Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pet Peeves - Not My Cup of Tea

Pet Peeves – A new Spin Cycle.  Okay mine might be a little preachy.  But isn't that what pet peeves are all about.  

One of my pet peeves is people with pet peeves.  They make life so negative some times. They start by saying things like, 
“I hate it when…”  or  “It drives me crazy when…”   or   “I can’t stand it when…”

When I hear these words I feel like I’m being drawn into their minor hate, or craziness, or intolerance.  I can feel a migraine coming on right now just writing those words.

Pet peeve is defined as a source of annoyance or irritation. Ouch, your negative aura just increased by 2 degrees. I’ll stand over here.

Their psyche apparently snaps to attention when they meet their pet peeve, or let’s admit, any peeve at all.  A pet peeve is a drama in the miniature, one that resides in a room of a beautifully furnished peeve dollhouse in one’s head.

They correct you constantly whenever possible.  Seemingly normal people transform, morphing into your parents, your teachers, your bitchy girlfriends, your blaming boyfriend, or your nosy neighbors.  Some stay silent but make a small judgment call on your character, intelligence, or obvious inferiority.

Even if they understand exactly what you are trying to say, they will stop you in mid-sentence to correct your grammar, your metaphor, even your thought process.  And you know how much I love that.  My husband belongs to the Grammar Police Association (GPA). I think he’s a General now within this esteemed organization. 

I don’t mind that people have pet peeves as long as they're, there, their tirades are not directed at me.   If something really bugs them that much, I guess they are entitled to voice their extreme displeasure.  I have relatives that are light years ahead of the rest of us in the scope of pet peeve annoyances and irritations. I barely can be around them. I can only soothe them, bring some perspective, and offer alternatives views to their complaining, whining, and eternal accounts of despair and irritation

My happy brain cells are finite and must be retained at all costs.  I need to worry about peeves that are worthy of my time and effort. I’ve dropped the peeves at the low end of the scale. I can’t afford to let my head think in terms of what drives it crazy. I need to think of things that give me solace. 

But a pet peeve is nothing, nothing compared to what should really be bothering them. 

Maybe that’s it!  A pet peeve may be part of the every day distracting minutia that they can focus on, to avoid the things that go deeper beyond mere irritation or annoyance, a safety valve if you will.  Gee, I'm all for that.  

I guess we need pet peeves. I've changed my position. Carry on. 

So carry on to Sprite's Keeper to read more about some really great pet peeves.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Opinions - Worthy or Worthless

Well the assignment this week on the Spin Cycle is opinions.  Whoa!  I am very opinionated, but usually I keep my opinions within these four walls.  But if you get me going, I will give my uninformed, less than stellar and sometimes incoherent opinions to whomever wants to hear.   I in return will courteously listen to others offering an opinion all the while thinking, "But you didn't acknowledge my point."

Any-who, here goes.

When did it happen?  It used to be that saving money was suppose to be a good thing.  They were chastising us for not saving enough less than a decade ago. Or was that just a quaint 20th century notion?  We weren’t saving for our kids’ college funds, or for a rainy day and definitely not enough for our retirement. 

When did it happen? It used to be that we knew how much house we could afford?  We knew that a car should not cost as much as a house, or half as much as a house, or a third as much as a house.

When did it happen?  We used to have patience, saving for the new couch, pinching pennies to buy the new dress. We were willing to wait making our purchases special occasions.

When did it happen, that credit became our lifeline? We used to know that credit should not cost as much as a house, or half as much, or even a fifth of a house, or even a ... 

When did it happen? It used to be that we knew not to use our house as a commodity.  We turned our dream of owning a home into a scheme for making quick money. We used to protect our homestead instead of draining it. When you turn life’s necessities into commodities, you’re asking for trouble.

My credit card company just sent me a letter telling me that they were lowering my credit line.  At first I was angry.  Because the way credit is working these days, I know that their action would lower my credit score. Imagine, a non-entity affecting your worth.  Bastards!

The letter said, since I use so little of the credit available to me, that obviously I didn’t really need that high of a limit.  I realized that they were correct.  It meant that they were either punishing me for not getting myself into trouble, or that they were actually pulling it back to where it should have been all along.  All I could think was screw them. 

Slowly throughout the years, the worth of brick and mortar industries have been reduced and transformed to judging their worth based on paper only and the betting and odds given on the worth or health of that paper.  Since we are running out of these types of commodities, there is a need to seek other avenues of profit and worth.

Real estate, at first an unlikely area for speculation, has now been ravished and decimated much like locust descending upon the plain. My sister lost her home and my niece is about to walk away from hers. She can’t get the bank to work with them.  I can see why people abandon their loans, because the industry abandoned their customers long ago.

Really people, bundling mortgages or portion of mortgages and selling them as paper and speculating on them was irresponsible, open to all kinds of illicit activities and stupid, on any plane of existence.

The only other big industry left for speculation, that I can see, is health care. Insurance companies already do this when they try to predict, speculate and lay odds on how long we will live or whether there will ever be a need for a payout.  What we do next regarding health care can be a big step forward for society or end up like real estate, laying in waste, boarded up, and people experiencing the same and very real abandonment issues.

What’s next?   Us.  We are turning into the commodity that everyone wants to bundle.  Our habits are studied extensively. The technology is here to help.  Advertisers, politicians, industries hire ethicists, psychologists, behaviorists to figure out what people will do next, to help predict and then to speculate and bet on the odds. I hope that they will always underestimate us.

I feel like I’m turning into paper.  I’m not kidding myself that it hasn’t been happening for a long time. I won’t need to ask, “When did it happen?”  I know.   I hope that when that time comes I can just say, “Screw them!” and walk away.

Now onto Sprite's Keeper to get more opinions that you can sink your teeth into. Yes they are that meaty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Papi and Boyfriends - The Early Years

I was chatting with my sister on the phone and she reminded me about the time Papi went after a boy that was bothering her.  It makes a young girl feel safe when her daddy is willing to be her knight in shining armor and save her from the advances of some unseemly suitor.  Then again...

Here is a short history of my dad’s interaction with his four teenaged daughters’ boyfriends, the early years.

Chased boy with a crowbar, a guy bothering Youngest Sister.

Chased boyfriend P with butcher knife, boyfriend arguing vehemently with Sister After Me.

Chased rival boyfriends P and W, fighting over Sister After Me.  Stupid guy, W pulls small knife, Papi pulls much bigger butcher knife, chases both guys away.

Frightens future suitor of Middle Sister while wielding a baseball bat in the air.

Finds oldest daughter making out with boyfriend on couch.  Boyfriend suddenly disappears, flying through the air, landing on butt about fifteen feet away.  Daughter looks up to see very angry father, very frightened boyfriend, and Youngest Sister (could have warned me that Papi was home from work, but chose not to, Punk!) and friend coming in to watch the fun, laughing their arses off.  Boy ordered from house. Boy running as fast as possible.

My dad, the Dark Knight, fiery eyes, with his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, wielding tools of mass destruction – priceless.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coloring Hair May Cause Childhood Injuries

Memories of Childhood, always good blog fodder.

Principal Lord, what a man.  He was great guy and a gorgeous one at that.  He had presence and charisma that even the youngest children at our school would take notice of it.  And his name, can you believe it?  Just saying it makes me think of him with a dreamy smile and real affection. Principal Lord.

The parking blocks in the teacher’s lot lined up nicely and the kids would walk and hop on them on our way into the building.  I was doing just that when I slipped on a wet block and put a gash in my knee that would not stop bleeding.  Being the wimp that I was, I cried uncontrollably.

Principal Lord drove me home. How cool! We found Sister After Me and soon we were in front of our house.  He carried me to the door (Sweet!) and when the door opened, I think we both gasped.  Mami was wearing a tattered housecoat, had plastic gloves on and her hair was covered with goop.  What was that stuff!

She grabbed her head in horror when she saw Principal Lord and frantically looked around desperate for something to cover up. Her expression quickly changed from extreme embarrassment to concern and she forgot her head.  Soon the red dye was running down her face and dripping on the floor.  Who knows what Principal Lord was thinking?

The following year someone pushed me down.  My face hit the gravel and a gash opened up over my eye that later required nine stitches.  Blood poured down my face getting into my eyes and although I was the biggest wuss ever, I felt perfectly justified in screaming my head off.  Again the gallant Principal Lord came to my rescue and drove me home.  With blood dripping down my face, he swooped me up and carried me to the door. My mother seeing a man carrying one of her children swung open the door wearing once again, big plastic gloves and black goop in her hair.  What are the odds!

A year later, Sister After Me broke her ankle and you guessed it, Principal Lord took her home and carried her to the door. Yes you can guess the rest. Mami opens the door with plastic gloves and was coloring her hair. My poor embarrassed mother. Everyone said she was a beautiful woman, looking a bit like Elizabeth Taylor, but Mr. Lord would never know it.

The three times Principal Lord came to our home. Three times he comes carrying injured children. Three times he finds a woman that is apparently obsessed with her hair color. Did we have radar and know just when and how to embarrass our mother in front of the most gorgeous man on the planet?

Is there a cosmic connection that whenever Mami colors her hair, one of her children incurs an injury? A twist on the old chant that children sing when walking along, “Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.”

“Color your hair red and a child will break his head.” Really what are the odds?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

RTT: Challenge, Life's Motivator


I am so excited.  Project Runway starts on Thursday.  This is the only "reality" program I will watch.  Why?  Because I get to watch super talented people, displaying their versions of art in clothing form down a runway.  I am not a fashionista, but I do love sewing.  I love construction.  I love tailoring.  I love the drape.   I love artisans.  I love to watch the talented express themselves. They are challenged and they always step up to produce some great pieces.

I wish I could challenge Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  to research my family tree.  In an upcoming episode on PBS, he is tracking down the ancestry of an interesting group of people, Meryl Streep, Stephen Colbert, Yo Yo Ma, Queen Noor, among others.

Remember Gates? He's the guy that President Obama invited to the White House to have a conciliatory beer with the police officer that offended him.

I've tried to trace our family tree, but I found it to be a monumental task.  My major problem stems from the way names are recorded with both mother and father's name as part of the last name.  In some cases, it was normal practice to have the lineage be carried by the mother, which adds to the confusion.  I would have to travel to the island to find birth records in churches, or family bibles.  Then to trace roots beyond the island would mean to travel to Spain.  From what I understand they kept excellent records when they conquered the Caribbean, but the records are in Spain.  I know some of my descendants are Taino indians that were enslaved by the Spanish.  My last name means Bethlehem in Spanish, which means we took the last name of the slave owner.  My mother's ancestry comes directly from Spain.  How about it Mr. Gates? Care to take up the challenge?  Call me.

Speaking of challenge, I have been challenging myself to get stronger and healthier, or at least, not to punish my body.  I took a survey on a women's health website about my habits. It tallied my answers and then gave me the results. It basically said, "You are very hard on your body."  I sort of knew that in the back of my mind, but now it was there spelled out, something I had to confront. Why was I punishing my body by depriving it of what it needed most?

My challenge is to be good to my body. It's not about weight loss, though I suspect that kindness to my body will help in that endeavor.
  • Hydrate it. 
  • Feed it on regular intervals stretching it out to four or five small meals a day. 
  • Allow it to sleep. 
  • Find time to go to the bathroom because apparently you are training your body not to expel and it will forget how to do it.  Really?   Use or lose it people.  
  • Breathe deeply twice a day. 
  • Put my feet up. 
  • And think positively.  Because like Stuart Smiley on Saturday Night Live, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me." 

No go over to Keely, because there are a lot of doggone, good and smart people over there.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Silent Parents - An Enigma

Silent parents, standing back, blending in the background, watching their children.  Patiently waiting without opinion in their eyes, without interference, or suggestion. There was no boredom, no tension, no emotion at all.  A decision was being made and they were totally not part of the process.  They didn't factor into the equation at all.

I saw this image four times in the same store, a big chain music store.  I walked into the drum room of the store.  A young boy of twelve was trying out a set displayed on the floor.  He went from one drum set to another, his concentration on the feel of each set.  His mother stood to the side, and just looked.... just looked like what?  I didn't recognize that look. Was it resignation?  Didn't look like it.

Then I walked into the piano room.  An even younger boy of nine or ten was playing, his mother standing close behind him.  I was impressed.  He was good.  He moved to the next piano, checking the action of the keys before playing another tune. She had the same expression on her face as the mom in the drum room. When I walked in to investigate who was playing, she looked up. I half expected to see a prideful smile, then I thought she might look annoyed at me for the intrusion, but her face showed no expression at all. Interesting.

The same thing in the guitar area.  A father stood silently behind his son as the son tried out several of the electric guitars.  Wow, this is not a look I am used to seeing.  Another father was watching his son of fourteen in the acoustic guitar room.

No involvement, no intrusion in their child's search for an instrument.  Because an instrument must be found my its owner, right?  No one outside can make the decision for an artist, especially for the talented young people I heard today.  The parents stood to the side as though they were wallpaper.

I realized that there was something else missing.  I didn't see the seeking of approval from the kids.  They never looked up at their parent like most kids do, the whole "look at me, mommy" or "isn't this cool." I was waiting for it, but it didn't come. Interaction between parent and child were nil, the child in deep concentration, the parent purposely looking on dispassionately. I figured that the kids must be here with Christmas money and didn't want or need their parents input. But it seemed to be more than that. I usually have a good sense of reading people's expressions, but I couldn't figure this one out.

Was it more that this was a realm that could not be shared? Was the patient parent just waiting for their child to emerge? Was it a learned response from years of conditioning by the child?

It was a puzzlement.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Purge First, Clean Later

Spin Cycle this week has to do with Spring Cleaning.  I think that the only way my house will be cleared  of all debris and elephant sized dust bunnies, is if we dynamite it.  But I do have some lofty goals and maybe, just maybe, I will accomplish a few things.


Purging, a goal I have longed thought about.  So many things to purge so little time.  How can I think about Spring Cleaning when there is so much stuff and no place to put it.  Seriously, I'm waiting for the ceiling to come down because of all the stuff we have stored in the attic.

Like the attic, the basement is brimming. The garage packed. The closets are overflowing.  They are full of plunder that we have collected over the years.  Good stuff.  New stuff still in the packages.  Stuff waiting for the call to become a functional piece in our lives.

How to Purge myself of this stuff?  Sometimes you can't look at it.  Some things are oh so sentimental and sweet.  Some were a fantastic deal.  Some still have tags on them. There is so much stuff buried in the back I don't even know or remember what we have stored there.

Junk Drawer - Get a garbage bag, close your eyes, and then dump the drawer over.  This is a JUNK drawer for goodness sake.  Don't look through it because you'll start picking out a myriad of useless bits and pieces.

Shoes - gross, I smelled them.  As we get older the our feet flatten out, so we need a wider shoe anyways, so you might as well get rid of those super pointy shoes.  Also I've determined from reading so many blogs that many folks are on meds, some really potent ones, so stability is an issue too. I think I want meds too? Wait, maybe not.

Me, I plan never to work in an office again, if I can help it. So out they all go.  Plus if I do, that just means I can buy cute NEW shoes. (Now, of course, since I said never...)

Business Suits - the same as above.  I don't want to work anywhere that requires a man's style power suit.   Since I worked at the bank, they are bankers suits, conservative and boring.  Eight suits, out.

Closets - Yes I have several outfits in there with tags on them.  They were such a great deal that I had to, I just had to buy them even if they were one size smaller. I vowed that I would get into one day.  Well that day never came.  Out, they go.

Functionality - None.  I'm beginning to look at my furniture.  I need pieces that work.  I need storage. Most of it is hand me down pieces thrown together and have no style and most disturbing no function.  Coffee table, going.  Coffee table books, going.  Four small, ugly, overloaded CD and DVD holders, going.

My problem is that QueenMaker and I are huge recyclers.  If we can find a second or third function for an object, or think we can, we keep it around.  If we want to get rid of it, it means extra time to sort and carry this stuff to the appropriate agency.

So much work to purge.  Should we ebay, or maybe send things to a consignment shop.  Should we take a ride to the recyclers, should I just put everything in a box with a big FREE sign on it. BUT, this adds so much more work to the whole purging process.  Maybe I'll just keep it all another year.

I need to be like Gathering. Dust, although her blog name describes perfectly my main problem when I do get around to spring cleaning.  She did a fantastic job and in only one week.

I need to be like Jen at Sprite's Keeper, because when she's bored or has a little extra time, the first thought that comes into that terrific mind of hers is, "What can I clean?"  WTF!  Mine is, "Do I have time for a nap?" or "I really should get around to doing that."

First, purge.  Then clean.  Then nap.   Got it.

And of course, stop cleaning for a second and visit the Spin Cycle. (I knew I'd find a distraction somewhere.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Weighty Problems

Well RTT is here again. The Random Tuesday Thoughts are flying all over at Keely's. so go take a gander.


Remember the tree?  The one that saved the Christmas spirit for me?  It died the other day.  My little crooked tree just toppled over one night.  I thought it was leaning a little.  We thank it for giving its life, but could it  just have waited until I got the ornaments off of it?

Just when I had a post ready about taking down our beloved ornaments while Christmas choral music played in the background. I have a glass of wine in my hand, singing along.  I lovingly wrap each ornament in tissue paper and finally toasting, paying homage to a bare tree that we mercilessly cut down in the prime of its life thanking it for its fragrance and strong boughs.  Really poetic stuff.  Really. But this tree decided to go out in a dramatic ornament popping fashion.

Speaking of ornament popping, I wish the proto-teens (it's my new favorite word) would stop touching the tree at the school. Isn't it enough that they keep bouncing balls into the thing.  One of them picked up an ornament and promptly dropped it.  Silly human.  Apologizing profusely, touch another one, and dropped that one too.  Dumb proto-teen human.

Speaking of silly humans, I made the mistake of telling my MA kids that I weighed 165 pounds. I also made the mistake of telling them that my goal for the year was to become a healthier and stronger person. Not that I wanted to lose weight, but that I wanted a stronger, fitter body.  I've always said that I wanted to maintain strength well into my eighties and my measure would be my ability to pick up a 50 pound bag of rice, or rock salt, or silly child.

My big mouth told them that I wanted them to become stronger too and that we were going to ramp up the calisthenics and do them together, and that they could watch my progress, and be impressed with my muscles, and that they could ask questions about my nutrition, that I would bring in a scale, watch my belly fat go down, take measurements....... WWwwhaaat!!! have I done?

Now. I. Have. To. Do. It.  Unless I lied.  Another resolution lie.  Heinous.

But now, those proto-teens will swarm around me constantly asking me my progress.  Disappointment in another adult that doesn't say what they mean.  Yes!  Continue with those great life lessons.  Stupid adult human being.

I guess that's why I told them.  It's my last ditch effort to set up a situation that I cannot get out of.  It's not really fair to use them like this, using them as leverage against my 35 years of laziness. But proto-teens are relentless. Also I believe telling children a promise is like whispering a prayer in God's ear.

Plus OMG, I just told you. I guess I am going to have to deliver.

On that note: Weight: 165 lbs.  Height: 5'5"  Waist: 38  Chest: 38   Thigh: 24   Butt: 44

So far in 2010:

Drank three classes of water a day so far.  I know that's low, but its way better than the four ounces I would drink every three days. A bit of dromedary in me. Will ramp up the water intake as time goes one.

Limited my coffee intake to two cups a day.  Not too hard, but I love my warm drink in the winter, so I'm switching to teas.

Picked up a weight the other day.  Actually I just moved it from one side of the room to the other.  To a prominent place, where I would see it everyday, taunting me. Oh all right, come here little dumbbell. "Who you callin' a little dumbbell.  You're the dumbbell.  You're a big. fat. dumbbell!"

Did calisthenics with the proto-teens.  Man, my abs are still kicking it.  Just can't see them under the fat.

Trying to keep my insulin levels in check, so no more sweets, limited bread intake to just two slices a day, had oatmeal and an apple this morning, and took a walk.

So what am I looking to accomplish here.
  • Get my digestive tract in good working order.  
  • To increase my stamina.  
  • To increase my fresh air intake, breath deeply people. I have a tendency to hold my breath.  
  • To rearrange pounds from fat to muscle.  
  • To regain some strength that this 51 year old has lost these last four years.
  • To inspire my kids.
  • To feel energized.
That's not too much to ask is it?  Cheer me on if you wish, but it might be better for me if you pretended never to have seen this.  And looking at my stats, that really won't be an issue.

Now go away and go to UnMom and get your fill of RTT's.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Guilty Resolutions

Another year has flit by, whoosh!  There is goes, bye, bye. The Spin Cycle's topic today is New Year's Resolutions.  Be resolute to go to Sprite's Keeper and become a Spinner.

When it comes to making resolutions I've learned to keep my mouth shut.  No one remembers what your resolutions were, thank goodness, except me.  At first resolutions were positive changes I was going to make in my life.  Then I realized they were more like wishes. I was hoping to make change happen.  After years and years, I've come to realize that in my case, it's more like lying. I don't like to lie, it makes my head hurt. So I have stopped lying to myself.

But at the party last night we all took turns telling our New Year's Resolutions.  All the women said the same thing they say,  Every. Single. Year. that they were going to lose at least 30 pounds. For some, the changes coming in 2010 were inevitable, like finding a job, saving for the graduation party coming in the summer, saving more cash, and on and on.

Sister After Me vowed that 2010 was the year she was finally putting herself first.  Her health, her happiness, her needs. I don't know, but these sound like code words.  I'm going to keep an eye on her.

My mom vowed to have each of her children come to take her some place every single day and to take her on glorious trips, and to include her on every family function, to invite herself whenever possible with the words, "Can I come?" or "Take me with you." or "You're going to invite me, aren't you? or "Where's my ticket?"  If it wasn't winter, you would've heard the crickets in the background but because it is winter and there are no crickets, the Silence Was Deafening.  NEXT!

When it was my turn, I couldn't say anything except, yeah what you all said. But something came to mind this morning that I think I will try.  It came to me after my 22 year old son, Beloved, told me how good it felt to be home this year.  He's spending the whole week with us which was the best present he could have bestowed upon his parents.

He told me how happy he was to see a Christmas tree this year.  He cared? I didn't think he cared about stuff like that.  We didn't have one last year and I bemoaned how much work I thought it was going to be, how I wasn't inspired, that I seriously considered not getting one this year either. Both he and my husband shrugged their shoulders and said they didn't care and even agreed with my assessment. But Youngest Sister brought me tree and thus brought the Christmas spirit and saved the day. She is a wise and giving woman.

He later told me how happy he was to see the tree.  He didn't even realize that it made such a difference. We weren't home the day Beloved arrived, but when he came into the house and saw the Christmas tree, all stress left him.  He was home and it looked homey, warm, and inviting. The Christmas tree gave him solace that everything was right in his world and that he was HOME.

I realized then that a tree will always be waiting for him and us in the future.  It is motivation enough.

I was being selfish, thinking that Christmas was a burden or more work than I wanted to do. I couldn't find the magic in it, because things weren't the way they used to be.  Beloved was a man, not a baby. Presents weren't a surprised, just things checked off a list he gave me.  I didn't want to make the effort.

But Beloved made me realize that the symbols of Christmas were really symbols of hearth and home, of the peace and love that we have shared over the years. He needed that, and I need that too.

Get ready, I'm about to make a New Year's Resolution. Here it is.

I am going to figure out which voice in my head is the most positive and follow it.

I'm going to use the negative sign posts of guilt and burden and figure out what they really mean and instead of hiding from them to power right through them.  Because these emotions are trying to tell you something.  They are warning signs that your heart, head, and soul are in conflict, that you are not being true to yourself.  And when you are not true to yourself, you hurt, you become depressed, you become angry, you make excuses.

I will find my true voice and follow it.
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