Monday, December 27, 2010

My Band of Angels - Christmas, 24 Years Ago

I wasn't going to write this story but in following a holiday writing prompt from Mama Kat over at SITS, that uber blogging support site,  it seemed that maybe it's time. [Warning: This is a long post, but something I couldn't break up into parts, and for that, I apologize.]

Christmas, 24 years ago, would be the last one my youngest daughter would share with us before Ewing's Sarcoma would take her at the tender age of twenty. Although it was never spoken aloud, we both knew, and I spent a fortune making photo memories because this was before the miracle of digital cameras. Saving our forests should have been the noble high road, but truth is, our little artificial tree replaced a live one that had dropped all its needles two days before Christmas! My husband bought it when the girls were toddlers, I was in the hospital, and he was in charge of everything. Little did we know, then, that it would become a way of keeping him part of our future seasons, too. (He had succumbed to a different cancer six years earlier.) Although the little tree had served us well, it was time to let it go -- too many wiry limbs, too few needles. When given a chance to buy a beautiful new artificial tree for almost next to nothing, I jumped at the chance to make my daughter's last Christmas special.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's Snowing in Willow Spring

Snow to the Left!

Snow to the Right!

Let's Have Tea Inside!

Definitely a day for a lazy read and calling friends! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BFF?! You'll Need to Know This About Me

Ashley at LittleMissMomma is having a BFF Linkup and I thought it would be a great time to plunge into one. Just a few things to know if you want to be my BFF.

I'm very tall inside because my 4'10" Mother used to have me get things for her off the top shelf, saying, "You're the tallest!"

I hate when people with obviously more than 10 items try to look innocent standing in the Express Lane.  

No bag of potato chips is ever allowed to develop a sense of isolation in my house. Because I am truly a kind person, I consume them all at one sitting, for their own good.

If you have anything bad, at all, to say (even with your facial muscles) about Elvis, don't even go there -- no, I'm serious, don't.

I can pretty much relate almost everything to a song -- and, will probably sing a few verses for you, as well.

Some folks may say I'm a pretty good cook but I cannot, cannot, make a decent original pizza.

It doesn't matter who you are or what you do or where you come from, I have absolutely no interest in changing you or making you into something other than who you are -- I love the uniqueness of you and what I can learn from you.

When I go out to eat, I can't stand being interrupted every few minutes by someone asking if everything's all right. I came to share the meal with the person I'm with and would love to be able to do so.

Unless you can prove to me that you're the litmus test of what's right and good in the world, I'm going to do what I've learned works for me.

I have para-sailed and hang-glided, without fear; but, I'm terrified in glass elevators.

I don't know what it means to be bored.
I think that will do -- for now!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Miracle - 27 Puppies and Teddies

The holidays are a time when we want all children to have something special waiting for them on Christmas morning. It's impossible to take care of them all but we can each do something that could make a difference for at least one child.  For years, I have used up my calico scraps to make puppies and teddy bears to give to Toys for Tots. Once stuffed and detailed, I would bring them to the local police station or fire house for distribution.

These stuffed puppies and teddy bears are easy to put together and make great take-alongs to keep busy while waiting for this and that. The bodies would remain unstuffed through the year until the week after Thanksgiving.  Facial features and other details were added during the first few weeks of December. An easy task while watching TV, and easy to deliver. Well, easy to do; check. Easy to deliver; different story. This was my first Christmas in NC and I was but a five-month resident in 1990. It was a snap to locate our little six-man police station and I happily arrived at around four p.m. on the 23rd of December with my holiday box of 27 puppies and teddy bears.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Aunt Clara and Uncle Oscar - Power Over Toddlers!

Kukla, Fran & Ollie
A thousand years ago in my childhood, there was a fantastic thing that arrived in my house -- a television! It had a five-inch (yes, five-inch!) screen in a full-sized floor cabinet. We were enthralled with the shows and with the countdown pattern that would signal the start of the few shows available at the time. Gathered together, we young'uns would all do the countdown as the patterns changed and the number "1" finally appeared. Magic was about to happen!

Late afternoon meant kids programming and one of my favorites was the Kukla, Fran & Ollie Show. I was enthralled at all the characters, how clever they were, and amazed that Kukla and Ollie could drink with a straw! You can share this early TV Show with your own children, check out their holiday DVD special. It was a much simpler time. But, I digress...

I'm here to tell you about Uncle Oscar and Aunt Clara and this requires a leap into the future

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Summer Birth and Death of a Whirlybird Helicopter

Was watching Pawn Stars on A&E the other day and the guy actually bought a damaged helicopter! Then, he added about $110,000 in repairs to resell it at around $150,000! Wow. Well, that brought me back to the time when I was just a young girl of 19 and helped build a Bell helicopter, from scratch. It was a Whirlybird-type similar to the one you can see on the M.A.S.H. series. Big bubble cab, skinny tail, horizontal rotors on top and ski-thin skids. Don't remember how much it cost my buddies, way back then, but I know it was nowhere near $100,000!

To the left is a current picture of a 'kit' helicopter. Ours looked more like a dragonfly with a blunter, higher, face. We were going to use it for beach rides.

Yes, I say "we," because "we" were The Three Musketeers that summer: Jim, Tom, and me. Can't remember how we got together. We just did. And they needed me, really needed me, they said, because someone (SOMEONE, as it was so gallantly put) had to tear open and count the little plastic bags of parts that came every week and then place them in just the right order on the big sheet we had spread out on the floor of the rented steel quonset hut at the Opa-Locka (opa tisha waka laka) Air Base. In other words, I was a girl and that was the only job open.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ah, Sweet Smell of Success - Decorated Sugar Cubes

My philosophy has always been that you can sell anything. All you had to do was find something you wanted to sell for more than it cost to make it. So, let me tell you about my first home-based business.

I decorated sugar cubes. Yes, you heard me, I decorated sugar cubes. I wanted a business that could be done from my home.  And, with caring for a 15-month-old toddler, taking care of hubby and home, and, another baby on the way, there was a limit to how much energy could be devoted to a business.

A Cup of Tea, A Lump of Sugar,  and Inspiration

I had had some success decorating birthday cakes for family and friends. Some were so pretty, it was hard to eat them! My friends were constantly asking me when I was going to start a real business decorating cakes at home. Then, one day during a visit with my next-door neighbor, as she added a small sugar cube to her tea, inspiration hit. 

Everyone enjoys having pretty tables for luncheons, parties, and weddings, I thought. Almost everyone can decorate a cake. I would be have to be different and offer something unique to the ladies of my town. Instead of just one design on small petit fours found in bakeries, I offered seven designs per box, using holidays, special occasions, or a client’s theme. Choosing square cubes rather than rectangular, each box would contain exactly 25 exquisitely decorated sugar cubes.

Decorated Sugar Cubes, a Craft Fair, and Publicity

My most expensive home business purchases included a set of miniature decorator tips, boxes for packaging, and professional business cards. (This was pre-computer days!) I sketched several thematic designs, created a flyer explaining my new home business, and stuck them under windshields at the malls. The designs were not only unique, they were realistically executed and, before long, my little business began to generate a small but nice income.

One day, during a visit, my pushy neighbor said I should exhibit at an upcoming local craft fair. (Am I not swollen with child?, I thought...) "Well, why not", I said. So, that is exactly what I did. This resulted in two very interesting follow-up visitations.

In the first instance, because my craft was so unusual and the Craft Fair people were overheard discussing a category for me by the local reporter/editor/Avon Lady (this was a very small town, at the time), I was interviewed about my home business for the Sunday edition of our local paper.

Imagine my surprise to find a picture of my toddler watching me decorate sugar cubes at my kitchen table, with an accompanying article that covered the ENTIRE front page of the Sunday’s Food Section. (My husband, in passing by, less-than-graciously offered that he had seen a synopsis of WWII in less space; but, it could have been that he hadn’t had his coffee, yet.) Serendipitous advertising, for sure, that brought me a solid high-end clientele.

Second Visitors More Ominous in Sugar Cube Business

The second instance provided visitors that were a little more formal and ominous – and (I quickly ascertained from their proffered cards), that they were from the, uh, Vice Squad. Did I mention this took place in the late sixties?  Or, that I offered a variety of flavors, in addition to my beautiful decorations? This option, they informed me, was the focus of their surprise visit, and could we have a little talk...

Busy raising my family, I gave little thought to the dark side of the sixties -- psychedelic drugs, colorful vans, or, for instance, the part sugar cubes played in that scenario. Let's just say, as it turned out, these Vice Squad gentlemen held a more au courant view. Point of fact, they had come for random sample boxes of my packaged sugar cubes to take back to forensics for a “flavor” breakdown. I told them that they’d have to pay for anything they wanted to take.

Oh, my! Well, ever thirsty for knowledge, imagine my joy when I was gratuitously instructed on the powers of local law enforcement. Free of charge, they were able to clear up my misconception about what does and does not have to be paid for, when you’re under the spotlight, so to speak. But, holding my heavy-with-second-child tummy whilst declaring my innocence and explaining all the hard work I'd been through, they proved the better person (in spite of their superior position) -- and graciously paid for their two sample boxes.

Within two days, I was cleared of all suspicion and my little niche business flourished for another four years before my husband was transferred. Decorated sugar cubes! Whodda thunk it...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hotpants from Handbags and Handguns Responds!

Hotpants(tm) has responded to my eight questions from The Mom Chef's Pay-It-Forward-Tagging Just take a look at that lovely lady and son -- tell me that's not someone you would love to have living right, next door.

She has a really cool site and a great way of presenting celebrities (Tinseltown Takes) for the week. Her pictures and fantastic commentary will have you coming back for more, so you might as well follow her, too. While you're there, please give her some comment love!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving, Now!

I heard Christmas music at the Caribou, last night! Yes! Christmas music! Do you want me to sing it, for you? Ahem, lalalalala "...Chestnuts roasting on an..." I was so disoriented, I just handed my list to my gentleman caller and said, "You're late!"

I love holidays -- all holidays! And, I definitely know that my neighbors love them, too, because they start celebrating them so early! I'm all for lawn ornaments and pretty trees festooned with garlands of this month's special event. I really am. I swear it. But...

Is it really necessary to set out Halloween decorations the week before September ends? Do they have to stay up through Thanksgiving Day, only to be replaced with Christmas

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Craft Shop Starting to Look -- Well, Like a Craft Shop!

Sterilite Cabinets People Mean What They Say

Just so you know that I don't spend all my time venting, there are good things happening in my world, too, and I wanted to share my most current.  My Craft Shop has been the last on my list for getting a facelift since moving in a couple of years ago. I had quickly thrown up some home-made shelving to get some items out of my way! and it was time to get started. I do have lots of crafting materials and equipment but I don't necessarily want the world to see it all when they stop by.  Besides, with solar cooking (click on button at right, if you haven't followed me from there) taking more of a front seat, it was time to attack the storage and display problem.  This is an ongoing project, until it totally works for me.

The shop isn't really that big, so I needed something that was higher but not too deep. Something that would hold other plastic containers, etc. By buying one a month, until I had enough, I've been acquiring those Sterilite buff-colored cabinets that will lock (unless you want to open them with a kitchen blowtorch!) and hold LOTS of stuff...

You can put these Sterilite cabinets together in ten minutes...Yes! You can, because they show a clock on the side of the carton with ten minutes shaded out!... Must have been a different clock or time zone because mine didn't get done in ten minutes. Oh, there's a real good reason (there always is) and it's that little cloud that follows me, everywhere, to make things a little more... well... challenging. Moved more items around shop to give me plenty of room for assembling the cabinets.

Opened first box - checked pieces -- ? Two (2) TWO left doors! Uh, oh...
Opened second box - checked pieces - Yay, full count off; ready to go!
Opened third box - checked pieces - Yay, full count off; ready to go! 
Assembled cabinets two and three. Vey happy camper. This is going to end up being a very nice shop. But, first things, first. Back to box one, the one that contained two, count them, TWO, left doors. But, wait! Let's look on the side of the carton. There's a number to call Customer Service for instant replacement should the unthinkable happen!  (Two left doors qualified as unthinkable, in my book.) I called the number and got -- oh, yeah, a recording. Recording promised Customer Service would do their part, if I did mine. Having an interest in achieving a good result, I did my part at 3:12 p.m. Shared my name etc. and Part Number as listed on the assembly instruction sheet. Stuffed some of my, uh, stuff, into the finished cabinets (so that I could turn around!), dusted my hands and went back into the house for a cup of tea and a new calendar to mark off just how long it was going to take for the "instant replacement."

This was too good to be true (and, I strongly suspect it was because I had the forethought to have a calendar at the ready). Those Sterilite people are cool. Called me first thing Monday morning and said they would send me the missing part, that day! What is that all about? Real INSTANT REPLACEMENT. No questions asked. "No; no, keep the part. More trouble than it's worth!" What were they trying to do! Would I be ready for this challenge? I mean, geez, I was counting on a few days off to just kind of gripe about lousy-service-this and lousy-service-that. Well, thank you, very much, Sterilite, for living up to your promises and ruining one of my few opportunities  to post a blogging tantrum.

 But, I did want you to know that there are still some companies where customer service is a priority, and Sterilite is one of them. 

P.S. No, they don't know about this post, at all. Just wanted you folks to know, that's all.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Clean Game After Only 40 Years of Bowling!

Don't know how it happened, except, I wasn't really paying attention to the score.  My mind was, as usual, on a hundred other different things and so I would just go up and roll the old bowling ball when it was my turn. Not until the score was tallied did they tell me it was a clean game! A clean game! A CLEAN game of bowling -- which means, no opens, just spares or strikes. Me! I actually threw that danged ball and either got a strike or a spare.

I think there's an award for that.  There must be, right? Used to be, but things have changed mightily since combining men and women into the USBC. Let's see if I can find out.  Oh, no! This is not good. Not good, at all.

What I found was that they have instituted a new program where you can print out your very own Certificate! Yes, it doesn't matter if you were sanctioned, or not, you can print out your certificate in the privacy of your home, without having to prove that you've actually performed the feat with witnesses. Just type in your name and a date and there it is, ready for framing and hanging on your wall.

This is very depressing. After all these years, what used to be quite an accomplishment has now been reduced to what anybody (with or without scruples) can say they did -- just print it out, frame it, and hang it on the wall. It's supposed to make things easier, but, I feel cheated.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Mom Chef's Pay It Forward Tagging Did Me In

Better late than never.  This all started when Chrisiane, The Mom Chef, got tagged with her list of eight questions to then turn around and torture others.  Apparently, I'm one of the first eight bloggers on her list that she wanted to torture! (Isn't there an award for that, somewhere?)

Well, here I go, and let that be the end of it...  Here are my eight questions:
1. What's the best live event (concert, comedian, etc.) that you've ever attended and when/why?
The best live concert was back in 1982. Desperately wanted to see a live George Jones concert and finally had enough coins put together to do it.  Well, surprise of surprises, I didn't have to pay a dime because that concert lineup was George Jones, John Anderson, and -- are you ready? -- ME! Yup, I was the final act for the concert and it was thrilling. Memorable because, that night, it was the first time my daughters were able to see their Mom in concert and it was the last time because, that night, was when I got the news that my youngest daughter had the big C. A definite refocusing time. Funniest part was when things went a little awry, Mr. No-Show-Jones had to do a make-up concert in Texas at 11PM, so he ended up being MY opening act! Is that too cool, or what...
2. If you were given the opportunity to cook alongside any one professional chef, who would it be?
Oh, that would have to be Gordon Ramsay. Love his passion and straightforwardness. I know he would be giving me the best advice with no sugar-coating -- but, I would definitely have that 'bad word' jar handy and it wouldn't be at just a quarter per word, either!
3.  When you were growing up, what did you want to be? Are you doing that? If not, what?
I'm one of the few very lucky people on this earth who have been able to try almost every dream I've ever imagined. Some turned out to be good and I enjoyed them during their duration; others, turned out to be nothing like what I thought they would be... But, I got to try them.
4. If your house was on fire, what one item would you grab from the kitchen to save?
I would have to go all the way into the kitchen?! Aaarrgh.  Okay, that would be the plate above my entry way of the church where I was married. They've built a new larger church on the other side of the road, but this was one of those little country churches that I just loved and means the world to me.
5.  Coke or Pepsi?
Coke; hands down. Can't stand the sweet taste of Pepsi. Bletch. Ptui, aarrcchhhh!
6. How many years have you been friends with the person you've known the longest?
There's no question we've been friends longer than the age I admit to, but, just for you guys, forty-one, and still going strong.
7. What food dish do you consider the most daunting and have not yet gotten up the courage to attempt it yet?
A solar souffle.
8. If you were an animal, what would you be?
I used to think it would be the noble horse, but now, having seen how well my little Chihuahua Angel is treated, I'd rather be a lap dog!
So, that's pretty much it.  I'm supposed to pick 8 more blogging friends to torture with 8 questions, and they, in turn ... well, you know.  However, I'm not going to put any pressure on you. Feel free to follow through and share your answers, or not. It's a fun exercise and does give you something to post about!

Here are 8 bloggers I have not previously picked to torture. (Spreading the joy, so to speak!)
    Adventures of an English Mum
    A Stone's Throw From Insanity
    Be Awesome Instead
    Frugal Tractor Mom
    Handbags and Handguns
    Little Blog in the Big Woods
    Mommy of a Monster (I Mean Toddler) and Infant
    My Hebrew Name is Cinderella

And, my 8 questions:
   1. If you could change places with anyone in the world, who would that be, and why?
   2. How has your packing for travel changed over the years?
   3. Did you have a favorite pet when you were growing up? Why this one?
   4. What was the hardest subject for you to study in school, and why?
   5. Did your first love become the person you thought they would or did they totally surprise you? How?
   6. Would you marry your first crush, if given the chance? Why or why not?
   7. If you were asked to speak before a roomful of seniors, what would you tell them?
   8. Have you written down favorite memories to share with the next generations? Why not?

Well, there it is.  Have fun.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blogging by Hand Started Long Ago With My Childhood Friend

I think blogging was started by my childhood friend. When she passed away, her daughters were left a shelf full of bulging three-ring binders of her life. She had kept every memory alive by journaling -- ribbons, invitations, pictures, and commentary, were all preserved for them, as they occurred. At leisure, her daughters could watch her become a woman -- and then their mother and their own lives -- through the pages...

We were both eleven when my best friend moved clear across the country. Little did we know that we would be best friends until her death at age 58. We were heartbroken at being separated and promised to write each other every day! And we did write, not every day but weekly, from that moment on. We literally sent the same Christmas card back and forth to each other for more than 20 years, until it became too worn to survive the journeys.
In the first few years, we wrote at least three times a week and then, as we became more involved with... well, boys!... the writing was reduced to just once a week, but the letters were thick and full of girl talk. We shared dreams, thoughts, activities, love interests, family life, disappointments, joys -- as I said, we knew each other and were best friends. It was a safe way to share because we lived so far apart from each other. There was little chance of running into the people in each other's lives, so secrets were safe. As we grew up, we began to truly treasure the other being there for venting or helping to work through problems and important decisions.
We could count on each other because we shared the truth, although we weren't as brutal as today's young people. We didn't sugar-coat but we found supportive ways of helping each other through our problems.  It would never have occurred to either one of us to share that privileged privacy with the world. That would be a true betrayal and not something you would do to a real friend. And hand writing everything down helped clarify problems. Sometimes, the mountains really were only molehills. It's said but I think the Internet has just about done away with young people being able to trust a friend. How sad. Everyone needs someone they can confide in without fear of being exposed to ridicule. We stumble. It happens. A friend gets you through it. The Internet has taken that freedom away from our children, it seems.

Our families met only once during that lifetime and our children couldn't understand that our bond was still so strong -- stronger than anything I have shared with my own sisters. She was a dancer instructor who spent ten years trying to figure out why she was eating so much but not putting on weight. One day, when she asked her doctor if he had ever given her a blood-sugar test, he said no and promptly administered one. She was a Class III Diabetic. Diabetes lead to other problems. She lost her battle to Lupus in '93 and her letters were put away with all the memories.

I can only imagine what my beautiful lifelong friend would have done as a blogger! Upon her death, her daughters inherited their mother's history and journaling. Every special event had its own page with mementos and their story written by her hand. When not attending something special, she would simply share her days and life with her daughters, along with any pictures taken on that day. The beauty of it all is that there were no computer crashes or lost files because it was all done by hand on hard copy.

There were 33 binders filled with this remarkable woman's life. A beautiful legacy from a woman who worked tirelessly for her family, church and community, and never complained -- not once. I know she was in pain but she only saw the beauty in her world. She humbled me. She was happily married and adored her family -- especially, the grandchildren -- and it hurts that she was taken from them -- from me -- so early. I hate that. This was a lady who would be the reigning queen of Bloggerville, Facebook, and Skype. It's hard to believe she never got the chance. Today is simply the anniversary of her passing but I've never stopped thinking of my very special childhood friend.

Do you have one, too?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

VICPs Are Like Digital Two-Year-Olds

What is a VICP?

A VICP is a Very Important Cellphone Person. They are on their cell phones almost nonstop. It doesn't matter that they're having dinner with friends, on a vacation tour bus, or walking down the street. They are almost never with the people they are with because they're on the cell phone with anyone else.

Now, those who really know me know that I'm not a phone person. Never was. Even as a teenager. Couldn't stand to be on the phone longer than it took to give or receive information. Don't know why, but there it is... so, you can just imagine how excited I was when cell phones took over the world.

Everyone walking around like a homeless person, talking to themselves... wait, no, they're talking to someone else, but now you can hear everything on their end of the line. Stuff you don't want to hear, don't want to know about -- but, can't get away from. TMI at its peak.

It seems there are people, today, who literally can't get from point A to point B without talking to someone else about what their next step should be. What is wrong with them, I wonder. Are they so insecure that they can't make their own decisions, or, more frightening, are they so controlled by someone else that they are not allowed to make a decision for fear of serious repercussions. People terrified of having an independent thought. And, we're raising our children to think they can't function without group think -- a very scary thought, indeed.

We are not discussing teenagers. I know that's how they get oxygen. They did it with land lines. They do it with cell phones. They'll do it with implants. And it is kind of funny to watch them walking down the street together -- each of them talking to someone else on their cell phone.

It's Not All About You VICPs; We're Here, Too

But, there is a point when it has to stop.
  • I can understand parents and children checking in with each other.
  • I can understand getting a clarification on something you might be doing for someone else.
  • I can understand calling for more specific directions when lost.
But, I have a real hard time with marathon cellphone conversations in public. If it's something that requires more than five minutes for clarification, your butt should be right in the same room with the person. I don't want to know where your files are or how to build the next rocket ship. I want to be able to focus on the job at hand. But, I can't, because the VICP insists on sharing every detail of their life with me and anyone else in the vicinity.

So, you're in the line at __________, and the VICP is second in line ahead of you and six to eight people behind. The cellphone will play its merry tune, the VICP takes the call, and everyone gets to listen as they circle in and out of their place in line. No one closes the gap because they have manners and don't want to make a scene. But, people are irritated -- no question about that -- because this side of the call does not reflect that the caller needs instruction on how to apply a tourniquet or where to dispose of a body just run over with a lawnmower -- they're just chatting because they have the time.

The clerk signals that they're ready to take the VICP next, but, no, the VICP just keeps talking, while the rest of the line begins that subtle ominous low grumbling... Finally, the frustrated clerk calls on the next person in line -- and the VICP gets mad! They're not hanging up, they're not ready to conduct their business, but they're not willing to give up what they thought was their place in line, either. WTF! No one owns a place in line and, if you're not ready when it's your turn, it's the next one in line's turn.

The sad truth is VICPs do not:
  • give the impression world events need their intervention
  • need all the hours in a day to keep up with all their friends
  • have businesses that can't function without ongoing instruction
  • brighten up your life by letting you in on theirs 
The VICPs do:
  • give the impression that they are rude
  • suggest they couldn't care less about the rights of other people
  • care more for the person on the phone than the person having a meal with them
Why should everyone else be held up until a VCIP's call is finished? When in public, why not use the 'vibrate' feature to announce a call so that the caller can be contacted, later. And, if the call is going to take some time, a considerate VCIP would step out of line and find a quiet corner to discuss their private life.

Two-year-olds are taught not to interrupt us without a good reason, why are callers -- who happen to be free to make the call -- allowed to demand immediate attention? Is it really asking too much for common courtesy?

And, texting...  aargh...

Monday, September 13, 2010

When A Devil's Advocate Becomes Just Plain Mule-Headed

I raised my children to always consider the source of any information they are given. Why? Because so many people will simply give an opinion whether they have knowledge about the subject, or not, and it's usually negative. When, "I'm playing the devil's advocate," is overused, this is where you have to draw the line with that person. It may be that they simply cannot accept a new idea.

What is a Devil's Advocate?

From Wikipedia:
In common parlance, a devil's advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, just for the sake of argument. In taking such position,the individual taking on the devil's advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position.
You see? It's something used to help clear up any problems with the original idea or project. As an example, your friend has decided to build Fido a tree house next to Billie's tree house. It would be inconceivable to almost anyone that this would work -- but, not to your friend holding the hammer and saw! Someone (that's you) has to act as the devil's advocate. To protect the dog, if nothing else!

Playing the devil's advocate is similar to using counter-arguments in theses or debates. It's really quite neutral and meant to help complete or modify the idea to a workable conclusion. The first logical argument for the dog's tree house is that dogs can't climb. This is too obvious and practically impossible to say without either raising one's voice or smirking. So, the approach is more supportive and you may ask your friend in a soft, low tone --
  • Is that apple tree going to be low enough for Fido to see his house at the top of the crossbars?
  • Will that slide be highly-polished so Fido doesn't get splinters in his paws?
  • Is that window frame strong enough for the 5000 BTU a/c?
  • Where can you get Fido trained to raise and lower that food basket?
You get the point, questions that will make your friend think about possible problems in the hope that it will spark their idea-center into realizing this plan needs to be tabled for awhile.  But, questions that are always supportive and not personal attacks.

Now, if, when your friend is able to blow holes through your arguments with breathtaking clarification as regards his particular Fido's deep love for climbing trees and napping on broad limbs, you continue to press your case, you could be guilty of being just plain mule-headed. You could become a naysayer!

Naysayers Can Really Bring You Down

Naysayers deny or take a pessimistic view of anything, regardless of how much information is given to support the idea they are opposing. They could be either afraid or jealous of your new idea and, in either case, you cannot let them bring you down. It isn't that you just want people who support your idea and let you make a major mistake; but, when someone consistently puts down your ideas without any positive feedback that will help you work to correct a problem, it's time to reevaluate how often you seek the opinion of this person.

New ideas are fragile and must be nurtured or they die under too much negative feedback. Your best sources for honest feedback are those people familiar with your subject. Their arguments will be focused on what generally works in that area and they can be trusted to help you. The less they know, the higher the probability that their arguments will be less effective and far more personal.
  • What makes you think you can do that?
  • Are you out of your mind?
  • What a stupid idea!
  • Oh, no, not another one. 
How Do You Respond to New Ideas?

It's hard to monitor ourselves but we can watch other's reactions to our words. Are you one of those people above? If you keep attacking the ideas and projects of your friends or family, you may find that you are left out of the loop because it's the easiest thing to do to avoid being crushed by your naysaying.

It's not your job to tear someone else down simply because they asked you for an opinion. It doesn't mean you have to tear them apart so that you will sound as if you know what you're talking about. The old rule still holds true:
For every negative thing you say, you have to say three positive things. It's best to start with two positive things, slip in one negative, and end with a positive.
Especially, if you are not an expert in the field.
  • You have one smart dog.
  • This is a perfect location for Fido's tree house.
  • Can Fido climb crossbars?
  • I love the paint color -- it's so Frank Lloyd Wright.
Believe me, there will be enough critiquing at the time your friend's idea or project is ready for the expert's review. Life is too short to get beaten down by people who are not willing to take chances, themselves, but are very quick to judge others. As a friend or family member, it is your job to be supportive. The wolves are supposed to be outside your circle, not within. Play the devil's advocate, with love. Without new ideas, you'd be reading this on paper.

Monday, September 06, 2010

My Name Spelled Any Other Way is Disrespecting Me

What's in a Name?  My name is Jane Doe. That has been my name since birth. It's the name I answer to when called. It's the name I put on
  • applications
  • badges
  • hello tags
  • legal documents,
  • raffle tickets,
  • paintings,
  • and, so on
While it might not be the most important name to you, it is how I identify myself to the world and how the world identifies me. So, why are you so careless when retyping my name? I understand that you're busy (who isn't?) and that it is possible to forget the spelling when my name is just spoken and then I've moved on and you need to get a list made. Chances are, you refer to previous documents on file with my misspelled name to include me on your list.

But, when I have taken the time to print out my name, there is no excuse for you not to take it down as written. I don't care how busy you are, this is just an affront. Even more irritating is when I have given you my name on my own printed cards, pictures and/or on banners, only to find out later that you have decided it's wrong and changed the spelling. I don't care if you have a cousin or a friend with the same name and that they spell it different from the way I spell mine -- it is not your cousin or friend who is going on your list.

If I try to correct you, I'm the one that gets treated as if I'm a petulant child, stamping my foot because the name isn't right in your publication. If it's a one-time thing, I'm probably not going to do anything more than mention it, once -- and, of course, every time I meet someone new at the event! But, if it has been misspelled in a publication, for the rest of the life of that publication, my name is misspelled. The end result of that is, somewhere down the line, I'll be involved in another situation that requires my name being shown and someone will decide that the way my name is spelled must be as it is in that erroneous publication they have kept – because, that is how it was printed!

A Mountain Out of a Molehill - Or, Can You Prove It

Imagine this scenario: You or your child has won an award and it includes a beautiful printed certificate or ribbon for the winner. It's a memento, something to cherish for the rest of your life and put in a scrapbook for the next generation. Would you want to have to add an explanation that the award is real, even though the name is wrong? Of course not. It takes away from what the award is and turns it into a misspelled name story. This is simply a matter of giving credit where credit is due and you would want the same for yourself or your child. It only takes a second to check a name, but a lifetime to correct the mistake.

By the same token, if you are in charge of displaying awards to the public, please see to it that the winners' names are visible so that they can be recognized. There is nothing more disheartening than watching the light go out of your child's eye because no one will know they won an award for all their hard work because the tag has been turned, covered, or crumpled, and no one has taken the few seconds it takes to make it right. This is all a part of the event coordinator's job and the crafter should not be made to feel bad because they point out that their name can't be seen. Simply saying, "Well, you know you won the award," doesn't cut it, here. That doesn't make it go away and it is usually said by someone who didn't get an award.

My Name Spelled Any Other Way is Disrespecting Me

My name is Jane Doe – it is spelled J-a-n-e -- not J-a-y-n-e, J-a-i-n-e, J-e-h-n-e, J-a-n, or, any other combination you can imagine, my name is spelled exactly the way I have written it down for you. To look on the bright side, at least, I have finally found a purpose for the one word I loathe in common usage today, 'disrespecting.' Please stop disrespecting me and allow me the dignity to go through my life with the one thing that totally belongs to me – my name – and I will do the same for you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Some Drivers Seem to Have a Death Wish

I'm just wondering… Is there a reason why some drivers can't wait for you to make your turn into a driveway or intersection? I can't be the only one this happens to – am I? Does this happen to you, too? You're driving along, either at or a little above the speed limit and it's dark, and there is someone behind you – well, actually, they are almost in your backseat! Behind that car, is a long highway of empty. There is no one behind them, no one. But, they don't want to be behind you!

You see your turn coming up, your turn signal is flashing, you slow down and begin to apply the brakes. Wait! The car behind doesn't slow down and appears oblivious to your upcoming turn. As you enter the narrow driveway, the vehicle whooshes by, simultaneously, which means they didn't slow down, at all.

What is wrong with these people? Do they think I am perfect? What if I didn't slow down enough? They could have hit me. Did they care?

I find it just as difficult to understand people who insist on turning into my lane of traffic within 10 feet of my reaching their intersection. Bear in mind, there is no one behind me, for miles, – probably, all the way to Key West – but that doesn't seem to matter one whit. They wait for me to get closer, then zip out as if there was no other alternative -- like, waiting until I pass. There is no one behind me! Why can't they wait until I've passed and it's safer for everyone?

I used to think this type of driving only happened in the country, but that line is being crossed closer and closer to the urban environment. What are they gaining? Eight seconds? A clear view line? Grrrrr.

While I'm on a roll, let's talk about the lines being crossed - the double-yellow lines. Does anyone read the manual, anymore? I've lived, at one time or another, in several different states and I have never seen in their driving manuals that it is okay to cross the double-yellow lines. And, yet, it happens over and over again here in NC. It isn't that I am going too slow – oh, no, I'm doing the speed limit - and, probably, just a little bit more – and it is still not fast enough for them. Are they crazy? Isn't crossing the double-yellow line universally illegal in this country? What did I miss? Do they have a death wish? Well, let me go on record to say it scares the beejeebies out of me and I want it to stop.

It happened at least three times to me, last week, but, I can tell you that, as sure as I'm writing this and the sun rises every morning, if I had crossed that double-yellow line, the car I'd be passing would be carrying an undercover trooper. Not that I would do that, but, I'm just sayin'... there oughta be a law!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Man's Trash is Another Man's -- Well, Trash

Sometimes, It Really is Trash

Why is it so hard to see when one's treasure becomes real trash? I think, because everything starts out so desired, our eyes see the flaws as merely imperfections. Keeping things maintained or refurbished for another use is a trait many prudent people share. That's not a bad thing; it's a rather healthy way of using things.

And, we've all been guilty of having to purchase a new item when the original one is lost midst all our other treasures,too! You know you have it -- somewhere; but, you need it -- now. Of course, you have to get another and, knowing you're double-paying for anything is just plain, well, infuriating. I'm sure that's how spring cleaning got its start. Too small a cabin and too many squirrel skins not being used.

And, if it's not spring, holiday preparation and/or moving is the perfect time for cleaning and gleaning. Sorting can almost be done at one's leisure -- as long as that leisure doesn't span decades! Select a box a week and go through the items, throwing duplicates on one pile, broken items in another and those that you plan to keep in still another pile. If you haven't used it in the past 18 months, the chances are you won't be using it, at all. (I know the experts say a year, but there are seasonal things we use and rotate, so adding another six months on SOME items isn't the end of the world.)

While one man's trash is another man's treasure, there is a time when it's all trash. Don't call Goodwill, AmVets, or any other charity to come get broken items or those with missing parts. Let a trash hauler take care of it.

Working with several organizations over the years, it was appalling to see the number of toys and small items drift in that were in such horrid condition, there was no way to re-use them. Each handed over with some form of the phrase, "Well, I know you have folks that can work miracles with these things before finding them a good home, so I've included them." It doesn't work that way. Not every volunteer is a miracle worker and there's just so much time each can donate.  Not to mention the funds to pay for spare parts, paints, etc.

With the holidays coming up, why not go through all your treasures, clean them up, and bring them to your favorite charity for distribution. If it's filthy, broken, with missing parts from another generation, throw it away. That's all you have to do, recognize that your treasure has now become, well, trash, and just throw it away.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Bowling is Done - Long Live the Bowling!

Bowling in the daytime is my way of getting exercise and keeping in touch with folks who have no other agenda than getting together for fun. I've been on a Senior league for the past few years and it's wonderful. Gone are the days of nasty competition and always having to be perfect.

Now, I'm not a bad bowler but I won't be going on tour anytime soon.  In my younger years, I maintained an average of 155, but now I seem to be stuck around 140.  I've lost my four-step delivery and, as a result of back surgery, have created a nine-step-stop-aim-ball-and-throw-at-the-foul-line approach. I work on placement, not speed, and that, apparently, is still the tricky part. I need Post-It notes on my wrist to remember everything to do before releasing the ball! 

We just finished summer bowling and my teams placed first on one league and fourth on the other.  It's all in perspective. First place was in a league of 14 teams; fourth place on a league of seven teams. On the larger league, I won Most Improved; on the smaller league, I was Most Unimproved.

These are both daytime leagues and don't have anywhere near the stress that you can find on nighttime leagues, when the almost professional bowlers come out to play. I just want to do my best and have fun.

The great thing about daytime bowling is that you can still do evening meetings etc., without always having to line up a substitute. But, the best thing about bowling, for me, is that you can do it at any age and it just makes you feel good. Our oldest bowler just celebrated her 86th birthday. I can only hope that I'll still be doing my share of bowling at that age.  What do you do for your own personal fun and exercise?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hello, Again!

Hello, Again!

After several computer crashes and a move, I was finally able to locate my information on how to access this blog. Truth is, you cannot put your information in a folder on your computer -- you have to record it on a separate document like a file card to be able to remember all your sign-up information to so many web sites. Then, of course, you have to remember where you put THAT!

Since I have a solar cooking blog that limits my posting to that niche, I decided to awaken The Rockin' Chair Reflections Blog for when I'm in the mood to attack a different subject. Sometimes, you just have to vent. Feel free to browse the older articles and make a comment, or two. I may or may not add pictures; it just depends on how I feel about the posting subject.