Google+ Badge

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Old School

If we hadn't needed to go the supermarket this afternoon, I would have found it a challenge to get going with writing today. It's all very simple. My husband got me a book yesterday. He saw me look at it longingly at the warehouse club, and said that we needed to buy it because he knew that I would enjoy it a great deal. I began to read it just before bedtime last night, just dipping my toes in the water, so to speak. I picked it up again this afternoon, this time diving right into the water. And it's a real book, too! Don't think for a moment that I am against electronic books, because I am not. When they first came out, I didn't much go for the idea, it's true. But now I realize that one can carry an entire and varied library in a device that weighs only a few ounces. For me, though, there will always be something special about a time like this afternoon, when I have a new book to read. Not a hardcover this time; that is an indulgence I seldom allow myself. But it is, as I said, a real book, with paper pages and ink and a cover and such. It's very Old School, and I love it.

It amused me, when I was getting ready to go to the store, having the thought that reading an actual book was old school. You see, I had already typed in a title for a new blog post a couple of days ago and saved it for later writing. You guessed it, the title was Old School. The fact that I jokingly thought of my book as being old school was just a happy coincidence, and impetus for me to sit down and write after I got home. You see, I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the term old school more in terms of actual schooling.

Education of kids up through their High School years has changed a lot from the days when I was there. Oh, yes, and walking ten miles each way, uphill and barefoot, in the snow. Okay, it wasn't that long ago, but it has been a while. Much of the basic curriculum remains the same, but there have been some changes in recent years that have some of us a bit confused.

I read a news story online a while back that addressed a mother's concerns about her daughter's education. The gist of the story was that some forms needed to filled out, I can't remember for what reason. When the forms were more or less complete, they required the signature of the parent and the student. The mother told her daughter that her signature was needed on the form by the X, and her thirteen-year-old daughter just stared at her. She had no idea what her mother was talking about. That's when she realized that her daughter was in eighth grade, and had no idea how to sign her name. 

Well, mom was pretty worried that her daughter was slipping through the cracks of the public school system. I imagine she may also have wondered why she didn't realize that her daughter had this problem. When she met with the school, Mom got an even bigger surprise. The school district was no longer teaching the students cursive writing. It was deemed an unnecessary waste of time because of all of the work that was being done on computers. Time that had previously been spent on learning to write was spent on keyboard skills. Her daughter and her schoolmates could use a computer, but they couldn't sign a check or a loan contract. In an odd and very specialized way, they were functionally illiterate.

Many of us went through drills, starting in second grade for me, where we built the skills that we needed to learn cursive writing and develop our penmanship skills. By the way, I have always thought that the word cursive sounded sort of ugly for something that can be such a lovely form of writing. I prefer saying longhand, but I doubt that it will catch on. I usually scored very well on my penmanship. Well enough, in fact, that on many occasions when my fellow students forgot to bring their signed permission slips from their mothers, the teachers encouraged them to ask me to write one out for them. I'm serious. They would do it in front of the whole class!

So those of us who went to the old school schools learned to print and then to write in cursive. We were taught basic math skills like addition and subtraction, and memorized our multiplication tables. We added, divided, computed percentages, and several other things, using only papers, pencils, and our wee wonderful brains to get the answers. Yes, I use calculators. But I have sheets of paper on which I compute various numbers for our budget and financial planning, such that it is. On the other hand, I haven't kept a checkbook register in years, and can barely recall the last time I even wrote a check. But if paying bills online went away tomorrow, I wouldn't have any problems (other than not having checks with my current address).

Many of the old school skills that we learned might be scoffed at by lots of folks who see them as no longer necessary. But if there was no internet, and there were no calculators, and the e-readers all disappeared, I'd be okay. I could figure out my accounts and bills, and if I needed some information or some reading material, I could find plenty of reference books, and leisure reading, at the local library. I can still tell time very well with a traditional watch rather than relying on my computer or cell phone to tell me that it is 6:06 p.m. 

There's more to it than that, though. I can write checks and address envelopes in decent cursive script, but I can also pen love letters or notes of sympathy or advice or motivation. I can read things written by the hands of Kings, Queens, Presidents, Inventors, Philosophers, Artists, and Poets, to name just a few. I can look at the beautiful flowing lines of ink that connect me to them directly and feel their words even more powerfully. Yes, we have access to many pieces of literature and lots of important historical documents right at our fingertips, and I find that to be almost miraculous. I love the fact that technology has made so many things so readily available, and that information is there for one and all to see and use and learn from and enjoy. But I still love the smell of a new book and the feel of the pages under my fingertips. I love to see the beautiful script and signatures of a document like the Declaration of Independence. I guess that for me, life will always be a combination of both modern and old school.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Safe Places

Today we took our car, Mae Mobley, to have her biennial emissions test. In the state of Colorado, most vehicles are required to have a test every two years to ensure that they aren't producing an excessive amount of pollutants in their exhaust. If your car doesn't pass, you can't renew your license plates until it does. Those of you who live here, or have lived here, know that our Rocky Mountains are more than tall, beautiful, and snow-capped in the winter (okay, some of them are snow-capped all year). They also act as a giant wall that does weird things to the flow of wind, air, and weather systems. This includes trapping pollutants that might otherwise be carried away on the wind. That, and the fact that we in Colorado love Nature, makes the emissions tests part of our car licensing system here.

Oh, I bet you might not even have been wondering about the emissions testing. You're still thinking, "Why is their car named Mae Mobley?" Well, for a couple of reasons, in fact. One pays homage to tradition. For many years, it was common to give a ship a female name. This sort of carried into giving female names to things ranging from World War II bomber planes (does Memphis Belle ring any bells for you?) to the family car. Second, the source of the name itself. Before we acquired her, our car was living in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi is also the setting of one of our favorite books, and a darn good movie, The Help. One of the main characters in the book, Aibileen, takes care of a little girl named Mae Mobley as part of her maid duties. Mae Mobley is a bit chunky, and she has a nearly bald patch on the back of her head, but she is a very good girl.

Mae Mobley's mother is not very affectionate with her, but Aibileen loves her little girl. "You is kind. You is smart. You is important," are the words Aibileen tells Mae Mobley every day. Like the girl in the book, our car is not the most beautiful one on the block. She is nineteen years old and spent many years in Minnesota before moving around and ending up in Mississippi, and she has a goodish amount of rust to show for it. Her clear coat keeps wanting to come off the roof. But she has taken good care of us, and she is important to us. So we decided that it would be perfect to name her Mae Mobley. She is kind. She is smart. She is important.

When we were heading out to go get Mae Mo tested, our next-door neighbor happened to come out at the same time. We chatted for a few minutes and asked her about an incident that she had with her car. Just before Thanksgiving, she got out of her car and started to carry several bags of groceries into her apartment. She planned to come back to the car to bring in a few more things, and left her car unlocked for what was supposed to be a few minutes. Well, one thing led to another, and she completely forgot about the few things in the car. When she got into her car the next day, she discovered that a couple of people had, shall we say, enjoyed the hospitality of her car. They smoked some cigarettes, leaving a few burn holes in her leather upholstery, along with some cigarette butts in the car. Someone sat on the passenger side and ate part of a sandwich, leaving about half behind as well. 

The most disturbing thing, though, was that she had left some mail in the car, and it was now opened. Whoever had been sitting in the car opened and read her bank statements. We asked today if she had changed her accounts, and she said that everything had been taken care of, and then she started to laugh. She told us that she's been checking the accounts frequently to make sure nothing strange happens, but that she keeps forgetting the new account information. What makes it worse is that she wrote all of the new information down and put it in a safe place. All three of us started laughing then. I tend to put things in safe places, too, and have been doing so for years. The only problem is that they are such safe places that I can't ever find them again, unless it's purely by accident.

Linda was relieved when we told her this. She said that she thought that it was because she was getting older and her memory wasn't as good as it used to be. I assured her that for years I've gone looking for things that I put in a safe place, and not been able to find them. Actually, about two or three months after I give up on the search, and when I no longer need the item in question, it will turn up. Usually this is on an occasion when I am looking for another item that has been left in a safe place. I will exclaim, "That's where you were when I needed you so desperately!" Then I move it to another safe place. I make sure it's a good one, a logical spot to put a whatsis, a spot where it will be easy to locate when it is needed again. Who am I trying to fool? It may never be seen again. Wow! These really are safe places!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pet People

Someone that I know through social media made a post a few months back that has had me thinking ever since. Okay, well, not non-stop, but it planted a seed in my mind that has been growing ever since. This friend has spent several years living with an adorable-looking wiener dog, and has posted many pictures of the dog in its natural habitat. The dog came into her life with her husband, and many of us have enjoyed seeing her "living the dog's life" and looking wienerdogcute as she did so. Now, the post this dear woman, S, made that gave me such food for thought had to do with said dog, H. S admitted that she has never been much of a dog lover, nor has she ever really been a lover of pets in general. 

As I recall, S did not make any judgements for or against pet lovers, just admitted that she will never really be one. Her focus is more on her relationships with other people, and on improving herself as a person, and I completely respect that. I imagine that there might be a person here or there that might have issue with what she wrote, but I could understand how living with an old, and as S described her, self-entitled dog might be a challenge even for a dog lover. H doesn't really care if she pleases anyone. She wants to sleep, covered up by a human with a blanket, be fed home-cooked food, and get up at three in the morning to be let outside. When she comes in, no matter what time of day, she expects a treat. She doesn't show much, if any, desire to give affection to humans, but wants and expects them to cater to all of her needs. As a self-admitted dog lover, I know that living with H would make me crazy, but S seemed to do it with a great deal of grace.

What made me think so much over these last few months was what S said about not ever really having that love for pets, but focusing on her relationships with people. (By the way, if you are reading this and read her original post, please forgive me if I remember any of it incorrectly. Human memory is fallible, and the error is all mine.) It made me think about a person who was a part of my life for many years, a person, who although now deceased, still haunts me in many ways. Alice was my legal guardian, along with her husband, who was my mother's cousin. Alice loved animals. During the time that I lived with her, she had numerous cats, and one dog. He was the first dog I had ever lived with, and his name was Sam. Before I knew him, I was afraid of dogs, but he was A Good Dog, and I think he sensed the kind of interaction I needed. 

After Alice sent me to live with Gram, she continued with her obsessive love of dogs and cats. I often joked with Gram that Alice had broken many a child's heart by kidnapping their beloved pets. I'm serious! A couple of years after Alice discarded me, she and Bill had a home built on their one-hundred-plus acres of land in a more rural area. When Alice came into town to do her shopping at the larger stores here, she would routinely pick up dogs and cats in her travels. I have no doubt that many of them were simply minding their own business in their own front yards, but she decided that they were strays because they weren't in a back yard or tied up. More than once I came home from school to find out that instead of taking one of the dogs to her hundred acres, she left them with Gram. It took getting to the point of having six dogs at once for Gram to finally be able to say no to Alice "giving" her any more dogs. 

Although we did the best we could for them, I don't think the dogs had the life they deserved. Some of them would fight terribly with one another, so they had to be kept in separate parts of the house. When you have that many pets, they don't seem to get all of the love and attention that they deserve. They became more of a chore than a joy. It wasn't until we were down to one dog, Lucky, that I realized how wonderful living with a dog could be. He had always had a wonderful personality, and I had always loved him. But it was great to be able to just enjoy a dog's company instead of being overrun with such an excessive number of them. I hope that doesn't sound as bad as I am afraid it might. We had more dogs than we could handle, and it was very stressful. In addition to that, we also had a neighbor who called the police and said that we were violating local laws by having too many pets. Gram could easily have been subjected to huge fines, or even incarcerated, all because of the pets Alice thrust upon her.

At her home in the country, Alice had a couple of outbuildings and kennels housing all of the stray dogs and cats she acquired. She had all of them neutered, and she cooked huge pots of warm food for them every day. And she was always on the lookout for more of them. Aside from the aforementioned stress and fear of the law, her passion for pets didn't actually harm me in any way. But I often wondered why I disliked cats so much and resented all of the dogs she foisted upon us. It took years for me to realize on a conscious level what was the root of my problem. It was because, with all of her kindness to these animals, I realized an awful knowledge about her that was hidden deep down in my mind. She cared more about these animals than she did about children or any other people. And especially that she cared more about cats and dogs in general than she ever cared about me.

One of my very intense and oldest memories of Alice had to do with her cats. I was still asleep in bed one morning when someone grabbed me by the ankles, pulled me from my bed, and dropped me on my head on the floor, yelling at me all the while. I can't tell you what was wrong, but the gist of it was that she felt that I had neglected her cats. I wasn't even awake yet and I had already done something wrong. I remember another occasion when she had run out of cat litter and had me digging up dirt in the back yard by a shed and storage area. My fingertips were cracked and bleeding from dryness and the cold weather, but that was never noticed. The cats had to be taken care of, and that was that. 

I also know that she would never have harmed a helpless pet, and I respect and admire that. But I also know that she would have willingly beaten a child to death if they made her angry, especially if the child was me. Although, as I tried to joke with Trent, that I would have made her even more angry by dying and creating more of an inconvenience to her. If you think I exaggerate, let me share this brief example. She once got angry because she didn't like the way I pronounced something. She made me get down on my knees in front of the chair she was sitting in and repeat what I had said over and over again. This was done in front of her daughters, and Liz and Gram, because we were getting ready to drive out to their piece of land in the country for the day. When she said that I could stand up and get to the car to leave, she delivered a roundhouse blow to my face that made me bounce off the sharp corner of the kitchen wall. Dazed, I went out and got in the back of the car, where Liz started screaming. There was blood running down my face from a gash in my head. Alice was furious that I had delayed her trip by requiring bandaging. She cursed at me the entire time she gave me first aid. She also told me that I should tell anyone that asked how I was hurt that I fell down. The girl next door, bless her heart, said she knew I didn't fall. But I was afraid to admit it, and argued that she was wrong.

After the years away from Alice, and away from the situations she created, I have learned that I am, indeed, an animal lover. Although they aren't my favorites, I even love cats. Dogs that I have never seen before will come up to me and lick my face, and cats that never socialize with anyone will seek me out and enjoy my attention. I have had my hands licked by both wild mountain goats and wild wolves. I am the person that will go to your house and get down on the floor and have giggles with the dogs. But I am also the person who will get down on the floor and have giggles with your children. Every child, every person, every pet, is deserving of love and safety and caring. Yes, I am a pet person, but I am also a people person.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I have never liked funerals. In fact, I tend to avoid them. The fact that I attended my first funeral at the age of seven, and that the deceased was my mother, certainly set the precedent for how I would come to feel about funerals. I remember having to look at my mother, who was dressed in a pink, filmy nightgown and had makeup on her face. That wasn't my mother! My mother never owned any item of clothing remotely resembling that gown, and never wore makeup. 

I also remember seeing our Johanna Tante, our Aunt Johanna, who was related on my mother's side of the family. Her comment to me was that I would be all right; she'd send me a doll and I would be all better. There was no doll, and it would not have made everything better. But I learned first-hand that sometimes it might be better to say nothing at all at such a time rather than saying something that is dismissive or simply makes no sense. I didn't realize at the time that I had learned it, but I knew it later in life.

Yes, I've gone to some funerals over the years, and experienced various emotions and thoughts associated with them. There was Joe's funeral, when the priest asked if anyone wanted to share some thoughts about him, and nobody did. It wasn't the family's way, I guess, but it made me quite sad for him. And of course, there was Gram's funeral, the funeral of the woman who was essentially my mother. The funeral at which she was dressed in dirty clothes. The funeral at which some of her family members turned their heads the other way when Liz and I walked past the receiving line, or whatever it is called officially at funerals.

Trent and I recently went to a funeral for someone we have known for several years. We also know Lee's wife and some of his children and grandchildren, and consider them to be precious friends. It was important for us to go and show our support, respect, and love for the family. I can't speak for Trent, but I am very glad that we went. I can't believe I am saying this, but it was a beautiful experience. There were hundreds of people there to say farewell to a wonderful man.

Lee was eighty-eight years old, and had spent the last eight years of his life living with Alzheimer's. His lovely wife, children, and grandchildren saw him change over the years as his memories and health were ravaged by this illness. There was a beautiful thing that everyone would have noticed right away at this gathering. His wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, although suffering from loss of their beloved family member, had expressions of joy on their faces. Their father, husband, grandpa was no longer suffering.

During the funeral, each of Lee's seven children spoke about their father. One of his daughters briefly told the story of his life. He was a kind and generous man who enriched the lives of many others. His other daughter told about many things she had learned from him. She talked of his large, strong hands that worked on a farm, changed diapers, washed dishes, and could squirt geysers of water in the swimming pool. No one else, in the family or out of it, could do it the same way he day did. There were stories of how he wrote poetry for his wife all of the years of their life together. How he always called his older daughter on the week of his wife's birthday, or some other special occasion, to go shopping with him to buy her a gift. And how he would act like she had no idea what they were up to. 

Lee was born and grew up on a farm in this area, a farm that he eventually bought from his father. After deciding he didn't care much for milking cows, he got a Realtor's license. Eventually he bought the office he worked for, and it became a true family business. He would come into his brother's office and say, "What's new?" This became a catchphrase among the family at work. After he became unable to drive, his sons took turns taking him in to the office. One day, one of his sons went into dad's office and said, "What's new, dad?" Lee shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said, "I don't remember."

Although he was a busy man, he made time for his children and all of their sporting and social events. All of his children said that they never heard him raise his voice in anger. They remembered riding on the tractor, and getting crawdads out of the irrigation ditches. They spoke of his capacity for fun, and told of how he would drive out on the ice on their lake and try to make the vehicles spin in circles. How he came down to the same lake in the summer while his kids and their friends were water-skiing and wanted to join in on the fun. He was fully dressed in his overalls as he was doing farm work that day, and had no swimsuit. He got in the water fully dressed, took a turn on the water skis, and got back in his truck, dripping wet, to go and do some more work.

After his funeral, Lee was laid to rest about 1500 feet from where he was born. His family and his community will long treasure their memories of this truly great man. He raised a family, he helped improve the local school district, and he created scholarship funds, among other accomplishments. Most of all, he was simply a genuinely decent person who loved his family and loved his fellow man. He never considered himself to be better than anyone, or too good to perform and chore or task. He taught his family the value of love, family, hard work, and helping others. What a great legacy from a great man. So for all of the warm memories everyone who knew him will have, I quote Lee and say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Don't Know

Because my guardians wanted it that way, and because they were footing the bill, when I began my college education it was at a Community College. These are also commonly called Junior Colleges or two-year-program colleges. Whatever you call them, they are filled with an interesting mix of students. I rather enjoyed, when I started classes there, being with students who ranged in age from my teens to grandparents. There were parents going back to school, and people who were working hard to get through school while supporting themselves, as well as people from various countries.

One of my favorite fellow students was a delightful older woman who was from France. She had a lovely accent, which I think may have drawn me to be friendly with her. Or it could be that her accent reminded me of the wonderful French actor Charles Boyer, who knows? Seriously, though, I imagine it has something to do with spending the first several years of my life surrounded by adults who all had different accents. My parents, obviously, since they were Hungarians who also spoke German and English. The owners of the duplex in which we lived were German, and the neighborhood was a veritable United Nations. Within less than half a block there were Chinese, Irish, Puerto Ricans and African-Americans. 

So when I met this Frenchwoman, I'll call her Jeanne, in my History class, we became friendly very quickly. Sometimes I would ask her what the French names were for various things, and I have to admit that when she called the Xerox machine la machine, for example, it just sounded so lovely. I had an experience when asking her what a French phrase meant that gave me a great opportunity to embarrass myself, though. Everyone's got to have some sort of talent, right? At times, I've thought putting my foot in my mouth was one of mine. Let's see what you think.

One day after classes, I had gone home and read part of Gram's Reader's Digest magazine which had come in the mail that week. There was a section of the magazine that had funny stories and jokes. As usual, this was one of the first sections I read. This particular story was about someone's trip to Paris. He went into the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is absolutely enormous. If you're not familiar with cathedrals, they are often shaped like a cross. Each part of the cross is large enough to be an individual chapel, so it's possible for there to be many types of services all going on at the same time. In this story, a man had exactly that sort of experience. He went into one chapel and there was a baby being baptized. He asked someone who the baby was, and was told, "Je ne sais pas." In the next chapel, there was a wedding. Again, he asked someone who was being married, and was told, "Je ne sais pas." He made his way into a third chapel, where there was a funeral in process. When he asked whose funeral it was, he was again told, "Je ne sais pas." He replied, "Wow, he didn't last very long, did he?"

Now, for most people, it would be enough to just laugh at the man for not speaking any French and thinking that je ne sais pas was a name. But not for Katrina. Yes, I knew that the story was funny, but I just had to know what je ne sais pas meant. You never know, it might have made the story even funnier. So the next day before History class, I had to find out from my friend Jeanne. I told her that I had read a story that used the line je ne sais pas, and could she tell me what it meant, please? When she replied, "I don't know," apparently my brain was not firing on all cylinders. "But, Jeanne, you're French," I answered. "Why don't you know?" Jeanne was very patient with me and explained that je ne sais pas meant I don't know. Needless to say, I felt about as brilliant as the person in the original story. I managed to laugh at myself about it, because I realized that everyone can answer questions differently. And I guess it's always good for me to be reminded that there's a lot that je ne sais pas!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

An Elevator Ride And A FAB Dress

It was the beginning of another work day. Trent and I stopped at the restaurant in the lobby of our building to pick up some breakfast to eat at our desks and headed over to the elevators. Although there were several elevators going up to our tower of the building, their response time was not very fast, so when I saw that one was getting ready to depart, I stuck my arm in to keep the doors from closing. There was one other person in the elevator, and even though we apologized for the (all of ten seconds) delay, he was visibly upset that we had made him wait. And when I say visibly angry, I mean that he was almost trembling with fury, as well as cursing and mumbling on the ride.

When the elevator stopped on his floor, I was overcome with a mixture of smart-aleckiness and genuine good wishes. I wanted him to have an improvement in his day, and I wanted to give him an opportunity to hit his attitude reset button. So I cheerily said as he departed, "I hope you have a really great day!" He turned on his heel and shouted, "I hope you do, too, you fat-a$$ b!tch!" Trent hollered, "Hey!" and tried to go after him, but I stopped him. It wasn't advisable or necessary. 

When I told my co-workers about what happened, they were adamant that I needed to call Human Resources or the person's manager and complain about his outburst, because I was a victim of workplace harassment. I called someone I knew who worked on the floor where he was working and described his attire, which was black trousers and a black-background flowered shirt. She found out what his name was and, as I recall, connected me with his manager. I went about my business and started to train my class. At one point, I looked up and saw a man standing in the doorway wearing black trousers and a flowered shirt. For a moment, I was almost paralyzed with fear. Luckily, it was someone making a food delivery and not the angry employee, but my reaction told me that if his anger was intense enough to leave me in fear, it was important that I had notified his manager.

At the time of the incident, I did not have a local manager. Our department had downsized, and the closest person I had in a management position was in Minnesota. In other words, I was on my own. Later in the day, I was contacted by someone in HR and asked to attend a meeting with Angry Man's manager and their HR representative. This was fine with me. I let my upper-level manager know what was going on, and went into the meeting. 

The manager in question told me that she had discussed the incident with Angry Man, who was employed through a temporary agency. He told her that I had egged him on by saying what I did. Right. She made me do it. Isn't that one of the oldest excuses in the world? She also mentioned that he had never been in any trouble. And then I spoke. Although I was hurt and angry because I felt like I was being told that everything was my fault, I spoke calmly, and almost eloquently. I freely admitted that my comment to him was delivered with mixed feelings, but that I did, indeed, want him to have a nice day. Then I offered some food for thought. What if I had been a customer on her way to a meeting? Even worse, what if I happened to be someone who was on the brink of suicide because she was so terribly upset about her weight? 

I continued. As a trainer of newly hired employees, one of my responsibilities at that time was to stress the importance of understanding what constituted workplace harassment, as well as stressing the company's zero-tolerance policy regarding workplace harassment. Was I not training what the company believed? Should I discontinue telling my trainees that the bank would not tolerate abusive, harassing behavior, the very type of behavior to which I had been subjected that very morning? Additionally, if Angry Man had such a volatile temper that a delay of his elevator was enough for him to violently explode, was he someone that we really felt safe having in our building? He was obviously furious even before Trent and I had our encounter with him.

The manager and the HR representative looked at one another and agreed with all of the points I made. I am not vindictive. If the person in question was an employee, I would have wanted him to have some much-needed HR training. But since he was not technically an employee of the bank, he would not be losing his job. He was simply no longer welcome to work at our bank. The manager expressed that she would love to have me working in her department, which was a wonderful compliment. I went back to my office feeling that I had done something important that day. I had refused to be victimized by Angry Man, or further victimized by a failure of the system. And through it all, I retained my composure and my integrity.

The dress I wore to work that day was one of my favorites. It was a long, and very comfortable, t-shirt style dress with red at the top, a band of white, and then navy blue down to the bottom. Every time I looked at that dress after that incident, though, I thought of it as my FAB dress, the dress I wore when I was called a fat-a$$ b!tch  by someone who was uncontrollably and violently angry. I only wore it a couple of times after that, because the association was always in my mind, and always bothered me. It made me both happy and sad. Happy because the bank stood behind me, but sad that I had encountered someone who was so full of anger and hate that a ten-second delay made him start cursing and screaming. In retrospect, I realize that I was fortunate that he didn't come completely unhinged and harm either Trent or me. Needless to say, I no longer own the dress. I wasn't able to separate it from the event in my mind. But I kept my self-respect and my knowledge that my company would protect staff by doing the right thing. That was what was most important.

Note: Someone being abusive or violent to you in the workplace is not okay. Sometimes a person who behaves this way is on the path to a tragically violent outburst. If you have an encounter with a fellow employee that is inappropriate or frightens you, notify someone in management or HR as soon as possible to protect yourself and others.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

La Gioconda

I fear that I may become infamous for this. Like many people, something happens that makes me remember another thing, or dwell on an idea. Before long, another blog post has been written. Such is the case with the post you are reading right now, in fact. It is interesting to me that yesterday, two different people that I know on two different social networks posted things that were closely related to one another. On one social network, a post was made of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci of hands, along with a link to some little-known facts about the artist. When I looked at another social network, a friend had posted a spoofed version of da Vinci's Mona Lisa, as well as the original. 

I'd like to take a moment to share a few bits of information with you about Mona Lisa. The painting is known by many names, including La Joconde in French and La Gioconda in Italian, but the most famous and widely recognized name is Mona Lisa. Mona Lisa is simply a shortened version of the Italian for my lady (ma donna) Lisa, referring to Lisa del Giocondo, whose husband Francesco commissioned the painting. The portrait was painted between 1503 and 1506 on poplar wood, and is about thirty by twenty-one inches, or 77 cm by 31 cm. 

Seeing these posts triggered several memories, because the Mona Lisa has become very special to me. All of my life, I had seen photographic reproductions of the Mona Lisa when studying art in school, or when I looked at art books or prints on my own. When I saw the photos, I thought that it was a very nice painting, but couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. People would go on and on about how beautiful she was, and I just didn't understand why. I thought of it as a very marvelous painting, but I didn't get what all of the fuss over the lady was about.

I thought at times that perhaps it was that I just really didn't understand art. I love a wide variety of art, though, and I know that likes and dislikes of art can be very subjective and personal. I appreciated the detail in the painting, and da Vinci's abilities, but I still tended to think of it as a great painting of a woman who was, after all, just a woman. She wasn't breathtakingly beautiful, nor was she hideous. She did have an intriguing expression on her face. That was about the gist of my feelings.

When my sister Liz, my friends Marie and Julie, and I were planning the trip we took to Hungary and Paris, Julie and I began to talk about visiting the Louvre. She asked if I had ever seen the Mona Lisa, which, of course, I hadn't. Her face took on a studied almost-too-casual look as she told me that we'd talk more about it after we had gone to the museum. This was in the back of my mind leading up to our visit to the Louvre, but I didn't press the subject. It had been sort of a Forrest Gump moment with Julie, with her all but saying, "That's all I want to say about that."

Then the day arrived. Since she is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world, Mona Lisa must be protected. She rests behind thick bullet-proof glass. There are barriers that prevent anyone even getting close enough to touch the glass, so one can only view the painting from several feet away among throngs of people. And then I saw her from across the room. All of my previous feelings about her melted away in an instant. The painting was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The lady in the picture almost seemed to be lit from within, as if she were alive and could walk across the room at any moment. She was the lady that you might see from across the room at a social gathering and think, "She looks like the most interesting person here. I wish I knew her." I looked at Julie and she knew. I had seen the lady as she really was, and I loved her. Afterward, I learned that Julie's experience was pretty much the same as my own. She had never really appreciated the lady until she really saw her. Copies in any form will likely never be able to do justice to this amazing work of art, and I'll forever treasure the opportunity I had to see her.

Needless to say, it is difficult to put into words what da Vinci did so wonderfully with his paints and brushes. I am happy that I had two reminders yesterday of how deeply his work touched me. I also humbly apologize if my words failed to convey those feelings to you. Let me leave you, then, with a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Wishes For The New Year

Yes, I know it's the third of January already. I also know that if I had written this on the first, many people would have been preoccupied with spending time with family or friends, which is as it should be, and would not have had the time or inclination to read my post. I have been thinking a lot in the last several days about what I would wish for the new year to bring to my family and friends, and to the people I don't know, for that matter. So here are a few wishes for all of us for this new year, in no particular order.

A wish for health. I know from personal experience how precious good health can be. When I was younger and in wonderful health, I didn't realize how fortunate I was. Then my health failed me. I learned what it was like to feel unwell a lot of the time, and how frustrating it can be to be at the mercy of a body that isn't consistently healthy and reliable. I know that I can deal with a lot more than I ever imagined. I also know that genuinely wishing someone good health is one of the best gifts that you can give them. No, it may not make any difference to their general condition, but it definitely shows that you care.

A wish for plenty. I've philosophized about this subject in previous blog posts. Does this mean I wish that all of us had loads of money? Not really. It just means that I wish all of us enough to fill our needs, with a bit left over. I hope that we will all be able to afford tasty and healthy foods to eat. I wish that none of us will have to worry about being able to pay for a place to lay our heads and call our home. I hope that we will all be able to keep that home warm or cool enough to be cozy, and have a place to wash our clothes and dishes and bodies. For me, feeling rich is about being able to do these things and still being able to have a little splurge or treat from time to time, like going to a movie, or buying a book, or some other thing that tickles my fancy.

A wish for peace and understanding. We all have different experiences and personalities and needs. I wish that all of us can have peace within ourselves, and peace with others. Understanding that all of us are different, but also essentially the same. We may look or act differently, but we all have the same basic human needs. May we all be able to love our fellow man.

A wish for happiness. I don't think this requires much explanation. The truth of the matter is that most people's lives lie somewhere on the spectrum between a Disney movie and one on the Lifetime Movie Network. We all experience sorrows and joys and triumphs and losses. I hope that all of us can weather our storms, and that they are minor ones, and still have joy. I hope we can also bring joy to the lives of others.

So there you have it. I wish you health, happiness, peace, and plenty. Let's all have a wonderful new year!