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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Fate vs Destiny

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Fate:  the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do – Merriam-Webster

Destiny:  a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency  – Merriam-Webster

They sound so similar.  Instinctively though, most people feel very differently about them.  “Google” them and you will find that overall, people feel this about these two things:

Fate:  Passive.  No control over the inevitable outcome.  Per one website with a discussion on the differences:  the course your life will take in spite of your actions.

Destiny:  Dynamic.  A degree of control as to how you will reach the inevitable outcome.  Per the same website: predetermined events within your life that you take an active course in shaping.

In general, “fate” seems to have negative connotations to it while “destiny” is used in a much more positive context.

“It was his fate to be the first soldier to step foot on the shores of Normandy.”

“It was her destiny to go to the bar that night and meet the love of her life.”

How differently would we feel about these two sentences if the words were inter-changed?:

“It was his destiny to be the first soldier to step foot on the shores of Normandy.”

“It was her fate to go to the bar that night and meet the love of her life.”

Very.

If we say it was his or her fate, even though the outcome is preordained, it makes us feel as if it all happened without their choices as the driving influence.  If we say it was his or her destiny, for me at least, it automatically makes me feel as if they made choices or came to some sort of peace about the end results…whether or not the end results were something everyone would consider positive.

Words and how they are perceived matter.  A whole lot.

As a woman nearing the age of 43, I am naturally thinking about – my life.  I am looking back, reflecting on what has transpired to date… the place those events either of my choosing or thrust upon me have led me to thus far…and where the place I’m in now tells me about where I’m going.  I’m not alone in this.

I suppose some might call this the beginnings of a “mid-life crisis”.  As a younger person, say in my 20’s, I would have agreed with them.   But “mid-life crisis” has the same type of negative connotations that “fate” has.

In your 20’s it’s very difficult to conceive of a life lived long and hard enough to reflect upon, and society has all but assigned, with impunity, the “mid-life crisis” to men in their 40’s buying Ferrari’s they cannot afford and women of 40+ hooking themselves up to a Botox-drip to regain any infinitesimally small vestige of the care-free youth they are now old enough to realize is gone forever.   I assume that’s because of the word “crisis”…which instantly implies something negative to be dealt with.  An emergency situation.

I’m trying very hard not to see it that way.

I believe it’s only natural and human to reach what you hope is the mid-stage point in your life and feel the need to take serious stock in what has happened to you, what you have created for yourself and how that will affect what is left of life you will lead.  You no longer have your “whole before you”…you have, maybe, half – or less – of your life before you.  And therein lies the problem.  Once you’ve been lucky enough to live your life to a point where you know you’ve lived more already than you are likely to live in the future…a slow, boiling fear sets into your gut.

What have I done?

What have I accomplished?

Have I lived up to my potential?

Have I loved enough?  Cared enough?  Given enough?……….

When I die, will I feel the power of the love I made and gave given back to me?  Will it envelop me and carry me forward?

It’s very difficult to imagine living the final moments of your life and not being able to answer “yes” to those questions.  And if you can’t answer “yes” to those questions when you ask them of yourself, which can really only be asked when you’ve lived long enough to assess the answers realistically, there is an overwhelming desire to not let another minute of your life go by….not another single minute….. in which you don’t at least attempt to fulfill…your destiny.

I am a mother.  I have three wonderful, beautiful children.  The majority of my personal energy, strength and love is channeled into guiding them toward living strong, healthy, happy lives.  And that’s how it should be.  My parents are wonderful…they did the same for me.  The appreciation I have for them with regards to what they gave to me, and gave up for me, is limitless.  But at the same time I hope so much that they were able to secure some piece of what they believe their personal destiny is along the way, despite having given so much of their lives to their children.

We all have dreams and ambitions and goals for ourselves that seem achievable.  Before you hit, oh…about my age, it seems that you can say to yourself so easily….”There’s still time.”  Staring down the barrel of 43 I can realistically say to myself,  “Self, there might not be that much more time.”

And then I hear Morgan Freeman whisper to me, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”

I’ve achieved some of the goals in my life and am so eternally grateful for them.  But ohhhhh…..I have thus far fallen woefully short of the smile I hope graces my face at the end of my life when I ask myself “the questions”.

I wonder what am I waiting for. (Something to make it all easier?)

I ask myself what’s holding me back. (Fear?)

I worry about whether my happiness and personal fulfillment can exist in tandem with what I owe to my children and the other people in my life whom I love. (I don’t know the answer to this.  I’m not sure I ever will.  All I can do is my very best to make sure… it can.)

I don’t want a Ferrari or Botox.  Well, I don’t know.  Maybe.  Wait…no.  I’m getting sidetracked here.

I don’t want a Ferrari or Botox.

I want – need –  to start actively taking the steps which will move me closer to my destiny.

We all end the same way.  But how do we get there?

Whether on the beach or at the bar, and despite the “crisis” apparently inherent in reaching this point, I don’t want to be fated…to anything.

I just don’t.

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Snips-and-Snails-and…Oh, COME ON!!!

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In general I’ve never really been a “girlie-girl”.  When I was young I didn’t really like to play with Barbies very much.  I didn’t really like to play “house”, although I remember playing it fairly often.  I used to like to play “office”.  Yeah, I don’t know…kind of strange, but whatever.   I don’t particularly remember liking dressing up in flowery clothes much, although I know I certainly did at times.

The “stand-out” toy I got as a kid was not a doll or dress-up clothes, it was “Electronic Battleship”, baby – still the coolest game ever.  I collected Star Wars cards.  As a teenager I wore very little makeup and still don’t wear much.  Never liked the color pink.  I always hated spending time on my hair.  To this day I kind of dread going to get my hair cut as I don’t much like the whole “salon” experience; it seems like a waste of time and the minute I sit down I can’t wait to get out of there.  I dislike immensely the process of shopping for clothes – and while I definitely appreciate flattering, feminine clothing – I simply don’t want to go through the process of acquiring it.

My sister, younger than me by 2 1/2 years, was and still is, basically the opposite….pretty “girlie”…loves to shop, loves cute clothes, likes pink…the whole-nine.

Hmmm… I realize I’m sounding pretty “butch” here, but I don’t feeeeel that way and I don’t think I come across that way to people (pipe-down, peanut gallery…).  I’ve just rarely bought into the whole “this is how you should be a girl/woman” thing.  In high school I remember saying to myself  “If guys don’t think I’m pretty in a flannel, skin-tight Jordache jeans and a massively huge, low-maintenance perm – screw ’em”.

My point is, I’m no princess. Which is inherently a very good thing as I am the mother to three boys; ages 6, 4 and 3.

My sister, well she ended up with three girls.

Perfect!

Destiny would deal the perfect cards for each of us; the gendered children who would best suit our personalities and strengths.

Or DID it??

So the other day I’m sitting at the table with the boys eating pizza, (literally the only food-group all three of them will eat simultaneously).  Here is the conversation that followed:

THE PLAYERS:  Mom (me), Boogs (6 yrs old), Bubs (4 yrs old) and Boo (3 yrs old):

BOO:  Hey Boogs…do you like DIARRHEA on your pizza?

ME:  WHOA!  Whoa…disgusting.  Stop.  We don’t say that, especially at the table.  And you better never say that out in public.

BOO:  Sorry Mommy.  (giggles by all three as I glare).

BUBS:  ME!  I like poo pizza!

ME:  Hey!  I said knock it off!  (silence).

BOOGS:  Did you guys just hear that fart? (Boys belly-laugh….there was no gaseous emission from anyone within a 100 yard radius).

ME:  You know what, that’s IT!  (I stand up menacingly)…Are you trying to make me sick?  We do NOT talk like that in this house.  That’s it, do you UNDERSTAND?!   Tell me OUT LOUD that you understand!

ALL:  (mutterings of yeah, sure, ok).

ME:  (I walk to the sink to rinse my dish).  Just gross.

BOOGS:  Mom, you should have seen Bubs’ poop today, it was HUGE!  (They all laugh).

ME:  (My back is to them and I am now laughing, but am hiding it).  Wha…what???  First of all, why the hell are you even looking at his poo?  I don’t understand, that’s just weird.  Stop doing that.   That’s number one.  Number two…yeah, ok, while we’re at it…from now on going pee is “No. 1”, and going poop is “No. 2”.  That’s what we should say because you’re all clearly obsessed with poo.  Now stop it.  (I shake my head.  There is silence).

BOO:  “No. 2” is poop, Mommy? (asked in the angelic, high-pitched voice that betrays his true intentions).

ME:  (Exasperated).  Yes…Boo.

BOO:  Oh, I want two pieces of pizza cuz then it would be poo-pizza!

ALL BOYS:  (Uproarious laughter.  In the time it took me to walk from the sink to the table in order for me to become menacing again, I heard the words:  Poo, fart, burp and diarrhea).

ME:  You’re all done.  Get outta here!  Goodbye, leave the table.  Go to the naughty-spot. No more pizza, ever.

ALL BOYS:  (Moans and groans….general “sorry’s”).

ME:  (As they run away wrestling each other…)  Why are you LIKE THIS??  (shaking my head to myself and muttering)…GOD…why….Poo pizza…what the……WHY are you so GROSS all the time?  Come ON!!!! 

And they ARE.  Despite my Herculean best efforts, more often than not they say gross things, make gross noises imitating gross things, laugh at almost exclusively gross sounds and discussion, interject gross words into almost every sentence they utter, and in general…are just – the lovers of all words and sounds that have anything to do with gross bodily fluids or emissions.

It’s not like their father or I use these words, really, ever.  I’m not saying we have never used them, but almost never…and almost certainly never in the context in which they use them.

It’s like they were born with this defective micro-chip in their brains that dictates the words and noises that fly out of their mouths must have something to do with burps or butts.

Now I’m not saying that girls don’t have their fair-share of fun at the expense of flatulence and related things.  They do, we do.  But it’s usually not so BRAZEN.  Girls say and do those things, but they tend to laugh about it in more “hushed” tones, among themselves.  My boys will burp and shout over to our sweet, elderly woman neighbor, “Hey, did you hear THAT!?”  They’re proud of it.  It’s like a badge of honor for them.  It’s like a scarlet letter on my chest for me…”B”…for “Bad Mommy”.

I’ll be honest, I don’t get it.  When I was a kid if I made some noise out of one end or the other in front of anyone, I might have laughed uncomfortably, but only because what the hell else could I do…I couldn’t crawl under a rock of shame like I really wanted to.  It happens, we’re human beings – “machines” – and we inadvertently release…exhaust.  I get that.

But for fuck’s sake.  COME ON!!!!

Until I had my three boys I never knew how different boys and girls really were.

Look, overall I much prefer playing outside with my boys and pretending I’m Darth Vader chasing them around the swing-set than sitting around “playing house”. But today I was at Boogs’ baseball game talking to two other mothers.   Each of them had a sweet little girl.  The little girls were sitting quietly and talking about their pretty dresses and sandals, while my two younger boys were picking up their little lawn chairs and thrusting them at each other with “Hi-YAH!”-quasi-kung-fu voices.  Then Boo, my three-year old, said gleefully and loudly through a smile, “I burped Mommy!”.

I shook my head, rolled my eyes and shrugged my shoulders and said to one mother through gritted teeth, “Arggghhh…I just want to take them home and put cute little pink dresses on them for a few hours and have a tea party.  Would that be bad???”

One mother said in all seriousness with a loud whisper, “No.  Uh-uh, it wouldn’t be bad.  They won’t even remember it.  Just do it.”

I kind of stared off into the distance with a dreamy look on my face and said in an I’m-considering-it sort of way…”Huh…”

That or I could simply wait for them to outgrow the gross-boy stuff.

……………sigh…………..

That’s never going to happen, is it.  IS IT?!?

They’ll all be home at lunch time and it will all begin again after I innocently squirt detergent into the dishwasher or squeeze the ketchup bottle or slide a chair on the floor or I utter the words “one” or “two”….and one of them will say:  “Hey Mommy, did you hear that (insert your preferred emission here)”.

Cue uproarious laughter from the boys.  Cue high-blood pressure for me.

Perhaps I should have worn more pink as a kid.

Perhaps THEY should.  Yessssssss…(just for a couple of hours).

Shhh…they’ll never remember it.  Right?

Ohhhh…(whining)……COME ON???


You Herd It Here First.

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Life is hard.

Very hard.

Even for the most fortunate among us, it… is… hard.

For the “most fortunate” of us…all the money, all the opportunities…earned or given…, all the hard work, breaks, intelligence, first chances and second chances, windfalls and blind-stupid-stupid luck that any one person might have…life is still hard.

I believe that.

Having all of those things even in spades does not make a person immune from sadness, anger, heartbreak, loss, death, tragedy, mistakes…or regret.  Maybe it helps sometimes, but it doesn’t make them immune.

I am not one of the “most fortunate” among us.  And neither are most people I know.  I consider myself  and my circle to be in the “very fortunate” category.  We are fortunate, but not excessively fortunate in terms of worldy things….we are comfortable.  We have enough of what is considered “good”, enough so that our families can live well; not “want” for anything we need, and usually not want for anything we want.

We have homes.  We have food.  We have employment.  We have a good education.  We have doctors.  We have friends.  We have love.  We have opportunities afforded to us through our own hard work, and sometimes given to us through the most fortunate or equally fortunate network of people we meet while living our lives.  These things give us comfort while we try very hard to deal with and endure the hardships that are simply a part of being  –  human.  And so we are comfortable.

But I wonder often, very often, what it would be like to be one of the “least fortunate” among us.

We all know what poverty is, but have you actually seen it with your own eyes?  Known anyone who… has lived in it, or tried in vain to move past it, or begged-borrowed-and-stolen to break free of it? 

We all know what bad-luck means, but have you actually known anyone who… has suffered through seemingly unending streaks of it? 

We all know what a lack of an education means, but are you friends with or personally involved with anyone who… has received a very bad one, or very little, or none at all? 

We all know what a job is, but do you know anyone who… has lost one and cannot find another to support his family, or who despite their best efforts is unable to keep one, or who is not qualified to earn one, or who has never seen an example of a respectable one?

We all know what a home is, but do you know anyone who… lives transiently, or lives in a shelter, or finds shelter on the street, or simply “exists” nowhere at all?

We all know what food is, but do you know anyone who… doesn’t have the means to buy it, or grow it, or must beg for it, or who is hungry as a permanent state-of-being?

We all know what health care means, but do you know anyone young or old who…has no means with which to see a doctor, or receive check-ups, or pay for the simplest of medicines? 

We all know what love means, but do you know anyone who… has repeatedly lost it or who never had it to begin with or has been betrayed by it to the point that they essentially can’t conceive of or remember what it means…at all?

Do you know anyone in your life for whom the answer to all of these questions is………… “yes”?

I don’t.

Now let me ask you this:  do you think about those real, flesh-and-blood human beings?  Do you think about them?  Have you ever tried to empathize with what it would feel like to answer “yes” to just one…one…of those questions?  What about two of them?  Three??

I do.

And I’d like to think the majority of people do.  To what degree our empathy shapes our beliefs and actions varies, of course, due to our own personal circumstances.  But your average, every-day, healthy cynicism aside…I think most of us as individuals, when asked to picture walking a mile in the shoes of the least fortunate, feel compassion.  I believe it truly pains the overwhelming majority of us to see other human beings in anguish, desperation and need.  I believe that to be true, literally…for nearly every single person.

I believe that one-on-one, human beings have an instinctual desire to do right by each other.  To literally care for one another and act on it in ways that are measurable.  And I believe that one-on-one, there is no enemy in the person in need – and no enemy in the person who wants for nothing.

Imagine you’re on a street, alone.  Save for one other person…you know the one…the one for whom all the answers to those questions is “yes”.  It’s you and him and the lamp-post.  No matter your political affiliation, race, creed, upbringing, social standing…I truly believe that no matter who you are it would be nearly impossible to fight against your instinct to see that person as a human being who needs help.  And your gut tells you to do just that – help.  Care.

But oh my God…how is it that our innate desire to truly “take care” gets so unbelievably screwed-up when we amass as collectives?

Why does that happen?

Some say The Rapture is coming.  On May 21, 2011 to be exact. The day that God will literally call up the “believing” and “worthy” of us…and leave the rest of us sorry-bastards here to fend for ourselves against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…something like that.

But I don’t know.  Something about that smells a little fishy.  Soooo… God will call to Heaven the “individuals” who He deems righteous enough to warrant it?  Seems simple enough, albeit very time-consuming.  But will God judge us on our merits as an individual?  Or, rather, will he judge us on our merits as a collective?  Very often, these two things do not mesh.  There is the individual.  And then there is….the herd.

Herd Mentality:  The inability or refusal to listen to one’s own instinct or ‘gut feeling’ but to instead follow the majority for fear of being wrong, ostracized or ridiculed.

I believe in God.  I can’t say I haven’t gone through my rough-patches with Him…if “rough patch” includes not believing in him at all at different points in my life (cymbal crash…”Don’t forget to tip your waitress on the way out!”)…..

But seriously folks, I do believe in God.  I also believe that he surely isn’t fooled by the fair-weather philanthropist who gives at the office, but who throws up a little in his mouth at the very thought of supporting the people who answer “yes to all of the above” in any meaningful, long-term, societal way.  His gut might tell him what’s-what, what is right and true and good.  So he appeases that gut with his generous contribution as an individual.  What though, does that philanthropist support as part of his “herd”?

Does his herd frown upon the downtrodden, the weak, the strong-but-unlucky, the indigent, the poor?  Or does his herd put forth into the world the same amount of compassion stirring in his gut?

All I’m saying is that I believe God is efficient.  Come The Rapture, I’m thinking he will look at the the herds as opposed to the individuals.  Courage and convictions are only truly righteous when what you feel in your soul is made known to the world, regardless of the consequences of what others may think.

In my humble opinion.

If you think this is all a thinly veiled cautionary metaphor of  political malpractice regarding oh say, something like the Tea Party….come on.  ((laughing, snorting))… That is only a coincidence.

Ugh.  That’s not true.  It’s not true at all.  I’m lying.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry!

Trying…..to keep…..it inside………..

I THINK MAYBE GOD MIGHT SUCK THE ENTIRE “TEA PARTY” UP

WITH A VACUUM CLEANER ON

MAY 21st!!!!

((Exhale, exhale…..whew)).  There, I’ve said it.  I know.  It wasn’t very nice.  I am sorry.  I just had to say it.  It’s been trying to BUST outta me for a week now…..lemme catch my breath.  Hold…on…..hold….on….

Okay.  Again, I’m so sorry.

I’m hoping that God has a sense of humor.  Or at the very least appreciates lame attempts at it.  Or at the very, VERY least, you know, maybe likes the Lib-herd a little and I’ll be able to blog to you come Sunday.

Then again…..I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t push my luck right now.

Off-Topic Tuesday: “The Gym” and the Embarrassing Things That Can Happen in Them.

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I love working out.  I’ve been working out regularly (5-6 days a week) for over a year and a half now.  Sometimes I go by myself, sometimes I take my kids because they love to go to the child-care center  (and why wouldn’t they, it’s like a damn Chuck E. Cheese in there).

There are many “regulars”, people I see all the time.  We’re friendly and when I don’t see them I wonder why they aren’t there.  I am friendly with some of the trainers and they’ve JUST about given up asking me if I want a session with them for the very nominal fee of $300 Gazillion dollars an hour. I chat with people.  It’s a camaraderie.

When I can’t work out, I become…ornery.  It’s like a high; endorphins to be exact.  I almost always leave the gym feeling 100 times better than when I went in.

But sometimes when you least expect it, it’s…it’s….stressful.

I’m just going to cut to the chase.  Here are some embarrassing things can happen to people at the gym:

FALLING OFF THE MACHINES:  Mostly on treadmills, but also on the ellipticals.  (Not so much on the bikes, you know, cuz you’re sitting down).  It’s possible to go cartoon-flying off the back of a treadmill or more likely, when you try to slow down and think it’s stopping – but it’s not.  Then you can fall off.  Same with ellipticals. And of course everyone pretends not to notice, but some go home and write about it on their blog.  

  • FULL DISCLOSURE:  Recently I fell off an elliptical when I was fumbling around with my iPod and trying to grab my towel at the same time.  I was going pretty hard, lost my balance and fell off the side onto my ass.  I’m pretty sure you can find this on YouTube by searching:  “What a Dipshit”

SPIT-TAKES:  You know, it’s not easy to literally run, bike or elliptical your ass off and drink water at the same time.  You need to be very coordinated, making sure that your bobbing-motion times well with getting the bottle-opening to your mouth in a seamless fashion.  When that doesn’t happen….well, let the “Three’s Company”-style-spit-taking commence.  Or maybe it just goes down the wrong pipe, so coughing and choking ensue.  And if you’re moving fast…the situation can snowball…which means you might get to the perform the Olympic-caliber combo called the “Double-Gag-Choke-Spit-Half-Gaynor-With-A Wipeout”.  

  • FULL DISCLOSURE:  I once mis-timed my bobbing-motion with the water bottle so badly, that not only did I spill half the bottle all over myself, but I choked so hard on the little that actually went into my mouth, I nearly barfed.  I’m pretty sure you can find this on YouTube by searching:  “What a Dipshit”.

ELECTRONICA-GYMNASIOSUM:  “Electronica-Gymnasiosum” is what I define as “The spastic, un-coordinated grabbing of hand-held electronic devices which results in the random, unexpected winging of iPhones, iPods and the like while on a moving exercise machine”.   It’s a combination of losing your balance, possibly hitting the ear-phone cord which acts as a catapult… and maybe sweating, which causes the electronic devices to become slippery.   You’re moving along nicely, listening to Led Zeppelin, and the next thing you know you innocently pick up your iPhone and try to text your friend, you lose your balance, hit the ear-phone-catapult-cord and suddenly your device is gone and someone 10 feet away yells out “What…the…FUCK!”                   

  • FULL DISCLOSURE:  Recently I had a really bad itch on my right thigh.  I tried to ignore it so I could hold onto the handles of the elliptical machine, but it got so annoying that I got pissed and released the right handle, then forcefully brought my right hand down to scratch my thigh – I’m thinking with the force of a jack hammer.  My iPod was then catapulted backward two rows (“…what the FUCK!”) and the earphones ripped out of my ears sending them to the machine next to me, and I lost my balance.  I was, however, able to prevent completely falling off – and hung onto the machine by grabbing the left handle with just the thumb and forefinger on my left hand (the Half-Gaynor).  I’m pretty sure you can find this on YouTube by searching:  “What a Dipshit”.

These are just a few.  I really could write all day about the embarrassing things that happen to people at the gym.

Or just to…people like…me…at the gym.

Dang.  Can you get royalties from YouTube?

A Rose By Any Other Name, Would Smell…Really Inconvenient.

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********************************************

SCENE

THE SETTING:   A Sales Manager’s Office

TIME OF DAY:  4:30 p.m.

SCENE:  A brisk, wintry day in January.  A mid-level Sales Manager is preparing to interview a man for an open sales position.  He is tired.  He hasn’t looked at this latest resume, no time.  He is harried.  He is cold…intermittent heat in his office all day.  His assistant pages him to alert him that his next interview is in two minutes. Sales Manager is annoyed.  This is his fourth interview of the day.  The three previous candidates looked good on paper, but lacked that certain “something” needed in sales.  He had no reason to believe this candidate would be any different.  A storm is brewing outside and he’s concerned about getting out before all the roads get snowed in.  He turns around and bangs on the floor-board radiator in the hopes it will jump-start.  He rifles through the haphazard paperwork on his desk looking for this latest resume.  He can’t find it.  He runs his hand through his hair and straightens his tie just as a knock comes at his door.  His assistant opens it slowly, peeks in, smiles at Sales Manager and ushers in No. 4.

ASSISTANT:  Good Afternoon… Let me know if you need anything.  (She smiles, nods her head at No. 4 and walks out shutting the door behind her).

SALES MANAGER (Genially holding out his hand although it is apparent through his fidgeting and sighing that he is tired and can’t wait for this interview to be over.):   Hello.  I’m Hugh Jass, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

NO. 4 (reaching to shake hands):  Hello, Mr. Jass, also a pleasure.  I’m Phil McCracken.

(The two men stare at each other for a moment.  Without so much as a blink, they high-five and move directly into a complicated, syncopated hand-shake incorporating chest-bumps, clapping and an ass-slapping flourish at the end).

SALES MANAGER (pages his assistant, she comes into the office):  Mr. McCracken, please follow my assistant, Jenna Talia, to Human Resources.  You’re hired.

END SCENE

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I don’t know.  Call me crazy, but I have to believe that there really is a secret organization for the Phil’s and Hugh’s in the world.  Let’s call it, oh…A.I.M. (The “Alliance for Inconvenient Monikers”).    Haven’t we all met people who, upon being told their name, we think “Oh, DAMN!  Shit…I’m sorry, man”.  Haven’t we all met a Mike Hunt or a Ben Dover or a Sandy Beech or an Anita Bath?  Don’t these people DESERVE such an alliance…an unwritten and unspoken brotherhood complete with a secret handshake – that binds all of those poor sons-of-bitches together in unity, helping each other along through life?

I don’t know about you but when I was thinking of names for my three sons, I not only thought about how their first and last names would sound together and if it would even remotely sound ridiculous, but I also determined what their initials would spell out.  I really didn’t want them walking into a board-room some day with something like “ASS” or “DIC” or “TIT” monogrammed into their shirt cuffs.

As a parent the very first thing we do to either enable or hinder our child’s success upon their very birth is to give them…a name.

I think it’s entirely possible that George and Barbara might have really, REALLY liked the name “Harry”.  But I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here in saying that there very likely wouldn’t have been a Bush-43in the White House had they saddled him with it.  Can you imagine Jim Lehrer introducing Al Gore in the first debate, and then following that up with an introduction to “Harry Bush”?  I don’t think even the Supreme Court would’ve handed him the election on a silver platter with that business going on.

In politics and news reporting there are some really “interesting” names:

  • Reince Priebus – RNC Chair (Is he a car?)
  • John Boehner – Speaker of the House (pronounced BAY-ner.  Yeah, riigghhht).
  • Rick Santorum (To be fair, it only became “odd” after someone disliked him enough to give his last name a “new meaning”.  You can look it up on Wikipedia here.
  • Wolf Blitzer – Journalist
  • Stone Phillips – Journalist
  • Saxby Chambliss – U.S. Senator, Georgia (sounds like a dessert wine)

Now, in case you don’t believe me and think that this is a frivolous post…check these out:

Wow…just, Wow.

These examples are fairly extreme, of course.  I’m sure that most parents think of the life-long consequences of their choices in naming their children and try to ensure them the best possible start in life.  (Okay, maybe not Richard Swett’s…his parents CLEARLY hated him).

And let’s not forget the melting pot that is America and the varied ethnicities that comprise our society.  Ethnocentric names can be befuddling to many people; their pronunciations are difficult and foreign-y and invariably the unintended translation or connotations that come attached to many of them can have…unintended consequences.

For most of us, we go through our lives with the names we’re given.  Sure as an adult you have the option to legally change your name to something more palatable to yourself and society in general.  However, once you’ve gotten to a point in your life where you’re able to make that decision…isn’t it a point of honor to keep that name?  You’ve probably been teased, laughed at, bullied, shunned…and just maybe it’s helped you to become a better person.  Tougher.  Stronger.  Proud in the face of scrutiny.  All because of what someone else decided you’d be “called”.

How can you blame a person for something that was ostensibly given to them with love…without their consent…and bound to them through legality?  Ah…but kids can be cruel.

But adults can be more cruel.

Oh…and adults can be stupid.

I am continually dumbfounded when I listen to conservative talk-radio (yes, I listen to it – shudder – because I believe if I’m going to disagree with something I should have a pretty thorough basis for that disagreement – though I’d prefer an axe-sharpened stick-in-the-eye), or watch Fox News (see previous parenthetical explanation but add an additional shudder) and I’m still hearing “Barack HUSSEIN Obama”, or the elimination of his first name altogether and being referred to as “B. HUSSEIN Obama”.

Barack.  Hussein.  Obama.   Uh huh.

Why? Because in post-9/11 America, Barack Hussein Obama is the ethnic equivalent to Hugh Jass?

Yes, of course.  But also…and this is where my analysis breaks-down to the level of a stoned teenage boy… because they’re TOOLS.

Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, …just to name several, have referred to President Obama as “Barack HUSSEIN  Obama” or “B. Hussein Obama” and/or endorsed the views of others who say or draw attention to his middle name – in order to imply it’s hidden meaning;  i.e…..solidify it’s nefarious implications.  It made me sick the first time I heard it bandied-about during the 2008 election and continues to do so to this day.

As we all know, and certainly now that the long-form birth certificate has been disclosed, “Hussein” was the middle name given to the President as a teeny-weeny-tiny newborn baby, by his parents.  In the state of Hawaii.  Where he was born.

While we’re focusing predominantly on “Hussein” here, don’t even get me started on “Barack”.  The Far Right also goes-off on the fact that Obama used to refer to himself as “Barry” for a period in his younger days.  Are you kidding me?  Wouldn’t YOU?

YOUNG BARACK:  Hey, man, nice to meet you.  I’m Barack.

RANDOM AMERICAN PERSON:  Ba…what?

YOUNG BARACK:  Barack.  Pronounced Bu-Rock.

RANDOM AMERICAN PERSON:  How’s that spelled?  Like “barracks”?

YOUNG BARACK:  Ah, screw it.  Just call me Barry.

And need I really go into the “Obama/Osama” train-wreck?  I think we know where I’d go with that….

That Barack “Hussein” Obama has so joyfully and with gusto been inserted into the lexicon of Right-Wing pundits and politicians in such a casual way is a testament only to their disdain for the audience in which they cater to.  These pundits know – know –  that his middle name has not proven to be a declaration of Obama’s faith or proof of foreign loyalties; but they also know that their listening public wants to believe those things are true nonetheless.  In our post-9/11 world these talking-heads have used fear of all things Muslim as a rallying cry to attempt the ushering in of sanctioned racial-profiling…and loathing of all things Muslim as a justification for that fear.  Oh, they’d tell you differently.  “What?  What’s the problem?  His middle name IS Hussein.  It’s his name.  Why can’t we say it?!”

Yes, well…the Far-Right certainly can.  They can emphasize HUSSEIN; a name he was born with, a name he had no choice in choosing and could never erase from its original existence even if he wanted to.  They can certainly do that.  And they can certainly choose to believe that it’s relevant to their cause of de-legitimizing a President whom they already abhor for a thousand different perceived reasons from A (let’s start with Alinsky…) to Z (anti-Zionism)Yes they can.

But for most of us who watch Fox News only under duress (it’s the only T.V. in front of me at the gym) and/or to keep abreast of opposing viewpoints no matter how frequently repugnant…it’s like watching a sociological experiment gone horribly awry.  To me these leaders of Right-Wing thought, who use their very public pulpits in order to foment hatred and distrust amongst so many millions of people with the simple utterance of one middle-name, wellthey’re simply bottom-feeders dredging up the red-meat to shove into the mouths of their listeners. 

They were most likely the bullies on the playground who relentlessly tormented and teased Hugh Jass and Phil McCracken til they cried, as opposed to simply acknowledging their unfortunate cross to bear and moving past it.  Because highlighting what they know doesn’t really matter, while at the same time convincing other people that it DOES matter…creates fear.  Which creates power.  Saying “Hussein” even casually is all they have to do keep fear and suspicion ever-present in the minds of those who crave it.

The only thing that could possibly light a bigger, more superficial fire under the asses of the crazy Right-Wing in this country would be if “Barack Ramadan-A-Ding-Dong Obama” appeared on the long-form birth certificate.

There are many legitimate reasons to oppose this President if you are a Conservative.  Hell, there are legitimate reasons to oppose some of what this President does in the eyes of a Liberal.  So why continue to foist upon listeners and viewers such name-based fear-baiting and disdain for someone they are never going to like or vote for anyway??  Because they’re the playground bullies who grew up lucky enough to stand in front of a microphone?  Because creating unwarranted, superficial fear in others gives them power?  Because when they can make someone Arab-enough it makes them feel instantly superior?  Because they’re tools?

I’m pretty sure the answer is:  all of the above.

One thing is clear, in 2008 – despite the best efforts of these people – the country elected President Obama.

Now I’m not positive, but in one back-stage inauguration photo I’m pretty sure I can make-out Obama giving an ass-slapping-with-a-flourish to a guy in the shadows.

Too bad that guy remains nameless.

…There’s Nothing to See Here. No, really.

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I’m a pretty half-empty kind of gal.  No way around it.

Today I’m donning a  sun hat, a scarf around my neck and an over-sized shirt (I look like my Grandma.  Which isn’t bad, she was a beautiful woman…except that I look like my Grandma when she was 70), wielding a big shovel and trying to dig what is really probably a 5 X 10 patch of garden in which to plant our vegetables.  Our sad, sorry-looking little veggie plants that me and the kids started from seeds which are currently taking residence in my kitchen.

Here is why my best efforts at showing my kids how plants grow and where food actually comes from will be an epic fail:

  1. My property has what you might deem an Australian-style, Biblical-type plague of ground squirrels.  I will have to fortify this plot of garden with cinder blocks, barbed-wire and Brillo Pads in order to keep them out.  And it still won’t keep them out.
  2. I’m already exhausted digging this thing, and it’s only about 2 inches deep so far.  I’m sweating like a high school wrestler in a sauna before a big meet….and I still feel fat.
  3. In recent years carpenter ants have taken up residence all around my house, and aside from their hills, which rival the 25 foot high African termite hills featured in the National Geographic from time to time, I sprayed ant poison around last year willy-nilly.   I don’t THINK I sprayed any in the garden area, but…can’t remember….Mmmmmm.  Yummy.
  4. This area I’m digging is currently covered in grass.  No matter how fast I pick the weeds and crab-grass out, I feel like I will lose the battle and it will become a scene out of “Little Shop of Horrors”.
  5. My three boys will likely demolish it….either by thinking they’re helping, or intentionally for fun.  Either way.

My goal is to have enough watermelon, green onions, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots to feed an army.  That’s the wistful picture in my head.  A beautiful cornucopia of abundance.

If I get enough of any one of those to make an infant-sized bowl of salad, I’ll consider it a victory.

I’m not holding my breath.

Being half-empty sucks.

The Instant-Replay

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I was working from home that morning.

My boss had recently approved my request to become an official participant in the company’s telecommuting initiative.  Two days a week I got to wake up, roll out of bed, put on a pair of pants and a t-shirt, schlep my lucky-ass to the bathroom for some minimal personal grooming and hygiene, saunter over to the frig for my ritual morning Diet Pepsi, meander my way down the hall to our home-office to boot-up the computer and start working from home for the remainder of the day.  Ahhh, man was that nice.

A lot of my friends didn’t like working from home.  They found it isolating and difficult to stay on-task, what with all of the diversions that could be found at home, like…not working.  Not me.  I loved it.  My job as a Manager at that time was a tedious one in which I had to harass hundreds of people into complying with their continuing education requirements….

………………zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………………

Oh, sorry.  I fell asleep there for a second.  Yeah, it was that boring.  It was constant work in which I had to communicate relentlessly with consultants and update a nasty little program  that never worked right every 12 seconds…and well, I got a hell of a lot more done at home than I ever did at the office.  I was really disciplined though – and limited myself to sunbathing only once or twice a day at the park along the Chicago River.

We had recently gotten a new puppy.  We had a third-floor condo on the far North Side of the city, and while I adored my dog, I wasn’t all that excited about taking her for a walk that morning.  She seemed to be okay, not wiggling and barking to go out so I thought I’d assess the damage in my e-mail in-box first before our walk.  I looked outside as I clicked on my e-mail and thought “It’s beautiful” and opened the window.

I immediately rolled my eyes at the information contained in the first message from one of those guys who had absolutely no common sense of any kind, shook my head and thought to myself “what an idiot”.  I had not turned the T.V. on, and didn’t most mornings at all.  It was quiet with my girl laying at my feet.  Calm.  Birds chirping.  Peaceful.

Soon the phone rang.  I answered on the second ring with “C.E., may I help you?”, expecting it to be work-related.  But it was my sister.

“Do you have the T.V. on?” she asked with anxiety.

“No, why?  What’s wrong?”

“I’m driving to work and on the radio they said a plane just flew into one of the World Trade Center buildings.”

“What?  Are you kidding?”

“No, turn the T.V. on.”

“Okay, hold on…” and I fumbled around looking for the remote.  “What…what kind of plane?” I asked still looking.

“I don’t know, they think it was a commuter plane or something that hit the top of the tower”.

“Holy shit, okay, hold on…”.  I had found the remote.

I turned the station to NBC.  It was hard to make out what the picture was showing at the time as it was zoomed in and very strange-looking.

“What’s going on?”  she asked.

“Hold on I can’t really tell yet, it looks like paper everywhere.”

“What?”

“Yeah, wait…” and then the camera zoomed out.

“Oh my God” I said.  “That was no commuter plane.  It had to be a jet.”  I paused.  “It looks like a horror movie”.

And she asked me to describe what I was seeing.  I told her that there was an enormous, jaw-dropping-gaping hole at the top of the building and smoke and flames pouring out of it.  Paper everywhere, like creepy confetti.  My sister said she was going to call her husband and we hung up.

I sat down and just stared at the screen with my mouth literally open.  It was hard to take in and terrifying to watch.  My heart was racing.  I was only sort-of listening to the commentators who were only speculating on what happened but were saying the same thing –  “jumbo jet sized hole”.  What a horrific, horrible accident, I thought.

I called my husband who was at work in Downtown Chicago.

“Are you watching?”

“What?”  he asked.

“A plane flew into the World Trade Center in New York.  It’s unbelievable”.  He said he had just heard someone say something about that and that he’d go to the conference room to see if it was on.  We hung up.

I wasn’t aware of how much time had passed at this point, but had gone to the bathroom and walked back into the living room, called my sister back and watched more.  It was another tight shot of the gaping hole.  Within seconds I saw on the left of the screen a burst of flames.  Katie Couric made a stunned comment on it and the camera panned out.

And I stood up and screamed – screamed –  “Oh my GODDDDDDDDD!!!!!” as I watched another fireball explode, heard the thunderous kaboom and watched another gaping maw appear in the other tower.  More sinister confetti.  I kept screaming.

Because that’s when I knew, when Couric and Lauer knew, when everyone knew…that this was no fucking accident.

“What?!  WHAT???!!!”  she begged.

“Oh my God…another one. Something just hit the other building.  Holy shit…oh my God.  It’s on purpose…”

I put my hands up to my mouth covering it, but kept whimpering “ohmyGodohmyGodohmyGod…”.  We hung up so she could call her husband and her boss; she very suddenly, instinctively felt as if going into work was not a good idea.

It felt kind of like time was standing still.  I was pacing feeling increasingly uneasy, like maybe the world was collapsing around us.  I called my husband again and told him he should leave the city, because by now T.V. commentators were saying it was another plane and wondering aloud if more planes were headed for more skyscrapers in more cities.  I told my husband to leave work.

It honestly felt impossible to grasp the pictures I was viewing on the screen.  Now they were showing in slow motion, instant-replays of the ghostly image of a jumbo jet flying directly into the second tower.  And by now my puppy desperately needed to be taken outside.

I put her leash on, grabbed my cell-phone and in a daze walked down the stairs with her.  It was indeed beautiful outside.  Crystal-clear blue sky, perfect balmy weather – but now it somehow seemed cartoonish, surreal.

I walked West on my block which dead-ended at the North Branch of the Chicago River.  Before I got there, my cell phone rang.  It was my Dad.

“Where are you?” he asked with all the paranoia of a parent needing to know that his child wasn’t somehow in New York.

“I’m walking the dog.  Dad……” I said with utter despair.

“Honey, they just hit the Pentagon.”  He sounded out of breath, scared, disbelieving.

“What?  What!?  What do you mean??  Dad…what’s going ON??????” and I stopped dead in my tracks and started to cry.

*********************************

We all have a story about that day; the “where were you when you heard” story.  Such a phenomenon – the indelible, never-to-be-erased imprint of a moment in time into your psyche which can be called upon at a moment’s notice at any point in your life…bringing with it all of the raw emotions and images as if it were recorded and played back for you.

When I watched President Obama tell the world that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, my mouth again literally fell open.  I could not believe it.

I was so, so, soooooo fucking…happy.

*********************************

The next morning it still  hadn’t really sunk in.  Instead of Sponge Bob for the kids while I got their things ready for school, I put on the news.  My kids were annoyed.  They really, really, really like Sponge Bob.

I had recently talked with my six-year-old son about 9/11, in a very generic way; that something very bad had happened on that day almost ten years ago and that a really bad man had made it happen.  My son is in kindergarten, and he’s always coming home from school and in the two minutes walking from the bus to our house he manages to ask me things like “What happens when you go hunting?  What does God look like?  Will Dad lose his job like Timmy’s dad lost his?”  Kids talk.  A lot.  About things that you never think of the answers to until it’s on you like white-on-rice.  I wanted to be prepared this time.  I knew that very likely kids on the bus and at school would be talking about Bin Laden being killed, even if they did not understand the gravity of the fact.

As we were in the bathroom brushing our teeth and hair, I fairly nonchalantly began to…explain.  I asked him if he remembered talking about 9/11 a few weeks ago, about what happened that day, and about the man who had caused it.  He said yes, that’s when some planes flew into some buildings and killed lots of people.  I said, yes, well…last night President Obama went on T.V. to tell us that Osama Bin Laden was dead, and that our soldiers killed him, and that Bin Laden was the very, very bad man who planned the awful things that happened on that day a long time ago.  I told him that he might hear kids talking about how happy they are about him being dead.

He asked…”Are you happy he’s dead, Mommy?”

My stomach flipped.  I hadn’t prepared for that question.  I figured he’d ask about how he was killed, what happens when you die, what did our soldiers do, why did Bin Laden do bad things…but not that.

“Babe”..I said brushing his hair, “It’s never nice to feel happy that someone has died.  What we should feel happy about is that the very, very bad man can never hurt anyone ever again”.

What a liar-liar-pants-on-fire answer.  I honestly felt guilty about doing the right thing in sugar-coating my response.

But some day I will tell him the truth.  I will tell him that yes, I was happy.  I was happy to hear he was dead, killed, and killed by our guys.

And I will tell him that sometimes when people are so bad, so evil…we can’t count on justice being served in the hereafter.  We have to make sure it’s served here.

It’s a frightening , sad feeling…to feel relief and joy at the death of another human being.  But right or wrong, it was another indelibly imprinted snapshot in time for me.

I’m just thankful my son won’t be able to bring up the instant-replay.  Either of them.

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