I received an email from my dentist asking me to confirm my appointment by clicking “the orange button below.” The only button below was green. I was wary of clicking it because I am conditioned by puzzles and riddles to avoid traps. After studying the email, I clicked the green button because I recognized little risk. If I clicked a wrong button, what could go wrong? If my dental appointment is cancelled, that is always cause for celebration. If I do not show up, my defense against a penalty fee would be, “I never clicked an orange button.” I recognize that people see color differently but I am not colorblind by any traditional measure. And the colors displayed on my computer line up with expectations e.g., the sky is blue. Perhaps I am overthinking my upcoming dental visit which is an enigma because I forgot to put on socks this morning. Things are just not what they seem any more. This week I hiked up to Rattlesnake Ledge, saw no snakes, and the place was overrun with chipmunks. Surely rattlesnakes would eat chipmunks. Or is someone releasing chipmunks for the snakes? Like people feed bread to ducks. I was more worried about the five deaths on the hike between from 2009-2018. None were attributed to snakes or chipmunks. One was a gunshot suicide and four were from accidental falls. I never like being reminded that people carry guns in the woods. I am barely adjusted to the fact that customers carry guns into the grocery store. All five people who died were aged 16-32, so at least I went on the hike knowing I was way too old (74) to be at risk for a fall.
Month: August 2021
Right or Happy
A character in the old television series Any Day Now says you can either be right or be happy. This is similar to being “dead right” or winning a battle while losing a war. Certain compromises could theoretically make you happier. But examples exist of compromises making people miserable. Unfortunately the choices of “right” and “happy” are not either/or guarantees. You can be wrong and unhappy. Being “right” and “happy” is more difficult which makes the saying about being one or the other consoling. I feel we choose unhappiness way to often. We cannot change certain things. I cannot change my height. Today I cannot procure a medical degree. But I can decide to be courteous to everyone all day long. Happiness is trickier because obstacles like a broken leg or a leaky roof are enemies to happiness. But we still choose our own reactions to events we do not control. If the home team loses, we can be depressed or we can adopt a “win some, lose some” attitude. We can wail about the brutal unfairness of life or spread peace. We can make those changes in philosophy instantly. We do not have to study and take exams to qualify for being nice or compassionate or forgiving. Wealthy celebrities can be miserable and the poorest among us can be happy. That is because we have the power and control over how we process our world. This is easier to preach than practice but examples are everywhere. We are inspired by those who overcome tremendous handicaps to find joy in life. Sure, you can annoy people if you are too happy. You can appear to be rubbing in your good fortune or taking a “holier than thou” victory lap. But the happiness virus is contagious.
After I began reading Silkworm, my wife told me the author Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. I think I have read posts and comments where Bloggers were commenting about the book but I was not paying attention because I am primarily interested in reading materials that are all about me. This usually restricts me to my own Blog. But I did enjoy Silkworm’s description of a Blogger’s website “My Literary Life” as being decorated with drawings of quills, an outdated picture, and a list of posts arranged diary-style by date. The protagonist’s personal assistant explains that these Blogs are “about how traditional publishers wouldn’t know good books if they were hit over the head with them.” The character with a Blog in Silkworm has authored three ignored novels available for Kindle download “in what she calls an erotic fantasy series, called the Melina Saga.” I assume the enormously popular Rowling is irked by the drumbeat of blogging authors who rail against the corrupt system that publishes commercially successful bad literature (maybe some truth) while the allegedly brilliant blogging authors languish in obscurity. What a delicious spat. It almost makes me relieved that I was reading Franzen’s The Correction when I finished my novel. Even a narcissist like me could recognize the difference between us. I am two books into a reading list of books by fellow Bloggers who feel like friends. As an aside, I am disappointed that sometimes I cannot get a print copy of certain books. I do not need a 99 cent deal. I want that book in my hands. I only read the first Harry Potter book, so I am neither a big Rowling fan nor a qualified critic. But good luck trying to best her in a writing duel.
I am sometimes accused of resisting change. Sure, occasionally I forget to change my underwear and have no interest in changing tires, wives, or furnace filters. But I get stereotyped. I have changed many diapers but that does not mean I like it. Change is complicated. I am against climate change so that means I favor changes that will help preserve a climate where humans can survive. When I was a kid, I enjoyed carrying change around in my pocket. Now I hate the idea of that and never do it. At work, I generally recommended against change because it was safest. The subconscious knowledge that legal consequences of change could be expensive and disruptive likely acted as an inhibitor. As a Corporate Discipline Coordinator, my influence helped derail plans to implement drug testing for new hires. My replacement had the advantage of not being a lawyer and she did not obstruct the introduction of drug testing. The change went smoothly. So I applied that lesson going forward. Except that last statement just forced me to delete from this post an undercutting sentence that attempted to justify my original objections! I am clearly in denial and must now make a drastic self intervention. Going forward I will be provoking and embracing changes just for the sake of change. Major League Baseball games should be changed from 9 innings to 7 innings with four outs in each half inning. Teams get 28 outs instead of 27, score more runs, and eliminate four boring and time consuming half inning changes. Yeah, that is how I roll now. Members of Congress should be chosen by lottery. No campaigning and voting. Things can only get better. I am just getting warmed up. Unless I change my mind.
My Polish daughter-in-law is my harshest critic. I identify her nationality to distinguish her from other daughters-in-law who are also critics (their unanimity suggests I am flawed). I want identifications correct in case I go viral overnight and wind up on Good Morning America. I am always disappointed not to see myself on television but cheer up when my obituary is not in the Seattle Times. Recently, harshest critic brought lunch over for her nine year old daughter who was making a Nutella sandwich on a mini bagel while I was hunkered down crafting hysterical Blog responses. The latest straws of my negligence and obsession broke the camel’s back. Harshest critic was toting healthy food, probably a seaweed smoothie and beet salad. I either forgot to tell my granddaughter that treats were coming or did tell her and she was trying to wolf down Nutella before her mom arrived. My cowardly instinct is to throw others under the bus. I denied authorizing the sandwich and blamed my lack of supervision on a distracting phone conversation with my doctor about my worsening tremors. When all hell broke loose, my wife thought I brushed her off with my five word explanation: “Zofia made a Nutella sandwich.” Zofia was up most of the night stressed while her mom was pounding out texts and emails to me between 3:00am and 6:00am. Non responses always escalate the conflict. But I hide my phone at night and hope family members do not have emergencies. I made a living as a negotiator, so I went to work forging a fragile truce. My harshest critic cited recent disturbances in the Schumann Resonance to explain her over reaction. I was going to blog about Schumann and his Resonance but my lengthy preamble scuttled that plan.
I have been fascinated with miniatures since I was a child. I have collected and displayed them in the typesetting drawers people have gifted to me over the years. The miniatures are very inviting to children. I was outraged when my younger brother Jamie broke some of the pieces when we shared a bedroom. My youngest granddaughter was almost two when she moved in with us. It did not take her too long to discover a drawer display of miniatures sitting atop a living room cabinet. She could reach it, remove the “toys,” scattering and even breaking them. Reasoning with her did not solve the problem. So I rearranged the moveable shelves in the indented built-in bookcase and relocated the miniature collection to a higher shelf out of her reach. I did not like having the miniatures so high because they had farther to fall to the floor. The 2001 Nisqually Earthquake had already shaken them loose and broken a few. But I had solved the problem. I barely finished bragging to my wife about my elegant solution when I discovered my granddaughter had dragged a chair from the dining room to the living room, was standing on it, and removing miniatures from the display. Apparently she inherited my problem solving gene. I permanently relocated that collection to the master bedroom where no one gets to see it. But I think I won the battle by informing her that she would be sorry someday when she inherits my badly damaged collection. She pretended not to care. What I learned: Whenever we solve one of our problems, we are likely just creating new problems for others.
My Wednesday post on Cuomo reminded me of my upbringing. My family was not big on hugging. My mother’s four grandparents were born in Ireland, so I traced the reticence to the Irish but maybe it was just us. My parents were not the types to kiss other partygoers on New Year’s Eve. My maternal Uncle Jim once generously lent me his Jeep for a weekend I spent in Nevada. When I returned it and thanked him, he seemed uninterested in shaking hands although we parted on excellent terms. I hug when necessary but was raised to shake hands. Even that was apparently uncomfortable for an uncle who surely shook hands as he parlayed his World War II service and Yale Law degree into a distinguished career as a Judge. I never liked holding hands with strangers in Church during the singing of the Our Father so I would maneuver to sit between my wife and youngest granddaughter. Then my wife would take my granddaughter to the restroom right before the Our Father. I would snarl, “Can’t she hold it for two more minutes?” My precautions went for naught and I end up holding hands with my grown son and some stranger. I get no spiritual credit for my attitude. I embraced the Pandemic restriction against hand holding in Church. Once I agreed to take a Ballroom Dancing class with my wife but negotiated a concession that I was not switching partners. Yes, I am embarrassed to be a cold fish but empathize with my wife’s sister. She only hugs young children and animals. No adults. She may have a good reason but carries a reputation for being weird because she cannot even fake hug like I do.
Riding the Bus
I have ridden busses from A to Z. Articulated Bus is full of riders who speak fluently and coherently. The Omnibus is open to all. Columbus takes you to Ohio. Microbus is a Volkswagen van used for tours of the Microsoft campus. The Jacobus will cost you 25 shillings to ride. The Ephebus is crammed with young men from Greece. The Thrombus clots my blood, the Arquebus allows guns on board, and the Rebus puzzles me with illustrated pictures instead of words on their adverising posters. The Rhombus has four equal sides, so I never know where to board but the wheels on that bus still go round and round. My Mom designated Incubus and Succubus as Tabus, so I have no idea where they take you. The Nimbus is good for rainy trips to higher elevations and the Limbus is good for sightseeing. I ride the rubus to go berry picking but for a joyride I take the Colobus with the other monkeys. I board the Zebus only as a last resort because it becomes a cattle car at rush hour. I could continue with the Syllabus but I hear the screams for a Bus Stop.
Human Repair Kit
My nine year old granddaughter needed an adhesive bandage, so her mother fetched her a Band-Aid from a box labeled Human Repair Kit. The contents were a little boring. Bandages, antibiotic ointment, hand sanitizer, and the like. I was impressed with the concept though. Maybe I would add a mini wine bottle, CD of the Beatles Greatest Hits, hair plugs, an apology letter from someone who wronged you, a picture of a loved one, couple of hugs, do-it-yourself knee replacement kit, anti-wrinkle cream, slice of pizza, and a root beer float. I guess my kit is unrealistic. Where can you find an anti-wrinkle cream that works? So maybe a better idea is to create kits you can personalize for gag birthday gifts. You could put together a clever box for your Uncle Don. Take a jar of hand lotion and re-label it Anti-Narcissism Cream. Doctor up your old soccer trophy to proclaim “Nobel Prize.” Create a Gift Certificate from Wal-Mart for $100 worth of Wall. I have some wonderful ideas for my own family members but do not want to spoil the surprise.
Write Your Own Story
While promoting her film Ride the Eagle in People Magazine (August 16 issue), Susan Sarandon mentioned that she has “no patience for people in their 40’s who are still blaming their parents.” She says, “Write your own story.” She has three children aged 29-36, so apparently she has given them a free pass for a few more years. I have three sons in their 40’s, so I hereby advise them that Sarandon is not cool with you blaming me anymore. I expect her opinion will have no impact on my children unless maybe she can help land them gigs like her children have as musician, writer/director, and actress/blogger. If by some remarkable coincidence my children bump into Sarandon, I am hereby warning them not to complain about me. Instead, talk about climate change. Sarandon is passionate about fighting it. She says, “I’ve put all my faith in young people.” She is 74, so probably considers my boys young. My message to them: When you write your own story, remember that people have many different stories. Some children have been so damaged by parents that they need to continue exploring blame after age 40. But you do not. My strategy was to blame my parents until 2017 when your paternal grandmother died. Then I changed my strategy and began blaming you three. After all, someone must be blamed for this mess of me!