Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We The People



I got depressed today.

Actually, I got depressed two weeks ago when we filled out our early ballots. I just got re-depressed when I realized they’re going to count them today.

I know it’s not polite to discuss religion or politics here, not unless it’s a Sunday, I suppose (which it isn’t) or unless it’s an election day (which it is.) So here’s the honest truth. I am the furthest thing from being a Democrat and will never vote that way on any issue. I probably might possibly be a Libertarian except I don’t know what they stand for, and maybe that’s the point. They’re not as offensive as donkeys and elephants. I think Libertarians might actually be from Canada—they’re just polite and friendly all the time.

But I come from a long line of Republican voters and, since I’m pretty usually very normally conservative in almost all of my opinions, that’s the way I vote. And that’s the way I voted two weeks ago. Because, while I know a Democratic president is only one cog in the wheel of politics, even if she did have integrity I don’t want her selecting our next Supreme Court judges or wreaking havoc on our constitutional rights.

I also don’t want a Republican president who’s so out of the box that he can’t be trusted to speak responsibly and respectfully when a tv camera is aimed in his direction. And I want him to get a haircut.

So I got depressed today. 

Then I decided I’m not going to watch any election returns today or tonight. But I forgot that Facebook is ever the people’s voice of politics, and I opened up my palm sized computer and accidently read everyone else’s opinion.

Here's what I read. And here's what I learned.

I learned that if I don’t believe in either of the top two candidates, that it isn’t a waste of my vote to write in Mickey Mouse instead. Because if enough of us gather behind Mickey Mouse—on election day, all of a sudden—we can change the face of politics. Don’t you think, though, that America’s politics are already kind of Mickey Mouse?

I learned that I should vote my conscience and throw my single serving support behind my candidate, even if my candidate (who withdrew from the race six months ago) told me not to waste my vote on him. I learned that the most important thing is to exercise my privilege of voting even though we all know that it’s the Electoral College that puts a president in office and that person will be announced as the winner before the polls in Alaska and Hawaii even close.

How does that make everybody feel in our 49th and 50th states? Like they’re always last?

I learned that people are toasting the end of this year’s election and calling today “the eve of the end of political ads.” And that when all the finger pointing, mudslinging and lying are finished, we should let bygones be bygones and stop digging up the past. Finally, I read that none of us should let presidential elections get us down because in the end God is our King (which He is) and none of this matters at all. Which only sounded to me like the Republicans are pretty sure they’ve lost so we’d better throw a religious cast on our sorrows.

I actually started to cry just thinking how confused I was by all the advice on Facebook.

So I did the logical thing. I went to Walmart. Land of the ordinary and home of middle America. I knew I’d be welcome there, tear stained face and all.

Rob and I pulled up in our Tahoe to get the oil changed, and a friendly older man (even older than us, if that’s possible) greeted us like we were old chums.

“Hey, you picked the right place for an oil change,” he said with a smile. “Did you get out and vote today?”

No, I thought. We voted two weeks ago and thanks for rubbing salt in that wound. That, of course, is not what Roby Poppins said. (My husband is “practically perfect in every way;” thus, my favorite nickname for him.)

“Yes, we did vote,” he replied.

“Well, good for you!” said the man wearing an “I Voted Today” pin on his Walmart shirt. “Have a nice day!”

Inside I was surrounded by a bubble of soothing friendliness. Another shopper stood aside, smiling, to let me pass when he actually had the right-of-way.

“Thanks so much!” I told him, surprised by his kindness.

“How are you today?” an employee asked, while I leaned against a shelf full of printer paper, trying to locate my lost husband, our shopping buggy and especially the peppermint mocha riding in the front seat of the Walmart cart. The guy wasn’t even trying to sell me anything.

I found Rob, we paid for our oil change and a few Christmas purchases because Christmas shopping always cheer me up and Walmart prices make me happy, too. But another shopper had also picked up her vehicle from the lube bays, and as she unloaded her weeks’ worth of groceries into the back seat of her vehicle, her door blocked mine.

“I am so sorry,” she said sincerely, as Rob and I discussed Plan B and our exit route. She quickly closed the doors and moved to the other side of her vehicle.

I thanked her genuinely, we quickly backed out so she could finish with her groceries, and we merged into the mass of traffic which certainly was full of plenty of people like me who wished voting for a president wasn’t so traumatic.

And that’s when I really learned something. 

All the hype is politics. All the accusations and condemnation are the stuff of which ratings are made. All the people, “we the people”, are kind, generous, decent Americans doing our best to be good citizens. We treat each other kindly in grocery stores, we care about one another in lube bays, we share the space in grocery store aisles. And we’ll still be friends, still be on the same side of survival when this election is over, and tomorrow we’ll still be the great country we were when the Greatest Generation turned the reins over to us.

I might still need another Starbucks in the morning when I finally have the courage to find out who won today. But I won’t blame the barista for the results, no matter how he or she voted.

I’ll just whisper a quiet thanks to all the nice, Libertarian Canadians on Facebook who commented over and over again,

“We’re praying for America here in Canada.”

I want to be like them when I grow up.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Living Dangerously



Grocery shopping is dangerous.

I’m no newby at it, either. I’ve been navigating produce aisles for forty years and, while I consider myself an expert, don’t be fooled. I make this look easy. Retail therapy is not for the faint of heart. I deserve a purple heart or a medal of honor for all that I’ve endured while bringing home the bacon.

Every time I see a man pushing a shopping cart while his wife tags along behind him, I think to myself,

“Sweet thing, just wait for him in the car with bandages and a cold beer. He’ll be along soon enough and never try to take over for you again.”

Experience is a mean-hearted tutor.

This week alone I was attacked by a three-pound bag of flour. Actually, it was gluten free baking mix. That means it already had an attitude based on an inferiority complex and was looking for an easy target like me. To be completely fair, it had suffered a serious injury—a side laceration where a careless stocker got carried away with his utility knife and murdered the top six bags of Pamela’s Baking Mix right there in the middle of the natural foods aisle. Tragic. Not because the store was attempting to sell the damaged item, but because its fatal wound bled all over me when I pulled it down from the top shelf.

Not.Funny.

Grocery stores should offer liability insurance for their patrons—something that covers laundry bills. I only had that black shirt and clean pair of jeans on for an hour before I was annihilated by rice flour.

Usually my injuries are the result of poorly designed shopping carts. Never wear open-toed sandals while driving one of those. It’s just another example of buggies designed by men in expensive Florsheims who have never actually measured the stride of a woman pushing a cart or exposed their own sensitive toes to the dangers of tiny, treacherous wheels. I’ve lost more toenails than I want to mention here in this public forum, and—while it keeps my nail tech busy with my repeat business—I’m tired of people pointing and laughing at my lopsided pedicures.

I repeat—I demand compensation for pain and disfigurement.

And if I go home wearing any more bloodstains on the days I wear a white shirt while shopping, I’ll also need a disclaimer printed on the bottom of my store receipt so the polite police officer will know I was simply selecting a fresh roast and there’s no need to make me stand spread-eagle against my car while he searches the trunk for dead bodies.

So.Embarrassing.

Grocery stores think they’ve got us fooled providing Lysol wipes for us at the front door so we won’t pick up streptococcus from the handles of our carts. But I’m not afraid of baby bacteria. I raised two children and babysit at least three grandbabies on a regular basis. It’s grownups I’m afraid of. So I come prepared. I pop 20K milligrams of Airborne every time I park in the only available space in the store’s north forty. Then I cross myself, kiss a rosary, and step through the automatic doors into forty-million square feet of oxygen that’s already been breathed and exhaled by mobs of disease carrying customers who haven’t yet decided whether or not to get this year’s flu shot.

I’m not even Catholic.

“It’s a war zone in there,” I told my husband yesterday, while I rubbed a wet washrag on the white powder all over my leather shoes.

“Did you get stopped by the cops again? That white powder looks suspicious.”

“It’s Pamela’s,” I answered in frustration.

“Who’s Pamela and why are you buying white powder from her?”

“Listen, honey,” I said, “I’ve had a hard day at the office. In the forty-five minutes I spent in Fry’s, I logged my entire ten thousand steps for the day criss-crossing the store and still forgot to pick up eggs. I can no longer wear white or black shirts when I go shopping, and while I desperately wanted to buy a peppermint mocha at the inside Starbucks, the line was so long it wrapped around the sushi bar and stopped in front of the candy aisle. I decided to skip all the drama and buy a bag of Peppermint Patties instead. Now half the bag is gone.

“Not only that, but the snowbirds are back, and before I could even leave the store, the high school let out, that new housing development across the street invited five hundred new residents to use one of six operating checkout lanes in the grocery store, and I broke another toenail pushing my cart out to the truck.”

“But you’re not wearing sandals,” he said in confusion.

“I kicked the tires of a car next to me. Well, it was the last straw! It was parked so close I couldn’t even open my door to get in.”

“How’d you get home?” he asked.

“The driver offered me a ride when he saw me kick his car. I guess it’s not a good idea to do that to a police cruiser. I have a court date for next Thursday.”

“You want me to do the shopping from now on?” he asked carefully.

“Not a chance,” I answered. “I know you mean well, but you and I both know the truth—you’re way underqualified.”

He doesn’t have the nails for a job like this.






With many thanks to the following link for the use of the awesome photograph above.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/imcomkorea/3017159061/in/photolist-5ABJgP-5Yf6tH-sDTyWV-buGYsk-hCb2fp-99u2Ac-avPVq3-b6RUK8-9iQsGq-7EH3JH-8zTBCS-dYRvJv-aDCRQm-9tbGP4-5ABmEV-99x9Rh-pZTajj-o8bSbG-fQcvc9-fjd3zk-sn9fU7-q49rxT-oWxDUD-8Bzr4Y-hFkYGk-d9EgY5-9h2vkK-9dHPxt-bUXozK-8zTCwb-9iQtbS-5ABHAX-9TXnu2-8zQw3R-5AFzjj-5BqnUi-5ABFFc-6kBJxV-pV1Wro-93J9hf-9sgeD5-spJw3p-dX16By-8otDWs-7PMxT3-qtPp3L-8NCtdR-7HbTME-dAWcAo-daa8xF

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

And The Rockets' Red Glare . . .



. . . the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night,

That my house was still there . . .

And my yard . . .

But not my peace of mind. Okay. My sanity.

Ever since they made the purchase of fireworks legal in our state, my former favorite 4th of July holiday has become an explosive event. I’m not just talking about my neighbors and their lack of thoughtfulness or even their lawlessness. I’m also talking about my reaction to their thoughtlessness.

There’s never been a more bottled up rocket launcher than the emotions I keep shoving down inside of me during every amateur micro-burst that shakes our chandelier. I keep doing that because I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. Or shoot at me. Or take direct aim on my house with their “legal” fireworks.

Okay, because I’m a chicken and it takes a lot to make the transformation into a mama bear.

Here’s something weird, but very important about fireworks.

It’s legal to buy them. It’s not legal to shoot them off in neighborhoods—not aerial missiles, anyway. You know, the colorful, photogenic kind that terrify everyone’s dogs and cats and leave me with PTSD until the next pyrotechnic event. So far, those dates include New Year’s Eve (also no longer my favorite holiday), Halloween (never a favorite holiday), and random weeknights—just because people bought fireworks half-price the day after a holiday and thought we’d enjoy a little background noise for no particular reason.

I don’t.

I am, too, a patriot. No, I am not old. I just want to enjoy fireworks shows in appropriate places, like shopping mall parking lots, city parks, and Disneyland, where professionals with all three fingers on each hand control them. Not overhead, six houses from mine.

So I cooked up a plan.

“Next July,” I yelled to my husband above the commotion of our neighbors’ late night, celebratory explosions, “I don’t want to be home on the 4th of July. I want to go somewhere else to see fireworks.”

“But we just got back from going somewhere else to see fireworks,” he said. “And why are you yelling?”

“Because I don’t want to be home at all on the 4th next year!”

This is the next year. So we booked a room with leftover hotel points, dug out all of our Christmas gift cards, and planned ourselves a date night so our neighbors could spend the evening being obnoxious and we could spend the evening not caring.

Somebody told them.

On July 2nd, a few preliminary rounds exploded down the street for about a half an hour. Okay, I thought. That wasn’t too bad. Ridiculously early, but short.

On July 3rd, one of our neighbors staged his own production, complete with lights and booms and cheers, for three and a half hours. I’ll say this for him—it was free. When bedtime rolled around, though, and the lamp on my side of the bed was still shaking, I lost my cool. And probably my salvation.

Now, hubby and I have different temperaments. I married him because he is the epitome of patience. And I usually get mad at him because he is the epitome of patience. So while I was fuming and losing my mind over the selfishness of our neighbors—don’t they know there are babies trying to sleep and people who get up at 4 in the morning every day?—my husband, the retired firefighter, who, for years, was serenaded to sleep by a symphony of firefighters and their foundation-shaking snores—really couldn’t have cared less that the neighbors were committing misdemeanors behind our house.

It took a little honest communication to sort all of that out. And I’m happy to report that we resolved our differences before anything other than an innocent neighbor’s backyard went up in flames. It looked like we’d find the July 4th of our dreams after all.

On Independence Day, we left our house because we didn’t have the freedom to enjoy any peace there. We headed to our Shangri-la hideaway in Phoenix, went out for a nice dinner, and returned to our room to wait for the sun to go down. 

Now, listen. Enjoying fireworks in the Valley of the Sun is almost an oxymoron. The high in Phoenix yesterday, July 4th, was 109 degrees. That’s the boiling point for frogs and tempers. We’ve tried to enjoy this holiday a dozen different ways before, but all of them left us with heat exhaustion and second degree burns. Finally, we discovered the one and only way to view a good light show in Arizona—from the inside of our air conditioned truck.

We found the perfect empty parking lot, aimed our windshield in the direction of the floor show, and sat back for forty minutes waiting for the big pay off. At ten after nine, we looked first at the dark sky in front of us, then at each other, and said,

“Where’s the show?”

We’d researched this. We were one mile east of the park where the big production was supposed to go off, and three miles northeast of another one the local casino was in charge of. They were late. Both of them. The next show we knew of was thirty minutes away. If we left now, by the time we got there we’d be lucky to see the finale. We pulled out our cell phones, searched Safari, and brought up the unbelievable truth. We were late. Two days late. Both events had gone off without a hitch on July 2nd.

I blame my neighbors for this. 

Since when is the Fourth of July celebrated in its entirety on the Second and Third of July? Is this a communist plot or a socialist prank in an election year? Who’s stealing our legal right to Independence Day? Was it written in the fine print somewhere in Obamacare that we had no right to find fireworks on Fireworks Day? I wanted answers. I wanted names.

I wanted people to stop messing around with the Fourth of July.

We turned around in the empty parking lot and headed back to our hotel, where on the way we saw eight cars lined up side by side against an open stretch of desert, in full fireworks viewing posture. Two cute college girls sat on the back of their open convertible, with John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever blaring from Pandora, while the man in the next car leaned against his vehicle looking at his cell phone. His wife stood against a wooden barrier, looking longingly off into the dark night. Everyone was waiting patiently. For something.

“Honey!” I said in excitement. “That must be where the show’s going to happen.”

“But it’s after nine,” he said, driving past the onlookers.

“Maybe it starts at 9:30 instead of 9,” I told him.

“But you looked it up,” he said. “The fireworks blew up two days ago.”

“Well, eight cars full of people over there think there’s a show about to start. I’m just one woman with a cell phone. I could be wrong.”

He sighed. Poor guy. What choice did he have?

He turned around, and we headed back to the impromptu parking area, where we took the last spot alongside the man with the cell phone. My husband rolled down his window and asked him,

“Are there fireworks happening here soon?”

“I sure hope so,” the stranger answered.

“Well, we wondered because online it says the show happened on Saturday.”

Silence. And then .  .  .

“Ohmigosh.” He looked up from his cell phone to my husband, staring at him blankly like he’d just been told there was no Santa Claus.

“You’re right,” he said. “And we’ve been sitting here in the heat for thirty minutes for nothing.”

We backed out away from our misinformed peeps, and drove away. I wish I’d taken a picture of that sad group of cars all lined up side by side. Thirty miles north, like a pinhead of light on the horizon, a distant fireworks display in a town that still owns a calendar punctuated the dark to the delight of the blondes in the convertible.

“Yay!” they shouted.

It was all the show any of us got. Some reward for the only true patriots in the south end of Phoenix.

I’ve got a new plan, though. Next year, we’re not even going to be in the state for the Second or Third or Fourth of July. We’re getting out of this stinking desert and going some place green. We’re gonna leave three days early and find a pretty place with good temperatures and a working calendar. Then we’re gonna watch fireworks without any early pre-show bologna, and cheer and eat hot dogs and applaud when the big finale lights up the sky.

“They don’t celebrate the Fourth in Ireland,” my husband said, when I laid out the plan.

That’s when I finally blew up. Talk about a rocket’s red glare.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

In Spite Of Me



I have a confession to make. When I became a mother, I had no credentials.

It gets worse. 

My husband and I raised our two children by gut instinct. There was no village. There was just me on the days my firefighter husband was on a twenty-four hour shift. And the rest of the time—there were just the two of us.

And . . .

wait for it. . .

we didn’t know what we were doing. Close your mouth.

I wonder sometimes why God gives babies to barely grown adults. Completely uneducated and with no significant prior experience, we’re supposed to train them up in the way they should go. We barely knew where we were going. How were we supposed to know where our kids should go?

We’d both had examples, of course. Not perfect, but pretty good. So we turned to them for advice.

“You’re entitled to your own mistakes,” I was told. Which didn’t exactly sound like advice to me. It sounded more like a life sentence with no hope of parole. What had they learned about raising kids?

I felt like I was being warned. Like I was put on notice that I was definitely going to screw up somehow, which was either a reflection on me or on the frustrating responsibility of parenting. Or both.
 
So I set about to do it right. Do it perfectly. Fix all the mistakes in the next generation that had been made with ours.

It wasn’t easy. 

It wasn’t possible.

I was determined to do it anyway.

Mold my breed. Train their minds. Give them my values and watch them live a perfect life.

Like mine.

There was a problem, though. I wasn’t perfect.

Like a temperamental cake in the oven, I was in process myself the entire time I was in the process of raising my children. I’m not even the same person today that I was thirty years ago. Today, if I had the energy of my twenty-seven-year-old self and was given another child to raise, there are a lot of things I’d do differently. Then when those twenty years of second chance parenting were finished and this time I was sure I’d done it perfectly and trained my children to be as near perfect as I could make them . . .

They’d still live life on their terms, not mine.

I don’t want my kids to be my clones. This temperamental cake isn’t done yet.

I want them to live life in the same freedom God gave me. Free to be themselves in a complicated world, able to respond to life’s challenges with their own varied points of view, and completely assured we’re on their side.

Thank God it was never up to me to decide who my children should be or how they should live. It’s always been up to the One Who loves them perfectly and never should’s on them.

Look at that. I think I just grew up a little.