Reflections 2016 #atozchallenge

Year two under my belt feels good. Congratulations to the geniuses who first thought up this April Blog a Day concept. And thank you to all who visited and who are now following.

The Internet allows us to connect with the world. The April A to Z Blog Challenge helps refine that to dedicated writers and creatives. I hope I can be a part of this community next year and years from now.

If you wonder about trying it yourself, I can recommend going for it. I advise that you write ahead of time so your posts don’t get backed up and you become frustrated, or give up. Personally, I will never start the challenge without completing it because that’s my nature. Having survived two of these now, I believe it gets a bit easier each time. I suppose it’s a lot about writing muscle memory.

See you our there!

Zipping Up This Deb-Blog Journey #atozchallenge

Z: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Done and the Letter Z for Zipping Up This Deb-Blog Journey

Let’s not be strangers now. I may take a rest before launching into more blogs for a bit but I hope the reunions and new friendships from my daily posts will continue. I’ve never given birth but after concluding two of these adventures successfully, I imagine this crazy 26 blogs in 30 days is like a pregnancy because you forget the discomfort and occasional agony you went through last time but it’s essential for the joyful outcome!

I wanted to write with more snark this year and I believe I succeeded. I still covered some serious issues but tried to add that touch of humor, as I am known to do in my daily life. Writing and speaking go hand in hand, or hand in mouth(?), so this exercise tied my voice to my writing more so than before. I am more successful and recognized as a public speaker than a writer but wish it were more equal. This year will bring that in better balance, I vow! So bringing that wit to this challenge was important for me and, I hope, entertaining for you. Entertaining audiences on stage or on paper are both delightful.

And so farewell to this year’s journey. May the next eleven months carry you softly on new journeys and learning experiences with health, happiness and humor.

Say, “Yes” #AtoZChallenge

Y: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Definitively So and the Letter Y for Say, “Yes”

The late, great Beatle John Lennon told the story of meeting Yoko Ono at her art exhibit. He climbed a ladder and at the top was a magnifying glass to use to read the tiny message on the ceiling that simply read, “Yes.” That positive message made him want to know her better.

It’s good to say, “Yes.” Yes means you are willing to take the chance on that new job, with a new mate, an unknown adventure, to affirm a friend or yourself. Of course, saying no is a great answer, too, especially when something is dangerous. And I would hope you would listen to your instincts when something tempting is really a bad idea. But taking a risk, being open, being willing has a wider, open road for the future.

We should always be open to yes. Yes implies something new, growth, tomorrow.

There’s a great scene at the end of “Bus Stop” with Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray (underrated, great actor). It is a great example of saying yes to the unknown. I just have this sick memory for movie and TV lines that run through my head in a nearly constant loop. If only I had my own YouTube site so I could share the scene I am hearing. This might be my favorite Monroe film. It’s the final scene of the movie, after Beau has been driving poor Cherry crazy, sexually harassing and stalking her by today’s standards. But she finds her heart in his and says in her whispery, throaty and a bit ditzy southern drawl, “Why I’d go anywhere with you Beau, anywhere at all!” She said yes. Here is a quick, silent clip of her enigmatic self between scenes from the film, anyway.

X, That Which Is Taboo #atozchallenge

X: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for That Which Is Denied and the Letter X for X, That Which Is Taboo

Remember the classic fable “Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, where the rabbit baited Fox by begging him not to throw him in the briar patch, which he knew his fox enemy would do out of hate and where he wanted to be all along? That’s a great lesson and those fables Mom and Dad told me as a kid are eternally true.

The same can be said for anything forbidden. Tell a child not to touch the hot stove, date the bad boy or stick little brother’s fingers in the electrical socket and their temptations grow. I love the countless stories about bigoted parents who forbid their son or daughter from dating a person of a different race only to be shown later in family photos with their cute biracial grand-babies. It is a delight!

The ancient Greeks had the phrase “wine, women and song.” Now it’s “sex, drugs and rock and roll.” Laws against vice are just silly and futile because trying to legislate or reign in moral choices only leads to more social and legal problems, with massive costs to society and addicts and sex workers in jail. What some call “vice” and I call human nature is never going away! Well, I suppose Singapore and places with Sharia Law are trying in our modern era but look how well that’s working. Hey, morally superior zealots, you can’t stop people from temptations. And it surely will come back to bite you, granted in places you might like to be bit, unfortunately. You pious Christians ought to know the Jesus line, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And boy howdy, is the hypocrisy rich to see! Remember Larry Craig, the anti-LGBT senator who got caught soliciting sex from a male cop in the Minneapolis airport bathroom stall? Then there is the crystal “Meth”-odist minister Ted Haggard who preached against drugs and for anti-gay reparative therapy who got caught doing meth off the naked back of a male hooker? This paragraph of hypocrisy just writes itself. And now we have at least three Republicans who impeached President Clinton over a barely even, almost pathetic affair but between consenting adults, who themselves are now convicted of pedophilia and who were have multiple extra-marital affairs while they were chastising and impeaching Bill Clinton! Just stop!

And for those of you who want a sexual purity test for elected officials, I submit some of our greatest presidents were quite sexually active and happy. I care about their legislative morality that impacts the citizens, not their sexual proclivity. It’s ridiculous. And what about the ones having affairs who don’t get outed? Does that mean it’s OK? We are such Victorians. Europeans think we’re fools and rightly so. If you want to judge the legislative abilities of a candidate based upon his sex life, let’s just quit discussing policy and put a massive team of journalists on the job of nothing but sniffing every candidate’s shorts. If it means that much to one’s ability to govern well, let’s have a purity test.

Now, I am an everything in moderation kind of person. And I am entirely faithful when I’m in a relationship. I also don’t do drugs and always pay my taxes. I just don’t have an addictive personality. I’m lucky and do not like the consequences of those choices. But I only have compassion for people who are addicted to anything, whether it be drugs (prescription or otherwise), gambling, sex, food or alcohol. As for prostitution and drugs, decriminalize the lot.

Temptation, though? It’s wonderful. X Nothing Wrong
It’s the spice of life, a delicious morsel, and I’m not just talking about food! Or how about that great overindulgence of binge watching a great series. Or a rich, taste bud thrill (and I’m not just talking about food). Just too much of any good things every now and then is wonderful! 
Enjoy the things in life that please the senses! Live, laugh, love. Life is short and death lasts a long time.

Mae

What? #atozchallenge

W: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Did I Understand You? and the Letter W for What?

People say things – emphatic, unambiguous things – or so I think and I misunderstand. I take them at their word and then I am disappointed when they don’t keep their word. Is it me? These are cases where English should not be a barrier for either party, as it is our first language. It’s one of those things that happens to me far too often and for years, even though I think there is no ambiguity. Usually, if I question for clarification, the other person snaps that I would question their word. And then they proceed to not keep their word! Try as I might, these misunderstandings keep happening to me.

There’s no ambiguity the other way around. I am a woman of my word. If I say I will be somewhere, I arrive no less than five minutes early because I respect people’s time. If I say I will do something within the context of a conversation, you may error on the side of receiving more and sooner and better. For example. this is my second to the last of my 26 blogs I have composed that I promised to post through April for the #AtoZBlogChallenge and it is April 13th as I write it. I keep my word. If I have a work deadline, I meet it. And in the extremely rare instance when I can’t be there on time or provide what I have promised, I will admit it right way, in advance of that promised time and take responsibility – even if it really is someone else’s fault, I will take responsibility for not anticipating that circumstance.

Language sure gives people wiggle room because they believe they aren’t lying. I am sure they would disagree that their word would be construed as a lie, but rather a misunderstanding. I had a friend promise me something professionally in two days and after three weeks never did fulfill his word. But it was a five word promise so how much clearer could it be?  And you know, at the time I wanted to say more to clarify but if he could make that promise then I would, too. And I did – in two days. He had no explanation or sense of regret he didn’t keep his promise.

But this is an even better example and one that has all the aspects of my point.  I was in a fairly new relationship and my guy asked me if he should buy a new vehicle. He was self-employed and, presumably, well off. He used his vehicle for work and needed to be of top quality. I asked him if he had the money. He said he did, to which I replied he should and it was a “no brainer.” But I added he should pay himself back within six or eight months. If I had the money, that is what I would do, replenish my savings. He seemed to agree with me and his question and answer led me to believe he thought like I did about finances. You know, by “Do you have the money?” I meant, “Do you now possess the cash to purchase this vehicle outright today?” By, “Pay yourself back in six of eight months,” I meant “Replenish your savings with the money spent on the vehicle within six to eight months.” I found out a few weeks later, he had no money at all! He had to finance the vehicle over seven years! What it the world did I fail to ask? How could there have been such a misunderstanding? Was it me or was he being deliberately ambiguous to do what he wanted?” I mean, he could do whatever he wanted, anyway. Why make me complicit? I would have advised the absolute opposite had I known his actual answer to, “Do you have the money?” was, “No, I even have to finance it over seven years after I sell my current vehicle.”

This plight goes hand in hand with my being ignored, as I wrote a couple weeks ago. (See https://debrastrege.com/2016/04/11/being-ignored-and-why-ignoring-important-issues-is-impossible-atozchallenge/) I actually had two different people tell me on separate occasions they’d call Tuesday. That was in the 90s. It never occurred to me to ask which Tuesday and which decade. And reading the numerous responses I got from that post, I found that situation is more common than I thought and many think I have an inordinate amount of disappointing people in my life. That may be the case so admitting I have this problem is the first step, right?

Here’s another great example most of you will be familiar: Whatthose TV judge shows when someone loans a friend money and they end up in court because the borrower said he’d pay him back when he “fill in the blank,” and the loaner believed the actual words, “A hundred a week when I start my new job,” or “Fifty a month for a year, etc.” Things that shouldn’t be ambiguous end up in court. It’s a whole industry with these shows. So I don’t know how one can avoid it completely. It sure would save a lot of aggravation.

 

 

 

 

 

Values: Actions Reveal Values Better Than Words #atozchallenge

Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Defining and the Letter V for Values: Actions Reveal Values Better Than Words

It’s pretty obvious and generally believed that we value the things we give of our time, energy, emotions, thoughts and money. Our actions reflect who we are, what we fear and need and love – what we value. I realized that when I give of myself to a job, a project, a friend, a relationship, my commitment is unwavering and my effort is my level best. I am simply not a half-assed sort of person. Sadly, that is not often the case in return. And while I don’t expect everyone to share my personal standards, my efforts often leave me feeling used and unappreciated. Lately, I’ve been having a good look at why that is so.

While it was probably 20 years ago, I have a great visual of what I mean. I was truly, madly deeply in love with a man when we went to see “As Good As It Gets.” The moment Jack Nicholson said, “You make me want to be a better man,” I burst into tears and could not stop. Here’s a clip of the full scene:

To see just the section to which I refer, click here. http://www.tubechop.com/watch/7826321

(All I can say, man of my past, if you happen upon this post, good!) This incident crystallizes how I approach my world.  And as best as I can conclude from his side, he did not. I wish him well. I valued him and what I could be with him in my life. There is, frankly, no other explanation to how I function: I equate being happy with being better, kinder, more responsive, more successful and more joyful with others.

Mark Twain wrote, “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be an option.” But when it comes to human interaction, by the time you learn by someone’s actions you are only an option, it is hard to cut and run.

I was also in a relationship with a man who, on his best day, placed me third but usually fifth or sixth. His words of devotion and love were endless but his actions contradicted them. And even when I broke up with him, his words were never about me but about himself.

And while it is painful when others aren’t as committed, willing to strive to be better or are plain unappreciative, what is worse is the resentment which can manifest as ostracizing or sabotage in the case of work, or lack of intimacy and trust in personal relationships. I had a job where I had more industry training and experience, as well as more respect among peers and the public and more formal education than my supervisor. But most people thought I was her boss because I was the one they came to for help or to facilitate responses. It never bothered me because I felt I was an asset in my position. I was growing and thriving and making things better for most. She undermined me with a person of lesser skills and abilities and fired me. I wasn’t valued for my work or successes, I was resented for them. And such have been many of my employment experiences. Competence and joy can be seen as weapons by those with little of either.

Criticisms aside of Abraham Maslow’s “heirarchy of needs,” which he proposed in his “A Theory of Human Motivation,” it is obvious to me that personal motivations or needs manifest in actions and can be the root of this dissatisfaction or conflict I encounter. Demonstrated in the following pyramid, Maslow posited that one’s needs and motivations climb the chart as our human needs are met. And while it appears that an individual would experience less conflict as basic comforts are satisfied, dealing with others whose basic human needs aren’t met causes a great deal of stress and conflict. People can feel threatened and act primitively toward someone who is operating from a different level. I struggle implying that I have worked or been involved with others who behave at some “lesser” level but I also struggle finding another way to understand my experience.

Values in body

Take a gander at the folks salivating and gnashing their teeth at a Trump rally and you will see what I mean. Many of those drawn to his “anit-other” rhetoric are operating from a level of unfulfilled lower needs. In their mind, rather than self-reflection and personal motivation, life is scary or lacking because of the actions of others. Things would be better if I wasn’t reminded of someone else’s achievements or perceived satisfaction.

Sometimes I think having two loving parents who lacked addictions, whose word was without fail and whose home life was of constant peace did not prepare me for the massively screwed up world, workplaces and friends. That is why those values I still have today have often been met with conflict in the screwed up world out there. But it has kept me treating others as I would like them to treat me. I just got luckier that most, I guess. I learned gratitude, kindness, self-determination and independence from an early age. Those serve as great shields to the pettiness and nastiness that is all too prevalent.

 

 

 

 

 

U-Turns #atozchallenge

U: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Detours and the Letter U for U-Turns

One of my life-long, great frustrations is when people, particularly politicians, make a statement or imply that everyone’s life has a linear pattern and, therefore, should achieve certain results through one’s “nose-to-the-grindstone” attitude in some tidy, linear way. I am wholeheartedly unsympathetic to those who make intentionally bone-head life choices or are surprised when those choices leave them in pitiful situations. But even people, like me, who are responsible and thoughtful in life have things happen that you don’t recover from quickly or ever. Life is hard. Life is complicated and messy. If rewarding at all, life knocks you on your butt at least once. And loss and illness and tragedy aren’t clean and easily rectified to a former homeostasis. 

Everyone has to try and some of us have to work harder than others because we weren’t, as the late, great Ann Richards said, born on third base and think we hit a triple. We all have to provide for ourselves. Of course. But when a guy has physical ailments later in life after playing football for years, I am not sympathetic. If a life-long smoker develops emphysema, diabetes or cancer, I am sorry they are ill but not all that sympathetic. (And I lost two smoking loved ones last year to lung cancer!)  Or when a full-grown man lives in his mom’s basement, sleeps until afternoon and won’t find a job, I am not sympathetic to his pathetic circumstances. Not gonna date you. When a single woman has children and no visible means to support them, I am not sympathetic. But when someone qualified for a job is not given opportunities or pay because of her race, gender or sexual-orientation, I am sympathetic. When someone in the military comes back to the States with post-traumatic stress disorder from her combat, I am sympathetic. When someone leaves paid work to care for a family member and gets behind financially and professionally, I am sympathetic. This last scenario happened to me.

I never gave it a second thought to have my dad with me and left paid work when he needed me more. No sacrifice for Mom or Dad would be too great. The very day Mom passed unexpectedly, I moved Dad in with me. They were the best ten years of my life. Those were the greatest two people I will ever know. 

So while others worked for ten years, advanced their careers, evolved professional interests, I was turned to my family. Like most people, ten years of experiences change you. I couldn’t make a u-turn to the jobs I had before. That option no longer fit me. The world around me changed, too. So I am not where I’d like to be in my career. I have to spend a whole lot of time and effort finding a new fit.

Not everyone haU DO not enters this detour in life. But in other countries, there is social support for unexpected and planned detours. Now, I was a saver and independent so I could afford to do this. I also nearly single-handedly built an addition to my house, adding equity to my property and bottom line, which mitigated not earning a salary. I paid cash because when you do your own labor, it’s just materials. But I sacrificed. It was worth it, fifty fold. But I am behind financially and professionally, which I hope to remedy as a public speaker and writer. But I haven’t had a vacation since 1998. Even my car is from the last century. And I have no time for much play, either. But I will make it, through no help from society or my government.

And I don’t expect special favors. I know I don’t live in a country that values what I did for my father, a war hero.  I’ll be fine. I wouldn’t change my choice for anything or anyone. But even the most responsible deserve a better social system than this country provides. Even the single mom who has kids she can’t support or the lazy guy in his mom’s basement deserves food, shelter and medical care. 

Fourth and Last Sunday Interlude #atozchallenge

Happy Sunday, y’all. As a final added bonus to the April A to Z Blog Challenge, in which we are given Sundays off for bad behavior, I submit how I feel about life and Sundays with the help of Hayley Mills in the Disney movie “Pollyanna.” Wonderful movie. A great cast of character actors and great stars. If you haven’t seen it, shame on you, grab a box of tissues and a blanket. It’s lovely.

That’s Agnes Moorehead, whom you might recognize from “Bewitched,” where she played the mother Endora. She was a gem! The undertaker is played by Ian Wolfe.

Now, go out and be glad!

Touch, That Most Sensual of Senses #atoachallenge

T: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Delicate and the Letter T for Touch, That Most Sensual of Senses #atozchalenge

I’ve no idea why we adolescent girls often discussed our favorite sense, but it came up more than once. And my response was always the same. Touch. It is still my favorite sense. It might be because I am always for the underdog and the sense of touch is often overlooked or underrated. How can this be?!

Our largest organ controls the sense of touch, the skin, that is. So our entire body can experience touch. It’s a warning signal when we feel something hot approaching, and by hot I mean a high temperature, although the sense of some one hot approaching has it’s own sense reaction! We take comfort from weather that is too hot or too cold. I love the feeling of crawling into clean sheets, zipping into my familiar jeans, a hairbrush gently scratching my scalp, warm sun on my face on a cool day when that’s the only skin exposed, my cat’s sometimes not so gentle love bites, even a stranger’s guiding hand firmly grasping my arm to help direct me and the way my man places his hand on the small of my back as we are taken to our table at dinner.

Touch is about the present moment more than any other sense. While the senses are very much a present moment thing, taste, smell, hearing and seeing often are tied to a memory or a comparison to a past experience. But there is nothing that can bring sheer pleasure than touch consciously experienced. I am keeping this blog PG rated but submit the sensual pleasures have the ability to possess the entire body and even detach it from mind and thought. Am I right? What other sense is capable of that?

But the touches I only have in memory, the ones I miss the most are the ones from Mom and Dad. touch 2No one but Mom could warm my chilled body with her hands briskly rubbing up and down my upper arms. Dad gave the firmest, all-business back rubs with swift moving motions over my shoulder blades like no one else. Their comfort goes farther than anyone and I will carry every one of my sense memories of those loving people forever.

That brings me to the touch that is internal. How you feel is how your body is touched on the inside. That kind of touch can be all consuming and effect the other four senses for better or worse.  The deeper we love, the deeper we feel. All our senses make us feel alive and whatever our experience may be beyond our last moment, touch is the one I will miss the most.

And now, just to provide what at least half of you are singing to yourselves, anyway:

Shoes: Welcome To My House, Now Remove Your Dirty Shoes #atozchallenge

S: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Dirty and the Letter S for Shoes: Welcome To My House, Now Remove Your Dirty Shoes

Being a pleasant, happy person, when I am out running errands, I often strike up casual conversations with strangers. A couple weeks ago, I’d just entered a thrift store when an older gentleman was leaving with a pair of new galoshes. His satisfied grin told me how pleased he was with his purchase. The moment we made eye contact, he said that he lived on a farm and how hard it was to find such boots, even in his rural community. Clearly, his visit to the city was worth the trip. I was hoping this would be then end of our pleasantries because I wanted to get on with my shopping but he had more to say. So I resigned myself to spend more time with him, because it’s the polite thing to do.

I mentioned I actually had a pair of over boots about the same size as his because when I had double foot surgery a couple years before. I told him I needed large over boots to cover my surgical boots when outside so they would be clean to wear inside, adding that I don’t allow outside shoes in my house.

Pandora’s box was opened.

“Well, I’m not coming to your house, then, because I keep on my shoes,” he barked. Then he said his sister-in-law had that rule and she’s not married anymore. Really?

So I said he must have paid staff to wash his floors, hoping to make the point that if his sister-in-law was responsible for washing floors in her household and her mate wouldn’t remove his or her shoes, I’d divorce, too! No, he said his wife did the housekeeping, with a “his way or the highway” sort of tone. Overlooking the sexism, my right to establish my own house rules or even generational differences, our battle to the death was going to be over shoes.

I suggested there were several countries he would not be welcome then, either, fully aware of the slim to none likelihood he was a frequent, world traveler. I was glad, however, that this discourse led to our mutual decision to politely end the conversation. But this is not the first time I’ve had this debate with people and it’s baffling.

Why is this such a contentious topic?

This was never an issue in my happy home growing up. We never wore outside shoes in the house. So there was little chance of carrying in whatever one might pick up on a public surface like diesel fuel, fertilizer, the MRSA virus, tar, animal feces or remains, human urine, phlegm or vomit. And that guy lived on a farm. Imagine what’s under those shoes!

It’s my house and my family’s custom.The vast majority of my friends have the same custom. I’ve gone so far as to have an entire chest of clean slippers and flip-flops for guests in all sizes, colors and styles, so I am an accommodating hostess. And unless you drop food on my floor you will pick up nothing off my floors, either. You are forewarned and don’t be shocked that I insist. But those who simply take off their shoes without a thought, thank you!

The importance of removing shoes in my house through interpretive dance.

My greatest vindication from my clash with the farmer came later that afternoon when chatting with my next-door-neighbor about my latest house project and the mess it had created. She remarked, “I know. We don’t wear outside shoes in the house and I can’t understand how our basement gets so dirty!” I wanted to kiss her.