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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Made Her Cry

When my friend Marie took me to my followup visit with the dermatologist who did my rosacea laser treatment, we decided that we might as well have lunch as well. As luck would have it, there is a restaurant right next door to the cosmetic clinic, and in short order we were enjoying delicious soups and crusty baguettes. It's always fun to catch up on everything that is going on when we have these little breaks, and Marie was telling me something about a telephone conversation she'd had with her daughter a few days before. Just after she mentioned that they were talking about chicken coops and chickens, a staff member came up to us with a tray loaded with little bits of sweet rolls and offered us a sample. We asked what they were, and decided to try them, and they were quite tasty.

When the young woman walked away with her tray, I turned to Marie and said, "So you were talking about chickens?" Marie's mouth dropped open and her eyes got wide. "Marie, all I did was pause the program in progress. I guess you must have changed the channel!" Marie laughed as I reminded her of the last point in our conversation, the point you might refer to as BSR: Before Sweet Rolls. She began to laugh even harder when she replayed my sassy comment. "Katrina, I think you just paused the program, but I didn't just change channels, I turned off the tv!" We continued eating, and Marie was still laughing really hard at my joke when I got really silly. "Marie, would you please tell me about the d--n chickens?" Before she could tell me what was going on with the conversation, she was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face. Luckily, we regained our composure before we had to be asked to leave the establishment, or even have a fit of coughing or hiccups from laughing so much.

I don't know about anyone else, but any time that I can make someone laugh until they cry, it makes me feel like I have done something to make the world a better place. We share all sorts of moments and emotions among friends, family, and what I like to think of as our chosen family. We have our highs and lows, and still stick together. We help each other along on this path of life, enjoying the highs, and sharing sorrows, angers, and frustrations. The burdens of rough times are lightened when we share them, and the joys are magnified. I will stick with my friends through trials, and rejoice at their triumphs. And if I can get a sassy remark in while I am with them, maybe I can make them laugh until they cry!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Big Hurry?

We had quite a day today. We received an IKEA gift card for Christmas, and finally headed down to the store to redeem it today. While we were on the long drive to the only IKEA store in the entire state of Colorado, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot of people in a great big hurry. As we headed down the highway, we noticed several people who drove past everyone else as though we were all standing still. And some of them were scary for more than their travel speed. With so many people trying to drive seventy miles per hour while texting or looking things up on their phone, there were moments when the highway looked like a giant pinball machine. One big problem with that - sometimes you wonder if the person shooting the ball just sees your car as a pin to bounce against!

As usual, it made me philosophical. So many of us have gotten in such a big hurry. Remember when you used to get an ice cream cone and sit for a little while, savoring the cold, delicious creaminess of the ice cream and the satisfying crunch of the cone? Or stretching out the cheese on a slice of pizza by pulling the slice as far from your mouth as possible until it snapped? Savoring a burger, fries, and a cola? Now everyone seems to eat these things while traveling in their cars. I still remember my shock when I went to visit my sister in Canton, Ohio and the two of us took an overnight shopping trip to Reading, Pennsylvania. Just before we headed home, we stopped to get bowls of ice cream. I expected that we'd sit and enjoy our luscious treat, but we got right on the road, Margit steering down the highway with her knees while using one hand to hold the bowl and the other to use the spoon. It was my first exposure to frightening driver multitasking. Obviously we survived the trip, but I'm fairly certain that if anyone checked my blood pressure that day, they'd have been convinced I needed a higher dose of medication.

When we finished the thirty-odd-mile drive to IKEA, we decided to start off by having some lunch. There was a flurry of activity as fellow shoppers rushed to grab some food and eat it as quickly as possible. We savored our Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes, cream sauce, and lingonberries. Allow me to pause for a moment and say that today I discovered that I love lingonberries. I could eat them four times a day, ten days a week. Yes, I know there aren't ten days in a week! I'm just making a point that right now, I think I could happily eat lingonberries all day long. We brought a jar of preserves home, and I look forward to enjoying them. I can think of several things I could eat them with, but all I really need to eat them with is a spoon!

After we spent a couple of hours wandering through the store finding things to treat ourselves with, thanks to our gift card, we were worn out and eager to head home. I told Trent that I knew I must have told him to watch out while we were shopping about fifty times, but that it wasn't because he wasn't paying attention to where he was going or what he was doing. It was quite the opposite. It seemed that everywhere we went, people just stepped right in the path of our cart without ever looking to see where they were going, or anyone else, for that matter. I was starting to think maybe it was just me. I have problems sometimes (okay, a lot of times any more) being in the midst of swarms of people. But I found out that it wasn't just me. Trent was having problems as well.

When we were checking out, I noticed that there were some boxes of glassware and other items set aside at the end of the counter. A lady rushed up with her cart, relieved that the things she accidentally left behind were still there waiting for her. "I have to get out of here," she said. "This place is driving me crazy." I chatted with her for a moment, telling her that I was feeling the same way. We were both glad, I'm sure, to find out that it wasn't just our opinion, things really were chaotic there. 

After dealing with a lot of traffic, we were finally home. In spite of the crowds, we had really enjoyed our visit to a store that we don't get to very often, and it was a delight to be able to toss things into our cart, knowing that we had a gift card to spend. We came home with all sorts of things that we are going to enjoy, from the lingonberry preserves to frozen Swedish meatballs. I finally have a stainless steel bowl in my kitchen, something I've wanted for years but never gotten. We have food containers, placemats, and lap desks, one of which is currently on my lap top, under my laptop. (Sorry, sometimes I just can't don't control myself.) We are already enjoying our haul from today's trip. I am trying not to think about opening that jar of lingonberry preserves. It can wait a few days, and then we can both savor the deliciousness. No need to hurry!



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WomanLady? LadyWoman?

When I worked at DIA (Denver International Airport), as I have said before, I met all sorts of people. Most of them passed in and out of my life very quickly, some soon forgotten, and others still in my mind today. I also enjoyed spending time with others who worked at the airport in all sorts of functions. I made friends with airline employees who were baggage handlers, flight attendants, and pilots. There were people who worked in neighboring shops, or in the housekeeping departments of the airport, and numerous others. I had several interesting conversations with a delightful woman who spent her days cleaning and maintaining the restrooms in our busy concourse. After we got to know each other better, she gave me some advice. "Whenever you need to use the restrooms, don't use the ones on this level. Try to go when you have enough time to use the ones upstairs. Not as many passengers know about them, so they're much cleaner." I was rather surprised to hear her say this, because I knew that she worked very hard on her job, and left the bathrooms spotless when she was finished. I said as much to her and then she told me the reasons behind her advice.

During her time working on cleaning the restrooms, she had seen many downright disgusting things. The procedures for her job required her to get in line and wait for a stall to open if there was a line in the women's restroom. When she got to the front of the line, she could enter and clean the empty stall, and then move into each stall as they became vacant. One day, when she was waiting in line in the women's restroom closest to our shop, she saw a lovely, well-dressed older woman about halfway down the line. Suddenly, the woman calmly pulled down her pants, squatted down, and defecated on the bathroom floor. Now, I don't know about any of you, but if I had to go that urgently, I would start begging the others in line to let me go ahead of them so that I would not soil myself. If someone told me they were in that condition, I'd certainly let them get ahead of me in line. In fact, I'd start telling the other women in line that we had an emergency and someone needed to go first. I've done so in the past, in fact, especially when there were children involved that were struggling with needing to go as soon as possible. But this woman never said a word, showed any signs of distress, or asked if she could get ahead of anyone in line due to her urgent need to go. She just decided to do so in the middle of the restroom, leaving the airport employee to deal with the mess she had made. She made no comments or apologies, just made her deposit and left. 

I was shocked to hear this story, and grateful for the advice I was given. Whenever possible, I used the less-frequented facilities on the upper floor of the concourse rather than the busier ones on the main level. Unfortunately there were a few occasions when I didn't have enough time and was forced to use the main-level restroom. Without giving too much revolting detail, let me say that I was stunned at the filth I encountered on some of these visits. It bothered me in so many ways. How is it that we women can have such little respect for ourselves and for one another? Have we forgotten that it is okay for a woman to be a lady, a courteous, caring person?

There seems to be too much of an attitude of "there's someone who gets paid to clean this up." Yes, it's true that someone is paid to clean the restrooms at the airport. This person has to clean numerous bathrooms and may not get back to the same one for several hours. When someone leaves various messes on the seats and floors, they are not only being rude, they are being incredibly selfish. How would they feel if people left horrid messes in three of the four stalls in a restroom, and there was a line, and they really needed to go? How would they like it if someone came to their house and left the bathroom so foul that nobody else could use it? When I worked at the airport and found the bathroom so scandalously treated, it felt like that to me. No, it wasn't my home, but those were the facilities that I needed to use every day.

I haven't worked at the airport in many years, but the other day I needed to use the restroom at my local supermarket. It is always clean and well-stocked, but I had to flush several times before using, because the woman who was in there before me hadn't bothered to make sure the tissue flushed all of the way down. Maybe she thought that the store employed someone full-time to flush the toilets for those who simply can't be bothered? It reminded me that although the previous individual had inconvenienced me a bit, her actions were nothing compared to what I had seen before. I spent the rest of the evening thinking about whether I wanted to think of myself as a woman or a lady. The conclusion I came to was an obvious one for me. There's no reason I can't be both. I can be a strong, intelligent woman who is also a genteel, courteous lady. Caring about others is a virtue I don't want anyone to go without, but I can only control my own behaviors. I am a woman. I am a lady. I am womanlady. Or ladywoman. I haven't decided yet which one sounds better, but I know that they both feel right!



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's Shake On It

I've mentioned in the past that I spent several years working in retail. The shop I worked in sold bath and skin care products, shampoos, and makeup and fragrances. I enjoyed learning about the products and sharing my knowledge with the new staff as well as with our customers. We had shops in a very upscale shopping center, as well as a quaint shopping district, and the busiest concourse at Denver International Airport. It was a people-watching, customer-service-loving person's paradise. 

One of the firm rules of this shop's parent company was simple but sensible: the 30 Second Rule. We made every effort to greet or acknowledge everyone who entered the shop within thirty seconds of their arrival. Customers want to feel welcome but not overwhelmed, and we struck a pretty good balance that way, I think. Personally, I think that everyone, whether they come into a store to buy or just look around, deserves to be treated with the same level of courtesy. This combination resulted in many memorable encounters with people of all ages and descriptions.

One day at the airport, I turned to say hello to a gentleman some thirty or more years my senior who had just walked into the shop. He sort of waved off my greeting, saying not to pay any attention to him, it was his wife who was shopping. I gave him my most winning smile and said that it didn't matter; I just wanted him to feel welcome and comfortable in our store. I reached out my hand to give him a firm handshake, and his face broke into a stunned but happy smile. "Wow! You've got a great shake for a girl! Can I have another one of those?" I was more than happy to give the gentleman another handshake (and one or two more before he left), and he entered the store to find his wife and tell her how about much he enjoyed his greeting. I can't remember if he and his wife bought anything. All I can remember is how pleased he was to have received a proper handshake while his wife was shopping.

I sometimes think that the giving of proper handshakes is a dying social art form, which makes me really sad. The handshake is a very profound form of greeting that goes back thousands of years, perhaps even further back in time than written language. What makes me believe that it is so profound? It was a way to show someone, whether a stranger or an acquaintance, that your hand was empty of any weapons. You can't grasp someone's hand if you are holding a weapon that can kill them. The two clasped hands were a sign of peace and potential comradeship. Two people greeting one another in very close range, with hands devoid of weapons, were giving and receiving trust. I think that is pretty profound, don't you? Humans had progressed from waving from a distance to show their weaponless hands to grasping one another's hands to show mutual goodwill.

I know that there are lots of modern variations of handshakes, but I think it's very important to know the basics. A handshake is a very simple thing, really. You extend your hand at a right angle to the floor (or ground, if outdoors) with your thumb up. You simply grasp the other person's hand for a few seconds. The webbed area between your thumb and index finger should touch the same spot on the other person's hand. It's that simple. Contrary to the name, there really isn't any shaking involved. Some people will occasionally add their other hand to make for a more warm, fuzzy gesture, but it isn't necessary. 

Since I love a proper handshake, I will admit that there are a few things that bug me about some people's handshakes. And no, I am not going to say anything about sweaty hands. It happens. If your hands tend to get clammy, try and find an unobtrusive way to blot them before shaking. If you receive a handshake that is a bit clammy, act like you didn't, please! If someone is making a kind gesture, why would you want to ruin it? And ladies...having a firm handshake doesn't make you manly. It makes you womanly. And a limp handshake doesn't make you seem like a lady, it just makes you seem timid. When a woman puts her hand out for a shake  and her palm is facing the floor, to say nothing of her barely grasping the ends of my fingers, I have to fight the urge to remind her that she is not the Pope, and I am not here to kiss her ring!

A few years ago, I spent a few minutes in one of my banking customer service training classes telling a group of people who were getting higher-level training about proper handshakes. As luck would have it, on that very day, several of them were attending a luncheon with a female Senior Vice President who was visiting our call center from another state. I was so happy when they came back from their meeting bubbling over with pride and excitement. "Katrina! Mary shook everyone's hands, and we knew exactly what to do because of you! She shook just like you told us people should shake!" Yes, they were happy to have been invited to meet the senior-most person in our banking division because of their individual achievements. But they were also excited and relieved that they had learned, in just a few moments, a social and business skill that made them look and feel like the accomplished professionals that they all were.

As far as my personal handshake style - I can be delicate enough to shake with a youngster or someone whose hands are afflicted with the pain of arthritis, and I can be firm enough to shake with a well-muscled person with a really strong grasp. For those of my readers that I have never met in person, I hope some day that I will be able to grasp your hand in friendship. Just promise me that you won't act like you want me to kiss your ring, okay? Let's shake on it! 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Label Makers

Some people might say that I think too much. Another, larger, group might say I think too little, or not at all. But I see and hear things, and my mind becomes like a cow with its cud - I ruminate. I keep on chewing things over. I don't think it is a reflection of a lack of, or an abundance of, intelligence. It's just the way my mind works, I suppose. It's one of the reasons my blog is called "Ravings of a Lunatic." I tend to think deeply about things, and often think and feel passionately about things. I think it has to do with the way I had to learn to think when I was a child. I needed to be able to quickly come up with different courses of action and figure out what the possible outcomes of the actions might be. I needed to plan and prepare for the "worst-case scenarios" of my life. Who knows, perhaps this made me the type of thinker that I am today.

Anyway, I have had an unusual twenty-four hours or so. No, nothing bizarre happened. It just seems that last night and today have followed a theme. Kind of like Shark Week on tv, but without the teeth and the relentless biting. It started last night. Trent and I watched the movie 42, the amazing true story of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American to play on a major league baseball team. For both of us, the story was both inspiring and infuriating. Robinson was a great ball player and a great man who had to swallow the hate that was thrown at him on a daily basis. There were players who refused to be on the same team with him. He received numerous death threats, and was called ugly names constantly. But he persevered in spite of the ignorance and hate. I admire him greatly for it, and my heart breaks over the indignities he endured.

Today, I saw several things in my internet browsing that seemed to be tied in to this same theme of hate and ignorance. The first thing that I saw was shared by my friend Will, and was a post from someone else that he knows. It stated, fairly simply, that name-calling is childish and hurts one's credibility. He gave some examples of terms that people use when disagreeing on politics, all of which I find irritating, and which cover the spectrum from left to right. The advice given was to either think for a few seconds before just calling names, or to just keep one's thoughtlessness to oneself. Sage advice. Later on, Will shared something else that really resonated with me, and many others. It included a list of insults that many of us may have been subjected to during our lives. They weren't what you might have expected. Included in the list were words like ugly, nobody, gay, freak, and unwanted. 

It seems to me that some humans find it all to easy to think that they are superior to others. Although none of us is perfect, many of us continue to put others in categories that signify that they are less than the person who has put them in that little box. I know what it feels like to be called ugly. I have been beaten to a pulp while I was told that I was nobody, a freak, and unwanted. When I saw every female of my generation in the family get married and divorced, I decided to approach marriage with discretion rather than go through that pain myself. Because of this, some members of my family discussed whether this odd (single) duck might not be a lesbian duck. And whose business was it anyway? If I had rushed into marriage like my cousins (and suitors weren't exactly breaking down the door, remember the ugly category) and sisters, I'd have been labeled as a loser when my marriage failed, just like they were.

The point of all my ruminating today? Why do we have to put labels on each other? Does there have to be a pretty sister and a smart (read: ugly) sister? Do we need to categorize one another based on our looks, including race, weight, eye-appeal, and age? Do we have to call each other ugly names based on our sexuality, politics, or belief systems? Can't we say something like, "Don't you remember Susie? She's the woman I work with that has such a killer sense of humor," rather than, "Don't you remember Susie, that really fat lady three cubicles over from mine?" 

We will always be able to see the differences in one another. If we didn't, we couldn't tell Ralph from Larry. Here's the thing, though. Whether we are fat, tall, ugly, pretty, smart, gay, African-American, political, or whatever, we are all basically the same. Maybe if we tried harder to remember that, there would be less pain in the world. We all need food and water and safe shelter. Many of us would like to have people we care about, and who care about us, to share our life's joys and sorrows. We'd like to be valued for who we really are, not for any made-up distinctions or categories. I don't want to live my life as a Label Maker. Labels are for cartons and boxes and mailing things to the right address. Aren't people much more important than that? 



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Independence

We all have things that bother us in one way or another. Some might say that as The Meanest Woman in the World I have all sorts of things that irritate me. I prefer to say that there are many things to which I react passionately. Then, of course, we all have things that maybe don't get us all riled up, but just sort of make us cringe. Two nights ago, our friend Thayne posted something on a social network that really made me chuckle. It was a picture of several sheep that had been sheared to look like poodles in the show ring. As someone who had a poodle who never had a show ring hairstyle, I found it pretty funny. I wanted to share it on the two social networks I use, but the person who created the caption on the photo spelled one of the words incorrectly. I won't lie; I really struggled. It was funny, but in the end I just couldn't make myself share it. If I shared something with a spelling error, it would be as if I had spelled incorrectly. A friend shared it on another network the following evening, and commented that she was waiting for someone to mention the spelling error. I had to confess that I had been unable to share it myself for that very reason. It may seem silly to you, but apparently I have a spelling version of OCD.

Because it is early July, I am again dealing with one of my pet peeves. In two days it will be the anniversary of the official date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I have seen, as is usual around any holiday, numerous advertisements about sales. Almost all of them say something about "Fourth of July sale," or buying something for your "Fourth of July celebration." Okay, I'm going to say it. It bothers me. We are talking about an event unlike anything that had ever occurred in recorded history. An incredibly brave group of men committed high treason against their King. They were representing a group of colonies that were already engaged in a war to become free of what was considered a tyrannical reign from across the ocean. The Continental Congress sought to declare their reasons for rebellion, and why they felt that they had the right to form their own nation. Because it was something so monumental, they agreed that if there was even one colony that was against this action, it would be abandoned. After much argument and some concessions, the wording was agreed upon, and all of the members signed the Declaration of Independence.  We in the USA celebrate this date as the birth date of our nation. 

These facts and others, combined with my family's own history, are what make what we call this holiday a pet peeve of mine. After a failed Revolution in Hungary, my family walked out of their home country under cover of darkness. They did this to escape execution of the entire family, and they did this to seek freedom. Perhaps the fact that I was born here after such brave steps were taken by my family makes me look at things in a different way. I am a child of revolution. My pro-revolutionary father's last child was born in a country formed by revolution.

No, I don't get mad if someone wishes me a Happy Fourth. I used to call it that, too. Now that I know more about both my country and my family, I really like to call it Independence Day. I like to hear others call it Independence Day, too. I think it is important enough to honor the date by calling it by that name. If anyone asks me why, I'll tell mention a few other holidays. Do we say, "Happy December twenty-fifth?" or "Happy October thirty-first?" And I think most Veterans would shudder if we started to say, "Happy November eleventh," or "Happy Last Monday in May." If they ask, I will remind them of the brave men and women who have gone before us in history, the ones from more than two hundred years ago, and the ones in our own families. I will remind them of bravery and sacrifice and freedom. And the beautiful document, the Declaration of Independence, that helped start it all.

Happy Independence Day!