formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Word Power...

There are a lot of words being tossed around these days – words about words and how much power they possess. Our political culture is rife with angry, volatile, hateful words. We are surrounded by them… they assault our ears and our eyes, our hearts and our minds… every day. And there is much debate going on about whether or not those angry words contributed to the violence we saw expressed by a mentally disturbed man in Arizona last weekend.

I don’t have the answer to that question. None of us does. No one but the person who committed the act knows what affected him and what didn’t.

But here is what I do know: Words ARE powerful.

I saw a comment on a friend’s Facebook page yesterday… it was similar to comments I’ve seen all over the Internet in the past few days. The commenter said, “I don’t believe, in any way, that anything anyone says can make a person commit a crime.”

In my opinion, anyone who truly believes that knows nothing about human nature at all. Nothing.

Some time ago, I did a blog post about why I write. It began like this:

I write because I believe in the infinite and unassailable power of words – to connect, to affect, to express, to entertain, to disturb, to discover, to educate, to enlighten, to excite, to incite, to soothe, to solve, to illuminate, to inspire. “

“…the infinite and unassailable power of words…”

Words ARE powerful. They have elected leaders… they have begun wars and inspired peace… they have caused and ended family feuds that lasted decades… they have created and soothed great pain.

Words ARE powerful. Anyone who thinks they cannot incite violent behavior – or behavior of any sort – is blind and foolish.

Ask any boy who’s gotten into a fistfight on the playground because he was called ‘chicken.’

Ask any guy who’s been punched in the mouth for insulting another guy’s girlfriend.

Ask any 17-year-old who’s used the words ‘I love you’ to get his girlfriend to consent to sex.

Ask any young girl who’s heard the words, ‘you’re fat’ or ‘you’re ugly.’

Ask any child whose mother said, ‘You ruined my life. I wish you were never born.’

Ask any woman who’s believed the words, ‘I’m sorry’ after being abused by her partner.

Ask anyone who’s heard, ‘I forgive you,’ when they believed they were unforgivable.

Ask anyone who’s been told, ‘I just don’t love you anymore.’

Ask anyone who’s heard, ‘It’s YOUR fault,’ when it wasn’t.

Ask any parent who chooses his/her words carefully, so as not to deflate a little one’s esteem.

Ask anyone who’s ever been affected by a book, a poem, a letter, a speech, a song, a comment.

Words ARE powerful.

We constantly quote and re-use words from the greatest speeches and speakers in our history. Leaders have used words since the beginning of time to rally, to call to action, and to inspire positive, progressive movement. How many times have you heard, ‘I have a dream…’ or ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…’? And for every tragedy we face as a people, it is the words spoken immediately in the aftermath which bring us together.

So how can we doubt, even for a second, that words can affect us negatively, too? How can we think that words will have no effect on the behavior of the people around us?

Words ARE powerful.

I believe that everyone is responsible for his own actions. The man who shot all those people in Arizona last Saturday is responsible for himself, to the degree that his mental condition allows. We are each responsible for ourselves – for our actions and our words. And I truly believe that holds true, to an even greater extent, for the people leading us – those in office; those who would like to be in office; and those who speak publicly about them. They KNOW their words are important… they KNOW their words are powerful… it’s precisely WHY they choose the words they do – to inspire belief, emotion, and action.

Free speech is part of the foundation of our nation, our government, and our society. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But free speech isn’t really free… it comes with a price. And I believe that price is responsibility. I believe strongly that our leaders and media need to be responsible with their words… they need to understand that simply because they CAN say something, it doesn’t mean they SHOULD. They need to understand that the images their words convey WILL affect people – both positively and negatively – so they need to choose those images and words very carefully. They need to be responsible for THEIR words and actions, just as we do. And when they’re not? They need to stand up and say, “I could have done better.” It’s the very least we should be able to expect.

Because words ARE powerful. Never doubt it. Not for a second.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Color Your World Happy!

Because it's Friday and because I don't want stress or worry or cold to cloud it all up and because I've been really wordy all week and because these pictures just make me happy...

Happy Friday, everyone!! XO

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Anonymous Comments, Please...

I can’t read the news online anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. I can’t read news articles which allow for reader comments. I can’t read any articles, even the silly blurbs about entertainers (many of whom I don’t know from Adam), which allow for reader comments. Because readers? Are mean. They are nasty. They are SO angry. They have opinions about every damned thing (often woefully un/misinformed opinions, too). They do not have a firm grasp on the rules of spelling and grammar (at all). And they are almost always – perhaps worst of all – ANONYMOUS.

I always tell Ryan, “Never say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t be willing and able to defend to his face.” I’m not foolish enough to believe that an 11-year-old isn’t going to gossip and say mean things sometimes, but I want her to understand that it is not acceptable to be cruel or ugly just because the other person won’t know about it. And no, I haven’t always practiced what I preach. I have the Triple-S gene (Snarky/Snide/Sarcastic). And it’s not recessive. And sometimes it completely overtakes my Civility gene. But lately? After spending some time puttering around the Internet and reading what people say to each other under the banner of ANONYMITY? I’m really working hard to live by example.

I understand that we’re living in a volatile political, economic, social, and environmental climate. I realize that things are happening every day, all over the world, that are upsetting. I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m disgusted and frightened and, often, horrified. And I’m quite willing to share my views about those upsetting, disgusting, horrifying things if asked (and sometimes if not asked). I understand that some people will agree with my views. Some people won’t. And while I might be screaming, “You stupid f#%@ing moron!” at those people in my head, I’m going to try really hard NOT to scream it out loud or in writing – even if I can write in a place where I don’t have to give my name. (I also work really hard to spell everything correctly and use proper grammar. Just sayin’.) I don’t want to say anything to which I’m not willing to attach my name (or my face).

Just this afternoon, I was reading an article about something political. I don’t even remember what it was and, honestly, the topic of the article was hardly even relevant. The comments (and there were a LOT of them) took on – with the very FIRST one – an ‘us against them’ tone, and nearly every commenter followed form. The personal attacks, name-calling, profanity, insults, and bad spelling and grammar were absolutely appalling. And almost every comment was ANONYMOUS. I wanted to take the whole lot of commenters and put them in a room together. I wondered how many of them would act so superior and so utterly nasty in person. I wondered how many would call each other vulgar names when standing face-to-face. Not many, I’d wager. ANONYMITY masks cowardice.

And it’s not just with news articles either. I have done my fair share of online dating over the past couple of years. It’s a great way to meet people… and an awful way to meet people. You are fairly ANONYMOUS, in that you don’t give your name or contact information, but you do (if you want) post a photo of yourself so potential suitors know you’re not a troll (unless you ARE a troll… then you’re screwed). Anyway, I think it takes some guts to put yourself out there and to approach people online… maybe not as many guts as it would to do it in person, true, but it’s still hard. Even if you’re ANONYMOUS, you still have feelings and rejection – or being ignored – still hurts like hell. As such, I think every email or ‘wink’ deserves a response, even if you know immediately you will not be going out with that person. I look at it this way – if you were to come up to me in a bar and say hello, I wouldn’t turn my back on you. I’d say hello back because it’s the polite thing to do. Most people would do that, right? But the number of people who will simply ignore those emails is astounding. I find it incredibly rude. But there is that safety – that ANONYMITY. It allows for bad manners and abject cruelty.

A couple of months ago, I came across a Facebook page dedicated to a young girl who recently died. Her friends set it up to remember her – a common occurrence on FB. I looked at it and was touched by the messages people were posting. Then it got hacked and a group of ANONYMOUS posters took it over. The things they said about this girl and the photos they posted were cruel and vulgar and reprehensible. I could only imagine what her friends and family felt when they saw them. And I knew that if those hackers hadn’t been able to hide behind their online ANONYMITY, it wouldn’t have happened.

People say all the time that the world has changed. I usually reply that it really hasn’t – that we’re just more aware of everything that’s happening at any given point in time because we’re bombarded by information 24/7. And I do believe that. But I’ve also come to realize that the world HAS changed, because WE have changed. We now have the ability, like we’ve never had before, to live ANONYMOUSLY. It makes us more daring. It makes us careless. We don’t have to have our ducks in a row or our facts straight. We don’t have to worry about things like integrity or truth or character or compassion. We don’t have to look someone in the eye when we insult him or hurt his feelings. We can say whatever we think, whenever we want, without repercussions.

Or so it seems.

But there ARE repercussions. I’m living proof. This post is proof. The way I feel every time I read comments after an online article is proof. And I’m not the only one feeling this way. I know I’m not. So many of us are worried and frustrated and those feelings are helped along and made worse by the ANONYMOUS encounters we observe every day. It’s bad.

So I vow not to live ANONYMOUSLY. And I will raise my child to live her life face-to-face, willing and able to put her name behind her words and deeds. And I hope enough people feel the way I do… if so, we can change the world again… this time for the better.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh, Behave!

I believe in Karma. I think she’s pretty cool. She also scares me a little. ‘Cause I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘what goes around, comes around’ after I haven’t behaved particularly well, that’s why. So Karma helps to keep me on the straight and narrow. Well… OK… she at least helps to keep me from treating people like crap (plus, I’m just a nice person. Mostly).

Sometimes Karma takes her sweet time at coming back ‘round. It can be frustrating, especially for the impatient among us, but it’s usually worth the wait…

There’s this lady who takes her dog to the same park Sundance and I trek around every morning. I’ve seen her several times a week for a couple of years. She NEVER cleans up her dog’s poo. NEVER. It makes me insane. ‘Cause I’m a dog poop Nazi, that’s why. I would never think of letting my dog go and not picking it up! But this woman will let her dog go anywhere -- even on the ball fields or near the playground where the kids run around… she’ll WATCH him poop and then just walk away, like she didn’t see it! Once, I yelled across the park to her, “Do you need a poop bag? I have extras!” She IGNORED me! Grrrr. Once I left a note under her windshield wiper, along with a bag (don’t worry, I was nice. Mostly). When she sees me now, she turns and walks in the other direction (chicken), but still, she doesn’t pick up the poo.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Sundance and I were heading back to the car after doing the whole park trail and, lo and behold, who did I see, leaning up against the wall of the bathroom, scraping a great big pile of dog poo off her shoe with a stick? Yup! I laughed. Out loud. She heard me, looked up, and glared angrily, still scraping poo. I laughed even harder.

Oh, yeah, that was totally worth the wait! Thank you, Karma!

And sometimes? Sometimes Karma’s just in an immediate gratification sort of mood. Like this morning…

I was driving home from the park when this little old lady in a big old Buick cut in front of the guy in front of me, just as we were pulling up to a stop light. She simply wasn’t looking (or couldn’t see) where she was going. He had to hit his brakes, which caused me to hit mine… but all was well (aside from Sundance winding up in the front seat)… no resulting fender-bender. Whew.

Well, you’d have thought Miss Daisy caused the guy to lose the Grand Prix. He laid on the horn for a full 30 seconds… he was gesturing wildly, flipping her the finger. It was really ridiculous. I mean, dude, you get cut off sometimes. We’ve all had it happen… hell, we’ve probably all done it at some time or another. You get over it and thank your lucky stars you don’t have to repair your fender (or worse). But no, Mario Andretti was having nothing of the whole ‘get over it’ thing. He pulled to the right, up beside the little old lady (who was now directly in front of me and seemed quite oblivious to his gesture-filled rant, as she was probably deaf as well as blind). He rolled his window down, laid on the horn again, and spewed insults and profanity. I sat there watching him, my jaw hanging open, incredulous. When the light changed, Miss Daisy drove ahead and Mario matched her pace (which was pretty slow), ranting and blowing his horn all the while… until…

… he ran right into the car in front of him.

I very nearly peed in my pants.

Miss Daisy drove on, clueless. I blew my horn at Mario Andretti and waved (and laughed!) as I passed by. I did feel bad for the guy he hit, though, and found myself hoping he’d done something for which Karma was coming back ‘round at him, too.

Wait. Do you think she’ll come back at ME for laughing at Mario Andretti (and Poo Lady)? Nah. She has a sense of humor, too, don’t you think?

Yeah. She does. I’m sure of it.

Karma. She’s pretty fabulous. But you’d be well-advised to be just a little askeerd of her. Oh, yeah. And behave yourselves out there, people. Behave yourselves…

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1000 Things (but not all at once!)...

I read something recently about how happiness is not, as many people think, this big THING we attain and then hold onto. It’s actually lots of little things, strewn throughout our days and weeks and months and years, and if we just train ourselves to really see and feel and appreciate them as they happen, happiness just IS. It’s a part of us – part of who we are. That’s cool, no?

So today begins my year-long quest to see and feel and appreciate… and list… 1000 Things to Be Happy About in 2011! I’m going to try not to duplicate any but, if after 8 months and 682 things, something pops up twice (or, you know, 3 or 4 times), don’t yell at me, ‘k? You’ll just know it must make me REALLY happy!

1. Reading blogs (and I PROMISE I’ll get back ‘round to everyone’s very, very soon!)

2. Dates stuffed with almonds (fruit-dates, not men-dates… they’re yummy! Though men-dates stuffed with almonds might be yummy, too, now that I think of it)

3. Climbing back into my warm bed after an early-morning shower for an extra 20 minutes (just don’t fall back to sleep or your hair will NOT make you happy… trust me on this one)

4. Finding money when I clean out a purse I haven’t used in a while (but not so much pennies or nickels… dimes and quarters make me smile… and dollars actually make me giggle!)

5. My electric kettle

6. Getting a good idea for a blog post or a Facebook status update

7. The smell of brownies baking (or cookies… or bread… or cake… OK, the smell of pretty much any carbohydrate baking)

8. That Sarah Palin is only stinking up cable and not public office (!)

9. Getting a new magazine in the mail

10. The look of pure joy on my dog’s face when I get home (I’m telling you, he SMILES!)

11. A funny email from a friend

12. Falling into bed tired

13. Gerard Butler (with whom I’d like to fall into bed not-so-tired… but just looking at his photo is nice, too)

14. Breakfast with a good friend (especially when it runs into lunch!)

15. A long walk in the park with my dog

16. My clean car (it’s the happiest 8 minutes in my year!)

17. Laughing out loud at a television program (seen ‘Hot in Cleveland’ yet? Very chuckle-worthy!)

18. That my 11-year-old still wants to be tucked in (she frowns at my lullabies, though… dunno why)

19. My hot pink, knitted, fleece-lined boot-slippers with the pom-poms (why, yes, they DO look quite silly – it’s part of the appeal)

20. Flannel pajama pants and old sweatshirts (attractive? No. Happy-inducing? Yes!)

To be continued... (a lot!)

So, what makes YOU happy?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Red Light...

On Christmas Eve, driving to Target to pick up some last minute odds and ends, I was feeling a bit down. Although I’d gotten Ryan some nice things for Christmas – and the one thing she’d asked for , it seemed like a very small pile of gifts. This has been a rough year financially for me, and though Ryan’s been really understanding about not getting to do a lot of the things we’ve done in the past, it’s bothered me. A lot. As such, I’ve been feeling very ‘woe is me’ of late.

While I was stopped at a red light, lost in ‘woe is me,’ an old man hobbled across the street in front of my car, clearly struggling with a heavy bag. As he tried to step over a mound of snow at the curb, he stumbled and nearly fell. The panicked look on his face made my heart lurch. He had to put the bag down to steady himself but the ground was slippery and he nearly fell again. I watched him pick the bag up with his left hand, as there was something wrong with his right arm, but it was too heavy and it kept pulling him off balance (balance, which is, I suspect, precarious on his best days).

As soon as the light turned green, I drove quickly around the block and onto the street down which he was, by then, slowly making his way. I pulled up to the curb and got out of my car, reaching him just as he stopped to rest again.

“Can I help you with your bag? It looks awfully heavy.”

He looked at me with rheumy eyes and nodded. The bag did have some heft to it and though I said I could also carry the lighter ones he held with his bad arm, he shook his head, as he could manage those. I said I’d be happy to carry the heavy one home for him and asked where he lived. He pointed to the end of the street, some 100 yards away, and said his house was around the corner, just a little way down. He’d already walked quite a long way from the store and though I could have had his bags to his house in less than a minute myself, I thought it seemed a long way for him still to go. I suggested we drive.

I’ve never given a stranger a ride and though there was a twinge of ‘Diane, are you sure this is wise?’ running through my head, the bigger part of me felt he was harmless and I’d be safe. Indeed, it took him several minutes just to get into the car, as his old bones didn’t seem to want to bend. But once in, he seemed relieved to sit. I apologized for how messy my car was.

As he sat beside me, the strong odor of urine invaded the space. I saw how dirty he was and how few teeth he had and how his right arm was only partly there. And I noticed prescriptions from the pharmacy in one of the small bags he held on his lap, and a bag of oranges in the other.

“My bag is so heavy because I had to get my cats food. They didn’t have any. I have three little cats and they keep me company.” He looked straight ahead as he spoke, refusing to look at me. I smiled at him anyway.

“Your bag IS heavy and it’s cold today, so let’s get you home to your cats!”

We were at his house in seconds. It was the most dilapidated one on the street, the front yard and porch strewn with trash and broken furniture. He asked me to just drop his bags on the porch, by the front door, which I did, as he made his labored way out of my car.

“Thank you so much. And Merry Christmas!”

I patted his arm. “You’re so welcome! It was my pleasure. And Merry Christmas to you, too!”

“I’ll be spending it with my cats. They keep me company,” he said again.

The lump in my throat nearly prevented me from replying. “I know they’re glad they have you.” It was lame, I know, but I didn’t have any words. I got back in my car as he made his way up his porch steps, and once I was ‘round the corner, I rolled the windows down to air the car out.

And I cried all the way to Target.

While I was there, I picked up a dozen cans of cat food and put them in a gift bag emblazoned with a silly little snowman. Errands complete and back at home, I left the bag in the car, figuring I’d drop it off later. In the house, putting my odds and ends away, I opened the fridge and looked at the ridiculous amount of food, just waiting to be set out for my family, coming over on Christmas Day. And I thought about that old man, at home, alone with his cats.

The next day, after Ryan’s presents were opened, before everyone arrived, I loaded up plates and containers with ham, salad, sliced fruit, vegetables, little quiches and fruit tarts, some sweet treats, and a loaf of French bread – enough food for two or three days – and packed them all up in a big bag. I brought the food and the snowman-bag full of cat food to the old man’s house. He didn’t answer the door when I knocked, though I got the feeling he knew I was on the porch. So I left it all for him and when I went back around later to check, it had all been taken in. I felt a little better. Since then, I’ve dropped off homemade soup and chicken stew, crusty bread and fruit… and with every drop-off, six or ten cans of cat food. He never answers the door when I knock, but I don’t mind.

Ryan told me the other day that this was her best Christmas ever… that she’d gotten absolutely everything she’d wanted. It made me feel good. Then she said, “I’m so glad that old man met you on Christmas Eve. He needed you.” That made me feel even better.

And you know what? He might have needed me, it’s true. But I think maybe I needed him even more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Resolve...

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions. But if I had? They would have looked something like this...

Life IS short. It's too short. I'm reminded of it too often. Or maybe not often enough. My brother's best friend died yesterday. On New Year's Day. He'd been sick for a while and was ready to go, though his wife and little girl weren't ready to let him go. Their time together had been too short. But it was all they got. All they had. All they'll ever have.

I want my time to be full of things I love... of things I create... of people who mean the world to me and to whom I mean the world...

Life. It's short. Make it count.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011!

Happy New Year, my bloggy peeps! I don't know about you all, but I was quite happy to usher out 2010 and welcome 2011 with open arms. 2010 was a rough year for me. Rough. Like cheese grater rough. Like the North Sea in January rough. And I let it get to me. I let it drag me down... and under... and though I've managed to bob to the surface just long enough to take a breath, I'm getting really tired of fighting the undertow.

So 2011 is going to be different. I'm building a boat. Sailing anyone?

I didn't do any resolutions for the year (because, you know, I never keep them) but I have set some goals. And to make them more manageable, I've broken them down into 'to do' lists. On my list for January is to blog more (and write more in general). Hold me to it, 'K?

So, happy, happy New Year! I hope it holds happiness, health, prosperity, and peace for us all! XOXO