Monday, October 31, 2011

A confession...and a question

I'm going to reveal something to you.

I like my own kid best.

Yeah, I know. He's my child, of course I prefer him, he's my own, my family, my little boy whom I've nurtured since his arrival in the world. He's the one I have fed, and snuggled, and disciplined, and taught, and guided, and dressed. I've comforted him after nightmares, fought to put medicine in his mouth when he's sick, held him still for painful shots from nurses. Of course he's my favorite kid.

But I'm not talking parental love here. I love him dearly, but that's different. That's the love that God gives you for your child (or children), the all-consuming, protective love that grows bigger as needed. At least that's what I'm guessing, based on what I've heard from every other parent I know, and what I've heard about large families and about children who've grown up.

I'm talking here, though, about liking your kid. It's different. Of course you love your child. But I really, truly like my child. I like him better than any other kid in the world. And we know lots of great kids: nieces and nephews, my son's friends and classmates, children we've met at church, etc. There are hoards of wonderful, charming, very likable little people out there. I know some of them.

But I still prefer my own small guy. Maybe because I see little pieces of myself and my husband in his mannerisms and his speech. Maybe because I can think of countless examples of his kindness, times when he's thought of the well-being of others, observances he's made that required sensitivity and awareness. I can think of innumerable moments when I've simply been proud of him. (I can think of other times, too, when I wasn't so proud—but honestly, I can't recall too many.)

None of these observances are earth-shattering in depth or meaning. I'm guessing that many parents who pondered this subject would agree. But it all begs the question: Does every parent feel this way? I'm guessing that they don't, and that is sad to me. I'm not thinking of awful parents who abuse or mistreat their children. I'm thinking of parents who adore their kids, who care deeply for them like no one else could.

Are their some loving, caring parents who just honestly don't like their kid(s)? Is that possible?

I mean, there have to be kids who are vastly different from the people who are rearing them. There have to be examples of children who resemble not at all, in thought or deed, the people who are responsible for those children. Right?

I just don't know. It seems hard to believe, but it seems equally hard to believe that it never happens. I hope it doesn't, but I suspect that occasionally it does.

And if it does—what a shame, for everyone involved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Signs of things to come?

Lucky me—I've managed to pick up a horrible head cold, the first of the season. Thus far, my other two housemates have remained uninfected. I keep coughing in their general direction, which is my kind way of warning them to wash hands often with soap. We'll see if they listen, or also fall ill.

The worst thing about being sick is that I have no energy. None. Every part of my body feels heavier than normal, held down by invisible bands that make movement difficult and painful. Joints throb, extremities ache, my brain is dull and thick. That's the telltale symptom of sickness for me, the absolute drained feeling that causes me to sit stupidly or (worse yet) to lie senselessly on whatever flat surface is available. When I don't want to do anything, and I'm content to just sit, then I know for certain that I'm ill. Otherwise, I'd be in motion. I'm much happier in motion. It's part of the reason I shun television; I'm not even the reader I used to be, because it requires being somewhat still. (Yes, I know, I could get a Kindle and read while I run on a treadmill... Please. I want to enjoy the reading experience.)

Anyway, the whole sick thing makes me wonder if this is sort of how I'll feel when I'm old, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. Will going up stairs take more effort than it's worth exerting? Will I have the strength to rise from my bed, or will I have to try more than once before I succeed? Will my brain feel addled and confused, like a maze of dead ends that don't lead to the right answer? Will my limbs feel constrained and leaden?

It's a valid question, I think, yet one that I don't want to consider for long. It's frightening to me, quite frankly, and I don't like to think about things that frighten me. I might be around for a long, long time, and I can already detect activities that aren't as easy for me as they used to be, memories that don't come as quickly, motions that used to be silent and now elicit an "Mmmph" sound.

The whole "is this what I'll feel like if I get to be an old woman" concern is just one more reason to hate being under the weather. Especially on a sunny day, with blue skies and warm-ish breezes. Those breezes aren't nearly as sweet when your nose takes up your whole face and the only thing you long for is a Vicks-scented tissue.

Okay, enough self-pity. Onward. I'll just carry some laundry upstairs now; I think I can break through the unseen barriers on the steps, the ones that press down on me while I'm trying to climb. I can do it. Deep breath (through my mouth). Here goes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I urge you to check this out

In keeping with yesterday's post:

The stories you'll find on this link (below) encompass the very spirit that has made this country great. They are the voices of true Americans. Read these stories, be inspired, and if you agree, then consider adding your own life anecdote.

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.
~Adlai Stevenson

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This is why I don't watch the news

Watching the news, any news, for more than a couple of minutes is nearly impossible for me. The stories on the news are either ludicrous, horrific, or feature mind-numbingly evil antagonists. And sometimes, those stories infuriate me.

The local news can be awful, but often equates a soap-opera news option—overly dramatic broadcasters, all blonde hair, raised eyebrows and deadpan delivery, covering fires in abandoned buildings, bearded men who are arrested for not placing reflective triangles on their buggies... Sometimes the stories are tragic, and sometimes it's just a slow news day.

The world news? That's usually too disturbing to watch for long. We've become immune to violence and death from over-exposure. How many people were killed in the bombing? Was that a dead body I just saw covered in rubble? There was another natural disaster? What was it this time? Oh.

Let's take a look at what's going on now. Okay, there was a large-scale exotic animal massacre in Ohio because some loon of a guy who had amassed all these amazing creatures decided to 1) release them and 2) kill himself. Huh?! What in the world? Why did he collect them all, and then why did he free them and take his own life? Did he think this was some sort of statement? Did he honestly believe the animals would roam freely and not come to harm? How did he even get them? Was it legal? Apparently there were complaints for years about this goofball, yet he continued to acquire (both animals and bizarre personal traits, I'm guessing) and here we are today with a boatload of animal corpses in Ohio.

It gets better. In Philadelphia, authorities uncovered a dungeon of suffering for mentally challenged adults and an assortment of youth who receive government assistance of some sort. A sick little trio of friends decided, apparently, this was an easy way to make some money. How in the world this seemed like a defensible idea to anyone, I will never know. I can't even go there. I am ill just considering the conditions and suffering that these people were held in.

Now, those are stories that turn our stomachs, as they should. I don't want to know about them, but I probably should be at least informed so I keep abreast of what people are capable of doing. I can't begin to understand, but I should be aware and be reminded: This is a really messed up place with some seriously twisted people in it.

But then there are stories that enrage me, too. Like the whole Occupy Wall Street nonsense. What are these people against, exactly? Joblessness? If they had jobs, they likely wouldn't be able to participate in this lovely demonstration for very long. So maybe that's the beef? Or is it that big, bad corporations weren't held accountable for money loss? Were they hoping for college loans to be forgotten and that didn't happen? Have they come to the depressing realization that they can't drive new, fast cars on their current budgets? Do these folks even know why they're there? Are they angry that their cell phones are out of battery power? That their designer duds got dirty and/or no longer match? What, really, is the main complaint?

I can't stand to watch much of it, these people camped out in the very spaces that corporations provide for them, the displeased crowds who all manage to have what they really value (technology, name brands, nice camping gear) but bemoan the lack of money and opportunity. I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but here's the truth: many lives begin with (and sometimes continue with) un-fantastic, uninspiring, unrewarding work. Many of us started there, and frankly, more than a few have remained there. I can tell you why the middle class is shrinking; it's because the middle class tries very hard to have a lot of the same baubles that the upper class enjoys. We here in middle world have a very serious case of misguided, confused priorities. I want to live in a country that appreciates hard work, the basics, and has values. I don't really care to join with a band of creative hippy types who are whining about the lack of handouts.

Stop looking for handouts. Stop kvetching about who got them. Contact the president who's exacerbating the situation, your local and state representatives (do you even know who they are? did you vote?) and share your frustrations with them, and then go to work somewhere. Drive a small used car, live in a smaller house or apartment, shop where I shop, and most of all, Shush. Vociferously occupying a space that lies in the shadow of the very corporations that fund your hobbies, hand-helds, and highfalutin pursuits is hypocritical. If we look back at the history of this country, our success has been the result of individuals who competed to make money and make things better, and who worked hard. Sometimes, success has rested on the ability of many to do without, to sacrifice willingly. Nobody got rich by spreading the wealth, which actually means taking someone else's wealth. Which that wealthy person likely worked to attain. It's not the government's job to provide for us. The government owes us nothing but rights, freedoms, and protection from crazy people.

All right. I'm stepping off the soapbox now. I'm getting fired up just thinking about all this, weird people, cruel people, uninformed spoiled people, etc. I don't want to live in a bubble, but I also don't want to immerse myself in a boiling cauldron of information that fills me with helpless fury.

So, I'll keep the television off, and limit my time online. If I want to maintain a healthy balance in my mind and heart, I need to restrict my exposure. I want to feel genuine love for my fellow man, but golly, they can be an unlovable bunch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pumpkin... and pumpkin kin

I love the colors of autumn, especially the squashes, gourds, and pumpkins that grace every grocer's shelf and roadside stand. The bumpy orange guy on the right is my favorite; I already used him in some photos last week. So bright, yet humble. And butternut—who could forget butternut? Having tasted one recently, I am reminded of its exquisite golden flesh hiding inside.

I'll put this latest painting in the Etsy shop in the next couple of days; the edges are still drying.

On a side note, I am supposed (she says doubtfully) to have Comcast come install their services this afternoon. Supposedly (eyebrows raised), my service will be better, faster, and cheaper. We'll see. Verizon has made a dubious, bitter, sardonic customer out of me.

Oh well, have a great rest of week/weekend. Hope it's all you need and more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saved by a horn

Picture it. A lovely fall day, and me behind the wheel, heading into the nearby Giant Eagle to pick up a few items. I turn down one long aisle, scanning the lot for a good space. About 10 cars in front of me, near the store entrance, a woman is loading bags into her trunk. I see a good spot a few cars from her, and I notice that she is rearranging the bags she's already loaded to make more space. I also notice that the cart from whence she is unloading appears to be very slowly inching away from her. I stop my car mid-aisle, and observe closely through the windshield: yes, the cart is most definitely rolling away. In fact, it is steadily picking up speed.

I hit the horn, except this is the Saturn that I'm driving, the one with the mystery horn location that is somewhere in the center of the steering wheel but never quite in the same place twice. I proceed to strike the middle of the wheel repeatedly, in different locations, to no avail. The cart is moving more noticeably now, and the woman is still gazing in the opposite direction, mesmerized by how to maximize her trunk space, utterly oblivious to the encroaching mishap.

Ahh, finally success on my end—"Beep beep, beep beep beep beep, BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!!!" She looks up and I frantically motion to the cart that is now moving with purpose toward a couple of cars. The woman is quick, unlike many shoppers at Giant Eagle; she immediately senses the seriousness of the situation, and with lightning reflexes she runs full tilt toward the cart, reaching desperately to grasp it before it bumps another vehicle. And of the 3 cars it could have zeroed in on, guess which one it's screaming toward? That's right, a Porsche. Bright cherry red, the curvy Carrera style, lovingly polished to a shine.

Just as the cart is about to bang into that shiny car, the woman manages to grab its handle and stop it, mere inches away from the pricey red machine. I can see her take a deep breath, relax her shoulders, and she waves a thanks at me, then takes the naughty cart, still holding groceries, to her car to finish the job. This time, she keeps a foot (brake) behind one wheel.

I park, get out, we joke about a sports car's magnetic ability to attract danger, and I head inside the store. As I pass the Porsche, I can't help noticing that its vanity license plate details the car's make and the fact that it features turbo power. Yeah, that would not have been a pretty scene: the cart, the dent and/or scratch, the angry aging man who drives it (yes, I'm pretty sure that's who drives it), and the unhappy conversation that would ensue.

The day was most definitely saved. For those two drivers, at least. My work is done.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Okay, this weekend will not be a washout...

If you live near southwestern PA, that is. I can't speak for the rest of the country. Sorry about that next-to-last post, with all the nicey-nice references to getting outside, partaking of fresh air, basking in the splendor, blah blah blabbity blah. Obviously, last weekend around here was not a good one for spending time outdoors.

But the next couple of days promise to be much more conducive to happy, warm thoughts. Really!

The pictures on these blank notecards were taken in my back yard. The colors this time of year are simply amazing. If you need any autumnal blank notecards, just stop here in my Etsy shop and have at it. (Fellow Pittsburghers can always just email me and we'll figure out a meeting spot—no shipping costs!)

Wishing you a sun-filled, colorful weekend.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ain't askeered

I said to my husband the other day, as a lead-in to my reminder about where I store financial records, "If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, all the receipt for the **** are in the ****."

I allude to this type of thinking in other ways, too: "Lord willin' and the creek don't rise..." is one of my stock introductory phrases. When we're going away for a few hours, the hus and I, and especially when all three of us are going somewhere near or far, I call the home phone to leave a message detailing the location of our will.

He gets annoyed with me for doing this, the husband. "You know, that's kind of awful," he says after I place the call to our answering machine. He gives me dirty looks when I mention the bus. He occasionally goes down the path of how I shouldn't say those things because I might speak them unto myself, with the power of some strange inexplicable self-fulfilling prophecy that some Christians embrace–which is why so many of them are phonies who preach how we can expect only blessings and money from God because we'll just refuse to accept whatever else might come our way.

Well, I do believe that we can affect our mood, our attitude, and our witness to others by the things we say out loud. But I also know that terrible things happen sometimes and there's not a word that could have been spoken or withheld to prevent them. People die in horrible ways sometimes, even young moms and dads, even children. We live in a fallen world and tragedies do occur here. If I refrain from leaving a voice mail message that reveals the location of our will, that doesn't mean that we're any safer as we travel. It might mean that if something bad happens, no one will know where to look and read our wishes... and then there's likely to be some ugly, nasty squabbling. And delays. And additional taxes.

I don't know why I speak of these things in such off-handed fashion, almost in jest. I guess it's my pathetic way of acknowledging the very real risks of our existence. Maybe it's my tongue-in-cheek method of trying to appear unfazed by these potential realities. There's a slim chance that deep down, a tiny part of me holds tight to the completely untrue belief that by addressing the dangers out loud, I am warding them away.

I hope and pray that none of my just-in-case pronouncements ever come true. I try to be thankful for every day that no devastation occurs in my little life. Yet, being grateful, too, is a nod to the awful possibilities; you see, if I didn't realize that with every tragedy, there by the grace of God go I, then I wouldn't have the sense to be grateful when I am spared.

It makes sense to me, in a twisted way.