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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Just Wednesday


2014 will be here in about five hours. I've sat here for a little while this evening, trying to figure out what I'm going to write for my last post of the year.

Yeah. I've got nothin'.

In the past, I've written about making resolutions... and breaking resolutions; about the optimism a new year brings; about setting goals and starting over.

But I've spent today feeling really down. I'm not sure why, really. I mean, I'm glad 2013 is almost over, as it's been a year. It's been a year I felt I simply survived. And sometimes? Barely survived.

That's something, though, right? Surviving, even barely so, is better than the alternative, certainly.

But for as glad as I might feel that this year is coming to a close, I realized that tomorrow? 2014? It's really just the day after today. The slate isn't magically wiped clean simply because the calendar flips. When the sun comes up in the morning, it will be 2014, yes... but it will also be 'just Wednesday.' The mess I left on my desk today won't disappear when the ball drops. I won't wake up tomorrow miraculously filled with energy. My lymph nodes will still be full of cancer, my bank account still filled with nothing, my ex-husband still a jerk, my bedroom still a mess.

Right?

Right.

But still...

It is a new year. And the optimist in me (and she's there, even when she's hiding under the blankets, refusing to be social) wants to believe that this new year will be different. She wants to believe that goals will be met, passions uncovered, dreams realized, love found.

Actually, she sort of has to believe it.

Otherwise she'd just give up.

And giving up is not acceptable.

So, tonight, I'm going to ring in the New Year with my dog. And I'm going to wake up tomorrow -- on 'just Wednesday' -- and take him to the park. I'm going to clean my messy bedroom. I'm going to write down a few goals I want to meet in the coming year and plans to reach them.

And I'm going to do my very best to keep my heart and mind open, all year, in order to recognize and realize those passions, dreams, and love when they come my way.

I'm going to keep my Word of the Year - light - in mind, always. I'm going to try to remember that all I have to do is turn the light on when things feel dark.


 And hopefully, when 2015 rolls around, I'll be able to say that I didn't simply survive 2014... I'll be able to say that I thrived.

And that? Might be the most important goal I've ever set... for a Wednesday.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Good Fight

2013 is drawing to a close. And I'm not sad about it. At all.

It's been quite a year. My life changed. A lot. In some good ways and in some not-very-good ways.

I've mentioned that I started a new job this year -- one I thought was going to be great. But it hasn't proven such thus far. It's an incredibly worthwhile non-profit project... managed by a for-profit company. And those two? Don't mix. Not as far as I'm concerned, anyway. The for-profit company, concerned primarily with profits (duh), has managed everything -- from start to now (some 6 months later) -- in a way that has left much to be desired. Everyone involved is frustrated, tired, angry, overwhelmed, spent.

Me included.

I don't like to give up. I don't like to give in. But I'm also at an age where I've figured enough out to know that some things simply aren't worth fighting for.

And I've realized this year that Life is just too damned short to fight for things that aren't worth fighting for.

So I have some thinking to do. And some doing to do.

There's still some fight in me...

Now I just have to focus on a fight worth fighting.

This little guy's going to help me do it.


His name is Rocky.

He came into my life recently, quite by serendipitous accident, when I really needed something to remind me that Life is about fighting the good fight...

And getting up when you feel like staying down...

 And that with hard work and focus, you can love your dreams into reality.

Here's to a new year... a new focus... a new reality.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lessons Before Dying

Yesterday, on December 28, a beautiful man died.

I didn't know him personally. He was the friend of a friend. He was actually, from what I can gather, the friend of an entire city -- a well-loved television news personality in San Diego, CA.

His name was Loren Nancarrow.

And he was beautiful -- physically, and in his heart and soul. And even though I did not know him personally, I know this for sure.

Less than a year ago, he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He decided to share this experience with the people who knew and loved him -- and with those who would come to wish they knew him and loved him from afar -- via his blog, The Nancarrow Project, and his Facebook page. Through is postings, and those of his lovely wife and children, he shared the experience of living with -- and dying from -- this terrible, cruel cancer.

He was, through it all, beautiful... and brave and funny and matter-of-fact and real.

His words -- every post -- affected me. Full of honesty and humor and compassion, they made me smile or cry or resolve to do more and better... and always, wish I knew personally the man who wrote them.

I read a lovely tribute to this beautiful, very real man this morning (you can read it in its entirety here). In it, the author listed five lessons Loren Nancarrow imparted to the people he touched:

  1. Find reasons to rejoice.
  2. Anticipate "the possibilities of tomorrow."
  3. Remain in awe of sunsets.
  4. "Wherever they are, whatever they may be, seek out your passions and cultivate them” while also being mindful "that it is far better to do good for others, than to do good for oneself."
  5. Be curious.
Beautiful.

My heart aches for a life cut short... for his family, who clearly adored him and will miss him beyond comprehension... for his friends, whose lives he enriched beyond measure.

I will miss his words -- his insight, his courage, his humor. And I will take his lessons to heart, because they are damned good ones.

And I'll be thinking of the lessons I hope to leave behind one day.

What lessons would you like to leave?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fat Karma

I can remember, many, many years ago, saying these words to my best friend, while observing a rather, shall we say, 'portly' (or, if you please, 'rotund'... 'corpulent'... 'well-padded') woman in a public setting:

"Good God. Please don't ever let me get that fat!"

Was it a nice thing to say? No. No, it certainly was not. But (and I know it doesn't matter, or make it any nicer) I didn't say it within earshot. She had no idea I thought she looked awful or that I was making my friend swear not to allow me to become like her. I was young. And, at times, insensitive. And there was no such thing as 'fat-shaming' back then. Honestly? There weren't as many fat people back then.

Still, it was not nice.

But you know what?

Karma

Karma, that's what.

Also?

My friend let me down. Way down. Way, way, way down.

See, I got on the scale this morning. For the first time in a while.

And I was afraid Ryan was going to have to call the rescue squad.

I'm guessing I now weigh the equivalent of a third-grader MORE than that fat woman from years ago. I am afraid I am the person skinny college girls look at and say to their best friends, "Good God. Please don't ever let me get that fat!"

Like I said, Karma, baby.

But seriously, how did this happen?

I could give you all sorts of excuses. It's been a rough year. I haven't been feeling well for a long time. I mean, hello! I have cancer!

...

Did it work for you?

Yeah. Even I didn't buy it.

The truth is, even though I haven't been feeling well for a while, it hasn't stopped me from shoveling all the wrong kinds of food into my mouth (which I've been doing since long before the cancer diagnosis). It hasn't stopped me from making excuses for skipping the gym (which I've been doing since long before the cancer diagnosis). It hasn't stopped me from stepping on the scale every so often to see what's going on, so that I don't have a cardiac episode when I eventually do step on.

In short, I have allowed this to happen.

And yes, I know all about how I need to love myself for who I am, no matter my flaws. I know I am more than the size of my ass (though, truly? I don't think I could be much more than that). I know my personality and my intelligence and my worth as a person have nothing to do with the size of my jeans (which is coming dangerously close to matching my age, for crying out loud).

I do! I know all that. I promise!

But the fact remains, if I gain one more pound, I'm going to be bedridden! And I don't want to get winded tying my shoes! And I would prefer it if my butt does not require its own zip code!

So I marched (where 'marched' equals 'walked slowly, so as not to hurt myself') my ample backside into the gym today and I scheduled several sessions with the personal trainer.

And to give you an idea about how serious I am? I didn't even check to see if I got the cute one.

I will get this in hand. I will. I'll eat better (real, whole foods)... I'll keep those appointments with the trainer (and I'll even do what he says)... I'll do all the right things. I know what they are... I know how and when and where to do them... and, most importantly, I know why I need to do them. My goal, beyond simply feeling (and looking) better, is to be as healthy as I can be; to avoid chemo for as long as possible; to keep my lymph nodes as small as I can for as long as I can. Now, is there any guarantee that living healthier will keep my cancer at bay? No. But I  believe, wholeheartedly, that it will help... and if it doesn't, it certainly won't hurt.

And I will put a gag and a straight-jacket on the self-deprecating part of my psyche who seems to want to see me fall on my face. I'll unlock the door she's been guarding -- the one that houses the part of me who says kind things to myself, is encouraging, and who doesn't think I'm an enormous failure.

Although the enormous part is not inaccurate. Just sayin'.

OK, that was the last one. I promise. Really. Honest. The very last.

Truly.

Yesterday I posted that my Word of the Year is light. So, here's to a lighter me in 2014... in every way.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Lightness of Being

For the past several years, I've been following an adorable blog called The Lettered Cottage. It's written by an adorable couple - Layla and Kevin Palmer - who mostly write about decorating their adorable house(s). Every now and then, though, they do a different sort of post... like today...

You can read it here: 2014 Word of the Year

According to Layla, since 2006, she's been choosing a Word of the Year to "...focus on, meditate on, and reflect upon..." as she goes about her daily life. She says, "[The words have] been imbedded into who I am, and into who I’m becoming. They’ve been what I’ve needed (and didn’t know I needed). They’ve helped me to breathe deeper, to see clearer, and to grow."

As for what you're supposed to do with your word of the year, she goes on to explain, "You live with it, you let it speak to you…you follow where it leads. There are no rules…it’s just supposed to be a little spark."

I? Love this idea!

I mean, I crazy-love this idea!

I'm a word person. I adore words. I'm comfortable with them, surrounded by them. They are powerful. They excite me, inspire me, soothe me, and give me hope.

So the idea of choosing a word to focus on for the coming year?

It made me smile. Big. It gave me the warm fuzzies.

And, as it turned out, I didn't even have to choose.

My word? Chose me.

As I was reading her post, the word 'light' washed over me. I felt it physically. It settled in me and around me and I knew it would be my Word of the Year. And it makes sense, really. 2013 was a year filled with some pretty dark moments... scary moments... moments that felt as if they'd go on forever... moments that weighed me down - body, mind, heart, and soul.

Light is what I want, need, and will seek in 2014.

Light in the dark moments... lighter thoughts... a lighter heart... even physical lightness.

I've mentioned how much I love the lyrics from Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem'...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in


They've become my anthem. And they're about... hello...

Light.

And? How perfection isn't...

Well, it just isn't. Imperfection allows the light in -- and back out -- of us.


A beautiful concept, no?

Yes.

So, here's to a year filled with light. I'm ready for it. I'm going to focus on it, meditate on it, and follow where it leads me.

You know I'll keep you posted...

Now, if you were to pick a Word of the Year, what would it be? I'd love to know...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oh Dear...

A couple of years ago, when I was really active in Blogland, most of my posts would generate a fair number of comments... from 10 to 50, depending on the topic... and that meant that many more people were actually reading, as only a small percentage comments. Now, this was the result, not of great writing, but of me being an extremely active participant in this fabulous little world. I read a lot of blogs... I commented on a lot of blogs... and people commented here, at The Ramblings.

Good blogging is, most certainly, a reciprocal activity.

But since I've started back up, I haven't had the time I used to have to hop around and read. I wish I did, as there are some amazing writers out there, not to mention people for whom I feel genuine affection, even if I've never met them in person.

So I've had to get used to writing for a smaller audience than before. And that's actually been fine. I'm trying to get back into the habit of writing every day... to find things to write about, even when I'm not inspired... to not worry about whether or not what I'm putting down is good enough for anyone else to see...

I'm writing for me this time around.

I do mention each post on my Facebook page and a number of my friends (many of whom are bloggy friends who became FB friends) read from there. I like that. It's nice.

So I still keep an eye on my feed. Feedjit isn't as effective as it was, as it doesn't capture cities/countries if the reader comes from a device other than a computer (so I can't always tell where people are coming from), but it does record all direct hits to a post, regardless of the device used to access it.

That's kind of cool.

Most of my posts, in the first week or so, get anywhere from 50 to 100 hits. That's not including the people who come to the main page of the blog, without clicking onto a specific post. And I'm really happy with that. That's a lot of people. Some posts lately have gotten has many 350, 400, and nearly 500 hits. That? Is very cool. Very cool.

But one in particular? Has hit the ball out of the park. Way out of the park...

About three weeks ago, I did a post called That Boy-Girl Thing. It was about how my teenaged daughter views her first "real" boyfriend relationship.

Sweet, right?

That post has gotten... are you ready for it?

1800 hits

In just over three weeks.

I could not figure out for the life of me why.

Then I noticed that a few people came to it from Google... by searching for...

Girls

And I realized...

That somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 people came to my blog, looking for...

Porn.

Oh dear.

And then I laughed and laughed, thinking how disappointed they must have been.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Of Daughters and Backbones

Every year, my daughter asks me what I want for Christmas. I never know what to tell her. I rarely want anything specific and this year was no different.

Mostly I just want to get through the end of December, unscathed.

But that's not really in her price range.

This year, she's been doing a lot of cool projects for her fine arts class. I've liked them all... been impressed with them all. She doesn't consider herself a 'visual artist' (she got into the program in the creative writing strand), so seeing her step out of her comfort zone and produce really original, risky (for her) pieces of tangible, visible art has been kind of wonderful.

So I asked her to make something for me... something I could hang up and look at.

So she did.


The quote is:

"Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be." (Clementine Paddleford)

At first, I thought it an odd choice. After all, I'm her mother, not her daughter.

But as I read it, over and over and over, I was struck by how relevant it is to my life right now, in this very moment.

I asked her why she chose that quote to illustrate. She said she didn't really know, but she kept coming back to it... she was drawn to it...

It just seemed right, even if it didn't seem right.

I actually understood that.

Since she was little, I've tried to teach her that wishing for something isn't enough... if you want it, you have to work for it... you have to throw your back into it.

And she does.

But I don't. Not always.

And not lately, it seems.

There's been a lot of wishing going on... in my head and in my heart...

But I haven't been actively working toward what I'm wishing for.

I've been sitting at the bottom of the ladder instead of climbing toward the top.

See, I don't like ladders. They scare me. They give me jelly-knees and when I'm on them and look down, I feel sick.

But you know what?

I also haven't gotten to see the view from the top. Not lately. Not for quite a while.

So I'm going to hang this beautiful piece and I'm going to read it every day. I'm going to remember that wishing isn't enough... that to see the view, I have to climb the ladder.

I'm going to dust my backbone off and replace my wishbone with it... and I'm going to get to work.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holid...


Yeah. That.

I start Owl School on Thursday.

In the interim, have a nice holiday, peeps.

Monday, December 23, 2013

If Only

There is often just a minute sliver of time between a tragedy and Life going on as normal.

You hear it all the time... If only I'd waited... If only I'd gone... If only I hadn't... If only I had...

If only.

A fragment of a second can change a person's life - a family's life - forever.

Today?

Was not an If only day.

I didn't want to go to the mall today. I don't like the mall on a good day, but the day before Christmas Eve?

No.

Just no.

But I found out last night that my niece had requested something specific for Christmas and, though I'd already gotten her gift, I figured it would be better to get her what she wanted. So I grumbled my way through traffic and the parking lot and the crowds inside. I waited in line in the store and then trudged my way back out of the mall, to brave the mess again.

As I was approaching the crosswalk leading into the parking lot, I heard a woman behind me calling out to her son.

"Tyler! Stop! Now! Tyler, wait for me!"

I turned to see Tyler, about two-years-old, in a bright red jacket and blue jeans, running like mad toward me and the parking lot, giggling like crazy. His mother, looking frustrated, was chasing him, her arms full of bags.

Tyler and I both reached the curb and the crosswalk at the same time. There was an older man, sitting his car, waiting for us to cross. I waved to thank him and just as I was about to step into the walk, I caught a moving vehicle, to my left, in my peripheral vision.

In that minute sliver of time - in that fragment of a second - my mother's reflex kicked in and I grabbed for Tyler's hood with my right hand and, making contact with a handful of soft, quilted nylon, I yanked him back onto the curb. He landed on his little butt and squealed just as I felt the whoosh of air on my face from the large SUV as it barreled past, moving way too quickly for a parking lot on any day, let alone on a crazy-busy one.

Tyler's mother had dropped all her bags and reached us, and the man I later realized was Tyler's father sprinted past us, to catch up with the woman in the Escalade. The little guy's mother scooped him up with one arm and reached for me with the other, sandwiching the toddler, who had no idea what had nearly happened, between us.

I could see in her face, in that split second, every possibility... every Christmas without her precious little boy... every tear... every "If only."

My heart lurched into my throat and I could hardly speak.

She thanked me over and over and over. I assured her it was OK; it was just reflex, as I have a child of my own; I was just so glad he was OK and tragedy had been avoided.

I left that little family a few minutes later, after Tyler's dad came back to us and nearly shook my hand and arm right out of their sockets, thanking me, asking if there was anything they could do for me.

All I wanted to do was go home.

I wished them well and happy holidays and walked to my car. I turned the key in the ignition with a shaking hand... and then burst into tears.

And instead of If only, I thought, What if?

I didn't want to go to the mall today.

But in that minute sliver of time...

I so glad I did.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Whooped

I'm whooped.

I'm still not finished with my Christmas shopping. Every time I think I'm finished, I remember someone else...

I'm not a very good Christmas planner, apparently.

Or a very good shopper.

And I've been busy all weekend.

And I'll be busy tonight.

And I need a nap.

And I have no more words.

I'm sure I'll find some tomorrow.

Words, that is.

All bets are off on Christmas presents.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Solstice!

Today is the Winter Solstice, also known as My Favorite Day of the Holiday Season. It's my Thanksgiving, my Christmas, and my New Year's Eve, all rolled into one. It's been a sacred day, honored and celebrated, for a long time -- long before any religion incorporated its time and traditions. It's the day I welcome back the sun and the day put all my hopes and fears and wishes and gratitude out into the Universe.

It's a day to reflect and to look forward.

It's very good day.


Every year, on the Solstice, I make lists. I like making lists. They give me a sense of purpose... and accomplishment... and direction.

My Solstice Lists are as follows:

  • Things I'm thankful for
  • Things I need to let go of
  • Things I want for others
  • Things I'd like to happen in the coming year

I put a lot of thought into them... a lot of care. They're detailed and specific... and general and sweeping.

After I'm sure I've gotten everything down I need to get down, I burn them. I send everything -- all my thanks, my fears, my hopes, and my wishes -- out and up to the heavens, to the Universe.

I've been told they're prayers... and maybe they are.

I'm OK with that.

In the end, I feel good -- less burdened, less hurried, less worried.

It's a very good day.

Happy Solstice, everyone! May your welcoming back of the sun leave you less burdened, less hurried, and less worried! XO

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gifts

This week? A little bit crappy. It started out that way on Monday morning... and then Tuesday felt like Monday all over again... and then Wednesday felt like Tuesday, which felt like Monday all over again... and all I could do was wish it was Friday.

Work has been trying... and tiring. Christmas pressures are wearing on me... the gift-buying (I don't like shopping or crowds... and shopping in crowds gives me anxiety), the money-spending, the running-out-of-time thing. And the rest of Life seems, oftentimes, overwhelming, even when there's no big wallet-sucking holiday to contend with.

So today's Friday... and the day wasn't much better than any of the others earlier in the week. But it did mark the beginning of five days off in a row. That doesn't happen very often, so I'm pretty excited about it... though my last thought when I left the office was how much I was dreading Thursday morning.

Sigh.

Then I got home.

And someone sent me a gift.

A wonderful gift.

And I was overwhelmed.

And I felt loved.

And I realized that I often feel loved.

I am surrounded by people who love me... and who show me. All the time.

I receive gifts every day, in their words, their deeds, their friendship.

But I get so caught up in the crappy Mondays and Tuesdays that feel like Mondays and the dreaded Thursdays, that I forget... or I don't see the gifts, even when they're right in front of my face.

But tonight?

I see them.

I feel them.

And I am ever so grateful for them.

Ever so grateful.






Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reads With Staying Power

A while ago, I did a Facebook meme, which required me to list ten books that affected me... stayed with me... changed me in some way. It was a difficult list to compile, as I think every book I've ever read has affected me in some way.

But, of course, there are some that stay with you longer than others, aren't there?

After I wrote my list (which was actually comprised of twelve books... I'm an overachiever... sue me), I thought of another ten (or thirty) that could have been on it.

So, tonight, I'm going to list five... and then, maybe, five another night... and then, maybe, five another night... and then, maybe...

You get the picture.

Here are the first five in my list... in no particular order:

The Color of Water by James McBride


This is beautifully-written -- a black man's account of his mother's life; his mother -- a woman who raised her twelve black children while denying her own white, Jewish skin. I read this book about 16 years ago, in one sitting, on a plane from Mississippi to New York. I'd been visiting my new baby niece, whose skin was chocolate brown. Mrs. McBride's story is remarkable, and the love with which her son tells it is palpable. It is never far from my nightstand, even today.

A Time to Kill by John Grisham



It took me several years to get through this book. Every time I would start it, the first chapter would nearly do me in and I'd have to put it down for another several months. The book begins with the rape of a black child by white men and moves on to the trial of her father, who kills them. I struggled with the story because I understood her father's actions, but I also believe that taking the law into one's own hands is wrong. There is a part of the book, though, which sums up that conflict and makes it OK... an old (disbarred) lawyer tells the young, idealistic attorney handling the case that it's a highly unusual one, in that if the father is found guilty, justice will be served; and if he is acquitted, justice will be served. It summed up an amazingly well-told story for me.

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan



Finding myself somewhat obsessed with the food industry in this country and coming to believe that it, via agri-business, is poisoning us, with support from the government, I was lead by a friend to this book. Michael Pollan writes clearly and compellingly, explaining exactly where our food comes from and exactly how our economy and our health are affected by the processes. It made me angry and interested in learning more about how to support healthy, sustainable farming.

 Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 



David Sedaris is brilliant... and brilliantly funny. This book made me realize the essayist I would like to become. Sedaris' work makes me howl with laughter, tears streaming down my cheeks, and, at times, makes me tear up because of the honest, poignant manner in which he relays a thought or memory.

Open My Eyes, Open My Soul compiled by Yolanda King and Elodia Tate


I have a very personal connection to this book, which is a compilation of essays on diversity, put together by Martin Luther King's daughter, to honor his birthday. The essays in it are by people like Maya Angelou, Robert Kennedy, and Stevie Wonder... and by 'ordinary' people, too. About ten years ago, I submitted an essay - late - for consideration for submission to this project. Because it was late, I knew I had little chance of being selected but, to my surprise, I received an email from Yolanda King. She said that she'd been so touched by my story, she was going to find a place in the book for it. And she did. I remember the first time I saw it in a bookstore... I was in the airport and there was a display at the front of the store, full of brand new copies. It was all I could do not to open it to my essay and run around the airport squealing, "Look! This is me!"

So, what books have stayed with you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writer's Workshop: Gifty McGifterson

It's time for Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop and this week, I chose the prompt:

A Memorable Gift

Like most people, I suppose, I have been the recipient of many gifts in my life... some tangible, some intangible... some perfect, some not so much. 

Back in 2008, for one of Mama Kat's Writer's Workshops, I wrote a letter to Santa, which you can read right here, about how I was breaking up with him because of his gift-giving missteps (that fat guy does not know me at all).

But today? Today I'm writing about a different sort of gift. A gift that was most definitely not a misstep. And it wasn't from Mr. Claus, but from one of his elves -- an elf who lives right here in Pigsknuckle.

I have this friend, you see. His name is Loren... though for the purpose of this post, I will refer to him as 'Lorwyn' (as that's, you know, what I call him [well, it's the name I can write here and still stay PG-rated]). Anyway, Lorwyn is, quite possibly, the best gift-giver I have ever met.

Ever.

His gifts are epic. The thought and effort he puts into them is simply beyond my comprehension. And even when you want to be mad at him for spending too much or doing too much or very nearly getting himself arrested for skulking around your yard, planting 200 candy-filled eggs at dark o'clock on Easter morning, you can't.

(For the record, I'm still finding those damned eggs... every time I mow the lawn, another one miraculously appears.)

However, Lorwyn and I decided two Christmases ago that we weren't going to spend much on each other's gifts, as money was tight.

And I? Stuck to our agreement. To be honest, I don't really recall what I got him, though it was probably something like a bag of M&Ms and a 12-pack of toilet paper.

What? Toilet paper is practical, people.



So we met up for breakfast, as we hadn't seen each other in a while, and we exchanged gifts. I handed Lorwyn the TP and M&Ms...

And he called the crane operator to lift mine onto the table.

I kid you not, the package weighed approximately 3,647 pounds.

OK, hyperbole aside, it was freakin' heavy.

He heaved it over to me and I gingerly unwrapped it...

It was a binder. A 3-ring binder, to be specific. Blue. Thick. Like, 6 or 7 inches thick. Like, I didn't know they made binders that thick.

And in it...

Was...

My blog.

My entire blog.

All 400+ posts.

Printed... each sheet placed in its own plastic protector... all the posts and pictures in order, from newest to oldest.

My entire blog.

You see, I had once (just once, but that's all it takes with Lorwyn) mentioned that I was afraid Blogger was going to lose my blog one day (it had happened to someone I know)... and since many of my posts were written right here, I hadn't ever saved them anywhere. And if my blog somehow disappeared, big chunks of my life would be gone.

Gone.

And that? Would be awful. It worried me.

But I never imagined, not in a million years, that anyone would take the time, energy, effort, and money to print out every single post, protect every page, and then hand them to me in a binder that weighed 3,647 pounds.

It was overwhelming.

There were tears.

And not just from the hernia.

And it almost - almost - made up for the time Lorwyn called me a bitch.

Almost.

Right, Lorwyn?

Heh.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Them's Fightin' Words

Over the past year or so, I have actively tried not to engage in conflict... not disengage... but simply not to engage at all.

Now, for someone who is opinionated and mouthy, that's not always easy. I come from people who seem to thrive on conflict... people who like to "debate"... people who love to be right and to have the last word.

And I? Am one of those people.

But as I mentioned in a post last month, I realized it was doing me no good. I wasn't changing other peoples' minds; other people weren't changing mine. And engaging (at least with certain people) was causing me to become frustrated with myself... and often, not terribly proud of myself either.

That's not a good feeling.

So I decided to try to just walk away... to keep my mouth shut... to ask myself if engaging was going to do any good at all, and unless the answer was a resounding YES, it was necessary to just shut my pie-hole.

And overall, I've done fairly well, I think. My life has certainly felt more peaceful. And I've actually found it quite easy simply not to engage.

Except...

Except when someone says something unfair, ugly, or untrue about someone I care about.

When that happens, I engage. I so engage.

But I've found that my brain isn't the part that engages...

I feel this charge in my gut, which runs straight to my heart, and it connects almost immediately to my mouth (or my fingers). The words spew out, through seemingly malfunctioning filters, and they slap the guilty party right upside the head.

It happened today.

I didn't expect it. And it caught me so by surprise, I wound up having to leave the room, punctuating my engagement with a slammed door exclamation point.

I won't say it felt good.

It didn't.

And I won't say that charge and the negative feelings left as quickly as they came.

They didn't.

But I also won't say I'll ever simply not engage when someone I care about is mistreated.

Because I'll do it.

I'll engage.

Every single time.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Smile For Me

My name was supposed to be Sharon... Sharon Heather. But my dad used to say that had they stuck with that name, my initials would have been 'SHH', and that simply would have been wrong.

I don't know what he meant by that.

Heh.

Instead, I was named for a song...

This one...

My Diane, by the Bachelors

Actually, the song is just called Diane, but my dad always called it My Diane, so I do, too. It came out the year before I was born and it was one of his favorites.

He used to sing it to me when I was little... and when I was big...

I love the lyrics...

Smile for me, my Diane

I'm in heaven when I see you smile
Smile for me, my Diane
And though everything's dark all the while
I can see you, Diane

You have lighted the road leading home
Oh, pray for me when you can
But no matter wherever I roam
Smile for me, my Diane

They make me smile.

And whenever I used to hear the song, especially if I was in a terrible mood, I couldn't help but smile... which was all my dad ever wanted when he sang it.

And my smile?

Made him smile.

To know that your smile can change someone's day? That it can turn the dark to light?

That's some powerful mojo, let me tell you.

When I was in college and worked at a restaurant in town, we had a customer who came in every day... he was very old, grumpy, and incredibly non-communicative. He never spoke. Never. So I made him my own little project, bound and determined to make him talk to me or even just smile. But he never did. And suddenly, after months of daily visits, he was gone. I worried about him but I knew nothing -- not even his name -- and I had no way to check on him.

And then, weeks later, he came back in. After he got his food, he asked me to sit down at his table. Astonished that he'd spoken, I, of course, sat. He told me that he'd been coming in during breaks from the hospital, where he'd been visiting his wife, who'd been battling cancer. He said they married when they were in their twenties, and his visits to the restaurant were brief respites from having to face losing the woman he'd loved his whole life.

He stopped coming in because she died.

But he came back to the restaurant because he wanted to thank me; he wanted me to know that there were days when my smile was the only thing that got him through.

The only thing that got him through.

Once, many years later, in a job interview, the human resources manager asked me if I always smiled so much.

I told her I did.

I do.

Because sometimes?

A smile can turn the dark to light.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String...

Since it's been a long weekend, and it's late, and I'm tired (read: brain dead), I decided to do another Favorite Things post, because they're easy and fun and they make me feel good...


Celtic Crosses: As I've mentioned, I'm not a religious person but I have always loved crosses - especially Celtic crosses. A friend recently told me that they have been spiritual symbols long before they were attached to Christianity, and that made me feel that my affinity for them might be a bit more rational. I used to wear one - silver, purchased in a little store in Scotland, on the North Sea. The chain broke and I haven't worn it since, but I might have to get it out again...



Avocados: Love 'em! I eat a couple every week... cut up in salads, mashed into guacamole, sliced onto grilled cheese sandwiches. And I'm an expert at picking them when they're perfectly ready to eat.


White Mice: When Ryan was a baby, she had a white mouse puppet named Stuart (or, as she called him, Stew-it). She loved that mouse... he went everywhere with her for years and now he sits, all grey and worn, a Band-Aid on his tail, on her bookshelf. Stuart is her Velveteen Rabbit... er, Velveteen Mouse. I love him as much as she does. And since my girl was about two, I've been drawn to all little white mouse toys, figurines, and pictures I see. Even the real ones are kind of cute...


Hand-knitted Anything: My mother used to knit and I always loved getting a new sweater or blanket from her. I used to search for little hand-knitted sweaters for Ryan when she was little and kept several in her 'box of special things.' I'd love to learn to knit, though I don't know that I'll ever have the patience (or coordination) to pick it up or become good at it.


Travel: I have my favorite places, certainly, but the chance to go anywhere from home? Golden. Close by or far away, every trip is anticipated and enjoyed. But being able to use my passport? That's the best.


Public Speaking:  I know it's odd... I know most people hate it... but I truly love being able to do presentations in front of a group of people, small or large. I've periodically had jobs that have enabled me to do just that, and it's always my favorite part of my job description.


Collaging: I've never been very good at any sort of visual art but I love to collage. Spending an afternoon cutting pretty or interesting pictures out of magazines takes me to a very Zen place... and being able to reassemble them into new pretty or interesting pictures is energizing and strangely cathartic. It's another way to tell stories... and it can generate ideas and topics to write about.


Kayaking: Being in a kayak, alone, on a still lake, is absolutely one of the most relaxing places I've ever been. If I could do it every day, I would. And after a trip to Maine, I want to try sea kayaking... it's on the Bucket List.


Garden Gates: As a child, one of my favorite books was The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I'm sure that began my fascination with garden gates. I love the idea that whole secret world exists behind them, including fairies and pixies and sprites...


First Snow: I love the first snow... the stillness... softness... as long as I can stay home from work. Snow days? Are even better when you're an adult!



Wishful Thinking: I love wishful thinking... it helps me to zero in on what I want and need, what's important to me, and it helps me to set goals. I wish always... on dandelions, at wishing wells, on birthday candles, first stars, and falling stars. Wishes? Are good things.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Invitation

The other day, a friend shared a poem with me -- a poem entitled The Invitation, written by a woman called Oriah. It is profound and it moved me to tears at first reading.

The Invitation

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
 
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Every now and then, you read something, or hear something, or see something that speaks to you on a level deep under the surface... something that describes so perfectly what you feel or think or believe... something that makes you stand up and say, "That is what I want!" or "That is who I want to be!"

This piece of writing did that to me... for me. I think it will be a while before I'm able to fully process just how deeply it dug in... before I will fully realize its impact... before I will be able to break it all down and absorb each verse. And I expect I will write about it again, once that all happens. In fact, I'm sure I will.

But for now, I just want it to wash over me, again. And again.

And I thought you might like it, too.

XO

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bah Hum Cuteness!

I was feeling kind of Bah Hum Buggy today, so I went looking for something to cheer me up...

Looky what I found...


Baby Ryan says, "Well, hello there, bears! So, what do you want Santa to bring you?"


Baby Ryan is still happy... and tickling Mr. Bear's fuzzy chin...


Uh oh... Baby Ryan has had enough of bears and boxes and bows...



I know I'm partial, but I think Baby Ryan might just have been the cutest little elf ever. I miss that little elf. I crazy-love the big elf she's become... but I miss that little one.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Muchness

A very long time ago, between The Boy From 30 Years Ago and the person who would become my ex-husband, I knew (and loved) someone else. He was lovely. And brilliant. And funny. And perfect for me in so many ways.

Sadly, it was not meant to work out between us for the long-run, as things are sometimes not meant to work out for the long-run, but it was an important relationship in my life -- and in his, I think.

He said something to me once that stayed with me, and which has, over the years, made me stop and think and wish and, sometimes, be sad. He said,

"You are one of the most alive people I've ever known."

I laughed. Truth be told, I wasn't at all certain of what he meant and though he tried to articulate it, I waved his explanations off. I didn't need them. He was lovely and brilliant and funny, and he was smiling when he said it, so I took him at his word.

And I went on being alive in the relationship...

Until it ended.

And then I was sad. And I felt not quite so alive for a while.

But Life went on.

As it does.

All the things that happen to other people happened to me, too... things like other relationships, work, work, and more work, friendships, moves, travel, a marriage, a child, losses, a divorce, illness, etc.

There were many good things. And many bad things. And through all those things, good and bad, Life never stopped moving.

At times I ran with it... at times I trudged along... at times I was flat-out dragged behind Life, unable to do anything but just hold on by my fingertips.

And after a while -- after 25 years of running, trudging, and being dragged -- I took a look back and realized I wasn't feeling quite so alive.

Then I saw a quote somewhere, from Alice in Wonderland (not my favorite book, I have to say):

"You're not the same as you were before. You were much more "muchier." You've lost your muchness." (Said the Mad Hatter, to Alice.)

When I read it, it hit me that Muchness was what that lovely, brilliant, funny person was trying to articulate all those years ago... it's what he saw in me when he said I was alive.

Muchness is that spirit, that spark, that imagination, that energy, that optimism, that greatness which comes with youth and quick metabolisms.


And though I believe there are people who retain their muchness, I realized that I've lost it. Well, I've lost much of my muchness.

It happens, doesn't it? To lots of us (most of us?). Life happens and we wear down with responsibilities and worries and fears and stress and guilt and just plain old being tired.

And our muchness gets lost.

I talked to an old friend today -- someone who has known me a long time and knows me well. And my friend assured me that my muchness isn't, in fact, gone... that it's there when I need it...

I'm not sure I believe that. At all. But I do think we can get our muchness back. It might look different at 48 than it did at 25, but I think we can get it back...

Or maybe my friend is right and it's not really gone... maybe it simply needs to be rediscovered...


So, I'm going to be looking for mine -- for my muchness.

What about you? Have you lost your muchness?

If not, how did you keep it?

If so, what will you do to find it?

I'd love to know...


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And Warm Woolen Mittens...

Yesterday's post was a bit sad... and I was a bit sad... so today I'm going to change it up with one of my Favorite Things lists. I think this is the fourth (Raindrops on Roses... Whiskers on Kittens... Bright Copper Kettles... And Warm Woolen Mittens)... yup, it's number four. Clearly there are a lot of things that make me happy (nothing wrong with that)!

And here they are... in no particular order...


Getting Together with Friends: As I've mentioned, I have the most wonderful, remarkable group of friends. I'd give almost anything to have them all here in Pigsknuckle with me, so I could see them all on a regular basis. I love introducing people to one another, especially when I'm certain they'll wind up good friends (and I'm not often wrong), and get togethers are the best places to do that.


Massages: I've always said that if I were ever to somehow come into wealth, one of the very few extravagances I'd splurge on would be weekly (daily... hourly?) massages. I believe strongly that we need human touch to be healthy and there is little else that feels better than a full-body massage.


Roller Coasters: Crazy-love 'em! That first hill scares the bejeebies out of me (the way UP, not the way down) but the rest? Pure, unadulterated excitement! Roller coasters make me feel like a kid again and that is almost always good!


Candlelight: It's beautiful... warm, soft, and kind to those of us over 40. What's not to love?


Porches and Porch Swings: When I was young, we lived in an old farmhouse that had a big front porch and a swing. I spent more hours there than I could possibly count, mostly reading, but sometimes just swinging the day away. I even slept out there when it was really hot. One day I'll have a swing again...


Beautiful Dresses: If you were ever to see my 'Pretty Clothes' board on Pinterest, you'd swear I channel Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly when I pin. I love classic dresses and clothes that look like they stepped right out of a black and white movie. I don't wear them, mind you... I just love them!


Soup: I don't really like to cook much but I make the most seriously amazing pots of soup! As soon as the weather turns cool, I start thinking about what sort would taste good. I love to gather whatever ingredients strike my fancy from the produce aisle or the farmer's market. Add a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of red? Heaven.


Cornwall: It's where I want to retire... at Wit's End Cottage at Land's End. Because just look at it, that's why. It's everything I love, all wrapped up into one place.


Stained Glass: I love stained glass... a spectacular stained glass window, glowing bright from the sunlight streaming through? It's take-your-breath away beautiful. Whenever I travel, I always find myself in old churches (I love the architecture), photographing the windows.


Sleep: I cannot describe the joy I feel on Friday and Saturday nights, knowing I can sleep late the next mornings. My bed? One of my truly happy places. And put on fresh dried-in-the-sun sheets? It's my own little piece of Heaven, right in my little room.


Winnie the Pooh: I have loved Pooh Bear ever since I can remember, as one of my very first books (which I still have) was a collection of the A.A. Milne stories. I've always preferred Classic Pooh over Disney Pooh... I call my dog "Silly Old Bear"... the Milne stories are some of my all-time favorites, as is Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh... and one of the highlights of our NYC trip this past summer was getting to see the original stuffed Pooh (and Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, and Tigger) in the main library. There is a simplicity in that silly old bear's thinking and actions that has always spoken to me... and likely always will.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

500th Post: Her Daddy

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved her daddy.

She was small and blonde, with blue eyes and his nose.



She called herself Di-I, so he did, too (and sometimes Bella... and sometimes Aggie).

And when she was very small, she would stand on his feet and he would dance her around the room to Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller records on his stereo. She would hold his big, calloused hands to keep from falling, and look up at him, laughing, as they danced.

When one of her toys broke, she would hand it to him and say, "Daddy fix," and he would say, "Me fix, Di-I. Me fix."

And he always did.

When she said to him at breakfast one morning, "Me no ike eggs, Daddy," he told her that she was eating soufflĂ© and not to worry because, "Di-I ikes soufflĂ©."

And she did.

As the little girl grew, her daddy taught her Very Important Things.

He taught her how to put up a tent. And how to ride a bike. And how to fold the American flag properly. And how, if she got stuck at the top of the monkey bars at the playground, he would always come to rescue her.

When she got a bit older, he taught her how to shake hands "like a man." He taught her how to drive a stick-shift, to check her own oil, and to never let the gas go below a quarter of a tank (though she didn't always [and still doesn't] mind that last one).

He taught her how to tell a story, how to make everyone laugh, how to pour a beer properly, and how to swear with aplomb.

He taught her to stand up for what she believed in and about the importance of having her "ducks in a row."

He taught her about community service and giving back, and how, even if you have little, you still have more than someone else who needs your help. He taught her to always be kind and friendly to service personnel, to tip waiters and waitresses well, and to stack her dishes to make their jobs just a little bit easier.

And when the little girl had grown into a big girl, her daddy, reluctantly so, let her go her own way. He allowed her to choose her own path and think her own thoughts, even when she made big mistakes... even when he didn't agree (and he often didn't agree).

And when she came home with some broken thing, including her heart or her ego, he'd reach for it, saying, "Me fix, Di-I. Me fix."

And he always did.

When he got sick, he taught her that even when there is pain, there is humor, and that the best way to make people feel more comfortable when they are hurting is to make them laugh.

He made her laugh. He made her laugh so much.

And then he died.

And she realized there was one thing he didn't teach her.

He didn't teach her how to live without him.

She has had to learn that all on her own.

She is still learning how.

She will forever be learning how...





Monday, December 9, 2013

Portrait of an Atheist

A friend of mine is agonizing over the idea of "coming out."

No, he's not gay.

He's an atheist.

And he's very nervous about exiting the non-believer closet.

You see, he fears judgment and rejection -- from family, friends, co-workers. And honestly? I get that. I've been rejected as both a friend and as a romantic partner. I've been judged and shunned (kind of rudely at times, too), by people who consider me not-worth-knowing because I don't believe in their god.

Meh. Their loss.

So, given this seemingly inevitable rejection, my friend thinks I'm brave for being able to announce to people that I don't believe in a god... their god... any god. And he asked how I came to be so brave.

Truth is?

It's not bravery. It's just part of who I am. And it's been a part of who I am for a good portion of my life -- since high school, really. Now, it's not all of who I am... it doesn't define me any more than any one thing about me defines me... but it's part of who I am.

I'm not ashamed of it.

I'm not proud of it either.

It just is.

But his questions and our discussions of late have got me thinking about it; about how we, as a group, are perceived by the world in general... by people who do believe in a god.

In my circle of friends (and in my extended [but definitely not my immediate] family), being an atheist is not really an unusual thing, though it's true that the majority (but definitely not the vast majority) of my peeps fall into the believers-of-something category.

I'm sort of non-discriminatory that way.

There are a whole lot of different types of atheists, just like there are a whole lot of different types of Christians and other people of faith... and while I've met most sorts, most of my atheist friends think more or less the way I do. And we laugh (and shake our heads) at the way we are sometimes perceived, so I figured maybe I could give you all a general picture of atheism from my point of view. Again, I don't presume to speak for all atheists, the same way most of my Christian friends wouldn't presume to speak for all Christians (since you all fall all over the Jesus Spectrum)... but this is the way I see it and the way I "practice" atheism...

  • First and foremost, we do not eat babies or kick puppies. Or eat puppies and kick babies. Anymore. (That's so old school.)
  • We do not worship the devil. See, the devil is part of religion... and we kind of reject that.
  •  Even though some of us (and I'm mentioning no names here) might suggest to the Jehovah's Witnesses who knock on our doors that we sacrifice live animals to Beelzebub on a weekly basis, we don't. Really.
  • I'd wager that for most of us (me included), atheism is not a way to piss off our mothers. No matter what our mothers think. (It might, however, be a nice little coincidence!)
  • Lots of us don't actually claim to know beyond all doubt that there is no god (and yes, I know some of us do... and yes, I know they can quite arrogant about it. Arrogance falls all up and down the religious fence). But unlike people of faith who feel their god, we don't. So we rely on what we know and on what makes sense to us. And what makes sense to us is different from what makes sense to believers. And that? Is actually OK.
  • Related to the previous point, lots of us don't even want to argue about it. Why would we? Here's the way I see it: many people more brilliant than I don't believe. Many people more brilliant than I do believe. Who am I to say any of them are wrong? And what can I bring up that they haven't already covered? So I'll just go with what I feel. You go with what you feel. You don't try to change my mind and I won't try to change yours. It's all good.
  • Many of us fall into the Humanist category, which means we believe you don't need God to be a good person; we believe people are capable of choosing to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing and not because there could be divine repercussions.
  • Given that Humanist thing, most of us have very strong moral compasses/senses of right and wrong, and we tend to stay the course we set for ourselves. When you have no one but yourself from whom to receive absolution, you kind of try to be a good person. Because I don't know about you, but I'm far tougher on myself than any god could be, that's why.
  • There are some awful atheists out there, for sure. There are some awful Christians and other believers out there, too. In fact, our prisons are full of people who believe in God. There are a whole lot more believers in jail than non-believers (it's true, look it up). Bottom line? Awful is not confined to any one group of people.
  • Lots of us work in service industries because we want to help people. We also volunteer in our communities, we work with kids, we start non-profits, we feed the hungry... we do all manner of good things. It's the moral compass thing. It makes us feel good to do good.
  • We love our children. We just choose not to indoctrinate them into the church. And this might shock you, but many of us tell our kids that they need to travel their own spiritual paths (wherever they might lead) -- when they're old enough to understand what that means. In the interim, we teach them right from wrong (again, that moral compass thing).
  • Believe it or not, lots of us know even more about religion and the Bible than many believers. See, most of us aren't born atheists; we don't just wake up one day and decide we don't believe. Lots of us were raised in church, right alongside you... but our paths went a different way.
  • A bunch of us celebrate Christmas. Because we like presents, that's why. And because the holiday actually focuses on a boatload of traditions and symbols that have nothing to do with Christianity. Hell, Christ wasn't even born at Christmas. Oh, by the way, Happy Holidays!
  • And on that note, loads of us believe Christ did live... and that he was probably a pretty great guy (some of us even try to live by many of the values and lessons attributed to him). We just think he was human... and that the Bible - a cool book with some interesting (and some bizarre) stories and lessons - was written by men.
  • We don't worry about Hell. We don't believe in it. Well, not in the conventional sense. I figure there are any number of Hells right here on Earth and we each encounter - and sometimes live in - our own, while we're alive.
  • We can be thankful without thanking a god (even if we do sometimes say, "thank God!" It's a habit. Sue us). Gratitude doesn't have to be given to any one entity to be valid. Just putting it out there -- just feeling it -- is nice.
  • Atheists are not unhappy people who hate Life. Well, there are some like that, certainly, just as there are Christians and other believers like that. And honestly? In my life? I've met many more miserable Christians than I've met miserable atheists. Just sayin'.
  • We do believe pretty strongly in the separation of church and state. See, we don't want to stop people from worshipping -- most of us really don't even care what anyone else believes; we simply don't want other peoples' religious views forced on us by our government. It's a freedom of and freedom from religion thing. I know that's one that raises a lot of ire (and it could be a 100-page post all by itself), but it is what it is.
  • We know you don't really get us. We kind of don't get you either. But that's OK. It really and truly is. We love lots of you anyway. And we know you love us, too. It's OK. You can admit it.
  • Lots of us actually worry about offending our believer friends by stating our views out loud. This seems silly, given that our believer friends don't tend to worry about offending us by stating their views. Go figure.
  • We tend not to reject people as friends (or even lovers) because of Believer status. But lots of us have been rejected for being non-believers. Go figure.
I could go on and on and on, but the bottom line is that, like every group of people, our views are diverse and complex (again, I didn't speak here for all atheists, as that would be impossible. I spoke for myself and, I think, for most of the people I personally know who think the way I do).

In the end, we're just people. Most of us are good... some of us are jerks... just like every other group of people. We love, we care, we work hard, we give, we teach, we laugh and cry and bleed and yell and do everything else that everyone else does... except believe in God. We're not defective or flawed or evil because of our non-belief. We're not people to fear or loathe or pity. Our non-belief doesn't affect anyone else's beliefs in any way, shape, or form. Faith is in you... it's part of you... and it can't be taken or shaken or altered or threatened by anyone else's view.

And given all I've said, I think that my friend should have nothing to fear by stating his beliefs -- or non-beliefs, as the case may be. And I hope one day he feels safe enough to do just that.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cynical Schmynical

I was hanging out with friends last night -- some of my most favorite people here in Pigsknuckle. They are a group of funny, warm, loving, and kind people (they are also all smart-asses, which is partly why I like them best). I trust them... implicitly... with my secrets, with my feelings, with my child.

They're good people.

They love me.

So imagine my surprise, when they all ganged up on me last night, attacked my character, clouded my sunny disposition, soiled my fresh-from-the-laundry view of the world, and agreed with each other that I am... cynical!

Cynical!

Me!

Me! Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm! Little Mary Sunshine! Me!

Cynical!

Pfffftttt.

I disagreed. Vehemently. 'Cynical' sounds so... negative... so... not very nice. And I'm nice. I'm a glass-half-full person. I'm an optimist, for crying out loud! I can't be cynical! I can't!

Now, I fully accepted the Sarcastic label with which I was also branded. I mean, that's a difficult one to deny, really, given every other word out of my mouth. But cynical? No sir, not me.

So I protested and protested and protested (shut up, you... don't even think about methinksing and dothing me!). They assured me this wasn't a bad thing and tried to make me feel better about being frigging Despicable Me. It didn't work. Finally, I just hung my head in very non-cynical sadness and went home...

... to look up the word 'cynical'.

Maybe I just don't really know what it means.

So, according to Wiki, contemporary cynicism is defined as such:

Cynicism is an attitude or state of mind characterized by a general distrust of others' apparent motives, believing that they are selfish in nature and/or displaying that themselves.

OK, that's pretty much what I thought it meant. And I don't think that's me. I mean, I think there are lots of selfish people in the world (hello! You do, too!), but that statement implies I think most people are like that... doesn't it? And I don't think that. Do I?

I read some more...

A cynic may have a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, and therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity, and other times, realistic criticism or skepticism.

Oh, dear.

That is pretty much how I feel about Republicans...

Heh.

Emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy led to the modern understanding of cynicism to mean a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions.

Now, that is not me! Mostly. I mean, I don't believe politicians when they try to sound sincere and say they're acting for the common good. I think they're full of crap. But when it comes to the ordinary person doing good? I believe good things come from good motives... and I believe there are a lot of good people with good motives, doing good things.

Modern cynicism, as a product of mass society, is a distrust toward professed ethical and social values, especially when there are high expectations concerning society, institutions, and authorities that are unfulfilled. It can manifest itself as a result of frustration, disillusionment, and distrust perceived as owing to organizations, authorities, and other aspects of society.

Well, shit.

Years ago, on my very first car, I had a bumper sticker which read, "The Moral Majority are Neither."

So it started early.

Sigh.

There was much more in the Wiki entry regarding cynicism, some of which sounded like me, some of which didn't.

So, I came to the conclusion that I'm not Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (I know, it was a shock to me, too)... but I do believe most people are good at heart and want to do the right thing.

I don't trust politicians and many people in authority and I don't believe they are in it for 'the people'... but I think those charlatans have earned my distrust and dislike.

I do believe there are many selfish people in the world, more concerned with themselves than others... but I am fortunate to know and spend time with many, many people who put others first.

I don't trust or think highly of people who try very, very hard to push their social and moral and religious views on the rest of us... but I am confident that over time, they will find themselves on the wrong side of convention.

So... I'm a cynic.

But I'm not full-blown.

I'm a Selective Cynic... a Partial Cynic... a Cynical Optimist.

That's it!  I'm a Cynical Optimist!

And I?

Am OK with that.

And now?

I'm going to write my own Wiki entry!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

On Living Gracefully

According to Wikipedia, the concept of grace is present in many religions and "...has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify..."

Now, I don't believe in divine influence. I don't believe in religion. I don't even believe in God.

But I believe in grace.

I believe we each have the capacity within ourselves to regenerate... to sanctify... to make whole what was broken in our hearts, minds, and spirits... to forgive ourselves our failings, no matter how egregious they seem... and to begin anew -- again. And again.

And again.

I believe it -- I do -- but I don't always put the belief into practice. I have lived for a long time, bogged down by the failures of yesterday and, at times even, the failures I see coming (which is nuts, I know).

(I've never claimed to be completely sane.)

One of my (newer) favorite quotes is from F. Scott Fitzgerald...


It's actually part of a larger quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a beautiful short story-turned-movie (one of my favorites) about a man who is born old, and lives his life backward:

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit. Stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

For me, this sums up the concept of grace.

I've started on a path this year that feels different to me from any path I've been on before. I'm not entirely sure if I chose it or if it chose me, but I'm on it, regardless. It's new, it's been startling at times, and it's requiring me to look at others, at myself, and at the things I've believed for a long time, in a new light -- from a new perspective.

It has forced me to start over in many ways.

It has caused me to see that, in order to move forward, I have to let go of the things that are holding me back -- the regrets, the failures, the criticisms, the judgments -- of myself and others.

It has made me realize how important forgiveness is -- not just forgiveness of others, but (and maybe more importantly) forgiveness of myself.

It is helping me to understand that when I fall, when I mess up, when I let myself or someone else down, it's not finished. I can start all over again. And again.

And again.

It is forcing me to live more gracefully.

And that?

Is a very good thing.



Friday, December 6, 2013

Lecherous and Lewd and Lascivious, Oh My!

This afternoon, I was telling a friend how poor my memory has been of late. And it has. I don't know if it's a focus thing or, you know, an early-onset dementia thing, or what, but I've been struggling to remember stuff I shouldn't be forgetting. But on the way home from work, while driving past a house ablaze with Christmas lights, I found myself traveling down a rather pot-hole-y part of Memory Lane... right to a holiday party I'd rather like to forget...

Several years ago, I dated this guy -- a college professor. He was very nice and funny and attractive... and he drank. A lot. An awful lot (which I didn't actually realize until several months in, as he was rather experienced at hiding it).

Anyway, for the sake of this story, we'll call him Buzz, 'k?

So, as I mentioned, Buzz was a professor and, as such, he had several professorly-type friends. I met them all at once, at a university function, and found everyone to be nice and very friendly; they all seemed to like me. Two of them in particular -- a married couple -- liked me quite a bit.

Quite a bit.

If you get my drift.

They were older than Buzz and myself by a few years, but not many. They were quick with innuendo and double entendre, quick to fill your glass, should you find yourself lacking a boozy drink, and quick to express how much they liked you...

They were both rather, shall we say...

Tactile.

For the sake of this story, we'll call them Mr. and Mrs. Touchy-Feely, 'k?

Though the Touchy-Feelys were quite friendly and hands-on, they were not over-the-top. They let their fingers do the walking in fairly subtle ways -- not quite enough to make you feel really uncomfortable, but just enough to make you...

Wonder.

Fast forward from the start of the school year to December. There was going to be a big party at the Touchy-Feely house and Buzz was all abuzz (as normal) with excitement about it (open bar, natch).

So we got dressed up and we went. We socialized... we ate... we drank (some of us more than others)... we took a tour of the Touchy-Feely's house...

And in the bedroom was a photo of a slightly younger Mr. and Mrs. Touchy-Feely... all naked. All the important bits were covered, true, but they were naked. And it was a big photo. In a frame. On the wall. All naked.

Now, I'm no prude. I quite like photos of an erotic nature. I write stuff of an erotic nature. But I have to admit, I was not prepared to see a photo of our hosts... all naked. It threw me a bit. But I admired it duly, as you do, even when you're surprised by a picture of people you know... all naked.

Then we got to see the hot tub. And as I was commenting about how I wished I had a hot tub, Mr. Touchy-Feely put his arm around me, his hand dangerously close to my backside (and by 'dangerously close,' I totally mean, 'on'), and informed me that I could use their hot tub anytime I'd like. Mrs. Touchy-Feely nodded, with a wink and a lewd little smile, and Buzz just stood there, looking all boozy and very un-PhD-like.

Then Mr. T-F informed me that if I liked, we could stay after the party and have a soak. I said the first thing that came to mind, which was something regarding the fact that I didn't have a swimsuit with me... and I was informed immediately, by way of a decidedly lecherous, breathy little whisper in my ear, that swim suits were completely optional in their tub.

Hello! Of course they were. What was I thinking?

And so the party went on. And because Buzz wasn't keen to leave the open bar, we wound up the last couple still present at the end of the night. I was helping Mrs. T-F clean up a bit when Mr. T-F padded into the kitchen... in a robe and barefoot.

The robe? Not quite open. Not quite. Small favors, people.

But that man? Had some of the ugliest feet I've ever seen in my life.

They were troglodyte-esque, all knotted and gnarly and hairy, with thick yellow nails which needed trimming. Badly. They were like gory accidents affixed to the ends of his legs -- you wanted to look away, but you couldn't. They were feet that should have never seen the light of day, people.

Never.

I fought back the grimace... and the urge to throw up a little in my mouth.

Then Mr. T-F grinned a lascivious little grin and asked if we were all ready for our soak in the tub.

I laughed nervously and replied that I really needed to get Buzz home, as he was fading fast. Both Mr. and Mrs. T-F looked disappointed and protested. Buzz, thankfully, looked drunk and appeared incapable of putting up a fight (or he'd known me just long enough to understand the seriousness of the Stink-Eye).

I'd like to tell you I didn't stay because the Touch-Feelys were libidinous degenerates and they made me feel all weird, especially after seeing that picture of them... all naked.

I'd like to tell you that.

But honestly?

Honestly?

It was the feet.