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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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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.

Sometimes Those Good Things Do Not Happen, But Other Good Things Do

30 Mar

I had one of those days today.

You know…those days when something very simple is expected to happen, only it doesn’t happen, and the simple thing not-happening means that those grand things that would have made your life so much brighter are also NOT happening.

And still the sun shines, and the flowers bloom, and the children laugh, and a guy named Mike publishes a blog post called Welcome to Blue Sky, Rhode Island. Population: One Totally Plibbed-Out Sixth Grade Girl Who Goes by The Name of None-of-Your-Beeswax-if-That’s-Okay-With-You-Mister-Flibbertijeepers and it surprises the heck out of me with its creativity, widening my eyes and possibly my horizons. (When you read Mike’s post — because you must read it — be sure to notice the tags at the bottom.)

Life is beautiful, even if you are hiding in the closet and feeling plibbed-out.

~ACS

Charmed

22 Feb Stinson pix 6-10 027

Charm is the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves.

~   Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)

A charming person has a natural talent, a gift for elevating others from the inside out.

Do you have someone like that in your life?

New Adventures

29 Jan

Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

— Douglas Adams (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency)

wide open spaces

This year I am trying new things, taking more risks, and worrying less.

I am driving in snow storms.

I am taking photographs of sunsets through dirty car windows.

I am thinking a little bit less.

I am taking more action.

Life seems simpler.

Mental Magnets

9 Nov
“Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.”—Mary Lou Retton

Have you ever noticed that when you get a new car (even a used car) you start seeing that model of car everywhere — as if you had just acquired the top-selling vehicle in the nation?

Similarly, when you have just been dumped by your sweetheart and you are moping around all alone, thinking about the happy times before your beloved kicked you to the curb, you can be sure that blissful couples will appear at every turn, cuddling and sighing contentedly.

I believe the human mind seeks familiarity. We see whatever we are thinking about.

We may feel as though we are drawing these things toward ourselves like a magnet, when perhaps we are simply more attuned to what has been there all along.

Either way, it seems to be a good idea to focus on what you want in your life, rather than what is wrong or what is missing.

Don't be this guy.

In a Minute There Is Time

11 Aug

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse 

~T.S. Eliot, from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1919)

*   *   *   *   *

Sometimes we forget how much we can accomplish in a short time. A minute doesn’t seem very long – and yet it is long enough.

Make a decision. Make a revision. Improve your life. Improve the life of another person. It will only take a minute.

In a minute you can invest in a small business, solve a problem, tighten a screw, compliment someone, water a plant, wipe the kitchen counter, or even create a new life!

In another minute, somewhere on Earth, a business will fail, someone will receive an insult, a screw will be loosened, a plant will dry up, a counter will become sticky, and someone will most definitely die. In fact, across the globe, these things will happen many times over, and some of them may even happen to you.

Do not be discouraged.

The Universe changes with every moment. So do we.

Make a decision. Change something. Make something better than it was. If you act, perhaps your act will be reversed in the next moment, or perhaps it will not. Either way, if you have acted, your decision to act, and the act itself, both existed in that moment.

You were changed in that moment. The Universe was changed in that moment.

Go ahead, disturb the Universe. I dare you. It will only take a minute.

*   *   *   *   *

Who Goes to a Cemetery on Their Honeymoon?

27 Jul

My husband and I spent several hours at a cemetery during our honeymoon.

The Recoleta Cemetery was one of the highlights of the honeymoon, as strange as that may sound. You will understand when you see some of the photos. We are not “Goth” people. My husband is a history buff, and I like art.

Though we were married in 2005, we spent our honeymoon in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2006. We chose the destination for the principle reason of combining our honeymoon with a visit to a dear friend who was unable to attend our wedding due to her South American travel plans. I enjoyed the trip very much, and I’m sure a “tropical paradise” would not have been as interesting.

The Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is filled with impressively tall, elaborate, and expensive mausoleums and statues. Intrigued by the textures and uniqueness of each structure and figure, I took so many photographs I thought I would drain the battery on my camera. I have shared some of my favorites here, but they don’t truly capture the scale or beauty of the cemetery.

The Recoleta is like a miniature city, where the residents happen to be dead. There are buildings, blocks, and streets, but don’t bother knocking on the doors … no one will answer.

Some of the structures were crumbling, while others retained their original imposing form.

An Egyptian tomb seemed out-of-place.

I was very taken by the poses of the angels here.

A beautiful plant to look at, but notice the thorns!

Eva Peron (otherwise known as Evita) rests at the Recoleta. Her remains were smuggled into this very upper class cemetery by supporters because her lower class origins would have officially disallowed her entombment.

The cemetery is teeming with feral cats, which are fed by the caretakers. Having a cat skitter across the path while one is walking among tombs is rather startling, I can assure you.

The cemetery is a Must See if you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires.

We also spent quite a long while in The National Arms Museum, which was practically next door to our hotel. This fascinating museum features “18 rooms where exhibitions describe the historical and technical evolution of the weapons of the world [from] the 12th century to the present” according to the brochure. Although I have no photographs of the experience, I had a terrific time admiring the craftsmanship and intricate design of ancient and modern weapons and armor from all corners of the world.

Other activities we enjoyed in the area include an evening spent at Opera Pampa (history-based rodeo/musical theater in a large arena), a tour of the historical ship/museum Frigata Sarmiento in Puerto Madera and a visit to colorful Caminito in La Boca. Opera Pampa was amazing — videos of it are available on YouTube if you are curious. I have included a few images of the frigate and the charmingly artful Caminito below.

A living statue!

The one regret I have about our Buenos Aires adventure is missing the enormous mechanical flower sculpture. Apparently, the metal blossom is timed to open at sunrise and close at sunset! We drove by during the day but were unable to witness the movement due to time factors during our trip. If we ever return to the area, I will be sure to schedule time to see it bloom.

I highly recommend Buenos Aires for those looking to expand their horizons.

Be Careful What You Wish For

17 Jul

I have spent the weekend primarily in bed, recovering from a particular type of illness.  My time tested self-medication includes: rest, water, ice, Canada Dry ginger ale, and Saltine crackers — in that order.

My menu has recently expanded to allow mugs of hot, salty broth and bowls of Wheaties seeped in rice milk.  The chicken tandoori being consumed downstairs has been politely refused; yesterday, the smell of garlicky pork nearly caused a relapse.

Only hours before the gastric rebellion commenced, I had enjoyed (courtesy of a dear friend) a remarkable meal delicately prepared by a short, mustached man with the name Gustavo embroidered over his heart.  He came to our table to explain each delicious course.  I remember a kale pesto, a risotto with white truffle oil, and some other things only barely within my food vocabulary.  Apparently, I was not meant to absorb the nutritional benefits of this feast.

Gustavo is not to blame, I want to make that clear.

I felt nauseated on the drive up to the city.  I had thought perhaps my belt was too tight, and so the belt was left abandoned in the foot-well of the car.  My dear husband had asked me earlier, “Is that what you’re wearing?”, so I wasn’t worried about spoiling my glamorous look.  Without the belt, I still felt slightly ill, but I chalked it up to the mysterious ‘car sickness’ I have heard about from others.  ‘There is a first time for everything,’ I thought to myself, rather optimistically.

I wished for my queasiness to go away long enough for me to enjoy a rare evening out.  My wish came true.

Earlier in the day, I had looked inside the pantry and wished for the ginger ale and crackers I had bought weeks ago to be consumed, rather than wasted.  That wish also came true.

I can think of better wishes, now.

Organizing is Like Doing Algebra With Everything You Own

6 Jul

(x+3) – (x-2) = 5

Is this correct?

Yes.  You can verify this equation without knowing what the variable is.  In fact, the variable may have ANY value.  I think algebra is fun!  Organizing is fun, too.

What happens when you take a disorganized, overfull apartment and try to squeeze the contents into a smaller apartment?  This is not as much fun, but it can be done with some planning and some sacrifice (in other words, you will need to sacrifice some possessions).

I am currently working on a “Downsize and Organize” project for a client, and the T-shirts are one of the most troubling variables in the equation.

Organizing a space is very much like doing algebra.  The more things you own, the more complex the equation becomes.  I enjoy solving problems by rearranging numbers — or objects — until they fit, and in fact, the first paying job I had was as an Algebra Tutor.  Many students struggle with this subject.  I wonder if there is a correlation between struggling with algebra and struggling with clutter.

[(x+1)(x+6)] – [(x-1)(x-6)] = ?

Does this give you a headache?  The equation is much simpler than it looks.  (The answer is 14x in case you were wondering.)

Organizing is a little bit trickier.

For example, if a sock drawer becomes a T-shirt drawer, where will the socks go?

T-shirts = T, Drawer = D, Socks = S.

D+S = (D+S)

(D+S) – S + T = (D+T).

S cannot equal zero.  Write a new equation for S.

If you figure that one out, let me know.  I’m still working on it.

I think I need to add another D to the equation.

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