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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Third Sunday Interlude #atozchallenge

I think the soundtrack to “Garden State” is my absolute favorite. I am only offering this amuse-bouche because if you have not seen the movie, you don’t know a special love. Watch it. Bucket list it. Do it. Peace.

 

Negating Others: Bullies Are Big Mouths With Unclaimed Baggage #atozchallenge

N: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Deflating Others and the Letter N for Negating Others: Bullies Are Big Mouths With Unclaimed Baggage

Do you know what you are doing when you spread cruelty, when you bully, insult, when you criticize to hurt or make disparaging remarks about or to someone? Well, always but always you are revealing how you see yourself; insecure, lesser than, jealous and small. It’s still no excuse. Life is hard, we all suffer disappointment and loss. If you haven’t, you will. Why such rage? Why such aggression? Why don’t some care one bit about other people or what they leave in their wake? What do you achieve by directing your pettiness onto others, besides bad karma? I guess it’s part of our society or even in our DNA for people to try to diminish others. I, myself, try to do the opposite to complete strangers. I think we can all use more kindness.

As noted back in my “B” post a couple weeks ago, I can get the blues like anyone. But I am, at my core, joyful. I smile a lot. Sometimes I even softly hum in public. I engage with strangers when shopping, not in a creepy or space-invasive way but when I’m present in my space and I think of a positive comment, I generally will share it. I’ve even made some friends that way. I like people. It’s the same in the workplace. But work and professional atmospheres can harbor some of the most toxic cauldrons of steaming bitterness. I think the workplace is endemic of people’s upbringing if they’re aggressive, crabby, cliquey, devious, dishonest, uncooperative and hateful. I wasn’t raised with those issues so I am wholly unprepared when coworkers or fellow professionals behave this way. But I certainly am sensitive to the prickliness. It decays joy. I want no part of people like that and I have had my share!

It’s worse today on social media because of the anonymity. A couple months ago, I shared my view on a fan page for one of my favorite political talk shows where some thought the new producer didn’t fit because of past slurs made about various groups. But when I defended the new hire, pointing out the show was not all that politically correct before, adding I didn’t care for the host’s personal insults toward people’s weight, features, hair, etc., trolls flung insults at me! I was a fan defending a show and even defending the parts I don’t like. It was pointless and overtly mean. Now, making fun of stupidity, the opposition’s point of view on a social issues or bad behavior is fair game because it can be part of a productive dialogue to reach a resolution or for the betterment of people’s lives. I don’t oppose snark. It’s what I do! But snark is on a higher level than making fun of how somebody looks. I won’t go there. People can help being ignorant, but can’t help how they look. That’s just low.

Nasty Mr. Hankey

Mom taught me right. You are far more successful if you rise above and walk away from base behavior, showing your standards. Dad taught me how to knock down the bully with my words. “Golly, that sure is fun,” is my internal monologue in the voice of Mr. Hankey when I can find the perfect words to put a bully in her place.

Another great figure that comes to mind is the late, great, Dixie Carter, who played Julia Sugarbaker in “Designing Women,” a sitcom from 1986 to 1993. Julia had a way of completely eviscerating the uncivil. But I believe I have to give first prize to Elizabeth Taylor in N MONSTERTennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” production when she calmly responds to her sister-in-law’s unruly child by saying, ” Little girl, somebody ought to teach you to knock before you open a door. Otherwise people might think you’re lacking in good breeding.”

Maggie the Cat takes down her nasty, little, no-neck-monster niece in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” courtesy TCM.

If you’re someone who can’t be kind and who feels compelled to be mean – and you know who you are – I’d like to plant a thought with you. Besides yourself, do you love anyone who also loves you? If you are true sociopath I realize this is an impossible scenario so kindly stop following my blog. You’re scary. For the rest of you who are not sociopathic and just like to bully and make others feel bad, now imagine you’re dead. Can you fathom that person who loves you might feel sad, fragile and broken by your death? He or she still has to push through daily life, which means going to the grocery, driving to work, interacting with the living. Along comes someone just like you who’s bristled by the inconvenience of your mournful loved one who might be driving less that stellar, is somewhat distracted or might not be as well-groomed as usual. So this evil twin of yours who isn’t dead like you, whispers snide remarks to a friend about your loved one’s appearance, cuts them off in traffic and then flips them the finger or sees their weakness at the workplace and is especially demanding or critical. Do you feel badly for your friend, even though you are dead? If not, if I’ve given you no food for thought, then you just passed the second screening for a sociopath. You are a sociopath. Stop following my blog.

See, you bullies lack sympathy or empathy. You don’t know what others are carrying and maybe you don’t care. That person you belittled might be battling cancer herself or her spouse or child is, or he just lost someone he loved, lost a job or is just sad today.

I have learned to get away from these types, if at all possible. So those who have been nasty to me – and you know who you are – you are forgiven and forgotten. Karma’s got this, anyway, so I don’t need to care one bit. I am through with letting others try to stifle my joy because they are bitter. You can’t stifle or squelch my inner peace. You just look pathetic. Now, be gone before someone drops a house on you, too!

www.youtube.com/embed/eEIJ3YqPbqg” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen” 

Men: An Homage #atozchallenge

This meme represents a deal-breaker for me, FYI.

M: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Dudes and the Letter M for Men: An Homage

(This is a PG post but I am discussing my delight for men with my trademark snark.)

Golly, I love men. Truly. I love their company, their masculinity, their strength, their form, their manly hands, how they look, move and the way some smell. But beyond objectification, I like how they think and how they complement my femininity. I’m feminine. I enjoy being a girl!

Look, I know it isn’t politically correct or trendy to talk about gender differences. I know first hand how a lot of those differences have kept women from advancing and everyone from living their genuine truth. And that sucks. I also get there’s vast fluidity to the gender binary. I just heard a fascinating story on NPR’s “This American Life” about a trans man who, upon taking testosterone, said he instantly had a different, more aggressive reaction to women and couldn’t have his once “good cry” anymore, so I believe there is a biology that influences behavior. But this is a light blog, folks, come on! I’m just expressing and acknowledging my experience with sweeping generalities and pausing to appreciate men. So imagine Sam from “Sex In the City” is writing this. (“Sam” is one of my nicknames in certain circles. Those who truly know me know there’s a little bit of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Sam in me.) Sam is independent and not quick to emotionally attach to the men she dates. That part’s me. When Sam was sick, she didn’t have anyone to help her. That part’s me. But when her draperies fell off her bedroom window when she was sick, she helplessly crumbled because she didn’t know how to fix them. Not me. I can hang my own curtains and manage my own plumbing. But I digress. Or do I?

Straight, bi, pans, gay, friends and lovers, the men in my life are open, genuine and welcoming. Men give me just what I need when I know what I need; advice, solutions, company, you name it. Men HatsMen can be tender, emotional and vulnerable, too, but even then they know what they need. In fact, it’s beautiful when a man feels safe to be emotionally intimate.

And a man who is both strong and kind is terribly rare but most attractive, like my dad. Dad set a high bar for the qualities I require in a relationship; fearless but not aggressive, confident but not egotistical, kind but not passionately grandiose, brilliant, liberal, generous and capable.

I’ve never been married. As much as I adore men, I never could quite figure out what to do with one in captivity. So I’m a satisfied single, currently focused on my writing and public speaking, trying to establish a stable income again and my quest of self-discovery. I’ve always been the type to spend time alone between serious relationships, anyway, to “consciously uncouple” in Gwyneth Paltrow‘s words, but in a useful context. M MenI don’t trust someone who moves from one serious relationship to another with barely a breath in between. I learned that lesson with one of those types and once was enough. I adore being in the company of that one, special man but any man worth my time deserves more of me than I can give right now. Besides the time and financial restrictions of coming out of my stay-at-home daughter role, I am recovering from the last relationship and have some baggage to sort.

Now back to objectification. Physical attraction is whole other matter. Attraction is organic. For me, if it’s not there pretty much immediately, it’s never going to be. Now most of my close friends know I am a nose woman. You read right. We’re out there. Men noseIt is the first characteristic I notice; not the only one but it’s psychologically inexplicable and a total deal breaker. I have made the mistake of compromising on this one more than once, which I regret. Hey, some like blondes, some brunettes, big booties, etc. For me, it’s the nose that, of course, fits the face, too. And it’s not just the nose. And after a long, exhaustive, unscientific study, I can state there is no correlation between the nose, feet, hands or any feature with any other part of the anatomy (and some of those are deal breakers, too). You’re just going to have to trust me on that or do your own research. (The study isn’t complete yet.)

If the physical attraction is strong, I have found three other characteristics are telling – and all three – if he’s got compatibility potential; how he drives and his relationship with food and with his vehicle. I’m not sharing how those translate because I’d be giving away too much to someone who may enter my life in the future and do some surreptitious research on my blog someday.

It’s also a deal breaker if a man spends money he doesn’t have or shouldn’t proportion towards me. Of course, how he spends accordingly matters but money can’t buy me love, right Beatles? Plus, what would I value that anyone bought me who doesn’t know me? But what a turn on to get just what my heart desires or what I didn’t know I wanted.

Actions speak louder than words, too. But be a man of your word. I am torn by two perfect songs for this point, I have decided to share both:

Aaaand…

I’m not a commodity, either. This may be a big factor why I have never been married because just hearing someone say I’m a good catch implies marketing of oneself to the highest bidder, which creeps me out.  Perhaps there is a value component to all relationships but not of money, things or superficial worth.

So to those men who have touched my life, thank you. I wish all those past, present and future happy lives.

Love Is Desire #atozchallenge

L: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Desire and the Letter L for Love Is Desire

Look I know outside of romance novels and high school hearts and minds, love and desire have a short shelf life. But I have never lost my desire for anyone I still loved. I have had desire leave or never fully form from the man I might have loved, however. And my desire for the man has faded when it really wasn’t love or when the love faded. So I contend that desire is indivisible from love.

I have always taken love seriously. I know how tender is the heart. Love is attached to several added features with me, including loyalty, honesty, passion, trust, commitment and faithfulness. It will be withdrawn if it is not returned in kind. That’s how it works.

Many enduring lessons came from Mom and Dad. They never had a cross word towards each other. Never. I got their same disposition, or a combination of it so, just like any clone, it isn’t quite as good as the originals. Like those two, I don’t have a temper but like Dad, I will snap if mistreated. I actually hope I am better at that than in the past.

Other lessons came from what i learned from past loves. And I hope I have learned to leave quickly; when it’s not right, cut and run! It never works to try to right when you’ve been wronged or you’ve been left to feel lesser than. Never. I hope I don’t behave foolishly should the time come with the next love. I will take my time to protect my heart. I cherish her more than ever. Because I am whole right now and am working to claim more of my authentic self, I won’t allow myself to falter.

No regrets. Perhaps I wish I had taken more risks with the ones I loved but who, themselves, were too cautious. Perhaps I wish I hadn’t started up with those I never really felt enough about. And I hope none of them ever know which they were. I’ll never tell.

 

The Attraction of the Kiss #atozchallenge

K: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Dating and the Letter K for The Attraction of the Kiss

Remember “Pretty Woman,” where Julia Roberts’ character wouldn’t kiss Richard Gere’s character because, as a sex worker, that act was too personal? I agree. The act of sex is about as primal as it gets – it’s the biological act that continues the species. Of course, it can be complicated and deep, as well. And kissing is certainly interconnected. But I have found both are not necessarily good or of equal quality with the same person. And if you really stop to think, which might be difficult in the heat of the moment, shouldn’t both be synonymously mind-blowing?

I haven’t kissed all that many people. You’ll just have to use your imagination or take my word for it. But I’ve never been married so I have kissed more than one man. I also can only attest to kissing men because that’s my personal flavor and I am very brand loyal. And since this is my blog and my opinion, my experience tells me most men aren’t great kissers. I honestly wish there were more decent kissing videos on the web than explicit erotica. Unlike sex, I think most men think they’ve learned and mastered kissing from the first few people they’ve kissed and quit working on it, while others are just naturally good at it. Man, there is almost no greater turnoff than a guy who is a lousy kisser. It shows a lack of self-confidence, which is not attractive. Show me animal magnetism, a confident man and good lips. Now that’s a great start. Whew, nothing like that energy.

There’s a great song that says it beautifully. A hit in the 60s for Betty Everett, it’s called “Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” although I love this version with Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow:

Indeed, if you want to know if he loves you so (or desires you), it’s in his kiss! Some may be able to go through the motions and make a kiss feel fabulous, but it will never compare to the chemistry of a man who feels for you and knows how to kiss you.

Kisses

I remember the great kisses. Don’t you? I also remember the bad kisses. Sometimes, it’s just not a good lip fit – too thin or too thick. For the most part it comes down to chemistry. It’s either a good lip lock or it’s not.K Kiss Dating Feture

It’s just not a place you can fake it. The only thing you need to prove, or will subsequently show, is the kind of man you are. You know, put your lips together and blow!

 

Juggling Pros and Cons, Untying Bonds, the Path I’m On #atozchallenge

J: Today’s Deb-Blog Has Been Brought to You by the Letter D for Deciding and the Letter J for Juggling Pros and Cons, Untying Bonds, the Path I’m On

Many years ago, I read or heard this somewhere: “We are not doers, but we are deciders. Once our decision is clear, the doing becomes effortless.” I hold fast to this phrase and believe it to be true. I am well known for having commitment issues (which may be why I am often compared to the character “Sam” from “Sex In the City”). But the fact is I simply take my decisions seriously and like to consider the scenarios and weigh the possible consequences before making a big or even medium-sized decision. But once I decide, I am fully committed. Take my decision not to have kinds as an example, something I have mentioned more than once (https://debrastrege.com/2016/04/04/children-being-child-free-is-the-best-decision-of-my-life/). I have never looked back or second guessed that choice. Of course, I feel the same way about not buying a car on credit or taking up smoking.

Life is one big juggling act, if you ask me. I’ve been doing it my entire life. I really don’t need as much internal dialogue as I once did and I try to let my intuition work for me. I think I am being smart by avoiding unpleasant results by weighing the pros and cons. For example, if I buy something expensive and extravagant, will it be worth the sacrifices and loss of comforts elsewhere in my life? Or will I feel enslaved to a job I hate because I over-spent? If I let passion or desire lead to to a relationship I know to be a dead-end, will the fun be worth it? If I speed to make up time, will I get pulled over or have a wreck? Decisions have consequences. I often wonder when I watch those true crime shows about the person who kills her spouse usually for money. Really? Is all the work of planning the kill, disposing of the body, cleaning the evidence, securing an alibi really worth the money or life in prison? I know, a cop once told me they don’t catch the smart ones and I am certain there has to be something mentally wrong with anyone who kills but I can’t fathom how that logic works. If I am that miserable, I leave – long before I consider murder.

Perhaps because of my commitment issues, I find myself with more freedom that many and I’m unencumbered by some of thoJuggling3se permanent sorts of decisions many regret, like an unfulfilling marriage, children (yup, some people regret having kids) or debt that enslaves one to a soul-sucking job. But there are always two sides to every coin. I may be unencumbered by a spouse or child but I’d better take care of my health, my house and my finances because it’s just me. It is as freeing to have the luxury to juggle new challenges as it is restricting to know I only have myself to rely upon.

I’ve dropped a few pins in the juggling game of life. But they didn’t make me stop or regret much. And who knows? Pins have been known to get picked up and returned to the circle game.

 

 

 

 

Second Sunday Interlude #atozchallenge

Hello and welcome to the second Sunday vegan sorbet of this year’s April A to Z Blog Challenge. We get Sunday’s off for bad behavior so I offer this palate cleanse:

I find comfort in the words of this song whatever and whenever I leave something or someone behind. Because it often is not easy to do. May this week provide you with a smooth ride.