May 20, 2009

Redundant Statements of the Obvious

Brought to you by the I <3 ____ bumper sticker people.

I've become rather active on the social network site, Facebook. It's like having a party with every single person I've ever known in my life. It's better than my wedding, graduation, or college frat parties rolled into one tidy wall. If anyone gets tipsy on the virtual drinks, I don't have to worry that I'll be sued for overserving and we can buy rounds on a regular basis without worrying about our pockets getting lighter. It's a win/win proposition.

We're busy laughing and posting silly things on each others' walls, and suddenly I get an invitation to join a group called "I Hate Cancer". Who wouldn't join such a group? Perhaps the manufacturers of chemotherapy drugs? While they may not love cancer, the demise of cancer would certainly put them out of a job. I suppose I have no reason to NOT hate cancer, but I feel rather silly proclaiming it. Of course I hate cancer, (not to be confused with zodiac sign of Cancer, many of whom I love dearly). But do I need to state such a thing? I felt irrationally guilted into joining, and now am a reluctant member of cancer haters.

Then the next invite came in. I love my daughter. I felt I could reasonably ignore that invitation. I have two daughters and there was no "I love my daughter(S)" group. I didn't want my girls to ask me which one of them I meant. And by loving one daughter, would the other feel excluded. So I'm not a member of the I Love my Daughter group.

Would anyone like to join my "I think it's obvious what I love and what I hate" group?

May 18, 2009

Clap Your Hands!

Some of you remember the story of the young boy I teach in Sunday School, the autistic one. I love him to pieces. His quirks endear me. J and I get along famously. A few weeks ago when I tried to get him back on track with a lesson, I said, J, you know how I know so much about Supermario from you? I want to give you that same gift about the lesson. I want to be the one who teaches you the way you teach me...

He lit up and said, I teach you about Mario Bros.? I said, absolutely. How else would I know about Luigi and Wario (the evil version of Mario, I'm told). And off he went on his elaboration of more about Supermario... so much for that!

If you've ever been around an autistic child, you know that there is a piece of their brain that just never puts them on track with the moment. I am not an expert in the least. I merely understand that they don't get it. I realize that his inattention has nothing to do with poor manners or lack of respect. It is in his brain. I see past my agenda and try to relate to his. His agenda is to behave the best he can until class is over so he is allowed to play his video games. I have to report to his father every week how he behaved so they determine if he can play Mario or not.

His agenda rarely is conducive to teaching the class. There are days I wonder if I taught ANYTHING. I keep forgetting, I am not the teacher. Because I learn much more than I teach. The books of the Old and New Testaments will not go away. The prayers remain the same, and the history of Martin Luther remains in print. The time to learn from J is this instant.

The days when J kisses me four times at the end of class, because J gives four kisses to people he likes, teach me something I can never capture in a lesson plan. I try to capture it in my humble blog. I try to take what I learn from this exceptional young man and spread the word. It's not happening.

Yesterday we had our last class until the fall. I let the kids pick through the box of teaching tools I had. Take whatever you want, it's yours. There were balls, Frisbees, plastic hand clappers, Styrofoam planes, stickers.

J took the hand clapper. And clapped, and clapped. The remainder of class he clapped. He went to the car clapping them. I did not envy his dad's long ride home accompanied by the clapper. I'm sure he is still trying to find the words to thank me for giving J a plastic clapper.

Then I realized.
He took my standing ovation for a fabulous year with him.
Because I am still clapping, too.

May 15, 2009

Madness or Genius?

I've had the privilege of knowing some extremely intelligent people in my walk of life. I gravitate towards them, eager perhaps to learn something just from being in their aura. I always feel like a fringe member of the elite intellects, knowing that every so often I really will completely understand them, but more often than not, I'll only have a cursory grasp of their topics. I eagerly wait for the moments of absolute clarity.

I have a friend from college. I will call him David, because, well that was his name. I tried to think of a fake name for him, but then my story would not be true. David was "the quintessetial old student". Every college has them, the back to school student who blows away the grade curves. What was unusual about David was that actually chose to live in the dormitories, with us wild just barely out of our teens kids. He wanted to be near the library to study. David was the roommate of one of my friends from work. When we could pry David away from the books, he would join us for dinner. Everybody thought we were just being nice to "the old guy", but the truth is?

He was fascinating. David was going back to school to get a law degree, doing his undergraduate work. He had a psychiatry degree and had been over in Viet Nam. So even during Nam, he was probably "the old guy", compared to the average age of the soldiers he worked with. Indeed, he had a fatherly air to him, and incredibly insightful. We would talk and he'd get a serious look on his face, and just listen. He would guess things about me that I never mentioned. I am sure it was his psychiatry training. He would advise us about life and the world as he saw it. We thought he was so wise and a heck of a study partner, too. Everyone wants to be friends with the person who gets perfect test scores.

In Viet Nam, he had two tours of duty, but his wife was back home. When he came back, she apparently had fallen in love with someone else and left him. His story gets fuzzy here, but something happened, that he blamed on her, and he lost his medical license. He was a broken man.

He met a woman who helped him get back on his feet and they were deeply in love. He kept her picture on his desk and also inside his notebook. She died in a tragic accident before they could be married, so all he had was her pictures. She was a beautiful woman. David's genius seems to cross to madness, because he also blamed his ex wife for her death. He apparently couldn't get anyone to believe him, so he decided to take it upon himself to right the wrongs of his life by getting a law degree.

This is about the time I met him. He was finishing up his undergraduate work, where he maintained a 4.0. We could talk for hours, but whenever he talked about his ex or his dead fiance, it would be a bit manic. We were so much younger than he, we didn't know what true love was yet, so our best reaction was to politely listen.

He received his dual degree with highest honors, applied and was accepted to law school. On the first exam, he didn't get his usual perfect score. I no longer wondered if he was a bit crazy, but knew, because he blamed his ex wife out on the west coast for that, too. He explained with rage simmering in his voice, how she had gotten to his professors and somehow convinced them, perhaps through bribes, to fail him so he couldn't get his degree and exact justice on her.

He dropped out of school and checked into a VA hospital. We wrote letters back and forth, just keeping in touch. He came home a year later, and went back to law school. Shortly after that, he and I lost track of each other but another mutual friend told me he dropped out again, and was living in his mom's basement.

A couple years ago, I was reading the paper and saw the names of the recent law school grads. His name was listed. Somewhere, across the miles and years later, I hugged, and prayed.

Maybe he finally got it right.

May 14, 2009

Why Yes, Officer, I do believe I was speeding, BUT...

The summer after I graduated from college, the first thing I did was buy a brand new car. It was my first nonused car in life. I had driven some real clunkers through the college years, memorable vehicles, all of them. But I was now an adult with a full time job and no tuition bills. I could afford a new car. Barely.

I went to the dealer with a budget of $150/month. I wasn't thinking I could afford a new car, but I could at least afford a DECENT used car with less than 6 figures on the odometer. A car I didn't have to keep a case of oil in the back to reload every 100 miles as I drove with a trail of blue smoke spewing from the pipe of my Chevette. Yes, I admit I owned one. I didn't have to drive a car with an old stop sign bolted to the driver side floor because the floor had rusted out.

I was ready for some WHEELS! The salesman said he could get me in a BRAND NEW NEVER BEEN DRIVEN CAR for $158 a month. I hesitated for a moment. Keep in mind, 20 years ago, that $8 bought a lot more than it had today. But it also probably bought $8 less repairs, and I was able to get 0% financing. Moment over, I was on my way to owning a new car. This new car didn't even have a radio, or power anything. It was even a manual shift. But it was NEW. It had that smell versus the dry rotted sun bleached smell of my prior vehicles.

To celebrate ownership of my new vehicle, I convinced my best friend to take a trip with me to the beach in New Jersey. I spent my teenage summers there, but this was the first year I rented my OWN house, not my parents. We made the trek. I always loved going to Jersey because we were so close to NYC and the beach. The best of both worlds.We had gone up to the city for the evening to do some shopping and have dinner. During the drive up, not a single car on the the Garden State Parkway was going under 75 MPH. I kept up with the traffic nicely. On the way back to our beach house, I maintained a similar speed but I was one of the only cars on the road. Prime pickings for the officer. I got pulled over.

I still had temporary tags on my new car, from the great state of Ohio. This absolutely gorgeous specimen of man in uniform appeared at my window. Flashing my most charming smile, I conjured every ounce of feigned innocence and inquired what the problem was. I knew I had been speeding and he confirmed that. I'm not quite sure where I found the boldness, but I retorted and said, "You know, I'm from out of state, and when I drove this parkway around 4 PM, everyone was driving 75, I just figured it was the native protocol."

He agreed with my assessment but pointed out that there was no traffic to keep up with. Then he asked what I was doing in Jersey. I said I had just graduated from college and was spending a week at the beach to celebrate. We made a bit of small talk about what a great basketball team my school had, and what I studied and then he cut the conversation short and took my license and started to walk back to his car to fill out the ticket. I was shocked!

I thought we were halfway to the altar, NOT to a ticket. I hung out my window and said, "Hey, wait a minute, get back here!" He smirked and came back with a single word, "What?"

I began to babble somewhat nervously and said, "You don't really want to ruin my vacation, do you? You know if you write this ticket, I'm not going to pay it. What would you do, chase me down to Ohio to pay it? Have some mercy on an out of towner so I return to your state, please?" I'm pretty sure I also batted my eyes. The act of a desperate girl who knew that the ticket would more than eat up the slim budget I had.

I think my boldness shocked him. To this day, I don't know how it worked, but he looked at me, handed me my license, and said "getouttaheah and have a good vacation" in his Tony Soprano accent. I smiled and thanked him for saving my vacation, and went to drive off.

He went back to his cruiser, flashed his lights, got on the megaphone and yelled, SLOW DOWN! I am a hero with my friends in Jersey. I'm told NOBODY gets out of a ticket from a Statey. But I did, and I have a witness. I am legendary.

Have you ever gotten out of a ticket that you know you deserved?

May 12, 2009

Ready, Let's Sew...

Today's post features a guest blogger, my child. It's my blog so I can do this sort of stuff from time to time. She wrote this paper for a class and I was so impressed that I want to feature her here. Proud parents can do that. She is 13, and keep in mind I NEVER saw the essay the whole time she was working on it. I had NO input in it whatsoever.

For your reading pleasure, I present, Ms. Mini Fresh:

"And this year's Ready Let's Sew winner and state fair participant is..." Ridden with the bitterness of losing, I swallowed, trying to lose the sour taste in my mouth. Blinking rapidly, I tried to keep the wetness out of my eyes.

I'd thought I'd been one of the better ones, at least well enough to get one of the 15 honorable mentions. Which little farmer won it this year?, my thoughts mocking whoever won the contest. I mean, I know that my mom said 4-H isn't just for country kids, but I didn't completely believe her. I had joined 4-H two months earlier, in the sewing and cooking categories. In the sewing room of our troop leader's hours, I had worked for 10 hours, stitching each seam as close to perfection as I could. Finally the big day of judging arrived. I double checked my teal-with-brown-polka-dots cargo shorts, messenger bag and scrunchy all had firm seams, and no wrinkles.

Earlier that day, I had had my first round of judging for my shorts. I got an A. Not a big deal. Everyone did, unless you didn't do any work at all. We went home for lunch, and came back at 5 for the second round of judging. The second round of judging was optional. You could do it if you wanted to try for a ribbon, or a state fair invitation. When we got there, there was a half-hour of utter confusion, and then it was almost time. We all knew when our turn was, and where to walk on the runway. I had gotten a yellow tag with the number 47 on it, which meant I was the forty-seventh contestant in our category. We slowly shuffled upstairs by category. After all 300+ of us were seated we all pretended to watch the scuffed black runway beneath us, but we were all looking at the competition, sizing it up. After a few moment of spying, I began to feel very out of place. Everyone else was wearing a cute, colorful, floral-print skirt, whereas I was wearing almost-boy-cargo shorts. I'm gonna fail 'cause I don't look anything like anyone else.

With a start, I finally noticed the group that was walking on the runway. Hey! My friend is in Frugal Fashions! I liked how people managed to find a great outfit for $5.00, but was internally laughing when someone thought they got a great deal spending $30.00. I didn't like the fact that they didn't sew, though. They got to show off with the people who worked for days sewing, and they didn't even spend one shopping. About a half-hour later, it was time for our category. We quietly got up, and someone led us through a twisting and turning back way, and we wound up behind the stage. We counted off into 2 groups, and each group took a side on the runway. Watching impatiently, I waited for my turn. When I finally got to see the stage, I began to get very nervous.

I got to watch each of the judges' faces, but they didn't give much away. All I wanted at that point was for them not to hate my outfit visibly. How embarrassing it would be for them to make a face, and grimace until I was done. Finally it was my turn. I walked carefully, so I didn't trip in my wedges (I can't walk normally in any shoe besides a flat. I swear I find as many things as possible I can trip over). Fortunately, I made it to the end without a single stumble. As I walked off the runway, I was handed a homemade ribbon, and a goodie bag that only a sewer would want; with a seam ripper and a retractable measuring tape. I made my way upstairs, and was consumed in my own thoughts for the rest of the show. I only paid attention when someone I knew was on the runway. I really can't tell you what happened during the rest of the show, other than the music really started to bug me. But finally, it was time for judging. First they did awards for leaders and helpers, and then it was time for the contestants. They went slowly through the honorable mentions, and I eagerly listened for my name. I was positive I was going to get a prize. When the honorable mentions came and went, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't picked. Some of those kids still had threads hanging off their skirts! Well, maybe I was good enough to get third place. I was positive I wouldn't get first or second place. There were much better ensembles than mine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could probably be 3rd place. By then all the honorable mentions were done being called, and it was time for the top three in each category.

They announced Frugal Fashion's winners, which went right over my head. I was too impatient for the Ready, Let's Sew winners. "And this year's third place for Ready Let's Sew is..." The announcer's mike blared enough to make people cringe. I can't remember who won third place, other than it wasn't me. Misery washed over me. I caught my mom's eye and realized that we both had the same look of disappointment. I hadn't expected her to understand, winning State Fair ribbons left and right when she was a kid. Even though it was nice of her, I didn't want the pick-me-up ice cream and "You'll do better next year's". Even if I had gotten an honorable mention, it would have been better than this total public humiliation. I turned my attention back to the announcer. Even though I knew I hadn't won, I was still curious to see who did. "And this year's Ready, Let's Sew winner and State Fair participant is... MINI FRESH!" I gasped, and my jaw dropped. I had never really believed people's jaws dropped until then. After a moment of shock, my shocked look was replaced with a smile from ear to ear. I won! I won! I had beaten the odds and come out on top. I practically skipped up the runway to collect my ribbons. I was so happy. You can't possibly understand how happy I was. It was as though the world was perfect in that one moment, that one snapshot.

May 11, 2009

Dancing with the Clouds

She wore ruby red glittery Mary Janes. My children had similar shoes in their dress up box and I always smiled when they wanted to wear them in public. Perhaps they fancied themselves a modern day Dorothy, swept away by the tornado of activities, but with an assured way to still return home.

Magic shoes have always captivated me. I know when she put them on her feet, she was charmed, too. I would have snapped a surreptitious photo if cameras had been allowed, but we were at the Warhol museum and photography is prohibited. The irony was not lost on me. A museum devoted to a man who never met a photo opportunity he didn’t like, didn’t allow photography. I was tempted to sneak a photo, but security cameras were recording our every move. (Mercifully, someone braver than I took the attached photo). Big brother watched more carefully than I did. I wonder if the not so hidden cameras saw the red sparkling shoes.

Magic shoes in Warhol’s magic cloud room, a room filled with silver Mylar pillow balloons, migrating slowly around the room propelled by fans. The art is interactive and kinetic, with clouds floating gently around the room; brushing the people, moving away, and drifting near again.

It was enchanting and starkly juxtaposed with the macabre exhibits on the same floor of the gallery. Prior to discovering the Clouds, we saw suicide photos, grisly car accidents, skulls of many pop art colors.

Andy Warhol is one of my favorite artists because he looked at everyday things in ways nobody ever had before. He saw art in soup labels and newspaper headlines. It was art because he said it was art, not because it had ever been even noticed prior. He boxed the contents of what appeared to be the equivalent of a junk drawer and called it a time capsule. The museum encased his unused Christmas cards, pens and business correspondence in a display and we looked. We nodded our heads, knowingly, and looked a bit more. The voyeur was thrilled to glimpse, and even gaze. He made people look twice.

Because I couldn’t take a photo, I looked twice at the little girl in the ruby red slippers. My eyes followed from her feet to her head, filled with ringlets and bright eyes and a giggle that echoed as the clouds drifted around her. The children in the cloud room were simply grateful to play and have a respite from the galleries. The clouds floated by shining and reflecting her glittery shoes.

Children swinging their arms, batting the clouds like makeshift volleyballs, the clouds were indifferent to the glee and continued their steady calm drift. The children danced with joy. The ruby red slippers sparkled against the shiny silver chrome of the little girl’s wheelchair.

Her mother wheeled her back out and I knew, her shoes were indeed magic. For a moment in time, she danced in the clouds.

May 7, 2009

Pass It On

When I was a young girl, we used to sing a song at camp called; "Pass it On"... it started like this:

It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
And soon all those around, can warm up in the glowing.

A friend of mine in another writing forum posed this question to me the other day.

I have something for you to mull over and maybe post a blog about it. Why do some of us care about humanity, in the abstract? I mean beyond our present and maybe the next generation, why do we care what happens to mankind. There is no benefit to us what so ever. This caring, transcends all cultures and all religion.

I know a tweak when I see one. I know that he meant the "no benefit" comment to rile me. Sure, on an impersonal level, why should we care? If we believe in heaven or some sort of afterlife or post world consciousness; we'll be there, not here. If we believe in no higher power, life ends when we do. He has a point, it transcends religion and culture. Why should we care about what happens when we're gone?

This is the sort of collective energy that I believe makes up all of us. We are not separate. We are not singular. We are One. This is where my Christianity and New Agey-ness and Hippie mentality meld. We are One. We are interconnected with silken threads. Chaos theory states that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can cause a tornado in another part. Nothing we do happens in a vacuum.

Consider the random acts of kindness movement. Consider what happens when we extend a hand to a stranger. Consider the idea of paying it forward. It comes full circle. When we sow seeds of love, we reap it not just in loaves and fishes but in positive energy. When you answer a phone with a smile on your face, the person who cannot see you on the other end hears that you’re happy. A collective consciousness is present.

I've only addressed today, I still have not addressed why it matters for the future. There are so many things we have yet to understand, but I feel those days are very near. Today, I estimate this post will reach at least 10 people. By next week, it may reach 100. It started with one person. This is the power of our instant communication.

I believe our time/space continuum is not a straight line. We just don't understand the hyperbolic nature of it... yet. I'm not a physicist or a mathematician, so I won't be as bold as to attempt any sort of explanation, other than I think it's possible. Our universe is infinite. Everything that could happen, is/does/will/has.

I do know that from a purely selfish view, when I visit an old favorite place, I want it to still be lovely. I drive past my childhood home on occasion and I want to see the same beauty I saw as a child. I want to keep those eyes of a child for eternity. It is a tenet of my Christian faith, to see the world as a child, but it applies to all people.

This is the personal responsibility we have. Protecting the future is important, because it could be our own. Life spans are longer, I believe they are eternal. It's not just science fiction. Everything and everyone lasts longer (when we want it to and don't plan for obsolescence).

The future is now. It is yesterday and it is forever. Let's protect it today.

...Once you've experienced it, you want to sing
"It's fresh like spring"; you want to pass it on.

Dare you.

May 5, 2009

May Flowers

Seven years ago May 1st, my grandfather died. He was an incredible man. Nobody ever met him who didn't love him. My brother named his first child after him, under the hope that someday, someone would say, "I knew a great guy with that name." I have no doubt it will happen. When his bride joined him on Christmas Eve this past year, I was happy that they were reunited. I don't have any answers about the afterlife, but I do believe they are together in some way or form.

Last Friday, along with reverently remembering Grandpa, we celebrated the birth of a new child, his great granddaughter and baby sister of the boy who carries on his name. Probably the last child with the same last name as him. Our day of family grief now holds hands with family joy.

Life is beautiful that way. While a calendar is somewhat arbitrary, we still use it to mark our days. In our family, we have a lot of shared days. My aunt and uncle share a birthday as well as my uncle and I, my twin brothers, and my daughter and my cousin.

For me, it's a reminder that we never walk alone.
In our sorrow or in our joy, we are never alone.
We welcome our little May Flower and all the love she brings into our world.


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