Hey, Yoda–There is No Do Without a Try First

Anyone who is or ever has been a Star Wars fan knows Yoda’s stern command to Luke Skywalker: “There is no try; only DO!”

Well, Yoda old buddy, that may work for Jedi knights, but not always for us regular people. Sometimes you have to try before you can do. Say, for example, when my dad taught me how to ride a bike for the first time. He made it look so easy that I didn’t even hear his advice to take it slow–I grabbed the bike, hopped on and promptly fell over. After that, I was much more willing to listen, and try again.

Trying is the first step to doing, Yoda’s advice notwithstanding:

  • If I didn’t try to teach myself guitar and banjo when I was a teen, I wouldn’t be taking ukulele lessons now.
  • If I never tried out for a major part in a play in high school, I would not be the me I am today. Back then, I was headed down the wrong path, and the school plays saved me.
  • If I never married my first husband, I wouldn’t be married to the Crankee Yankee (my current and last and best husband) now.

There’s a story I read a long time ago that got me thinking about trying things out first before doing them.  In the story, a father presented his daughter with a lovely little string of pearls on her tenth birthday. She loved them, and wore them every day. She took good care of them, and each night she put them away carefully in their special silk box.

Two years later when she was about to celebrate her twelfth birthday, her father asked her to give him back the string of pearls. She cried and begged him not to make her give them up; she loved them so. He asked her to think about it, and told her that she would be much happier if she gave him back her treasured pearls.

She thought about it for two days. It hurt her heart, but she knew that her father would never lie or disappoint her. So the next day, holding back her tears, she placed the silk box containing her pearls in her father’s hand.

He smiled at her, and said, “Now I will show you why this will make you happy.” He gave her a small box wrapped in pink paper and tied with a lacy white bow. When she opened the box, there was a beautiful string of luminous white pearls inside, strung with a lovely golden clasp. She gasped, and her father said, “The first string of pearls I gave you was pretty, but they weren’t real pearls. I watched as you took such good care of them and appreciated them. You are now old enough and responsible enough to wear the real thing.”

If we don’t try something first, it’s likely we won’t ever do it. This is what our lives are for: trying and then doing.

We try our best to live well, treat others fairly and kindly, love our families, friends, pets, neighbors, and reach out to the world in our own way. Sometimes in our lives we may be asked to give up something that we care about; only to receive something better. Which we wouldn’t get at all, if not for trying first.

Take that, Yoda!

 

 

Sorry, I’m Not Responsible for Your Perceptions

I’ll admit it, I’m not always proud of the way our house looks. In fact, my nerves are on high alert right now because my computer guy is coming in today to check my computer, do upgrades, backups, etc. and answer a few questions for me. It didn’t bother me much until I took a good look at our back porch–which is what you see when you walk into the door to the breezeway.

Just to name a few things that most folks do NOT have on their back porch, there is:

  • a box of grubby-looking garlic bulbs we harvested from our garden last fall
  • a torn LL Bean bag full of donations for the Salvation Army
  • a dusty bowl of cat kibble (for when the two boys, Pookie and Plumpy-Nut, want to sit out there)
  • an entire shelf filled with the Crankee Yankee’s (my husband) odd bits he’s saving for “later” – rusty hinges, assorted nails and screws, piled-up cardboard flats (because you never know when you’ll need them), a few crowbars and hammers, a dust pan filled with–you guessed it–DUST, and so on
  • four neatly stacked wicker chairs, the top one filled with rags (clean ones, anyway)
  • a wooden wind chime, shaped like a watermelon, with an old wasp nest inside
  • Stacks of boards in assorted sizes (again, because you never know when you’ll need one)
  • our beat-up old dingy white wicker rocker with a black-and-white cushion now covered in cat hair
  • various torn towels and a few old shirts destined to become rags (they just haven’t graduated to that status yet)
  • “Uncle Winklebaum,” our garden gnome, who winters on the back porch but spends the spring, summer and fall standing guard in our garden
  • Likewise, a resin black and white cat, whose eyes creepily follow you everywhere
  • several paint cans half-full of dubious beige paint
  • a crap-brown bureau piled with neatly stacked paper bags (again–ready to use when you need one)
  • various dirty plastic buckets “because I can use them later”<insert eye roll here>

…and the “coop de doo,” the ratty old pleather recliner that the cats have literally torn to shreds (seriously, all its guts are hanging out). It’s out there because FINALLY we are making the living room ready for our two new chairs. (The delivery men are also removing the ratty red sofa that has become so rump-sprung that the Crankee Yankee and I are getting butt cancer from it.)

So–that’s what our computer guy will see when he walks in this morning. At first, I panicked and decided to spend last night cleaning up. How could I let someone see that horrible mess out there? Then I smacked myself in the forehead and realized that no, I was NOT going to do that. The computer guy can think what he wants–it’s not his business. He’s there to work on my computer; that’s his business. If he wants to get upset about the state of my files, well, fine. They are a mess; I admit it.

But until he becomes an interior decorator, he can just shut up about the back porch.

The February Floomp

It’s near the end of February

And more snow makes us wary–

That we’ll slip and slide and land on our butts

Or conk our heads like coconuts.

For me, I am weary

Of days dark and dreary–

Of heavy clothes,

My runny nose

My big and clunky winter boots

And all the salt upon my suits–

But March is soon upon us,

Bringing relief from winter jaundice

Perhaps by then

Temps will be above 10–

Or there may be

Some red-breasted robins to see–

Maybe that will pull me from this winter floomp

And give my spirits a bit more oomph.

I know, I know–the cold will go

Along with the slush and ice and snow–

One day this year

We’ll stand and cheer

That winter’s past

At last, at LAST!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acts of Social Terrorism

If only we knew how our words affect others. But we can’t see inside the person with our eyes; we only see the outside. We often do and say careless things that we may forget in a second, but those who received the brunt of those words or actions may feel them for a long time.

I wish I never heard anyone say to a grieving pet owner who has had to put their beloved companion down, “oh, c’mon. It’s just a cat/dog/gerbil/bird/hamster/etc. Just go buy another one!” Anyone struggling with life-long trauma (PTSD, buried emotions, childhood abuse, etc.) knows that there is no time limit for what they feel. No one but them understands how there are days when they can’t even get out of bed, much less function in the world. Bullying these folks with a crisply spoken “get over it, already!” does no good and a great deal of harm. It makes them feel more isolated than ever.

Our technology today is a great place to hurt and bully people, and the victims will never know the bullies’ names. It’s an easy crime and causes a great deal of pain to the victim. I read where a teen was literally bullied to death by other teens in her school via social media. They taunted her with words like ‘you are a loser,’ and ‘why don’t you just do us all a favor and kill yourself,’ and ‘you are worthless’ to the point where she took her own life. Worst of all, one of the bullies on hearing of her death, posted this comment: “so she’s dead, so what. I don’t care.”

I cannot wrap my mind around such thinking, and wonder if that poor sad child would still be living had just one person sent her words of kindness and encouragement.

While hurtful words don’t always cause death, they do cause pain, and in my book, that’s an act of terrorism. As the object of terrorism is literally to terrorize, this is an act of war on someone’s heart. I wonder what kind of personal pain can cause someone to inflict such acts on another.

Too many times, we judge without bothering to know the truth. I once worked with Jen, a tall redhead who was beautiful, feisty and frank, and was also gradually succumbing to an irreversible disease, *ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Basically, the bones begin to fuse together due to calcium forming in the ligaments and joints. When I knew her, she was still able to drive her sporty little red convertible, which had a handicap plate.

One day as she parked her car at a mall in a handicapped space, two women commented loudly about how “some people will do anything to get a good parking spot, even fake an injury. She doesn’t look like she’s handicapped!” Jen walked over to the women and gave them a brief rundown of her disease, including how it took her and her husband an hour and a half each morning to break up the calcium deposits in her body so that she could move.

By the time she was finished, both women were in tears and telling her how sorry they were. I’m sure that they never made such a snap judgement again.

However, the smallest gesture, the briefest kind word, or a quick smile can do worlds of good. If we can put aside judgement and assumptions, perhaps it will help us choose better words. We can’t know what is really going on inside a person, but we can choose to lift someone up instead of putting them down, compliment instead of denigrate, help instead of hurt, and offer a word of encouragement now and then.

It costs us nothing to be kind but a moment, but that moment may last a lifetime to someone else.

*Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of progressive arthritis that leads to chronic inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. It can also affect other joints and organs in the body, such as the eyes, lungs, kidneys, shoulders, knees, hips, heart, and ankles. However, AS primarily affects the axial skeleton, including the ligaments and joints.

This disease causes stiffness, aching, and pain around the spine and pelvis. The disease can eventually lead to a total fusion of the spine. This occurs when the vertebrae (spinal bones) actually grow together fusing the spine due to calcification of the ligaments and discs between each vertebrae. If the vertebrae fuse together, the spine is robbed of mobility, leaving the vertebrae brittle and vulnerable to fractures.

Source: Ankylosing Spondylitis | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/programs/spine/health/guides/ankylosing-spondylitis#ixzz3SibWmQKL
University of Maryland Medical Center.

 

 

What Are Your Favorite Sounds?

I often tell the Crankee Yankee (my husband) that my favorite sound in the whole world is him laughing. He laughs with his whole heart and soul; his face lights up, and, if something really tickles him, he slaps his knees as well. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve fallen in love with him all over again just because of that laugh.

There are so many wonderful sounds in my life, and I know that there are in yours. Take a minute to review them. Here are some of mine–besides the Crankee Yankee’s laughter, that is:

  • My granddaughter giggling
  • My mother howling with laughter over a shared joke
  • My dad telling mom and me that his favorite sound in the world is us laughing together
  • The wind sighing through bare branches
  • Ukulele music–no other instrument has that delightful plinky-plonky sound
  • The pages of a book whispering as I turn them
  • The sound of coffee brewing
  • The purring of cats in my ear
  • The little clicking of beads as I make jewelry
  • The foghorn sound a glass bottle makes when you blow across the top
  • The sussurus of blowing snow in the frigid air
  • The sound of the peepers in spring
  • The call of the loons
  • Mozart’s music
  • The ‘gloop gloop’ sound of bubbling soup
  • Plumpy-Nut’s (our most recent cat) snoring
  • Ocean waves
  • Screen doors slamming in the summer time
  • The ‘scraaaaaak, scraaaaaak’ of blue herons as they fly off over the water
  • Etta James singing “At Last”

…and I’d give anything to hear my grandmother’s old coffee percolator again.

So–what’s yours? Don’t those sounds take you right back in time?

Oscar Night

The Oscars are tonight–

One wonders who will fight

For glory and fame,

And an eternal name,

Upon a golden statue

(Or in reruns, or what have you)

It’s plain to see

(Well, it is for me)

That talent trumps beauty–

And those who flaunt their booty,

Will eventually fade away

To lives dull and gray–

Back to all things ordinary

And leave the extraordinary

To the current high flying adored,

Who slouch about, looking bored

Sipping wine from crystal glasses,

While deliberately ignoring the masses

Who scream for their heros

(And nothing for the zeros)

They live for fame and recognition,

That revolves around these conditions–

That you stay thin and young

(Despite the fact your breasts have hung

Down longer than a plum-bob)

And that you stand and hob-nob

While well-wishers shriek and caper

For your lipsticked name upon a paper–

(Which will likely last better

Than your thousand dollar sweater)

Good luck with the fleeting game

Of Oscars, gift bags and fame–

It all could end

With this phrase, my friend–

“And the Oscar goes to–

NOT YOU!”

 

 

 

 

 

“Sorry, but…” Doesn’t Cut It

A true apology is an art. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it–it is simply a statement of apology, said sincerely, such as “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and I’m so sorry for that. I hope you can forgive me, and please know that I will think before I speak from now on.”

This, however, is NOT an apology: “Sorry, but you asked my opinion, and you know me–I don’t pull any punches. So if you didn’t want to hear the truth, you shouldn’t have asked.” (This was actually told to me by a former boss of mine, and thinking of it still pisses me off.)

Oh—there is so much wrong with that statement! Basically, it blames the person to which you’re addressing the apology, as though it’s their fault that their feelings were hurt. It’s a crap apology, and it isn’t worth the spit to say it. Too many times our apologies end up being passive-aggressive–“well, I’m sorry you didn’t see things my way.” That’s not what an apology is.

Years ago when I was a customer service phone rep for a school supply company, every other phone call I got was abusive. Once I got past total strangers yelling at me, what I began to hear were people who were frustrated and just wanted to be heard. No matter whose fault it was, they wanted to be heard and acknowledged. They first wanted to hear someone at the other end apologize for their trouble, and then help them fix the problem. They did not want to hear that their problem was their own fault.

Regarding customer service in general: sometimes the customer is NOT right. Sometimes they haven’t done the necessary work on their end to avoid the problem they had. However, it is still the role of the rep to first and foremost apologize for their trouble. It is astounding how just apologizing right off the bat can help diffuse the angriest of phone calls. From that point on (unless of course the customer is psychotic), steps can be taken to address and solve the issue.

Once I looked at customer service in that way, everything changed. Oh sure, there were plenty of aggravating and downright mean people who called, but mostly they just wanted someone to 1) listen, and 2) help.

It’s the same with an apology. The person being apologized to is already hurting, so why add more grief by offering a “sorry, BUT” useless apology? It accomplishes nothing but let that person know that you don’t care that you hurt them, and that somehow their hurt is their own fault. Not acceptable–ever.

As Thumper the rabbit, Bambi’s best friend once said, “If ya don’t have somethin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin.”