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The Old Lighter Under the Shirt Trick

30 Jun

Reading  another blog  reminded me of something that happened in my little world recently and made me think about my first impressions of people…

One weekend, my husband and I had agreed to take a drive to help my mechanical-minded father-in-law pick up an old Jeep he was purchasing from a random seller (online). We drove him there to get the car.

Actually, first we waited for Jeepman to call back to arrange a time.

A time was set and we arrived and waited for Jeepman to return from fishing. There was a boat; there were children; there was chatting.

There was an enthusiastic pit bull that wagged her tail so hard it was like having our legs beaten with a very happy stick. Honestly, it hurt. It may have left bruises, I forgot to check.

The purchase was made. We were to follow in case the Jeep broke down.

And it did break down. About five minutes down the road.

A large pickup truck pulled up beside us, and there was an offer to tow the Jeep out of the intersection. We were towed away from traffic by the pickup guys.

I thought that was kind.

Then, the pickup guys parked and one of them got out and started trying to help fix the car so it would drive.

There was looking under the hood, there was tinkering… there was lying on the pavement underneath the back of the Jeep.

This was some real Good Samaritan stuff. Beyond kind.

I was truly surprised —  and I probably should not have been — not only because the guys took so much time to help out some complete strangers, but because the first guy I saw get out of the truck looked kind of scruffy, like a television version of a drug addict.

Stringy hair past his shoulders, missing teeth, tattoos, cigarette, worn clothes. His t-shirt had a design that seemed to blend into the tattoos on his arms.

He saw me watching him from inside our car. He grinned and waved at me. His hair was blowing everywhere. I should note that I stayed in the car because I thought it would not take long. I was wrong.

I watched as Scruffyman searched the ground after his fresh cigarette blew out of his grip. He picked it up from the sidewalk at the edge of the grass, put it in his mouth and pulled his shirt over the lower half of his face. Then he stuck his other arm under the shirt. His face emerged with a lit cigarette.

I had never seen this before.

I thought maybe he should have a hairband if he was in the habit of smoking with long hair on windy days. Seemed risky.

The Jeep got started again as I reflected on the kindness of Scruffyman.

We went a few miles before the Jeep stopped again.

This time, the Jeep was pushed by hand, and a tow service was called. We sat in my car with the windows open and the radio on. It was windy, hot, boring.

There was a deer across the street running inside an enclosed fence. It disappeared into the tall foliage as if it had never been there at all.

We waited. Sometimes the deer’s head popped up to look at us. We stared back. Sometimes we saw a bit of brown between the leaves, but mostly we saw nothing.

After about two hours of waiting, with assurances that the tow truck driver was “almost there”, we went to pick up my father-in-law’s big truck to tow the Jeep ourselves.

The day was long, but I felt my hope for humanity restored by Scruffyman and his generosity of spirit.

It was a reminder that our outsides do not reflect our insides.

 

 

 

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Beyond Stories One Through Five

13 Jun

Several years ago my father made some comment along the lines of “There are only about five different movies in the world.” An exaggeration, of course, but when he explained what he meant I had to agree. Nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. A handful of plots and some variations. Over and over. Sometimes blatant imitation.

The older I get, the more I feel like I have already watched what I am watching.

I read quite a bit, but television is very good for certain times and moods. When my husband and I married we agreed on using a particular streaming program/disc service that starts with an N, and avoiding cable or dish service. No commercials, so we save time and plenty of money, plus we control our own programing to a large extent. Nine years have passed, and frankly I don’t think we have missed much.

Recently, I have been enjoying Switched at Birth, a family oriented show. A portion of the main characters are deaf/hearing impaired and there are whole sections of the show that are performed in signed dialog, sometimes without speech or background noise of any kind. This makes it harder to go to the kitchen for a snack because I must watch the screen for subtitles, but I am thrilled to see something NEW on television.

I also like the BBC show Sherlock. It is odd and sometimes confusing. I feel challenged. How refreshing. Also, I like that one of the stars is named Benedict Cumberbatch. Best actor name since Randolph Mantooth.

If you have any favorite shows or films that don’t make you feel like you have already seen them, and are possibly even original, please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quality Across Time

1 Jun

Material possessions are not on my list of What is Important in Life. However, I like things made with care and quality, things that last.

There have been times in my life when I have bought “disposable” clothing or furniture, and I have always regretted it.

Thrifty as I am, I need to know that what I buy will continue to serve its purpose for many years, and hopefully look beautiful doing it.

NOTE:  I wrote these words many months ago and saved the draft, waiting until I had more to say. I have not been writing on this site, due to having less time and energy to write the kind of posts I want to write. I have decided to go ahead and post my occasional thoughts, however brief they may be.

In this case, I am writing about things made with care and quality and then telling you that I will publish writing with a little bit less care and quality. I do see the irony.

I think, right now, it is more important to bring some care and quality into my Real Life. I care about writing…and so, actually doing it– even in smaller pieces– improves the quality of my Life, if not my Blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Creatures, Great and Small

30 Jun
Since moving to a small city in Nebraska, I have enjoyed the open space, the flora and fauna. Especially the fauna.
A woodchuck (also known as a groundhog)
Four or five skunk-ettes, scampering nose-to-tail behind their mother, in the grass near my workplace, stripes perfectly aligned…if only I had my camera and wasn’t traveling at 40 miles per hour at the time of sighting!
Wild turkeys and deer, both plentiful and known for their automobile collisions
A badger — a dead one, sadly
Stealthy beavers — I can only see their homes, I confess
Rabbits and chipmunks
Herons and cardinals
Let us not forget the domesticated critters — the sheep, the horses, the ostriches, the goats, the chickens, the peacocks…
Lovely, all of them.
Then there are the excessively large animals. Godzilla, King Kong and their many inflatable friends…they migrate to this habitat every year, shortly before July 4th…

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Photos of The Atomic Age

3 Apr

The atomic era exhibit at a local museum showed me some fascinating elements of the life of another generation.

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Nothing More Than Feelings

24 Feb

This animal is expressing some feelings about my camera.

We are still talking about guns. The discussion on guns misses the point entirely, in my opinion.

I read about murders and assaults in the news nearly every day. Outside of war, most of them involve only one or two people. The police always check out family, friends, and business partners first. What does that tell you?

Why do people kill each other? Why do they assault each other?

There are a few reasons — including greed — but mostly it comes down to strong feelings that people don’t know how to handle.

I have been reading the stories for as long as I can remember…

A young woman was killed because she turned down a marriage proposal.

A girl’s hair was set on fire by a peer who was not invited to a party.

A man set his son on fire because of a divorce/custody dispute.

The stories are different but they are all the same.

People who cannot accept emotional pain. People who cannot live with having been wronged. People who judge others, who blame others, who want to punish others.

These are the people who commit violence on a daily basis.

Gun regulation is easier to accomplish than emotional regulation.

But…emotional regulation is the only solution.

Teach your children how to process their feelings. Teach them that they are stronger than they think. Show them examples of those who have overcome adversity, those who are happy in spite of all that has gone wrong with their lives, those who are loved when they thought they were unloveable.

Teach them the meaning of the word NO.

Teach them to work through their disappointment, shame, or humiliation.

Teach them that pain is temporary, just like joy.

Teach them that others are vulnerable, just as they are.

Teach them that anger can be productive or destructive.

Teach them that negative emotions are part of life and must be recognized and managed.

On the Subject of Gifts

2 Jan

I am reflecting on the nature of gifts.

I favor practical gifts, both for myself and others. Give me something I can use and I am happy. Children generally do not favor practical gifts.

My theory about children’s negative view of “needed” items: they view “needed” items as things they receive outside of gift giving, and therefore feel they have been cheated out of a “real” gift.

On the other hand, as adults, we buy our own needed items and it can be a bothersome errand. As I do most of the shopping for the family, I view a practical gift as a time saver (no shopping!) and money saver (I don’t need to buy it myself), plus a space saver (it will very likely already have a place in the home, especially if it is replacing an old item of the same type). That is a lot of saving! What could be better?

When it comes to children’s gifts on a budget, need can intersect with fun if one thinks creatively.

For example, if my kids need shirts because they grow like weeds, I give them gifts of shirts representing their special interests (Star Wars, for example) and these shirts become favorite shirts instead of rejected “needed” items.

Some of my favorite practical gifts I have received in my life include: soft socks for sleeping in, moisturizing cream and bath products, a GPS, cookware and recipes, blankets and bed sheets, Christmas tree ornaments, a CD of “calming” music, storage containers, a leather change purse, hand knit scarves and gloves and hats, and baskets with favorite food items.

I recently received a creative “family” gift from my sister-in-law: a “movie night” kit, with a movie rental card, popcorn, soda, candy and so on. Great idea, right?

I recently read about some special quilts given by a widowed father to his daughters, crafted from portions of selected clothing belonging to their late mother, so that they may feel close to her and remember her every time they use them. Sentimental and practical all at once.

My best gift giving advice: think of what will be meaningful and useful to the recipient. Don’t try to impress. Small and sincere does the job. We can all tell the difference between a gift that expresses the care of the giver and a gift that expresses, “Look at this flashy item I found on sale!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different

29 Dec

I have been reflecting on the fundamental differences between different people and what happens when we make the mistake of thinking everyone is the same — or that they should be.

I am an introvert. Some people do not know what this means, although nearly half the population is introverted. We don’t call attention to ourselves as extroverts do. A book called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  gave me much to think about.

I was still thinking about the book when I watched a film called The King’s Speech. In the film, two sons of a king are both unsuited for the throne they stand to inherit. One is unable to sacrifice his personal desires for the sake of social rules. The other is uncomfortable with public speaking, due to an unfortunate lifelong stuttering problem.

As I watched the streaming film, my internet connection became repeatedly interrupted so that I could watch only a few moments at a time. The screen had a stutter of its own. This affected my viewing of the film, but added, I think, another dimension to it. I felt that I had an additional understanding of the frustration of the family and friends of the title character, listening to his fractured communication, as I watched the fractured film. The idea of being a king or queen would thrill some but horrify others. I fall in the latter category, in case you can’t guess.

A friend of mine wrote something about the harmful nature of “unsolicited advice“, which is another way of saying “telling others how to live their lives”. I responded that I think unsolicited advice often comes from those who believe others will benefit in the exact same ways from whatever worked for them. If a woman has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of pregnancy and parenthood, she may think that every woman should become a mother. If she has achieved much wealth and personal satisfaction from working in the financial sector, she may think everyone should apply for such employment. Well intentioned advice, perhaps, but thoughtless, unhelpful, and self-centered.

Should we all live the same life, hold the same job, raise our children the same way? I do not believe so. Do we all have the same inclinations, abilities, and traits? Of course not.

I like the title of the book Quiet because this is a term that has often been used to describe me. “You’re so quiet.

The term is accurate, and yet it is used almost exclusively by strangers. Anyone who knows me feels no need to describe me this pointless and impolite way. It would be like commenting on my obvious physical characteristics. Imagine someone who has known you for years saying, “Your hair is so brown!” or, “Your feet are so small today!”

Those who do not know me, unless they are quiet themselves, often see my quietness as a reflection of my mood or my response to them. Am I depressed? Am I bored? Do I distrust them?  They do not consider that quietness is simply a part of my innate character. They certainly are not complimenting me, with the exception of one or two men from foreign countries in which quietness is a more desirable trait than it is in this culture.

We are all different.

Some are loud, some are quiet. Some constantly seek more in life, while others are content with whatever they have. Some are anxious, some are calm. Some are leaders, some are followers. Some are big, some are small. Some are dark, some are pale. Some make jokes, others are serious.

We all contribute something different to the world.

I Need Advance Notice About Spontaneity

18 Nov

It has recently come to my attention that I am not the most spontaneous person in the world.

I thought I was spontaneous, but then my husband suggested an activity in the afternoon and I had to ask questions before considering the activity. He gave up fairly quickly.

I felt guilty when I saw how easily he gave up. Obviously he had been down that road before and knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere.

I thought to myself, ‘I want to be spontaneous…I just need advance notice first — you know, so I can plan ahead.’

I noticed the contradiction. Plan ahead to be spontaneous?

I know I used to be more spontaneous when I was younger. When I was eighteen, a guy told me he liked the fact that he could call me up and invite me out and I would be ready in ten minutes. Now I need to know what is going on, how long it is going to take, and what the weather will be like.

Is it maturity? Is it anxiety? Am I just no fun any more?

I blame children. I see the results of their spontaneity. Chaos, everywhere I look.

Once, a neighbor boy pulled the fire alarm in my apartment building. I think it was the loudest thing I have ever heard in my life, aside from monster trucks driven indoors. We all milled around outside at sundown, children without coats, a woman with a towel wrapped around her hair, waiting for someone to end the horrifying noise.

Another time, a different boy in our apartment complex found a large sheet of glass and broke it. I don’t know where the glass came from, but I know where it ended up: everywhere. In the parking lot where all the kids play Nerf gun wars. In the grassy area where people walk their dogs. Endless shards and shards and shards of glass.

I called out to the boy, ” Don’t you know any better than to play with broken glass?” and he dropped what was left and ran off. I spent the next hour or so sweeping up, filling half a bucket with glass fragments, abandoning the unfinished load of laundry and the boneless chicken breasts baking in the oven. My husband had to come out and ask me what all the timers were for.

Hey, maybe I am spontaneous after all.

Just not in a fun way.

I’ll have work on it.

A List of Things to Be Determined in the Near Future

26 Sep

1. Weather

I hear that snow, also referred to as “winter” in this region, may occur soon. How soon? Who knows?

2. Appropriate Footwear

Clothing is on my mind each time the weather changes — especially now that I live in a different climate. In California, I wore open shoes unless it was raining. Sandals, thong toed footwear (my toes being the only place thongs are allowed), clogs, and a variety of other open-backed shoes — these are what I wore in my daily life. I own one pair of athletic shoes (seldom worn before I moved) and one pair of rubber rain boots. I also own a nice pair of wooden-heeled leather boots which I acquired shortly before the move and which would almost certainly be ruined by inclement weather.

My current plan is to wear my sneakers every day, but I expect this will cause shoe odor rather quickly.

3. Ability to Drive Safely in Snow for Sustained Periods of Time

I am proud to report that my first real snow driving experience, which occurred in a nasty snowstorm in Wyoming during the trek to Nebraska at the tail end of last winter, was a success.

The snowfall was such that I was unable to see the road. I drive a white car, which also happens to be low to the ground. On the plus side, I (accompanied by a child) was driving behind a very tall rental truck driven by my husband (accompanied by another child), and I was — fortunately — able to see the top two feet of the back of the truck’s cargo area.  I followed the roof of the truck until the rest of the world eventually reappeared and my sanity was restored.

I exaggerate. I was sane while driving. In fact, remaining calm in stressful driving situations is one of my specialties. I will, however, admit to a case of nervousness in the above situation. If I had been unable to see the truck roof, I would have been altogether uncertain whether to continue, or to simply stop in the middle of the white oblivion and hope that people (wearing appropriate footwear) would say nice things about my son and me at our funerals.

Again, I exaggerate. I think I would have continued to drive very slowly into the white oblivion, hoping to stay on the road I couldn’t see. I shouldn’t joke about snowy burials because my husband reads my blog and he won’t think it is funny. He worries, you know.

4. What People With Appropriate Footwear Will Say at Our Funerals

Just kidding, Honey.

5. The Location of My Camera Cord

I’m sure it will turn up somewhere, and then I can post digital photos again. In blog posts, for example.

6. Many Other Aspects of My Life

Life is always “to be determined”.

 

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