Saturday, August 11, 2018

ME?....A SAINT?...NEVER!



            Well, I might just as well come right out and say it . . . I am never going to be canonized a saint!  The reason I am so sure is not what you may think.  Of course, there are the reasons that pop right into mind, such as my professional standing as a sinner (well, there are a few commandments that I've managed not to completely disregard in my lifetime!)  Fact is, the reason is much more subtle.
            The realization came on me slowly at first.  I was reading a book, "Modern Day Saints" by Ann Ball.  It is a delightful book that contains not only the story of the lives of saints, but actual photographs of them as well.  Then I discovered laminated holy cards for my two-year-old to look at and chew on without ruining.  After that, my older kids brought home some different information on saints and holy people (also with pictures).  I started noticing something.  One and all, each of those saints depicted, male or female, young or old, martyred, dead of natural causes or illness, it didn't matter...they were all photogenic!  I mean they looked fabulous!  Smiling serenely, gently posed, caught in attitudes of prayer or meditation, reflecting thoughtfully upon a book or crucifix or simply gazing at a sight too ethereal to be caught by camera.
            What with all the fancy new options available for cameras - instant pictures, red-eye reduction, auto focus, auto flash, etc., it makes me wonder why there isn't some sort of warning system for misguided males who are about to take a picture of a woman that would have been mentioned in the Bible as justification for violating the fifth commandment!  They could call it the auto-NOT feature!  I know that I would run right out now and buy that camera no matter what the cost!  Because this is what is going to prevent my ever being included in a collected book of saints (well, this and that aforementioned sin thing).  I am sure it would send the Pope and most of the Cardinals in Rome, a slew of televangelists and most of the Bible Belt straight to an early meeting with their savior if they were to have to go through the available snapshots of me.  Right now that would include a most remarkable selection of photos of my backside.  Truthfully, it is not because I have such a magnificent rear-view that my camera-nut-of-the-moment cannot help himself either.  No, actually it is because the man has a truly bizarre sense of humor (and, if you ask me, an ill-concealed death wish!).
            In each case, I am bending over, presenting a most unlovely view if myself which he has zoomed in on (he keeps insisting that he used a wide-angle setting!), creating a distorted image and causing him to be beside himself with hilarity.  His favorite consists of a close-up of me backing out of the doghouse (don't ask).  I am wearing a pair of stretch pants that are white with a metallic sheen that had a wondrously reflective quality (PLEASE don't ask!).  The flash bounced off my posterior creating an incredibly accurate simulation of the aurora borealis - up close!  Imagine THAT on a holy card!
            To be fair, he has also taken a good many portrait shots of me during this time as well.  Unfortunately, he read somewhere once that "natural" is better than "posed" for portraits.  He interpreted this to mean "catch your subjects by surprise".  So most of those shots show me in the middle of saying, "Huh?" and staring at the camera in confusion.
            Yes, he has a favorite among these as well.  On that occasion, I was sitting at the dining room table working.  The kids had come and gone at various intervals, leaving behind the remnants of their snacks.  I had just absentmindedly popped a cheese ball, maybe two (or was it three?), into my mouth.  He strolled around the corner and yelled, "Zen!"  I whipped up my head, causing my reading glasses to slip to the end of my nose and in an unbelievable incidence of bad timing, the combs holding my hair in a knot on top of my head popped out, resulting in my having a large, messy wad of hair ooze down over one ear and . . . CLICK . . . it was all over.
            The picture is, indeed, a classic.  I am sitting there in a spectacularly lavish state of disarray.  My cheeks puffy with food, nose wrinkled in the effort to catch my glasses, hair disheveled, mouth agape, paper askew, an expression of startled confusion on my face . . . surrounded by plates, bread crusts, chips, cookies, crumbs, empty packages, pop cans, glasses, bits of popcorn, cheese curls and candy.
            He thinks I should use it on the dust jacket of my first book.
            I'm afraid they'll use it on my "WANTED" poster!


Thursday, August 2, 2018

ON THE EDGE #6





STRONG WOMEN

Has anyone else noticed an increase in the use of the phrase “you are a strong woman?” (Or its equivalent) I have, and I have to say that I do not think it is a good thing; and not just because it is axiomatically redundant, but because of the way it is being used.

What the heck does that even mean anyway? Does it mean you think I can bench press you? Are you talking about my mental state? My intelligence? My faith? Is it supposed to encourage me? Is it a very condensed pep talk? Or is it a casual observation intended to make me think? Perhaps you are admonish me for my momentary show of weakness? Maybe you really think I don't know? What? Really, I would like to know what I am supposed to take from that.

First of all – being a strong woman is a given. Women are, by temperament strong – they were created that way. It is women who hold together nations, cultures, communities and families. It is women who give birth, nurture, teach and encourage. It is women, who hurt, sacrifice and live so that others may live. All this is in their very nature (and yes, I am perfectly aware of the exceptions to that rule – but they are just that, exceptions.) We do not praise women for raising their children the way we praise men for even showing interest in theirs. We expect women to sacrifice so that their children may achieve. We praise men as wonderful fathers if they do no more than provide financially for their offspring. From women we expect more; and they inevitably provide it – without a second thought.

This post is not, however about those conundrums that continue to separate the sexes – though I will, no doubt find a way and/or reason for that particular rant at some point. This post is about that insidious phrase, “you are a strong woman.”

In the last couple of years I have had that line tossed at me like a hasty hand grenade by otherwise normal men as they beat a none-too-discreet retreat from my perceived moments of uncharacteristic neediness. Inevitably it is lobbed as a distraction, a tactic designed to throw me off just a littlebit of strategic . A clever stab at a strategic defense hat throws me into offensive mode.

This particular sentiment has all of the hallmarks of a left-handed compliment. Cleverly disguised and stated in such a way as to preclude one from reacting appropriately without seeming decidedly shrewish. This pronouncement has never been delivered to me as a follow up to a particularly satisfying moment of triumph, as a much earned compliment following an achievement nor even as a passing observation during a casual conversation. No, in fact, every single time it was offered as a conversation quelling exit line when it had become obvious that I was overwhelmed, upset, broken, sad or – let’s face it – in need of respite, rescue, relief or at the very least a tiny bit of aid.

Let me be clear here, I have never been perceived as a ‘damsel-in-distress’ or fragile female (weird, really, because I am only 5’ tall and about 120 pounds, but, whatever.) To tell the truth, I don’t much need anyone, male or otherwise, to fight my battles for me as a rule. Still, there are times when it all just becomes too much. And what is wrong with thinking a guy might have my back? I’m not asking anyone to slay my dragons for me but when I am lying on the floor too weak to move they could offer to close the door so an errant monster can’t just wander in couldn’t they? I mean, really, do they HAVE to run and dive out the nearest window?

I have never, not even once, asked a man (or another woman) to “fix” any of my troubles. Yet, every true female friend I have ever had at the very least sat with me and assured me that they were all bastards when I felt the world was against me. The very best actually offered to run somebody over with her car if I wanted. I laughed – I knew she was telling me she had my back, all I had to do was ask and she would help carry the load. Not one of my male friends, lovers, ‘others’ has ever done the same.

When I am at a point where my problems become something I need help with having an idiot say something like, “you’re a strong woman, you’ll be fine” sounds too much like Jerry Seinfeld saying, “That’s a shame” or a new age wimp saying, “I don’t want to mess with your Karma” or a self-centered narcissist saying, “ooh, that’s rough, let me know how it turns out” – in other words I know it is a cop out. It is just a new way of saying they don’t want to deal with it.

Being strong does not mean the same thing as being invincible. I AM strong, but I am also human. Sometimes I will need help, and I don't need to be shamed by someone who is unwilling to help. I am not now nor have I ever been a victim - and using my own strength as a weapon to make me feel worse for knowing I need help is the move of a coward.

As far as I am concerned this new-found method of damning with faint praise that men have pounced upon needs to be nipped in the bud. Let’s call it what it is – a spineless attempt to get out of the hard work of a relationship (romantic, friend, whatever) and still pretend they are real men.

A "real" man (woman, friend, etc.) can and will step in, even if they haven't been asked. You don't need to start a fight, punch someone or even necessarily care beyond the idea that they have hurt your friend. However, showing that you care enough to take a stand can often be more than enough to reaffirm my inner strength, to give me the second wind to deal with the situation. just knowing that someone thinks I am worth their time can make all the difference.

I know my “friends” and I know the reaction this will get from the men. Seriously – I don’t care. I am tired of being the only one in my circle with hair . . . and the balls it is growing on. Whatever happened to real men? Not primitive barbarians. I mean men who can be strong, sensitive, caring and tough when necessary. Men who aren’t afraid to be what the situation calls for . . . hard, soft, strong, smart, wise, angry, calm . . .

Oh wait. That’s women.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

WE’RE ALL A LITTLE LOONEY SOMETIMES....




With the success of books explaining how your average man and woman are from different planets (or act like they are), it’s the perfect time to share my theories on how men and women differ.


I realize that I am not a recognized expert on much of anything - the only thing I have a PhD in is organizing my family – unfortunately the PhD stands for Perfectly Hopeless Disaster! Still, I am confident that my years of research (24 years married of partnership and 4 children equally divided between both genders - the children, not the partnership) have given me all the facts I require to offer my unsolicited opinion.







There are the obvious differences. Take the physical manifestations of each gender. Women are more delicate and refined - like they believe it is actually possible to get children and pets to respond WITHOUT bellowing their request loud enough to cause shingles to pop off the roof. (I once had a neighbor run over and return a rake when he heard my better half sending the kids out to put away the yard tools! Come to think of it I’d been looking all over for that thing.)


Another area in which men and women approach things from different angles is the concept of getting ready to go out. Here explodes that great urban myth that a woman is always making a man wait for her. In my experience it is true that women tend to be the last ones ready for anything, but not due to their neurotic need to be controlling. No, it is more likely due to the universal tendency of a man to consider ‘everything’ ready to go just because HE is ready to go. Getting the family to go out, for example. A man will go in and comb his hair, maybe brush his teeth, shave if need be. Then he will slip on a shirt and pants, walk out to the kitchen pour himself a cup of coffee and sit down to read the paper. Bingo, ready to go. A woman will be making the bed, getting dressed, feeding the baby, combing everybody’s hair (except her own), sending kids back to change into acceptable outfits, changing diapers, digging through the toy box for her purse, solving a pimple crisis, locating matching shoes, hurrying everybody up and generally trying not to lose it. Five minutes before time to leave, HE saunters out to the entry way and puts on his shoes and bellows at the kids to get in the car. She sees an opening and runs to the bathroom to try and slap a little life onto her face with the help of cosmetics. He goes out and sits in the car with the kids. She comes hopping out on one foot trying to get her other shoe and right earring on at the same time. Winded, she flops into the car and glares at him, and he says, “We weren’t trying to rush you or anything.” No wonder women don’t age as well as men.


They also differ greatly in their thought processes. A woman’s mind is constantly in high gear. Usually she is thinking about half a dozen different and pressing issues. Everything from the upcoming PTA bake sale to the national deficit to the possibility that little Billy may need braces. On the other hand, at any given time there is only one thing going through a man’s head - the Looney-Toons theme.


Give a man a task and he attacks it with a single-minded intensity, as soon as it’s done, that’s it, until another task comes up. Most women have the habit of watching T.V., while folding laundry, helping junior with his homework, and talking on the telephone. Most men can read the paper and drink a cup of coffee at the same time - providing they don’t have to get up for a refill, in which case they will forget where they left their cup. Then they will forget where they were going. And, finally, they will forget what it was they got up for.


There are other things. Like the way a man will insist on putting every canned good you buy at the market into a single bag. Or insist that you move the car seat back every time you get out of the car, even though it takes three people and twenty minutes for you to move it back up - when he only drives it on weekends, while you live in it. Or how they believe deep in their hearts that a television remote belongs to them and them alone.


The really interesting thing about all of these differences though is that in spite of the feeling that you are slowly being driven insane, it seems that it’s all of these differences that cause us to seek each other out. They give us balance, expand our experiences and draw us out of ourselves. Besides, how else would I get all of the lawn tools back from the neighbors?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

DEAD MAN WALKING

Dead Man Walking

Down the liquid corridors
Endless footstep fall
Amid the swirling mists
Do voiceless mysteries call
Must we weeping dwell
As many surely do
Neath heaven’s lofty promises while wading into hell
Where does the soul exist
And where will it abide
Listless, torpid, floating
Kedged somewhere deep inside
Immutable reality
Nudges deep regrets
Granting now that what the soul does ask it most surely gets
(Fun Hint: Read the first letter of each line – it forms the title of the piece!)

Monday, July 9, 2018

POSITIVELY. . . ANNOYING!

If there is one thing I can't stand it is a negative attitude. Probably because I simply don't understand it. I, even under the most bleak and oppressive of circumstances, will insist on finding the 'up' side of the situation. As a matter of fact, my unrelenting upbeat views and persistent positive outlook are so pronounced you might imagine they have spilled over to my significant other and children. To the contrary! In any given scenario, said partner and all four offspring can - and usually will - come up with their own doomsday theories on its causes and probable outcome. Each new description more grim and hopeless than the last and so vivid in their dire conclusions one would begin to suspect they've all been taking correspondence courses from the Stephen King School of reality.

     For example, recently the pilot light went out on our heater. Picking up a flashlight and pack of matches, old man-of-the-house himself commented, "Well, you'll probably need a new furnace." In the voice of one resigned to the inevitable, and trudged down the stairs. Eldest daughter chimed in with,        "Just so the gas hasn't been on all night - it'll blow up in his face and burn down the house...." Number-one son interrupted, "If the gas has been on that long it'll blow the house off the foundation - maybe level the whole neighborhood." Our younger daughter is too small to offer an entire theory, so she contented herself with the dour prediction that "Then we won't get to go to McDonald's for lunch!" The baby was screaming for his breakfast, and I was pooh-poohing everyone - "Nonsense! Nobody's going to blow up! It's just a bit of dust or something." For the record, nobody did blow-up (unless you count my yelling at Mr. Doom and Gloom when he got back upstairs and announced that, "It started up fine, but that doesn't mean you won't need a new one.") Personally, I think they SHOULD be a bit more like me. It just seems that all that negativism and those prophecies of disaster keep a black cloud of despair over everything. On the other hand, keeping a positive note on things and continuing to hope for the best puts a cheerier face on life. Just put me in any given predicament and I will smile my way through it. Why, I'm the one who, 9 1/2 months into my last pregnancy, awakened by severe stomach cramps, shrugged off solicitations of concern - insisting it was the flu. I almost had the baby on the kitchen floor too! My battle cry? "It's Nothing!"


      Take the time the transmission just fell out of our car. In the middle of one of the busiest intersections in town. During rush hour. As we were surveying the destruction and feverishly calculating the quickest and easiest method to clear out of the way, aided by several colorful suggestions from blocked motorists as well as a cacophony of car horns, I remained my usual optimistic self. As I whipped back and forth, calming the kids, thanking the other motorists for their concern, and monitoring helpmate's response to the car horns, I offered my diagnosis to anyone who would listen.

 "It's probably just a screw that's come undone or something." 

 Suddenly, I noticed the expression on my beloved's face as he looked up from the smoking ruins at me. It was plain exactly who he believed had a screw loose. And standing there in the middle of cross (and I do mean CROSS) traffic, I had an Epiphany. Was it possible that by attempting to completely ignore the mere possibility of unpleasant events in our lives, I was causing as many problems as I was trying to avoid? Shamed by this personal revelation I humbly offered my services, however they were needed, to my long-suffering partner. As I walked to the back of the car I hung my head and called on a higher power for help. And, as I leaned my shoulder into the tailgate and pushed with all my pent-up negativity, I could almost hear a heavenly host cheering me on. As it turned out it was only the kids with their noses pressed against the back window trying to tell me the brakes were still on. Later, as I lay on the couch with the heating pad on my back listening to my helpmate get estimates on the repair bill, I still hoped for the best, but managed to resist the urge to insist that the cost would be minor. After he was done, I even dared to moan and carry on a bit about my back. 


     And you know what that darling did? He fixed me a bowl of ice cream and sat down and held me in his arms as I ate it. Maybe I could get used to being negative.