Peace on Earth, Dammit!

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

 

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. – Mark Twain

 

Now you’ve gone and done it.

You’ve irritated me enough that I’m coming out of the Inner Sanctum to let you know I am not happy with you. No, not happy at all.

You see, this is the time of year when you’re supposed to be kind to others. Actually, you should be all year long, but I know that’s difficult for some, so we only mandate it during the colder months when we’re forced to be indoors and in close proximity to others. It’s really a safety issue. If you act like a jerk and people have nowhere to go to avoid you, I can’t guarantee your well being over the long term.

So we need to have an understanding here. You have opinions. I have opinions. We all have opinions. But the fact that it’s your opinion doesn’t mean it’s the only valid opinion. It also doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know your opinion, especially when that opinion is painful to some truly wonderful people.

For instance, I understand that the Bible is the word of God when you’re a Christian. I am one. I get it. But I don’t understand when people say one particular part is exactly how it is written, no subtlety, no parable, applying world wide, and therefore certain people are The Most Terrible of Sinners, then turn around and say other parts were only stories to illustrate a lesson. The “sin” part is exactly as written, but the “love” part is only when you feel like it, and Those People make you uncomfortable, so criticize at will.

Sorry, I’m not buying it. Even if you believe what Those People are doing is a sin, and I don’t think love is a sin now matter what form it comes in, the example Jesus gave was not harshly criticizing and turning away from those in the minority. Jesus had compassion for the hurting and empathy for those with difficult lives. Jesus cared. He taught those that wanted to hear his lessons and did not lecture those who didn’t. He was love personified.

Which brings me to another point we need to have a little chat about. Black Santa. Seriously, people, is this really an issue? Why would anyone want to insist that Santa looks just like them? Do you honestly feel the need to say that Santa Claus is only of European descent, and therefore a black Santa must not be real? Think about that for a moment. This is another area where, if you believe Santa can only be the image put forth by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola company back in the 1930s, you should probably just keep it to yourself.

Have a heart. What right do you have to claim a figure like Santa for people that look just like you and no one else? What earthly good do you think you’re doing in telling a 4-year-old black child that Santa can’t possibly look like them, or any other race for that matter? Get over yourself. You’re not the only person in the world that counts.

Frankly, if you think Santa has to be white, I’m betting you also think Jesus was a double for Fabio, just like He looked in those picture on the wall in Sunday school. Well guess what – Jesus was born an Israeli Jew. Shocking, I know! He looks nothing like the pictures we grew up with. No flowing blond locks, no piercing blue eyes. About the only thing they got right in that picture was how His arms looked, outstretched to everyone. Regardless of where you’re coming from, His arms are open, and not just to people who look and act like you.

So get a grip. No matter what your opinions, be kind to others. Show love to the people in this world and practice some Peace on Earth, dammit.

 

Keeping Your Awe Alive

Thunderbirds - Nellis AFB

Thunderbirds – Nellis AFB

I live near Nellis AFB, home of the Thunderbirds. It seems I’ve always lived near an air force base of one kind or another my whole life, and I’ve always found that exciting.  Sometimes my work takes me close enough that I can get a good view of the jets practicing in the morning.  I always enjoy watching them fly in formation and seeing the patterns the contrails leave in the sky.  No matter how many years I’ve been witness to these 19,700 pound birds dancing in the sky, I still look up in awe.

But this week was different.  Due to impending budget cuts, the Thunderbirds were going all out.  I’m not going to get into the politics of it here.  I’m a Libertarian myself, so I guarantee we can find something we can “agree to disagree” about in 2 minutes or less.  The Thunderbirds were getting in all the practice they could, and it was amazing.  Climbing straight up and dropping straight down, pulling out at the last possible moment.  Barrel rolls and spins.  Flying in formation, so close together (sometimes less than 3 feet apart) that it seemed impossible, an optical illusion.

As much as I was having trouble keeping my eyes out of the sky and on my work, I couldn’t get any customers on my route to look.  “They do that all the time.”  No, not like this.  If you would just look up in the sky you’d see.  “I’ve seen them.  They’re a pain in the ass.”  I know they’re loud, especially when they’re flying so low that you can see the pilot and sometimes wonder if you might make out his eye color if he flew just a little closer.  But this practice was different, and no one bothered to look.  No one wanted to stop working for a minute or two and be a kid again.  Only for a minute, I promise, and then you can get back to being worried about bottom lines and quotas and ROI again.  But no one would look.

I don’t get it.  Maybe I’m naïve, and I guess I like it that way, if the alternative is to be so wrapped up in the day-to-day of the work grind that I can’t look up in the sky for a minute or two and be filled with wonder and awe at a flock of 1.500 mph F-16s flying wing to wing so fast and low that it makes the ground tremble.  I don’t ever want to be that jaded and lifeless .

As I was finishing my route, one of my coworkers pulled up behind me and jumped out of her truck.  “Are you seeing this?  Isn’t this awesome?!”  We talked for a moment about jets and people, about keeping the sense of amazement, about how politics and childish politicians of all kinds will never keep us from being childlike and staring at the sky.  We sheepishly talked of holding back the tears when the veterans’ float passed in a parade and crying without fail when the national anthem is sung. And I was glad that I wasn’t the only one.

Playing Nice as the World Ends

Behave

Behave

Now that we’re past the elections, ethical behavior has become legal again and even encouraged by some.  At the same time, we’re apparently coming up on the end of the world, presuming you’re not so good at math (http://edj.net/mc2012/truezone.htm ), ancient history (http://www.history.com/news/ancient-maya-calendar-calculations-found-on-dwelling-walls ), or critical thinking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events ), so I do think it’s best we all learn how to get along with each other, whether we’re destined to perish in a monstrous ball of flaming planet or just doomed to spend the rest of our lives together.

I’m putting this out here so you don’t have to be as hard-headed as I was and take more than 40 years to figure this stuff out.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s more useful in everyday life.  Unless you actually are a rocket scientist, in which case… is there any way I can go on a ride-along someday?

So here they are, the fundamental principles for understanding humans and being around them without getting smacked upside the head.

1.   No one is perfect.

You’re not either, so get off your high horse and stop acting like you are.  It’s not attractive and it just makes you look like a jerk and people will think twice before giving you mouth-to-mouth when they pull you, lifeless, out of the pool next 4th of July, assuming they pull you out in the first place.  “You do it.”  “No, you do it!”  “No way!  He’ll just say I screwed it up, so forget it!”

2.   Everyone is wrong sometimes.  Even you.

Man, I hate this one.  I really do have a problem with being wrong, especially when it means someone else is right, and you can see the “Ha!” grin starting at the corners of their mouth and spreading over their whole face.  But look at that smile.  It feels good to be right, so let them have it when they really are.

3.  No one is 100% good or 100% evil.

This one is rough too.  I want the world to be black and white without all of those nasty shades of gray that force me to make real live ethical decisions.  But even the best of us have something that makes us all too human, even if it’s just booger-flicking when no one is around.  And the worst of us have some redeeming quality.  Somewhere.  A lot of people are just really good at hiding it, though.

4.  No one knows everything, and you can learn something from everyone.

Yes, everyone.  Even your little nephew with the snot bubble that expands and contracts when he breathes.  He’s a living example of how to truly not care about how you look or whether your clothes are from the latest designer or whether the world is ending tomorrow.  He’s all wrapped up in play, and that’s something many of us need to learn again.

5.   You can disagree with people while still believing they are intelligent and respecting them.

I have good friends and family that are so opposite politically to me that they make Kanye West and Taylor Swift seem like long lost twins separated at birth.  Look it up if you have to (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1621389/kanye-west-crashes-vma-stage-during-taylor-swifts-award-speech.jhtml ).  I had no idea you could have multiple polar opposites, but apparently my loved ones have found a way.  And the thing is, while I still don’t agree, they all make some very intelligent arguments, and they all mean well.  None of them feel the way they do because they’re ignorant or cruel or they wouldn’t be in my life in the first place.  I still have absolute love and respect for them, even though I’m the only one that’s really right…

6.   You never truly know anyone’s motives, even your own.

“Why?” is one of the toughest questions.  Why did they do that?  Why didn’t anyone stop them?  Why are they like that?  You’ll rarely get a good answer.  I could have told you why I did things 20 or 30 years ago, but in hindsight, I would have been wrong.  Okay, I know this is really complicated, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one.  You can ask yourself what your motives are, then look back on your younger self and know it wasn’t actually that.  You didn’t really drop out of school because the teachers were mean.  You didn’t really hang out with that girl because you thought she was a great person.  But that’s what you told yourself back then, and if you can’t even figure out your own motives in the here and now, how on earth do you think you can tell why the guy across the street mows his lawn in his boxers every Thursday at noon?  Don’t even try.  Just let him be.  Unless he switches to tighty-whities, and then I’d be asking him to maybe spend a little more time at the gym.  And lay off the Krispy Kremes a bit, too.

7.   Your life as an adult is your own fault.

I’m not saying your childhood didn’t stink.  I’ve heard some pretty good horror stories over the years and if you had one of those, you have my utmost sympathy.  That’s just plain wrong.  But you are an adult now, and you have to treat yourself right in the here and now.  That means making decisions to better your life, taking credit for the good things you do and owning up to the stupid mistakes, then learning to make better ones.  It’s all on you now.

8.   Life isn’t fair, but I’ll be damned if I’ll stop trying to make it so.

It’s not fair.  As much as I know this fact, I hate it.  Someone somewhere was born wealthier, prettier, smarter, kinder, with the genes for bigger boobs and more of a verbal filter than I could ever hope to have short of a brain transplant, but it’s the truth for everyone, not just for me. And I will continue to fight for reasonably level playing fields (NOT gold stars just for showing up – work for what you want) and root for the underdog.  It’s what makes life good.  No one bats an eye if the Steelers make it to the Superbowl… again.  But there’s going to be some cheering in Seattle if the Seahawks ever make it.  Okay, and in my house too.

9.   Don’t be an ass.

How simple is that?  We all know what asses act like, so don’t pretend you don’t know when you’re being one.  If I don’t act like an ass and you don’t act like an ass and the guy down the street doesn’t act like an ass and the politician doesn’t act… well, you know what I mean.  It’s feasible except in extreme cases like politics, and then it’s more of a fantasy.  But I still think it’s key!

10.   I mean it – just don’t be an ass.

I’m absolutely serious.  That’s why it’s on here twice.  It’s that important.  I would have made it #1 on the list, but then I wouldn’t have had a list at all other than “Don’t be an ass”, and that’s no fun, so I just saved the best for last.  So, yeah.  Don’t be one, and I won’t be one either and we’ll all get along just fine until the end of the world or the Seahawks make it to the Superbowl, whichever comes first.  I’m betting on the flaming planet hurtling through space, but I’m definitely rooting for the Seahawks.

Did I Ever Tell You About the Time I Tried Out for Cheerleader?

Eddie the Head

Eddie the Head

Growing up, I was a tomboy.  I think Daddy wanted another son, so when I was born instead, he just made do.  I learned how to play baseball instead of softball and, while I wore dresses (this was the sixties, you know), I never did get into the whole “ruffles and bows” thing.  They just got in the way.

Somewhere along the line, I was proclaimed to be gifted.  Geekdom, here I come!  I went to special classes and took advanced math.  And yet, I never fully embraced the egghead lifestyle.  That was never my identity.

During the growing years, I was also heavily influenced by my mom, a classical musician and volunteer librarian.  I think I was genetically destined to love and adore books.  She also introduced me to the world of violins, and I eventually wandered into the realm of bassoons and even glockenspiels.  Yeah, I’ll wait here while you look that one up.  Back already?  Weird, huh!

Mom was horrified during my disco years and was actually happy to see my eventual turn toward heavy metal music in the early 80s.  Even though it was a bit loud and radical at the time, at least it had something other than thumping bass.

(This is the point where I admit I actually spent cash money in an airport music store, of all places, to purchase a full price 2-disc CD set containing the entire soundtrack to the movie Saturday Night Fever as a full grown adult around the year 2000.  And now I have it on my iPhone.)

So let’s head back to the early 1980s.  Here I am, 100% tomboy and just starting to learn that boys might want a girl that knew how to clean up, god-only-knows-what-food stuck in my braces, enrolled in the nerdiest of nerd classes, hanging out in the marching band room after school, practicing my glockenspiel.  If that doesn’t make for homecoming queen material, I don’t know what does.  Being on the tennis team was a bit of a mitigating factor, but let’s face it, I was never going to be a cheerleader.

And for some reason that bothered me.  Really, it did.  Despite the fact that I had next to nothing in common with those girls, I hated the thought that there was any possibility of being stamped “Denied!” before I even had a chance to try.  I could do anything, right?  Isn’t that what we were all told as kids?

So I decided to give it a shot.  Only I wasn’t in high school anymore.  I was in college.  Yes, the talent pool was a bit more saturated at that point, and I had never cheered a day in my life.  Add in that I was now in full-blown heavy metal mode, and you can see where this is going.

It was 1984, a year filled with pink and angora.  The sounds of Duran Duran floated through the air.  Girls did their best to look like Madonna in the early virgin years, before the sex book and the veiny arms.  And here I stood, among the virgin-est of them all, the college cheerleaders.

Look here!  Now we see our heroine (moi!) enter the room in a pair of tight, acid-washed jeans, exquisitely torn at the knees and accompanied by dirty white high top sneakers.  The jeans are adorned with a belt that is both functional and attractive – a chain.  Topping this fabulous display of fashion is a black Iron Maiden shirt with the sleeves violently torn out of existence.  The words “Piece of Mind” and Eddie the Head as a lobotomized mental patient chained to his cell wall grace this delicate wearable art piece.  And as the cherry on this cheery sundae, our graceful girl has stylishly chosen to apply the maximum amount of mascara and gray eye shadow, in amounts so large that keeping her eyes open is next to impossible due to the sheer weight of the product.  Such a fashion plate!

Needless to say, having never cheered before in my life, being a life-long tomboy/nerd, and bearing the ultimate in “Screw you!” apparel, I didn’t make the team.  Shocking, right?  But it sure was fun seeing the looks on those girls’ faces.  And that’s when I decided I loved being the odd one, the unexpected one.  Thirty years later, that’s still me.

The Hearts of Men

 

I’m a woman.  I hear women talk.  And they talk a lot about men.

They just don’t get it.

“All men want is sex.  They only pretend to be in love so they can get sex on a regular basis.”

“Men just don’t have much in the way of feelings.  Nothing phases them.”

“Women are emotional and men are rational.”

Like I said, they just don’t get it.

I have 2 wonderful adult sons.  I have an amazing boyfriend.  I work with some incredible men, and it has been this way my whole life, surrounded by males on all sides.  I guess I’ve become a spy for the women of the world, kind of an infiltrator, or maybe more like a double agent, reporting the secrets of both genders to the other.  And I can tell you that men are emotional beings with hearts that get broken and Super Glued back together again.

My son came over last night.  He had a test to take for work, a very complicated one that usually takes at least a couple of tries to pass.  He was stressing because he knows what he’s doing – I mean he really knows his stuff – but here was a governmental agency trying to make him fail.  That’s tough.

He called me this morning.  “I failed.”  I asked what his score was and when he could test again.  “I got a zero, Mom.”  Now I know you’re full of it.

“You passed didn’t you!”

“Yeah.  I got a perfect score, and hardly anyone ever does that.  My boss thought I was lying because it took him 3 tries to pass, and I got a perfect score the first time.”

I was proud, but I wasn’t surprised.  He’s a smart kid, and he loves his work.  I love hearing his joy carry through the airwaves to the cell tower and into my phone.  And he wanted to tell his mom.  That makes me stand a little straighter when I walk.

I came back to the shop this afternoon.  I work out in the field, and I have to come back to the yard and return my truck at the end of the day.  As I pulled in the gate, I saw more than a dozen massive trucks with their bucket arms extended to the sky, some of them reaching 150 feet into the air.  It was such a simple act, and yet it was so meaningful.

There was an accident yesterday.  Someone had died at work, a fall from 100 feet in the air that never should have happened.  It shouldn’t have even been a possibility.  And yet, it was.  A young man, working hard to secure a future for his fiancé and himself, lost it all in a moment.  Life is like that – fleeting, and suddenly gone just when you think you’ve finally got it all figured out.

Those trucks reaching up to the gathering clouds?  A salute to their lost brother.  A nod to the fact that it could have been any one of them.  A heartfelt goodbye.

Men may not sob and get hysterical.  But they feel it just the same.  Trust me, they feel it.

So, from one woman to another, I’m asking for a big favor.  Please, please be careful with the hearts entrusted to you by the men in your lives.  They’re a lot more fragile and sensitive than we’ve been told they are.

 

Hippie-Dippie Aura Overload

 

Freaking Whole Foods.

I avoid it like the plague because I don’t like the “my aura could kick your aura’s ass” attitude everyone working there seems to have.  Which is fine because I don’t believe in auras anyway.  And honestly?  You’re no different than the guy at Albertsons, except he smiles at me even when I dare to buy meat.  But they had some supplements I needed that no one else had.

I go after work because once I’m home, I’m done.  Finished.  Don’t ask me to do anything more than breathe or click a button on the remote.  But that means I’m going shopping in my work clothes, so not only is it obvious I do grunt work for a living (heaven forbid!) but I work for the most hated company in the state.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  I’ve had complete strangers actually say “Oh… you work for them?”  To my face.  With a look of disgust.  Like I had no idea before now.

Anyway… one of the girls there asks if I need any help, which I think is very nice, but I don’t, so thank you anyway.  She smiles and walks away, but I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eye.  Now I have worked retail for more years than I care to remember, and I suddenly realize that this chick thinks I’m shoplifting!  In my company uniform, no less!  I know I have a rather large purse, but not anything enormous, and I make sure it’s closed before I go into stores for exactly that reason.  C’mon!

I finally get everything I need.  I think.  The writing is so tiny and, frankly, my arms get shorter and shorter every year, but there’s no way I’m actually reaching into my purse (gasp!) for my glasses, so I’m winging it.

At the register, the total comes to Something Outrageous Dollars and 44 Cents.  I hand the cashier, who insists on calling me “Baby” as she chews her gum and flashes her bedazzled faux-leather belt, 2 bills and she enters the amount into the register, which tells her my change should be $3.56.  Easy enough.  She pulls three singles from the drawer and lays them on top of the register.

“Baby, do you have a penny?”

Good grief.  She owes ME a penny!  If I give her a penny, she’ll just owe me two of them, but I’m outnumbered here, so I’ll just give her my clueless blonde look.  “Um… no.”

“Oh.  Okay.”  Frown.

She finally opens a new roll of pennies and empties them into the tray.  Then she carefully counts the coins, pulls three more singles from the drawer and hands them to me, along with my 56 cents – 1 penny and 11 nickels.  Whatever.

As I leave, I see horrified looks from some of the other customers at my disgraceful outfit, the most disturbed of which look only marginally employable outside of an incense shop.

And now I’m definitely the one with the crappy aura.  Argh!

 

Perfect Fail

 

We all want the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect mate, the perfect… well, you know – we want the perfect life.

Only one problem.  It doesn’t exist.

Shocking, right?  Here you were thinking you could actually have all of these things, working your ass off, in hopes of one day obtaining perfection in your career, your body and your love life.

Bullshit.

You’ve known all along that perfection is a myth, that nothing is perfect, including those supremely imperfect humans, us and everyone around us.

So why all of the stress?  Why the constant struggle in pursuit of the dream life if it doesn’t even exist?

I watched a TV show yesterday.  Okay, I watched a show on TiVo yesterday that I don’t normally admit to watching, let alone recording, because it’s heavy on the ‘60s hippy vibe, even though I doubt the host was even alive during Woodstock.  But it has some interesting guests (along with some bizarre ones), so I TiVo it and watch in secret.

Yesterday’s show featured a couple who had the near-perfect suburban dream home.  Life was good.  One day the woman woke up and realized that they would both spend the rest of their lives working to keep up this dream that never could be truly perfect.

They got it.

They sold the house in the burbs, bought some land for cash and built a 500 square foot house.  Everything in the house was built for comfort and easy upkeep.  The materials were mostly repurposed items that were some else’s trash, someone else’s “not perfect”.  They planted a garden so they could grow most of their own food.  They collected readily available rainwater for their home.  They built the house with portability in mind, in case they decided to up and move one day.

In reality, they weren’t looking to be some symbol of the perfect “green” life.  They just chose to do what made them happy.

I know I don’t eat the way most people do anyway.  I don’t eat grains, except for the occasional white rice or corn tortilla.  I avoid seed oils and soybean oil when I can.  I don’t eat processed foods, excess sugar or artificial anything.  For some, that sounds weird.  For me, it keeps me healthy and feeling good.

But I see some that are truly struggling to find The Perfect Diet.  I don’t know, maybe it’s a struggle for immortality or eternal happiness.  Personally, I just don’t get it.  I’m going to tell you a secret, but don’t go spreading it around:

You will not live forever.  No matter what you eat, how you exercise, how well your career goes, how big your house is or how rock hard your abs are, you will still die someday.

Remember, now.  That’s our little secret.

So what do we do?  We can’t live forever.  We can’t ever have the perfect life because there will always be just one more thing we need for it to be absolutely perfect, then one more thing after that, then the latest version of the last “one last thing”.  You can see how this doesn’t really work in the long run.  What can we do?

ROI.  Return On Investment.

Seriously, just how much benefit are you receiving from the time, money and effort that you’re putting in to the pursuit of “better”?  Because we’ve already tossed the pursuit of “perfection” out the window as a huge waste of time.

Let’s take food.  So I cut out the grains.  How does that change my life?  Well, I have probably ½ the number of migraines when I don’t eat grains.  That’s a pretty good return on a minimal investment.  Half that number again if I take a couple of magnesium capsules every day.  Even better.

Calculating my micro- and macronutrients?  Not so much.  Really doesn’t make a dent in my heath or happiness, so that’s out the window.  I could try my best to have rock hard abs, but it would involve investing a lot of time and effort for a very minimal return.  No one would really care but me, and I could only stare at them for a couple of minutes a day.  No thanks.

How about work?  Well, I’m very likely going to be job hunting soon.  My job will be “technologically eliminated” sometime in the next few months.  Should I look for the perfect job, complete with the perfect job title, the perfect boss and a career ladder that I can climb for miles?  Yeah, probably not.  I’m going to try to find a job that I will enjoy (for the most part) and will pay the bills without getting me into debt.

Debt is definitely not happiness, but that’s another post for another time when I’m feeling more political and less ‘Woodstock”.

The lesson of the day is: Invest in the things that will give you joy and make for an enjoyable life in the long run.  Don’t beat yourself up in pursuit of some perfect life you think you must achieve before you can truly be happy.  Start living your life now.