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Friday, May 29, 2015

Memory Lane

Listen carefully, my dearest readers, and learn from my experiences. If you go to the supermarket in your husband's old t-shirt and without taking a shower before you leave, you will most likely run into someone you know and haven't seen for years. On the other 99% of your shopping trips and errand-running, when you are freshly showered and your hair is nicely arranged, you will only see nameless strangers. It's true, I tell you, and it happened to me just today.

We decided on the spur of the moment to run out to do some pre-weekend shopping. We had been out earlier but decided after we got home and ate dinner that we should have taken better advantage of some excellent sales we had seen. Not wanting to go out among the weekend shoppers, we jumped in the car and hit the road. 

After perhaps ten minutes at our first stop, we were ready to purchase our items and head for our second stop. As I glanced at the person in front of us, who was ready to pay, I realized I knew her. "Do I know you? Jessica?" I asked. "Katrina?!" was her answer. Yes, this was someone I had last seen at least ten years ago when I was training customer service at a bank call center. Her face lit up as she recognized me. It really touched my heart to hear her say that she still talked about me all of the time, and that I had been her favorite trainer even though I had only been in her class for four days. 

We spoke for a few minutes, and I found that she was still working for the bank, along with some of my other former trainees. I told her to feel free to say hello to those who were still there, especially one person that she mentioned by name. Without thinking, I also said that if she saw my former manager, she did not need to tell her that I said hello. I then apologized in case she and J were friends, and she quickly assured me that she never saw her, and that J was no longer in the training department.

I explained briefly that when I had gone on a leave of absence due to depression (along with PTSD and anxiety) and called J to tell her I was going on leave and why, her response had been, "Get over it!" Jessica was also surprised to find out that J had allowed a rumor to circulate that I was no longer at the bank because I was dying of cancer. In her mind, the lie that I was dying of cancer was more acceptable than the truth that I was so weak as to suffer from mental illness. She actually told me that she didn't let anyone know why I was on leave because it was too embarrassing. Never mind that all of the things I had survived through the years didn't bring me down until she heaped so much stress and work on me that I broke under the strain.

After this brief encounter with a wonderful person who was so kind as to honor me with such great praise, I was filled with a jumble of thoughts and emotions. As we got in the car, I told Trent that it just figured that I would run into someone I knew when I looked terrible! It was wonderful, though, to know that I had left positive feelings and memories behind in the people that had come through my training classes. I told Trent that it made me a bit sad, because I knew that when I had the time and opportunity to prepare for my classes, I knew that I had been a good trainer. When I was in the training room, I knew my stuff and I was in my element.

Trent said that he knew that I was a great trainer, and that he was really proud of me and my earlier manager, Linda, when there had been some silliness regarding him taking an advanced training class. Someone had gotten the idea that since he was married to me, I couldn't train him without being biased. They had him scheduled for the class but removed him from the roster when they found out that I was to be the trainer. Linda was furious. She told all of the training staff that she had spoken with an upper-level manager who questioned whether we could or should be in the class together. Linda assured the manager that she had no doubts about my integrity or Trent's, and that I would never give him preferential treatment. She announced to the trainers that until Trent went through the uptraining, I would be the only one to run these classes. If need be, she would announce that J was training and then change the training roster at the last minute. Trent was in the very next class.

I am glad for all of the time that I was able to help others through training them to do their jobs. It still bothers me that something that I loved so much proved to be my undoing. Toward the end of my time in the position, I was put into class after class with no time at all for preparation. One of my colleagues at another site told me in a telephone conversation that for every hour in the classroom, I should be allowed two hours of prep time. I was not allowed any prep time whatsoever. After spending four weeks of training eight hours a day, five days a week, I would start another class the next day. My body and brain were breaking down from the sheer stress and exhaustion. On top of that, there were some issues related to our other trainer, but that's another story. My husband was having some serious health issues as well. After surviving things like my mother's murder and years of physical and mental abuse, it was the job that finally broke me.

The trip down memory lane this evening obviously gave me mixed feelings. Although it made me remember some of the bad, overall the memories were good. I was able to hear that I had been a positive part of someone's life, and that made me remember the satisfaction of being able to do something I loved, and do it well. Even though it ended unhappily, there's nothing that can erase the great parts of my experience. Thanks to seeing Jessica today, I was able to realize that.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sensational

I think maybe I am a bit on the boring side. Not to say that I can't hold my own in a conversation, or often give at least as good as I get in a battle of the wits. I am moderately well-read and strive to deliver at least passable writing. But I say again: I think maybe I am a bit boring.

I can surrender to flights of fancy. I am more than willing and able, maybe even prone to, spend time dreaming of things I would love to do if I had the means or the stamina or the time. I haven't daydreamed of something fun or exciting in at least fifteen minutes because I am trying to be serious right now. 

Here's why I say I am a bit boring. I can sling verbal fertilizer with the best of them (AKA I can sling BS like a champ), and have often done so when it was required of me. I have, in my past, enraptured many a professor of literature by picking up the ball, running with it, and scoring a touchdown when they started discussing the hidden symbolic meanings in various pieces of literature. I freely admit that many times I did so while thinking that the symbolism was deep and amazing, and then silently wondering if we were silly and wrong. "Maybe a horse is just a horse. Maybe this cowboy is just dying in a desert canyon because sometimes bad stuff happens. Maybe the author wasn't trying to write about how the horse is a symbol of the cowboy's lost, and last, chance at freedom. Maybe it's just a terribly sad story about a cowboy who had an accident after he rode into a treacherous canyon trying to catch wild mustangs. Maybe this time the mustangs won. Maybe the author is laughing his head off at the deep symbolism we're inventing here." Yes, I have a fanciful, emotional, sensitive side. Suddenly, out of nowhere, sensibility rears its (ugly? practical? sensible?) head. 

When I was in a composition class in High School, my teacher advised me to take a creative writing course. Why? Not because she had some idea that I would be a fiction-writing genius. She suggested it because my writing was, and I quote, "Too concise." This was the first time I had ever heard of this being a problem. To paraphrase the marvelous actor and song-and-dance man James Cagney, I looked the other fella in the eye and told him the truth. Very practical, but apparently just telling the truth is not enough.

And yes, something I have been seeing lately is what inspired me to write all of this. Have you noticed some of the internet headlines/introductions to stories or videos lately? They all seem to follow a formula that promises something that the story can seldom deliver. I saw one in the news feed on a social media site that said, "He put a hard boiled egg in a glass. What happened thirty seconds later had me speechless." Those are not the exact words, but they certainly are the same flavor. So, the gist of the brief article and the video I did not watch? A man drops a hard boiled egg in a glass, shakes it really hard, and then the pulverized shell is rinsed off. I would have called it "A new and easy way to peel a hard boiled egg." See? Boring!

Suddenly I noticed this type of headlines for stories about everything from reading a story to schoolkids to plastic surgery disasters. "Stars who are aging terribly. Number nine will shock you!" These are often accompanied by photos that have absolutely nothing to do with the story. There might be a photo of Sally Superstar, your favorite actress, whom you find fascinating. The closest the article comes to Sally S. is that many of the people mentioned live and work in Hollywood just like Sally. Of course, the headline can't hold a candle to the ridiculous content. You exit the article in disgust when they say that Brigitte Bardot is looking really bad for her age. They neglect to mention her age, which is eighty. You grumble in disgust that you have just wasted three minutes of your life that you will never get back. You say that if you live to be eighty and look even half as lovely as Ms. Bardot, you'll be incredibly happy. (By the way, I was not shocked because I didn't hang around for number nine.)

Now it seems that I am seeing these sensationalist headlines (my Gram would call them come-ons) everywhere I turn. I long for the day when I see a headline that says, "Look at the way these students manage to capture a stray dog in desperate need of help," or "Pictures of starlets then and now." Okay, I just read those. Nobody is going to click on these stories! I'm boring! Or maybe that's just a new way to say I'm honest. Oh, and concise.


Monday, May 18, 2015

I Wish I Had A Dollar!

Here's what happens: you're sitting in your car waiting for the red light to turn green. The person next to you, who is not in the left turn lane, is inching forward, eager to get going. The left turn light switches from red to green and the eager driver starts forward, catching themselves just before they get too far into the intersection. You heave a sigh of relief for two reasons. One is that you weren't the one who jumped the gun, and the second (and most important) is that there was no accident.

That's sort of what happened the other day and inspired me to write this post. We were sitting at a red light, surrounded by people who kept inching forward, eager for the light to change to green. I wondered which car was going to bolt into the intersection when the turn light went green. Suddenly I was chuckling to myself and thinking that I wished I had a dollar for every time I almost jumped the gun in the same way. I'm sure I'd have a few several a bundle of dollars. I think it's just human nature to get lost in your thoughts from time to time. Unfortunately if you do it behind the wheel of a car, you might catch the flash of green from the turn light and think it's your turn to fly on down the road. Luckily, though, almost all of the time we catch ourselves before any problems arise.

It reminded me of when I first started driving. I was very ill-equipped to handle a car. I wasn't allowed to get my driving permit until a week before my eighteenth birthday, and it expired a week later on that birthday. With only a week of learning under my belt, I was forced to take the written test (100%) and then get in the car with a stranger and take the driving portion of the test. As I feared, I failed miserably. Although it was a very unpleasant experience for me and I cried a lot, it really shouldn't have surprised anyone that a couple of hours behind the wheel was not enough time to learn how to drive.

When I began driving, it was a very stressful experience. Again, no surprise, considering my lack of training. It was the weird things that can happen when you're driving that surprised me the most. I distinctly remember a time when I took Gram through the drive-through at her bank. There were several lines of cars waiting for their opportunity to get their turn. I sat and chatted with Gram while we gradually got closer to the front of the line. Suddenly I felt like there was something wrong with my car. It was rolling backward! I said to Gram that my car was rolling backward while I slammed on the brakes, trying to stop myself from having an accident. Gram said nothing, but she knew it was just some variation on vertigo or something. The car next to me had rolled forward and convinced my brain that my car was rolling back. My body even felt the movement! That's another thing I wish I could have the dollars for. Although for the sheer discombobulation involved, I think those incidents should have a value of five dollars each. Especially since they are a slightly rarer occurrence.

There's a heap of other things that I wish I could have a dollar for. One is something I have suffered from for years, the "I thought about doing it, so it must already be done" syndrome. Luckily for me, this has a much smaller impact on me these days than it did in the pre-computer era. I really do wish I had a dollar for every time I thought about writing a check and mailing it to pay a bill. Sometimes the check was not written, and others the check was written and put in a stamped envelope and languished in my purse for a day or three. Thank goodness for online bill payments!

Not all of the wish I had a dollars are for bad things, though, and I am obviously using the word bad very lightly. These things I've described are not by any means horrible, and the truly bad things that have happened to me are most certainly worth more than a dollar each. But I also wish I had a dollar for every time I saw something in a movie or television show that had this I-am-the-meanest-woman-in-the-world-but-am-tender-hearted-nonetheless crying. Between that and weeping until the top of my shirt was soaked with tears at a book I was reading, I think I might be able to take a nice vacation. If you added the times I cried when I was overwhelmed by beauty, an example being my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, I could also afford to eat while on this vacation. And even order dessert.

If I had a dollar for every time my heart leapt with joy at the beauty of a blue sky filled with brilliantly white clouds or almost beat out of my chest at dark, forbidding grey ones? If I had a dollar for every time I was enchanted by the blossoms on trees in spring and the birds flying above them singing to their mates? My sheer delight at seeing a squirrel close enough to be able to tell that she was still a nursing mother? Seeing a magnificent swan swimming on a pond in Florida? Hearing a beautiful song or the voices of people I care for or love? If I had a dollar for all of the beautiful moments that this life continues to give me, I would be able to do so many things to help others. I'd be able to feed children and adults and save puppycats and kittydogs and make the world an even more beautiful place.

I don't have a dollar for all of the things I have described, but I do have a heart and mind that are full of these experiences. If I try very hard, maybe I can make the world a more lovely place for the others around me by sharing them. And, when I am able, helping someone who really wishes they had a dollar.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bitterness

I have been struggling for the last couple of weeks about whether or not I should write this post. I've bared my soul in a number of ways in past blog posts. I've shared my feelings about various subjects and told you about happy things, horrible things, and all sorts of stuff in between. When I open up about things, whether it's catching a fit of giggles over something or sharing something unpleasant from my past, I potentially open myself up to judgement and criticism. A reader might look at something I have written and decide that I am unkind or silly or even a big crybaby. That's why it's been hard to decide to write this piece. But perhaps writing about something that causes me shame will help me make peace with the feelings I experienced. 

A few weeks ago, we were having Sunday dinner with our friends Marie and Thayne. Marie is going back to school in an attempt to get the Bachelor's degree she didn't get when she was younger. We began talking about her schooling, not in depth, but more about how it makes her feel good to be doing something she wished she had done years ago. The conversation took a turn to things we wished we had done differently when we were younger. Of course, it's always very easy to look back with the knowledge we have gained with years and experience and say that we should have done x or y or z. The old saying about hindsight being twenty-twenty exists for a reason - it's true.

Marie expressed that she wished she had gone away to school instead of taking courses at a local college. She also regretted her ignorance, in those days, about the availability of scholarship programs. Before any of my younger readers scoff at this, I'd like to remind you that in those days, we didn't have computers on which to look up all of this wonderful information. I think many of us learned about scholarships and such from the adults around us, whether parents or other relatives, or teachers and counselors at school.

I agreed that I had also been quite ignorant about scholarships myself. I knew that scholarships were out there, but I was naive enough to think that if you were one of the top few students in your school, scholarships were offered to you. Seeing that in black and white is almost laughable, but I had no way of knowing any better. 

Before I knew it, I was very angry about what had happened in my life in the High School and post-High School years. I shared with the others that I had been fortunate enough to score in the top two percent nationwide of the PSAT/NMSQT, along with only one other person from my school. I took the test because it was supposed to be good practice for the SAT/ACT testing that was to happen later. I knew that the first set of letters meant Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, but it wasn't until another student mentioned it that I learned that it was also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

I didn't tell the others about how the other student and I found out about our achievement. We were in our normal classes when someone was sent from the Principal's office with a pass requiring us to go there. I was petrified. Mr. Rhoda was a former football player with so many muscles that his arms and neck were like tree trunks. When Liz was in High School, he was the Dean of Boys. He once broke up a fight in the cafeteria by picking up the two boys in question by their shirt collars and carrying them out of the cafeteria! We two girls were petrified. We were given certificates or something and Mr. Rhoda told us how proud he was of our achievement. We were mostly relieved that we were not in any trouble with this (gentle) giant!

Anyway, as a result of my score on this test, I received a great number of solicitations from colleges and universities across the country. I am not exaggerating when I say that I received several each week. There were glossy brochures and descriptions of programs and campuses from across the United States. Some were small private schools, and some were larger Universities. One thing that they all had in common, though, was that they were all institutions that it would have been an honor and a privilege to attend. They all had excellent programs and provided the best in education. 

Each time I received one of these thick envelopes I would show it to Gram and say that I had gotten a letter from such-and-such school. It was made pretty clear to me that I would not be going to any of these schools, so it made no sense for me to waste my time looking at them. Most of the names of the schools have faded from my memory, but one remains crystal-clear. One of the schools that wanted me to consider them was Johns Hopkins. Yes, you read that correctly. Johns Hopkins University asked me to consider choosing them for my continuing education. I don't know if Bill and Alice would have been able to afford to send me to one of these hallowed halls of higher learning, but part of me suspects they might have been able to do so.

Here's where my anger kicked in during the conversation. As I said, I didn't share with the others most of the details I have shared with you now. I simply told them that I had been contacted by numerous quality schools including Johns Hopkins. I would never have been supported in any desire to go to one of these schools because they were away. I had been raised in an environment in which I couldn't even sleep over at my own cousin's house because only tramps didn't sleep in their own bed at night. Going to a non-local school was not open to discussion.

And I now know that I couldn't have gotten a scholarship if I tried. Whether it was intentional or not, Alice had made sure of that. I was not allowed to be involved in any extracurricular activities whatsoever. After all, if I joined the choir, for example, they would sometimes take overnight trips. And that made them a bunch of tramps. No extracurricular activities = no scholarships, guaranteed. I am glad that I was too dumb to know that at the time because it would have made me even more miserable than simply knowing that Alice didn't want me going to school anywhere that I wouldn't be able to return home to go to bed.

As I sat and spoke about this, I grew more and more angry. I was upset and embarrassed at my anger, but I couldn't stop the flow of my feelings. I had poured myself a large, steaming-hot cup of bitterness. Whether I liked the taste or not, I was compelled to drink every drop. I mentioned that I couldn't even join the choir without being considered a tramp. Trent, bless him, tried to lighten the atmosphere by mentioning in a jolly tone that he had been a Boy Scout, and they went on lots of overnight trips. Then he must have been a really big tramp by their standards, I told him. 

I felt like I was being a foul and spiteful whiner. The cup of bitterness had been drained and I pushed it away. I said that I was sorry that I was being bitter and strove to change the subject. The truth is, I was not just embarrassed at my strong emotions, I was surprised by them. All of those years had gone by without me consciously realizing how much all of this had hurt me. The whole world, which should have been wide open to me, was like a closed book in a section of banned titles. All of the opportunities that had been kept from me had boiled up into a cup of bitterness tea. I drank it and wallowed in it with great shame. I hope very much not to do it again.



Saturday, May 9, 2015

Honoring My Mother - Revamp Series, Number One*

Many of you have been with me for quite a long time, and some of you may be reading my blog for the first time. You may not know that my mother died six weeks after my seventh birthday. I essentially lost both of my parents at that time since my father was imprisoned for beating her so severely that it resulted in her death two days later. It was a very formative experience for me. Not only did our family break apart, with the four children ending up in three different places; it scared and scarred all of us in different ways. As the years passed, I was shocked to realize how little I remembered from my childhood. I believe that sometimes the brain realizes that the trauma that is almost too much to bear, so it hides the memories very deep. The problem with this is that in some cases, the good things are forgotten along with the bad. In spite of this, I still do remember some things about my Mama.

A very strong memory is one that dates back to when I was four years old. My mother was sitting watching the tv (during the day!) and there was some kind of parade going on. It wasn't a fun parade, though. Everyone was dressed in black, and most of the people were crying. There was even someone walking next to a horse that was wearing a saddle and had boots in the stirrups that were facing backward. Mama was crying, too. I don't think I was used to seeing her cry, so I was scared and confused. I asked her what was wrong and she simply said that a very good man had died. It wasn't until years later that I realized that we had been watching the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. Although it is a sad memory, it is still precious. That day, I saw her in a way that children don't always get a chance to experience. Her emotions were raw, deep, and pure, and because of my youth and inexperience, I wasn't able to appreciate it until years later.

One emotion I fully understood was when when Mama got angry about something. I had been given a Mister Potato Head toy, and was enjoying putting the diffent facial features on his plastic potato body. While I was watching tv, a commercial came on that showed kids playing with their Mister Potato Heads. But they were using real potatoes! I got excited and ran to the kitchen to ask Mama for a potato to play with. I suspect my Mama may have thought for a moment that her youngest child was an idiot. She half-yelled at me that in this house, potatoes were food, not toys. We didn't have enough money to play with food! Food was for eating, not playing! I never asked her for food to play with after that. When my oldest sister Margit shared one of her memories with me years later, it made more sense. She said that once Mama had thrown her hands up in the air and told her, "I'm tired of this. You see if you can figure out how to feed six people with one potato." I don't think I need to say any more than that for you to understand why she was so upset with me.

The back of the house we lived in had sort of a utility area that was all walled and roofed but held a variety of things, including Mama's washing machine. It did run on electricity, but that was about as fancy as it got. It was barrel-shaped and had a cork on the bottom to drain the wash water, along with a hand-cranked wringer on the top. Mama would put some clothes in the soapy water, wring them out, and put them in a bathtub full of rinse water while she washed more clothes. The washing machine could be seen from the alley at the end of the back yard. One day, a man driving down the alley on a horse-drawn wagon told me to ask my mother if she wanted to sell the machine. Being an obedient child, I did what this adult told me to do. Mama was absolutely furious! She started yelling in Hungarian that it was a very good washing machine and she was not going to sell it to any junk man! I didn't have to translate this into English. The man on the wagon only had to hear her tone to know he needed to go away, and quickly. I doubt that he ever came back to our house again.

There are other fleeting memories, lots of them happening in the kitchen with Mama. Noodle-making day, and cookie baking at Christmastime. I had a very important job. I used a metal thimble to cut holes in the center of half of the circles of dough. When baked, they were put on top of a full circle that had been spread with jam or jelly. My mouth waters at the thought of them! I have shared some memories in other posts, and maybe I will write more about her. I hope these stories remind you of the importance of the little moments in life. Try to remember them and share them with others, because some day they are all that will be left to us.

In honor of my mother, Terez, known in the USA as Theresia Catherina. I barely knew her, but I still love her.




*Recently, I've taken to rereading some of my old blog posts. Over the course of these three years that I've been writing, I've covered a lot of subjects. On the other hand, you could say I have covered only one - life. The inspiration for these posts comes from my life, and my past, present, and future. Every so often I get the urge to write about something and find myself wondering if I have written that post already. That is why I was looking through my list of blog posts. By the way, there are times when I look at the title of a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago and find myself thinking, "What the heck is this one about?" 

In looking at these older bits of writing, I have discovered that my writing style has changed, and I hope perhaps improved. Because of this, I have decided to revisit and rewrite some of my earlier posts from time to time. I hope to make them more enjoyable for both you and for me. What better time and subject to start with on this weekend than mothers? I hope that my work will live up to my wishes, and I hope that you will enjoy the results.

-The Lunatic



Friday, May 8, 2015

A Twenty-First Century Woman

After you read this, I am fully prepared to receive at least a little bit of grief. Heck, I'll be ready to receive lots of grief. I can handle it because I am a Twenty-First Century Woman. Finally. Hey, it only took me a few fifteen years to truly arrive here. So there!

And now for the shocking true confession. I, who used to always help my sister Liz with her cell phone, did not have a smartphone. At your mental prompting, I am now hanging my head for a few seconds in shame. But today at 11:04 a.m., MDT, I signed in on my brand new smartphone. I finally bid adieu to my phone-of-average-intelligence after having it for...oh, my goodness, more than six years. In the last several months, it has been a challenge as one of the hinges was coming unhinged. (No, this would not be a great moment for you to say that the phone is unhinged just like the owner!) But I soldiered on, waiting for the day when I would be eligible to upgrade to a newer, not unhinged model.

We began looking at devices online several weeks ago to try and find some that we liked - Trent was eager to get a new phone as well. One of the first things I noticed was that the selection of basic phones, or average intelligence phones, as I like to call them, was pretty dismal. I have resisted smart phones quite vocally over the years. When I originally decided that they were not something I wanted, the screens were fairly small. As someone who wears bifocals, I said many times that I'd probably go blind trying to see the teeny-tiny screens. Even worse, that I'd lose my glasses because I had to take them off and hold the phone right in front of my face to read the baby screen.

Suddenly the phones and their screens became larger. You didn't have to have eagle vision to read them. And I started using a tablet and realized how convenient it could be, especially if you needed to find something while you were out and about. Unfortunately, my most recent tablet has no data plan, so unless I find myself lost in a place that has free wi-fi, I will remain lost. So lost that I might revert to the childlike version of the words and say that I was losted.

We found a few phones we liked and narrowed them down to a winner. We both wanted the same one, perhaps because it has a camera that seems pretty amazing, among other things. We placed our order online this morning and headed out into the torrential rain to pick up our phones at one of our carrier's local stores. Naturally, their computer system wanted to charge us $149.00 more than the price we were going to get online. Luckily for us, that was cleared up pretty quickly and we were in business. 

When the salesperson handed us off to the very nice man who was in charge of getting the phones up and running, things got to be pretty fun. My phone was up and running in moments. Trent's on the other hand - well, three phones and an hour or more later, he was also good to go. 

While my phone was being set up, I said to Colby, the very nice man behind the counter, that this was my first smartphone. His smile froze for an instant as he thought, "Aw, man! After I get these phones set up, I'm going to have to teach this woman how to use it! Argh!" What follows is an encapsulated version of our conversation.

K: But I have been using an Android tablet, so I'm fairly familiar with how it works.

C: (with face lighting up) Oh, so you'll be okay, then, since you already know how Android works. Hey, there's a great thing you can do now; you can download the movies that you buy that come with digital download to your phone and watch them on there!

K: Oh, we already have a Vudu account.

C: (smiling from ear to ear) You do? That's great!

K: Yep, and we use it with our Chromecast, too. We have Roku on one tv and Chromecast on the other.

C: (visibly thrilled that Mr. White Hair and Ms. Going-White Hair are so tech-savvy) That's awesome! You're above the curve tech-wise!

It was great. Even though he had to do a lot of extra work because he found the phone(s) that was a lemon, he had someone surprise him by being different from what the start of the conversation had suggested. When someone tells their manager about how cool you are because you know about and use some of the new gadgets, you know they really mean it. It really added to my fun.

So we are at home playing with our new phones. I already know how to use the Android part of things, it's the basics like assigning ringtones and photos that I will need to learn how to use on this phone. That should be pretty easy, I think. After all, back in the day, I was the one who taught Liz how to do that on her cell phone. And to think that "the pretty one" got a smartphone and entered the twenty-first century before me! But I knew android before she did, so there!



A personal note from The Lunatic: As much as we love our cell phones and other electronic devices, I implore you - please don't use them while you're driving. There are people who love you and want to be around you for many years to come. There are also many of my readers to whom I have become quite attached. I want to know you for a long time, and write for you for a long time as well. Be safe, be well, be happy! 

With love,

The Lunatic

Monday, May 4, 2015

Charitable

Although most of us have the ability to use the internet just about every day, I wonder if we have lost our realization of what an incredible thing it is. We have the chance to use machines on our desks, phones or tablets in our hands, even watches and eyewear, that connect us with the entire world and beyond. Just within my lifetime, computers have gone from huge machines that took up entire buildings or very large rooms, to tiny tote-able or wearable devices. Information that once took hours of research or study to find in books and magazines, often located in libraries that one had to go to in person, is now available in moments. Our past, present, and future are right at our fingertips. Both history and news are available for us in an instant.

Something that has gone hand-in-hand with this computing revolution is our ability to communicate with one another. Computers and telephones have melded together, and electronic communication has taken the world by storm. Although I occasionally mourn the potential loss of face-to-face or telephone conversation, I am amazed at the ways we can communicate these days. I can easily send a quick text by telephone while I speak with my Hungarian relatives and see their faces across the thousands of miles that separate us.

Another thing that has changed for many of us is our ability to meet new people and make new friends right from our homes, or wherever we connect to the internet. Through social networks, we can keep in touch with old friends and make new ones. A few years ago, I began using a fairly new social network, Google Plus. Before I knew it, I was acquainted with a wealth of new people of all interests and descriptions. It was there that I met Terry from Alberta and Shinae from California. This led to friendships with people from all over the world. Before long I knew people in countries including Switzerland, Hungary, Norway, Mexico, and Algeria, as well as many states in the USA. One friendship led to another, much as it does in "real life."

It was through Terry in Canada that I became acquainted with a cartoonist that we all know as Bearman Cartoons. Not only is Bearman a cartoonist with a great wit and sense of humor (even when he split out the seat of his pants while helping someone), he is also a normal folks' version of a philanthropist, or what The Wizard of Oz would have called a "phila...phila...good-deed doer." I was first made aware of Bearman because he was doing his annual charity donations. I was stunned to read that this man I'd never heard of before would donate certain amounts of his own money to charity if others would do something as simple as sharing his post or adding him as a friend on the social network.

This struck me as a great opportunity. I wanted to share money with one of the charities he was supporting that year but didn't have any money to spare. With just a few clicks of the mouse, I was able to do my part to help others. Not only did it make me feel good about Bearman, it made me feel good about Terry for sharing the post, and then feel good about myself for taking part in this chain of good deeds. 

I am sure that there are some of you reading this and asking what Bearman gets out of all of this. Well, I believe he gets more than we realize. Yes, he does create additional awareness of his creative work. But the greatest thing that he gets from this annual endeavor is the satisfaction of his efforts doing double duty. Not only does he share money to help victims of the earthquake in Nepal, to fund cancer research, or to buy school supplies for teachers to help their students, he also shares awareness. With any luck, for every few people like me who wish that they had more funds to donate, there are also one or two people who are inspired to donate money, goods, or time to the charities mentioned, or to other charities of their choice. Bearman has created something that allows him to give not just money but inspiration.

So, in order to separate Bearman from some more of his dollars, I am asking you to take a few moments to do something. Please visit the cartoon man with the green hair and help him give away some of his dollars. If you are so inclined and are able to do so, please consider giving some assistance to the causes that he is supporting with this year's challenge. You can find our green-haired friend by using this link: Bearman Charity Challenge 2015. Take a look at what Bearman himself has to say about the challenge and take a look at some of his cartoons, too. To borrow his own words, take greenbacks from the green hair. And enjoy an easy opportunity to be charitable. Thanks so much for anything that you can do, and thanks to you, Bearman!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Boxed

After we had wiped away the tears that resulted from our uncontrollable fits of laughter and giggles, Trent pointed a finger at me and said, "And no, you're not going to write about this!" I answered that there are moments in life that are too fun, and too funny, not to be shared. So this all means that if you are reading this, I have read it to him first in order to get his approval. And that he said that he was fine with it being published.

Our apartment isn't tiny, but it isn't huge either. It is a lovely floor plan that has a kitchen, dining area, living room with fireplace, study/den, bedroom, and a bathroom with a delightful huge Roman bathtub. There are even built-in bookshelves in the den and between the living room and bedroom. We fell in love with it at first sight, and still love it after nearly four years of living here. 

Like many people, we find ourselves using our "extra" room for more than one thing, including as a storage room. We are in the mindset these days of downsizing or minimizing or whatever you'd like to call it. We have both acquired many things over our lifetimes and have come to realize that we have a lot of things that we don't need. Every few days, one or both of us will go into the spare room and go through a box to figure out what gets to continue living with us and what needs to find a new family to make happy.

It's very liberating to let go of things. If something other than a book or a seasonal item hasn't been used or even looked at in more than a year, it's a pretty safe bet that it is not necessary to keep. There are also bits and pieces of memorabilia that may seem important to us, but that would definitely not be a treasure to others. Since we have no children, it seems unlikely that there are others who would love them in the way that we do. So we find ourselves asking how important things are to our life, or if they are important at all. If we find that there is something we would like to pass along to another family that we think will get some joy from it, we do so with the happiness of seeing our former belonging treasured and loved by others while we are still here. If something is serviceable but no longer needed, we put it in the bag or box slated for donation. And as far as trash-not-treasure - well, you can guess where that goes.

A few evenings ago, Trent was in the spare room (I keep wanting to call it "Spare Oom," like in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) sorting through a few things. I told him I was going to do something else, but that he shouldn't keep at it too long and wear himself out. It's a cruel trick of Nature that the more that you need to accomplish, the less energy you have to do so. I went about my business, reminding Trent every few minutes not to overdo. A few minutes went by and I heard Trent say in an odd tone of voice, "Could you come here and help me, please?" The sightly higher register of his voice made me realize that it wasn't a simple request to help move something. He was calling for Help-with-a-capital-H. 

When I went into the room, Trent was partly on his back in the midst of some of our stored items. He was very calm, so I knew that he wasn't hurt. He told me that as he reached for something he "kinda fell down in slow motion." He just needed a hand getting up again. We both commented that just because he had a talent for falling didn't mean that he had to use it. I took a moment to assess the situation and try to figure out the best way to help get him upright again. One of my great gifts is my composure in emergencies. I get very calm and take care of whatever needs to be done. After everything is back to normal, the adrenaline rush or tears or shakes will kick in, just to prove that I am really human after all.

We tried one or two things to get him on his feet, to no avail. I even brought a dining chair into the room to see if he could use it to help balance himself and at least get onto his knees and stand up again. He asked me to help him roll over sideways so that he could get up, but there was no way it was going to happen. I moved the chair back into the living room, and we both came to the same conclusion. There was something that was, shall we say, impeding his progress. You see, my very talented husband had fallen tushy-first into a cardboard box. It was folding him into a letter V, and it was not letting go.

Now, I am not a cruel person. I generally don't find slapstick humor to be funny, and I am not the person who will joke about someone slipping and falling. But the fact that my husband's tushy was wedged into this flimsy box that had formerly contained veggie chips just began tickling my funny bone. "Don't laugh," I thought as I tried not to giggle. Then my dearest husband broke into laughter at the utter absurdity of his situation. Before long we were both in the throes of hysterical giggles. I know someone who might say that our giggle boxes were turned plum inside-out.

Giggles can be a good thing. When you can get a laugh out of a situation, you know things will probably be all right. "Honey," I said, "I've heard of having your behind in a sling, but this is a bit ridiculous!" I fetched some scissors and cut out the side of the box. Within moments, Trent was up on his feet and still laughing. He gave his directive not to write about this, which I knew even then I would ignore, and I told him to leave the spare room since I was turning off the light and shutting the door. Aside from a small bruise on his hand, he was unhurt, and had a good laugh, to boot. And there's an empty box that we'll be getting rid of very soon, too!