manager everything the manager wanted to hear. And the manager wouldn't listen to anything against him.

Which brings me to reason number three.

I can generally tolerate a lot. And if someone else is incompetent at their job I don't usually care. Until such time that they decide to have me blamed for their mistakes. I refuse credit when it isn't mine, and I simply will not take blame for the same reason. The yes man had been deflecting all of his mistakes at a couple of others (who, by the way, were also cut in the big employee reduction plan). I, and a couple of others, tried to help the innocent, but not being fully versed in that portion of the department were not much help at all. And then the yes man included me.

The argument was short. But loud. And when about a dozen requests to be left alone went unheeded I finally said what I was feeling. "You f*cking a*shole! Get the h*ll away from me!"

Needless to say, that did not go over well with the manager. I found myself in a private meeting - outside the building - in which the manager very nicely explained to me that yes man was really a great employee and I should become friends with him. He also told me something else - which is reason number four of why I was picked to be let go.

I replied that yes man was an effing backside and there was no way I was going to be friends with him. However, in the interest of department health, I would not argue with him again - if he would agree to the same.

As to the manager's other comment, I made no reply. But I really didn't have to.

In a nutshell, the manager's other comment was this: as he saw it, my job was to make him look good to his boss. If I could do that then I was fulfilling my job. If not, I was not. Yes man, by virtue of constantly speaking well of manager when CEO was around, was doing that. I never did anything like that. I needed to start.

To h*ll with that. That wasn't what I was being paid to do. Not in my mind anyway. While I never spoke ill of manager (while I worked there), I wasn't going to play politics. Especially if it meant lying. So I didn't do it.

So, when the big day came and half the department was let go, most of us shared an age over forty. Our salaries were widely ranged. But none of us got alone with yes man, and none of us went out of our way to make manager look good.

I know how to play the workplace game. But if a game isn't fun I just can't bring myself to play it. Not then. Certainly not now. It cost me then and it's costing me now. But as expensive as not playing the game is to me, playing it would cost me so much more. I would cease to be me, and I couldn't live with myself. I know. Because there was a time when I did play the game. And I hated myself so much - and the company which insisted I play - that I actually refused a raise two years in a row. And believe it or not, that did not go over well either.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Recharging the Spirit

Been sitting here sifting through what I've actually written (on the computer) thus far this year. Nearly finished compiling the list. If you're interested, I'm up to fifteen separate pieces, but only around 6,000-words. I've been writing in short bursts. Poetry. Posts. Things like that.

I had Playlist going and along comes a song I haven't heard in a long time. Amazing Grace. This was an instrumental, done with bag pipes. This song, perhaps more than any other I have ever heard in my life, speaks to me.

This is what I got from Wikpedia: ""Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807) and published in 1779."

Newton had been a slave trader.

Generally, I prefer the song in bag pipes, with perhaps an orchestra background. But there are lyrics, and it is the lyrics which make the haunting bag pipe sound so real. If you do not know them, here they are:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

At various time in my life I have become quite "full of myself", and ultimately something will occur to bring me back down to reality. This song is one of those things which can do it very quickly. When I hear the music I think of the lyrics. And the lyrics remind me to consider myself in comparison with the beauty of others, and the idea. I do not measure up well to either. And I am gratefully humbled.

When I was younger I didn't particularly care to think of others as better at anything. Not acts of physical ability, and certainly not in intelligence. I knew I wasn't beautiful, but I liked to believe I was. (This is why I do not keep mirrors about my place.)

I am older now. To children, I am practically ancient. To retirees I am still a "kid". No matter. One thing I have learned in my years is that I don't have to be "the best" anymore. It's enough to be who I am - and that is a learning process only recently begun.

Many, I suppose, look at the lyrics of Amazing Grace and see depression and self-abasement. That is certainly there, but it isn't what draws me. What draws me is the forgiveness. The love. I am fast discovering that that is all that matters to me anymore. To be forgiven - by God and by people - for the mistakes I make, which are many. To be loved - by God and by people - for just being who I am, even while I am still learning myself who that is.

It is a beautiful song and it always makes me cry. At least on the inside, if I manage to keep my tears in check.

The song tells me there is a future. And I should embrace it. It's like - coming home after a long and disastrous journey and finding open arms accepting me back. Everything is going to be all right. That's what's amazing. It is.

I hope you are having a good day.

Here is a YouTube link to Judy Collins singing Amazing Grace with a background choir. Probably the only acapella song I can honestly say reaches me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Frightening Bit of Legislation

It is only now that I am so much older than I was that I realize how naive and stupid I truly am.

Growing up I was taught about slavery, and how it is bad. I was taught about intolerance, and how it is bad. I was taught about murder, torture, harassment, and all kinds of things like that. And I was told those things were bad.

To me, it seemed as though this must have been new information for us all. For most of the adults I knew were very prejudiced against black people. They did not go by the name African-American at that time. Black Power was just coming on the scene.

There was tremendous intolerance for gay people. They were called "queers" when I was young. Faggot was a term used for guys, and Dyke was for gals. Not exactly endearing terms, were they?

I was guilty of using all the nasty words. Everybody was using them, so it only seemed right. Everybody, that is, except the people on the receiving end of those insults.

Suffering from my own persecutions, and even at times having the queer terms used toward me, I came to realize it was all wrong. I have always had gay and lesbian friends. I didn't always know it, despite everyone else seemingly aware. But you see I don't really care about that aspect of my friends' lives. They're my friends. What else do they need to be?

But I believed that people were finally "getting it", and that all of this hatred was fading away. Mine would be the generation to finally end racial hatred. Sexual inequality. Social casting. And so forth.

As it turns out my generation is more guilty of the crimes than any generation which has gone before. I say this because my generation has had all of the previous generations to look at and learn from. But we learned the wrong lessons.

I have seen prime examples within arm's reach of racial hatred. Gender hatred. Hatred against class. Hatred against gays and lesbians. I have seen all of these things which before, in my state of premeditated blindness, I failed to see.

It is exhausting to realize how many people just plain hate people who are different. This is whether the difference is skin color, faith, gender, sexual preference, class, and country. But we can't give up trying to put a stop to the hatred.

Thanks to Fairyhedgehog, I am now aware of something happening in Uganda. Granted, since I don't live in Uganda I have no real right to tell them what they should and shouldn't do. But what they are planning on doing is frightening. Basically, they are considering passing a law which implements the death penalty for gay and lesbian people. You can read Fairyhedghog's post here, and the New York Times article here.

I made my own post, speaking to the Christian community, on Faith in Forgiveness. That's another of my blogs. Not one which receives a lot of visits. Guess I'm not much of a Christian. Fortunately for me, God bases Christianity on forgiveness and not the opinions of others. I'm mostly a powerless person, but I speak when and how I can.

I wish we would all just stop hating each other. So many (most) of the world's problems would just go away if we did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What We Say and What We Do

I just saw another PSA about getting flu vaccinations. I'm old enough now to remember when vaccinations were given free to everyone in school. There were no fees based on ability to pay or inability to pay. One day the students would show up to school and find it was vaccination day. Polio was the biggie back then, but I think there were others, too.

How times have changed. There are places where the poorest of the poor can go to get free vaccinations, but even the regular poor have to pay now. Spouse and Son got vaccinated last fall. I skipped it. But between the two of them it cost us about fifty dollars.

Money has certainly become the driving factor in our society. It crushes all other considerations - at least, in the minds of many. There was a time in this country when doing what was right was important enough to spend the money. But the conservative elements of our society have become incredibly powerful. And learned. They know exactly how to bog down any kind of legislation which might actually help people. Like trial lawyers who muddy up the truth with a barrage of irrelevant facts which confuse the jury.

As a country we say getting these vaccinations are important. But not so important to do what was done in the past: provide them free of charge to every student in school. Is this expensive? Of course it is. Very expensive. But so is having unvaccinated children all over the country. So are the two wars we are in - without any clear plan of ending. (Without an idea of what constitutes victory or defeat how can it end?)

We say it's important for everyone to have health coverage. But we won't spend the money to make it happen.

We say it's important people don't use cell phones and/or computers while they're driving. And yet we find no problem with new cars entering the market with built-in dashboard computers, telephones, and even television sets.

We Americans are probably the largest group of hypocrites the earth has ever seen.

Sorry. But these commercials annoy me. And I'm sick of winter. And I'm broke.

Have a good day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Everlasting Connection

Most people do not have to live very long before they know of death. For people living in very difficult places, such as war zones, high crime zones, or very unsanitary zones, death seems to be at their elbow constantly.

For those of us living in modern western society death seems more removed. But really, it isn't. It's just more invisible to us as we don't see it quite so often.

But grandparents pass on. Aunts. Uncles. Eventually, parents. And of course we all know those who died before their time. Died young. Accidents. Disease.

It is when a young person dies that we struggle the most with death, I think. Although if we have been especially close to the the older person who has died it really isn't any easier when it happens. But there is a wave of emotion which sweeps over us when we learn of the death of children. It's like we feel they were somehow cheated, and it wasn't fair.

True, they have been cheated. But cheated of what?

What is it about living here that makes not experiencing it so horrible?

There was a time when I had quite a list to answer that question. But as I have aged I have pared off more and more line items. And as I have come to feel my faith in God and an afterlife grow into something more real to me I have come to pare off even more.

I have had my share of people I care about die. Not as many as some, I know. In that I have been far luckier than them. But I know the pain of loss. Daddy. Stephen. Lynahr. Grandma. Cile. There have been babies, teenagers, young mothers. It hurts. It always does.

But I have come to realize that those who die and move on to whatever it is in the afterlife are only cheated of one thing that really matters: us.

If the afterlife is all we like to believe, then why feel sorry for someone who gets to live it? The baby didn't get to grow up? And experience what? Racial, sexual, religious, caste, financial bigotry? There are things that are good in this life, but there are a hell of a lot of things that really suck. Illness. Injury. War.

If heaven is what we believe it to be - and yes, I do believe it is, and more - then even a baby missing out on this life has to be happy.

It's like when Jesus was going to cross to die. He told the weeping women to stop weeping for him. His time of suffering was about over. Life was about to get very good for him. "Weep for yourselves," he said. Why? Because they would be without him.

And that's the real reason we weep when someone dies. We are less concerned with what they will miss out from not being here than with us being without them. That's the real pain of death. Losing someone and not being able to find them again. You see, we all know the rule: we're not supposed to seek out death. We're to let him find us when it's time. To encourage us to obey we have all been given a sense of self-preservation. Otherwise, when someone especially loved died, those who especially loved them would simply follow.

The worst thing about babies, children, and young people in general dying is that we miss out on seeing them grow up. We miss out on experiencing their joys with them. We miss out on showing them love and comfort when things go badly for them. We don't get to share their lives. And that is true of older people who die, too. We want them around to share our lives with us. We want them to see our laughter, heal our hurts and wipe our tears. We don't have that when they die. And it hurts.

We get angry at God and say he was cruel to them to let them die. But the truth is, we are angry because he was cruel to us. He took someone we loved. And now we feel so alone.

I do not believe there is any scripture to support it, but I personally believe that God acts as a mediator between those of us who remain here and those who have gone to be with him. I don't think they can see or talk with us directly, but I do think God keeps them informed of what's going on in our lives. And I believe there is scripture to support their talking to God on our behalf.

The love which connected us when we were all here together remains. And I believe it still connects us. Why/how else is it that people can really feel the presence (sometimes) of those who have died? I think it's love. Like water seeping through the soil, love will ultimately find a way to bridge the distances. Until such time that we go to be with them again. And then others will wail and moan about how cruel God was to take us. And then we will seek to use our love to keep us connected with those who we left.

Probably not scriptural at all. But somehow I don't think I'm that far from the truth.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Three in One

While we (Spouse, Son and myself) have not had to endure great quantities of snow thus far, portions of Minnesota have been deluged. What we have had around here is ice. Lots of it. Thick. And slippery. Just the other day I went down like a sack of potatoes. In front of witnesses. No real harm done. A bit of a bruise on my knee and hand. Could have been worse. Much worse.

It got me to thinking. I remember when I was seventeen and driving on ice to school.

It was after The Old House had burned. In fact, it was the winter Daddy died. Not long after, in fact.

I was staying with my older sister who lived in Coon Rapids. That was about ten to twenty miles away from my high school. Since I was a senior I opted to continue at my regular school rather than finish up at at new school. So I would drive every morning and afternoon.

Now this particular morning I got up to find a freezing rain falling. I was going to be late. Nothing to do about it. I would have to drive slow.

Only driving slow didn't help me this particular morning. The ice was wet and so particularly slippery. I discovered exactly how slippery as I crested a hill and began a long descent to a low place which crossed a small creek. To my horror the back of the car began to pass the front. I steered toward the slide, but the car refused to straighten out.

Now I did not go off the road and into the creek. Fortunately, someone of clever thinking and foresight had installed posts alongside the rode to prevent this very occurrence. So when the car reach the first post the back end struck it, causing the car to swing around the other way. Now I frantically steered the other way. Of course there was an oncoming vehicle.

How we missed I'm not sure, but my car struck a post on the opposite side of the road and swung back to the original. I think it was at this time the two vehicles passed each other. I hit another post, but now I had reached the bottom and was now on my way back up. This allowed me to regain control of my car and straighten it out.

I pulled over to the side and used a tow chain to pull the fender away from the tire. Then I got back in and started off again.

Just a few miles down the road I came to a "T" intersection. My road was heading slightly downhill, and as I pumped the brakes I realized I was not going to stop. My only hope was that there was no cross traffic. There wasn't, but I slide right across the road and into a shallow ditch which made up the front yard of a one of my classmates. Since it was shallow I just floored it and got out.

All was fine from then on until I got one block away from school, at which time I hit another untenable patch and found myself on a church lawn.

Off the road three times in one trip. It remains my personal record to this day. Fortunately, but the time school was out the sun had managed to melt off the ice and I had no trouble getting back to my sisters.

Gotta be careful with ice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year and a New Chance

The holidays are over for this year. Back to the grind.

That's how Son feels about it. Boring as it is living in an apartment filled with boxes packed with things we're rapidly forgetting are there, returning to school is hardly the compensation he was looking forward to for his stoic patience in being cooped up here with me.

We have spent the past ten or so days alternating time on the computer, although of late he has rediscovered his Wii and GameCube. Also, Spouse had the day off yesterday and the two of them played Sarge's War. The game does allow up to four players, but only two can comfortably get in front of the television right now.

Last week I actually got myself signed up for a job. Turned out I fell for a scam. Now, today, I have to set about getting myself extracted from it before they start charging our bank account $100 each month.

I know. I know. I'm supposed to be smarter than that, and I really am. Usually. But things are tight here (and I don't mean drunk), and Spouse is all panicky, and so in desperation I leaped where I should have turned around and walked away. What galls me is that I really did know better. But it was just easier to go along than stand firm. Most of Spouse's ideas for me to work are fairly - crazy, to put it mildly - and I know how it must sound when I explain I simply do not have the health to do some of the things suggested, or the skills to do others. So I gave in. It may cost us. We'll see.

Other than that I did actually visit my mother. Twice. The first was the Christmas get together she had at her place. The second was New Year's Day. She took Son and me out for an afternoon lunch at Old Country Buffet, an all you can eat buffet. The food is pretty good. And after eating the same three things over and over again it was actually quite good as a change of pace.

I am setting goals for myself to write. A lot. We'll see how it goes. This is not a resolution. Resolutions are like promises, and I won't make a promise I cannot promise I can keep. Goals are desires. They are things we can work toward. We don't know if we'll make them, but we can try. That is how I intend to approach it. My goal is to write a million words in 2010. This will mean a lot of writing. Even more than 2009, when I came a few thousand words short. But I still think it's reasonable to believe I can make it.

It's going to be odd, I think, not having Son about today. I expect Firestar to cry a lot. He's not real keen on changes. He freaked out for two days when Son didn't go to school. Now he's going to freak out again because Son is. Silly cat.

But I know how he feels.