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Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

Yes, today is Black Friday. This is the day which many people here in the USA (and some other countries now, I hear) celebrate the official begining of the biggest shopping season of the year. There are many ways that people celebrate this day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Lots of them will camp out in front of stores in below-freezing weather in an attempt to be the first person to get in when the doors are opened. When admitted to the store, the swarm runs at full speed to various areas in an attempt to purchase one of the three 50 dollar televisions or reduced-price phones or tablets that are allotted to each location of whichever chain it represents. As the herd thunders toward the display of three low-cost items, fistfights break out, bodies are trampled, and people sometimes die or end up hospitalized. This is how many people demonstrate their holiday spirit and peace on earth and goodwill towards others. According to the website blackfridaydeathcount.com, since 2006 there have been 7 deaths and 98 injuries attributed to Black Friday. I believe that there is no bargain worth sacrificing a human life.

It isn't always this awful, and it hasn't been this way forever. Since about the 1930's the day after Thanksgiving has been considered the day that the major holiday shopping season begins. Merchants count on the income from this season to help keep their ledgers afloat for the year. When I worked in retail it was always incredibly busy, but I never recall seeing or hearing of any violence surrounding the purchasing of holiday gifts. 

Several years ago, I decided to go Black Friday shopping with my sister. We didn't find any of the fabulous deals we had seen advertised; they were gone long before sunrise. What we did find were throngs of people driving madly through the parking lots, nearly mowing people down in their desire to find a parking spot. We found many unhappy people treating everyone else poorly. We also found that there were plenty of people, including ourselves, who were behaving in a kind and civilized manner and not causing others any distress. I for one was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of shoppers and their hostility. I kept wanting to go home, crawl under the covers, and not come back out for a week or ten days. I exaggerate, of course, but I was miserable. A few years later, having forgotten the trauma, I went back for a second helping. I must say that I have definitely had my fill of that dish.

I have decided that I am going to celebrate the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Friday, in a more positive way. Maybe we can start a movement to change what Black Friday means. Here are a few suggested alternatives.

Black and White Movie Friday: There are so many wonderful old movies out there just waiting for you to watch them. There are holiday and non-holiday movies galore. I could name dozens, but I will try to practice some self-restraint. There's the original Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara, or Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, A Christmas Carol with Reginald Owen, or It's a Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed. Want something more dramatic? Try The Day the Earth Stood Still, Citizen Kane, Stage Door, or Penny Serenade. Musicals? There are dozens, with stars like Jeannette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, Fred and Ginger, Bing, Eleanor Powell...I think you get the idea.

Black Dress/Black Tie Friday: Dress up as though you're going somewhere special, because you are. You're going to your own table, maybe for leftovers, or takeout, or sandwiches. If you and those you love aren't worth dressing up for, who is? Enjoy the delight of getting dressed up just for fun. Wear slippers with your lovely dress or your French cuffs and special cufflinks. You're worth it, and it just might become a favorite tradition.

Black Ink Friday: Lounge around in your most comfortable clothes, whether that means pajamas or jeans or sweats or yoga pants. Make some hot cocoa or coffee/tea or a cold drink and enjoy a book. Your local library may have numerous e-books that you can check out at any time of day or night, even when you're wearing those jammies. Mine also has a massive collection of classics that are in the public domain which you can add to your personal library both free and permanently. There are also websites that offer free or low-cost books. They won't be best-sellers, of course, but you can find books from all areas of interest. I get daily emails from BookBub, BookLemur, and Robin Reads. All you need is a free Kindle or Nook application. There's also free books available through Google, Kindle, Nook, and others.

If you like the thrill of bargain-hunting, enjoy your Black Friday adventures. I hope that all of your fellow shoppers are as wonderful as I am sure that you are. But if it's just too much for you, like it is for me, consider extending your Thanksgiving holiday in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Happy Black Friday, everyone!




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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thank you for reading! 


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Nothing New Under The Sun?

As many of us do from time to time, I spent a little while today traveling down the famous mythical street known as Memory Lane. I guess what started me on this little journey was having the thought that when it comes to kids and their parents/caregivers, I sometimes think there's nothing new under the sun.

Yes, childhood has most definitely changed through the ages. Children were part of the labor force in many countries, and more recently than you might think. And of course, there are many places where children must work in order to survive to this very day. My grandmother or Gram, as most of us called her, told me stories of how her own father and his siblings worked in mills when they were children. He told her of how all of his sister's hair was ripped from her head when it got caught in a machine in the place where she was working. She was no more than ten years old when this happened, and wore a scarf on her head the rest of her life, I was told. Gram's father had a permanent eye injury that impacted his ability to read anything other than fairly large print, and this also happened long before he was ten years of age. His mother insisted that his sister should be allowed to stop working, but the boys all had to remain employed.

So yes, childhood has changed immensely. When I think of how simple things were when I was a kid, it sort of makes me sad for kids nowadays. I remember all of the summer days when we played all day with other kids near our age on the block. We'd wolf down our breakfast, run out the door, and keep running all day. We came home for lunch and dinner, but not much else. We had the best and coldest drinking water available at everyone's house - from the garden hose. It also doubled as an outdoor cooling device. After we drank from the icy coldness, we often doused our arms, feet and legs, and sometimes even our heads. We made forts or free-form tents by hanging blankets from backyard clotheslines and stretched out on the cool green grass talking about anything and everything. 

And we all had chores or responsibilities. My most despised was the picking up of dog poop. One of my favorites was drying the dishes after dinner every night. It wasn't so much that I got a kick out of drying dishes, because that isn't the most exciting thing to do, after all. What made it so enjoyable was that Gram was doing the washing while I did the drying. As we stood in front of the double sink, she would talk about all sorts of things with me. I remember telling her about school and my friends and things I had done. She was even kind enough to act like she loved it when I would sing her the newest song we had learned in Music class.

I am not trying to say that childhood was perfect then, or that is perfect or a paradise now. Every generation has grown up with its own set of happiness and worries. All kids can think of things that they'd like to have, and things that fill them with fear. Childhood can be scary that way. One generation's bomb shelter or polio scare yields to another's fear of losing a family member or friend to a disease or war or violent act. The circle keeps turning.

This is why I say that in many ways there is nothing new under the sun. Kids still have varying degrees of innocence and savvy. They still want things and fear things and find increasingly interesting ways to get into trouble. They develop crushes and friendships and romances as they grow. And oftentimes think that their parents have no idea what goes on in a young person's mind or heart. Little do they realize that their parents and grandparents and other generations before them had similar thoughts and feelings and behaviors. Heck, one of the reasons that kids get caught misbehaving is that their parents remember all of the trouble they created when they were young!

Young people who are in the throes of young love are certain that mom and dad don't understand what it's like. They don't realize that unrequited love is as old as humanity. Star-crossed lovers were an old story when the movie West Side Story was adapted from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as they were old when he adapted it from the ancient story of Pyramus and Thisbe. And our parents and grandparents found ways to get in trouble, too. When my Gram was a very little girl, she made her father so angry that he didn't talk to her for over a week. She had asked him several times for permission to have her hair cut short, and he told her that girls did not have short hair. Keep in mind that this was probably around 1911 or thereabouts. One day she decided that since she had some money, she was getting her hair cut. When her father came home from work that day, she had gone to the barber and gotten her hair bobbed. He was furious, but he still loved her, and he knew that there were many times that he did things that made his parents mad too.

I remember eating dinner one night at the linoleum-topped kitchen table. Gram was to my left, across the table from Liz, who was on my right. As was normal for a growing girl who burned through tons of calories (I wish I could have that back!) I was enjoying eating my Gram's delicious dinner. At some point, she asked Liz what her day at school was like. I remember noticing that Liz's response seemed, well...not normal. In a studiedly casual tone, she told Gram about what went on in her classes that day. Gram's tone grew very casual and a bit cool. "Really? How did you like spending the day at the park today?" Liz sputtered in surprise. Gram somehow knew, probably from the tone of Liz's voice (or maybe from driving around the area, who knows?) that Liz had skipped her classes on Senior Ditch Day. She thought she was going to get away with it, but Gram was far too wily for that.

I don't remember what, if any, punishment Liz got. If nothing else, the trust Gram had in her may have been tarnished a bit after that. I learned by observing, as I was prone to do. I was one of those kids who figured it was easier to ask for permission than forgiveness. On occasion, I would ask if Gram would call in to excuse me from school. She always asked if there was anything important I might miss that day. I was always honest with my answer because she had an uncanny knack for finding things out, and she had a temper that produced some world-class yelling. When my Senior Ditch Day came around, Gram called the school's attendance office and reported that I was home due to illness. She could be pretty cool that way.

So what do you think? Is there much new under the sun? Or do we just experience many of the same things on the way to adulthood as many of those who came before us? I know how I feel right now, but I may change my opinion tomorrow. You never know. But I know that Gram sometimes did that too, so... 




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The Tip Jar:

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ejected

Since I brought up the subject of our vacation in my last post, I decided to share another story from the trip with you. We've shared this with a couple of friends and they were entertained - perhaps you will be, too.

As you may know from my previous posts, I have humorously suggested that Hell may be located in Orlando, Florida. My reason for saying this is simple - a combination of high temperatures with high humidity is very punishing to the body. For most of us common folks, a weather pattern like this results in hot, sticky, sweaty days. Of course, when this whole sticky-sweaty business is going on, your body runs the risk of suffering from dehydration. You need to be very aware of drinking plenty of fluids so as not to get sick. Let's face it - being sick anywhere stinks, but being sick while you're on vacation would really stink.

Hydration is key to the tale I am about to relate. We were spending the day in EPCOT World Showcase. If you're not familiar with Disney World, EPCOT is essentially two connected parks. On one side is Future World, which contains all sorts of fun rides like the famous Soarin', Test Track, and Spaceship Earth. The other part of EPCOT is the World Showcase. There are pavilions from numerous countries that feature various representations of those countries' cultures. All of the countries represented have at least one restaurant and have one or more shops with merchandise from those countries, and the buildings reflect their heritage as well. When you visit a restaurant or shop in the Italian Pavilion, all of the servers and shop staff are natives of Italy. Some other countries represented, in addition to the USA, are France, Morocco, Japan, Canada, Norway, China, and Mexico.

On this particular hot, steamy day, Trent and I had just finished our delicious lunch in a restaurant in the American Pavilion and decided to go next door to enjoy The American Experience. I'd never been to it before, and as a student of history, I was excited to see the show. We walked over to the entrance, diet drinks in hand, sipping on the way to another air-conditioned building. We saw several small groups of people enter the building on our walk over, almost all of them with bottles of water or soft drinks in their hands. When we approached the entrance, we were told that we needed to dispose of our drinks before entering.

Now, the drinks we had were almost completely full, and we really needed to hydrate, so Trent reacted by saying that other people had entered with their beverages right before us. No, we couldn't enter, we were told again, unless we tossed out our non-bottled drinks. Did I mention that most beverages are around three dollars? Anyway, I sort of shook on Trent's hand and we stepped aside to toss out our nearly-full drinks. While we waited in the lobby to enter the theater area, it seemed as if everyone around us was enjoying sips of their cool, delicious beverages. We shook our heads and shook it off, and headed in the queue to the seating area. 

When we were getting ready to choose our row and our seats, the older gentleman who was at the podium to introduce the show looked at Trent and said, "Sir, in the pink (actually salmon) shirt - I need to see you and your wife up front, please." We looked at each other, astonished, and realized that he was indeed talking to us. I was freaking out inside, thinking that the young ladies at the entrance had complained about Trent and that we were going to be ejected from the show. I've never been ejected from anything, I thought. We walked over to the gentleman, Lonnie, and he told us that someone from Disney needed to speak with us. Oh, no, I thought, we are getting thrown out of the park! I am going to miss out on dinner tonight at the French restaurant because Trent said someone else was going in with a drink!

Lonnie dialed some numbers on a phone, handed it to us, and walked away. As we both nervously put our ears to the phone, we heard a message from Mickey and Minnie Mouse, wishing us a happy anniversary. They then sang us a little song, wished us a happy anniversary again, and disconnected. When we handed Lonnie the phone, he asked us to wait a moment. He stepped behind a curtain and got a certificate which he filled out in beautiful calligraphy printing with our names and the number of years we have been married. He had seen the "celebrating our anniversary" buttons we were wearing and decided to make a lovely memory for both of us. 

We found our seats, absolutely stunned and very pleased to have been given such a charming anniversary wish. Before Lonnie started the show, he had every person in the audience who was celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or some other special occasion, stand up and be recognized with a round of applause by the audience. When the show was over, we went and shook hands with Lonnie again, telling him that we weren't sure if we had thanked him properly. He was gracious and kind and really made our day special. I will always treasure my memories of Lonnie and how wonderful he made us feel - and how glad I was not to be ejected from the park!





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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thank you for reading! 




Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Absentee

Around the end of last year, a few things fell into place that gave us the opportunity to take a vacation this year. For us, this was a Really Big Deal. In our entire marriage, we have never had the means or opportunity to take a trip by ourselves. The last time that we traveled as just us was when we went to Las Vegas to get married. We were filled with a combination of excitement and disbelief that we would have a chance to take a trip. We also knew that this would most likely be a one-and-done situation; the first time that we had an opportunity to take a trip together would most likely be our last.

We would have loved to do something wonderful like travel to Europe to visit family, but that was definitely way beyond our means. We decided to go to one of Trent's favorite places and made plans to go to Orlando, Florida and have some fun at Walt Disney World. We had an incredible opportunity to use our friends' timeshare for a week along with spending a few days at a Disney property that came with a free meal plan. We were excited to go.

Before we had even picked our travel time, it looked like our trip was doomed. We were told that the cost for the January refill of Trent's anti-rejection medication, a necessity for anyone who has had a transplant, would be close to $3000 with the new pharmacy coverage this year. After that, it would be "no higher than $175 per month," we were told. Of course if the first month cost that much, all future prescriptions would have to be sent to someone else's address, because we'd be unable to afford rent for a few months to pay for that first fill. Luckily, that mess was straightened out, but it seemed that fate was conspiring against us.

All of our plans for setting aside money for vacation were thwarted at every conceivable opportunity. A plan to save x dollars per month dissolved as we found ourselves paying x or more each month for pharmacy expenses that we hadn't had in previous years. There would be one challenge after another trying to cancel our plans, including the fact that the park tickets we had purchased when we booked and paid for our room would not be active until after we checked into the Disney property, which was at the end of our trip. Luckily, the wonderful folks at Disney helped us out with that one, and we were able to use the tickets from the day we got to Florida, thank goodness.

We weathered the storms that kept blowing into our lives and scrimped wherever we could so that we could follow through with our plans for the trip. We had everything planned, I had meticulously budgeted for all parts of the trip, and we were all packed to go the night before departure. Our friend was picking us up at 7:30 a.m. to take us to the airport, so we went to bed as early as we were able and tried to sleep despite our excitement. And that's when something wonderful happened. My smartphone quit functioning properly. Yes, you read that correctly. At the time, I saw it as a very bad thing, just like you probably are right now. But sometimes our opinions change.

I am one of those people who have a hard time shutting down their brains at night and getting to sleep. Any and every possible thing that can be worried about will occur to me after I lay my head down to sleep at night. I'll lay in the dark and worry about things that I may or may not have done. Did I pack everything I needed? Are Trent's and my medications safely in our carry-on bags rather than our checked bags? Do we have enough cash? Did I remember to pay all of our bills before shutting off the computer? And this happens 365 days a year with me. My life has turned me into a worrier. I deal with this by listening to books every night. Most nights they will help divert my mind from its worries, enabling me to get some needed sleep. The night before vacation was no exception.

Now, using my phone's application to listen to a book for an hour uses very little of my phone's battery. That's why I was really surprised when I woke up at about 3:30 in the morning to tinkle and saw that my phone had gone from a full charge to about 40% power. I tried to look at the phone in the dark and figure out what was amiss to fix it, with no luck. When Trent woke up a bit later, I decided to get on the computer and try to figure things out. No luck whatsoever. And the carrier's help lines weren't available until 7:00, so there was no time to call for a fix on the problem. I plugged it in to charge and got ready to go.

So there I was on vacation with a phone that wouldn't hold a charge. It wasn't sending or receiving texts, and I wouldn't be able to use it to take photos, either. And it has a better camera than my actual camera, which I hadn't packed because my phone was supposed to do the job for me. I was able to use it at our lodging while it was plugged in, but other than that, I was going to have to do without. I was frustrated, but I certainly wasn't going to spend precious vacation time sitting on the phone trying to fix the problem. We decided to make do with Trent's phone and began to have fun.

Then I started to see that maybe being without my phone was a good thing. I didn't have a phone with me, and it wasn't working anyway, so I wasn't stuck dealing with unwanted calls or text messages. Social media could go on without me. I had written a couple of blog posts and was able to use my tablet-without-a-data-plan to post them. After a few days, I began to ask Trent to let me use his phone occasionally to take a picture or two, but mostly I spent my vacation being totally present.

What a gift the cell Gods had given me! I was able to focus my attention on being there, on enjoying myself, on living in the moment. Gone was the worry about what I might be missing out on in my non-vacation life. If there was anything I needed to take care of, like making sure my bills were all paid and my accounts were in order, it could be taken care of when the day's play was done and we were "home" for the night. I began to see things differently, and some of what I saw made me sad.

Taking a family vacation to Disney can be done with a budget, but park tickets are not cheap. Everywhere I looked, I saw people squandering their time, and their investment in park tickets, on their phones. I saw children as young as seven or eight walking around with iPhones in front of their faces. They didn't see the Fairy Godmother or other characters walking by them because they were playing on their phones. Parents were missing the amazement on children's faces because they were busy with emails and texts and calls. Their bodies were there, but their selves were absentees. Trent and I would look at each other and shake our heads sadly. Why were they even there?

This was something we saw every single day of our trip and every time of the day or night. We saw families sitting down for meals in restaurants both casual and fancy, never speaking to one another during the meal. On more than one occasion, I saw people who were on rides and totally ignoring what was in front of their faces - they were using their phones during the rides! The moment that stunned us the most? A young newlywed couple got on the shuttle bus we were riding home late one night. Instead of holding hands and giggling and cuddling in the dark, they sat side by side, oblivious of each other's presence. They were updating Facebook and playing games. I have to wonder what all of these people will be like twenty years from now. Will they even know one another? What will they have to talk about? Will that family or their children have any memories of their big vacation? Will mom and dad wonder why they are unable to communicate with their kids?

I am a huge fan of technology. Now that my phone is working, I use it to keep on top of things. I'm in the process of getting the pictures I took transferred from Trent's phone to mine. But I also don't have the same connection to being online that I did before. I was home about three days before I even turned on my computer, which really surprised me. Of course, I was tired from vacationing in the hot-as-the-ninth-circle-of-Hell land of Orlando. Maybe when I'm back in the swing of things my views will change. But I'm still grateful that a simple malfunction enabled me not to be an absentee on my own vacation.




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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thank you for reading! 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Good Intentions

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
- Elizabeth E. Curtis, AKA Gram or My Grammy


I recently took a brief hiatus from my blog. It wasn't really evident to most people, though, because I took some time before the break to write a couple of extra blog posts, which I saved for publication during the time that I would be away from writing. I returned to the keyboard several days ago, excited to be back to writing, and eager to get back to work. I sat down and wrote, filled with eagerness to get back to regularly blogging after taking a couple of weeks off. I had really good intentions.

As I quoted at the beginning of this piece, my little Gram, who had a saying for just about everything, often said that the road to Hell was paved with good intentions. We often think that we have everything positive motivating us, but things end up just the opposite. 

I wrote my first post this month on a Saturday, five days ago. I felt good about the act of writing and good about life. I was positive about what I thought would be my writing output for the month of November. I envisioned writing a new post about every three days or so. On Monday evening, I began to think about what I would create for my readers the following day. I also knew that I would have to do some work that day for insurance enrollment this week. My work was cut out for me, and all scheduled. I was ready for it.

And then I got thrown for a loop. Monday night, as Trent and I were watching a classic movie on the television, I suddenly realized that I had to go to bed NOW. I had been fighting a headache all day, only to have it bloom into a bouquet accented with sprigs of exhaustion and feeling sick. It's something that I have dealt with from time to time ever since I was hospitalized with a terrible attack of vertigo. I can be tired for days on end with no adverse reactions, then suddenly will have a night when it catches me unprepared. I have a moment in which I realize that if I don't lay my body down in bed right away, it will happen involuntarily. AKA go to bed now, or simply pass out/collapse. Since I have had this happen before, I heeded the signals of my brain without any worries. I just needed the rest that I was getting ready for. 

When I woke up on Tuesday, I really felt awful. I decided that it would pass, and had my typical morning toast and started to watch an excellent old movie with Trent. I tried to ignore the feeling that my head, more specifically my left eyeball, was going to explode. I wasn't going to listen to the feelings of nausea that my stomach was shouting about. I had lots to do, and I was going to be fine. Mm-hmm. Good intentions.

During the time that we were watching our movie, I noticed that I was slumping more and more toward a laying flat position. My headache was growing stronger and my stomach was churning. Let me state right here and now that nothing turns me into a gooey mess like a sick stomach. I remember during the years living with Gram, how she would always take care of me when I was pukey. If I woke up sick in the middle of the night, she was always there, gently rubbing my back and speaking soothing words. Somehow the horrible act of sicking up was lessened under her loving care. 

Gram would smooth back my hair and press a cool cloth to my face and forehead, and help me back to bed. She was ready to do whatever I needed to lessen the impact of my bout with stomach problems. I remember the first time that I got sick in the night and Gram didn't wake up. I was simply all alone in my bathroom, but I felt like I was all alone in the world. Here I was, a college student, crying over being sick. The fact that it seemed so babyish made me cry even more. And when Gram found out the next morning that I had been sick with nobody to emotionally support me, she felt awful. But that's just life happening, and it goes on. 

As I said before, though, feeling pukey is the one thing that will lay me low. I can handle pain and keep going, but if I am on the verge of throwing up, I have to slow down. So on Tuesday morning I had to put myself back to bed. And I kept trying to get up, but just going to the bathroom was enough to have my stomach on the verge of heaving. I was miserable. I tried to get sleep during the day, and did so in brief patches, flying awake with worry about things left undone. Trent knew that I was in bad shape because I am not one of those people who tends to just say she's sick and then put herself to bed. When I told him that he had to go fetch the mail because I just couldn't do it, he knew it was bad.

So I spent Tuesday in bed. And most of Wednesday. I tried to get some insurance work done in the very late afternoon and having something to distract my attention made me think that I was starting to feel a bit more more normal and healthy. Riding on the crest of this wave of diversion, I watched a tv program late in the evening after resting some more and started to feel skunky about halfway through. But I was getting better, darn it, and decided to finish it and then watch a favorite program with Trent. Suddenly I felt awful again and had to get right to bed. I woke up this morning feeling dreadful again and remembered Gram talking about good intentions. Yes, she was right. I went back to bed for a while to recover from my recovery. I hope I'm back on track now. At least I'm eating, and writing. And not puking. Yippee!





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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thank you for reading! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Where Is Hell, Exactly?

I can imagine having this discussion with a young person. She comes to me one day and asks where Hell is. We sit down with some cookies and milk or a big bowl of buttery popcorn to discuss this deep subject.

Part A, the more philosophical part:

There are many differing views or opinions about the existence or location of this place known as Hell. Is there such a place? If so, where would it be?

For people of faith, those who believe in a Supreme Being or a God or a Higher Power, or whatever the name is in their language or belief system, there is typically an opposite to this being of goodness. For whatever positive force exists, there is an equally negative force as a counterbalance. There is no sweetness without the possibility of bitterness, no good without the possibility of bad. This is something that is actually seen in nature and humanity on a scale both grand and small. For all of the fuzzy little critters out there, there are hunters who are eager to catch them. And humans are certainly well represented in both positive and negative behaviors.

For people who believe in the concept of a Heaven, there is the chance of a reward after life ends, a possibility to be in the presence of their Supreme Being. Following the theory of opposites, people often believe in the concept of a Hell, a place out of the presence of this Supreme Being. Now, this is where things can get really interesting. Many people believe that since we are living in this imperfect world, apparently removed from the presence of a Benevolent Creator, that we are already in Hell. Watching the news on any given day will certainly reinforce this opinion. 

Then, of course, there are the people who believe that both good and bad exist everywhere, regardless of one's location. That would mean that Heaven and Hell exist side by side throughout the world and throughout our lives. This is something many people might find easy to believe because of the nature of this crazy planet on which we live, and the wonders and horrors it can present to us every day.

I guess it all comes down to this: nobody can tell for certain, can they? Every person's concepts of Heaven and Hell, if they have them, are very personal. What is Heaven for one person might be Hell for another. And as the night follows the day, the opposite is also true. What is Hell for you may be Heaven for a person from another part of the world where the things we take for granted, like clean water, for example, are often unattainable. If you look at things that way, it sure changes things, doesn't it?


Part B, the not-philosophical part:

Having had some experience with such things, I'd have to say that Hell is probably located somewhere near Orlando, Florida, USA. This is a place where you step out the door to the feeling that you have been wrapped in a very large, steaming-hot wet blanket. You spend any and all time outdoors bathed in a combination of sweat and damp air. Any place that regularly has temperatures around ninety degrees along with humidity that runs around seventy percent was certainly designed as a punishment for humans. So, Hell is either in a place we never can locate or define, or most definitely in Orlando. Just lately, I'm leaning toward it being in Orlando.



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thank you for reading! 



Sunday, November 1, 2015

Name Game

Have you ever looked at someone's name and wondered what the heck their parents were thinking? I think that celebrities are among the worst offenders. They seem to forget that in spite of all of their fortune and privilege, they still reside in the real world. I'm sure that one of the first examples that comes to many people's minds is a baby named North West. I remember reading, before the baby was born, that the name would be North. I thought, no, this is just a big joke. I have to wonder, is the younger sibling going to be called South West?

I'm all for individuality, and I love to hear a person's story of how their parents came up with their name. One of my favorites was a young woman named Portia. When she told me her name, I wasn't sure whether it was Portia, like the Shakespearean character, or Porsche, like the car. Her parents loved the works of Shakespeare, so she was named after the character from The Merchant of Venice. But how do you explain names like Apple and Moses, the children of Gwyneth Paltrow? "Um, yeah, my mom named me Apple because she likes to eat apples." 

The names I've just mentioned are nothing more than just a bit odd, though. How about Nicolas Cage naming his child Kal-El, like Superman? What is a kid with a name like that going to have to deal with in school? I imagine that even in a private or boarding school, some kid is going to give that child grief over his unusual name. We also have, with the famous parents in parentheses, Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee), Sage Moonblood (Sylvester Stallone), Fifi Trixibelle (Bob Geldof), Moxie Crimefighter (Penn Jillette), and Moon Unit (Frank Zappa). 

It isn't just celebrities that come up with odd names, though. I feel sorry for a child that grows up with the name Hashtag. And there's Indica and Sativa, which are varieties of marijuana. Regular folks have also given their children the names Alias, Kindle, Couture, Zeppelin, Remedy, and Halo. Can you imagine the daily struggles? It's the school's spring fling, and one kid walks up to another to ask them to dance. "Hi, I'm Awesome. Wanna dance?" 

And don't even get me started on the first-and-last name humor. Yes, there are people whose parents have named them Ben Dover. They may even be related to the people who gave their son the name Scab Dover. "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Scab Dover!" or "Elect me, Ben Dover, and I will make you happy." I've also seen such gems as Rainbow Moonchild and Imma Virgen.

It makes me kind of glad that when my guardian told me that I could no longer use my first name because it was also her daughter's name, she got it all wrong. She told me that I would now be called by my middle name, which was Katrina. It's been kind of cool having a name that's unusual but not weird. Of course, now that there's been a horrific hurricane with my name, I get some funny reactions. Right after the storm, I would introduce myyself to someone and their face would light up. "Oh, yeah, just like..." and then they would get embarrassed or sad for me. Hey, it was my name first! So nowadays I spare people the potential bad feelings. I walk up to them and extend my hand for a handshake. I say, "Hi, my name is Katrina. Like the hurricane, but slightly nicer." It gives them permission to make the mental association without feeling bad about it.

Let's face it, people will name their kids whatever they want to, without any regard to the kid's future. I guess I look at it differently because even though my name is fairly average, I got bullied over it on a few occasions. There were a few boys in my elementary school that took great joy in telling me that my name couldn't possibly be Katrina. "Your real name can't be Katrina. Katrina is a pretty name and you're ugly, so your name isn't Katrina." Whatever.

By the way, my actual middle name was Catherine. Where did Katrina come from? My guardian's brother had a fat, cranky dachsund named Katrina. Like Indiana Jones, who was played by Harrison Ford (with whom I share a birthday), I was named after the dog!




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