Life is Too Short, Eat Dessert First

We rolled into the room like a bookingdotcom commercial. Tired, hungry, shoeless, bags draped everywhere.

Inside we piled coats, suitcases, backpacks in corners and on the one chair and opened the french doors onto the world of Bourbon Street. It was barely noon. A tinny heartbeat of drums throbbed against the brick buildings of the street as music spilled everywhere.

We smiled, reveled a minute at our choice.

Only one moment in life does a person turn twenty-one. A moment that should be remembered for eternity.

We are not ordinary people. We don’t crave things, belongings, enormous houses, expensive cars, manicured lawns. We don’t seek to find what others have.

We crave life. Memories. Experience. Jumping in head first, immersing ourselves in the adventure.

It’s the adventure that satisfies our souls like an air conditioned room on an August day in Texas.

And NOLA has adventure by the piles. Long dead crawfish, stale beer, cigarettes, deep fried something or other, vomit, disinfectant sprayed by the street cleaners early in the morning, … and coffee percolating through snippets of jazz and rap and rock and blaring from the bars, flowing from the buskers, interrupted by sirens and horns and someone laughing a bit too loud. A night of revelry for hundreds, maybe thousands, punctuated by the droning microphoned monotonous voice of a street preacher calling for repentance a thousand times over.

Thank God for ear plugs at four in the morning.

And because life is too short to not eat dessert first, supper was powder sugared beignets at the Cafe du Monde where we didn’t stand in a line at eight o’clock at night.

I miss it and I haven’t been home twelve hours yet.

Funny.

When I was in high school I took a test to see what I was suited to be when I grew up. My result, which ticked me off at the time, was that I should be an adventurer and explorer. My image of Marco Polo or Christopher Columbus was not what I wanted to do, or thought I wanted to do. But somehow, life has a way of defining itself.

The year I turned twenty-one I changed my world. I set out to travel as much as I could. To experience the world and everything it had to offer. I was in 18 air ports, 8 states, and 6 countries that year alone. If I’d only figured out how to make that my life …

 

Whispers

When I was in Girl Scouts, how ever many hundreds of years ago that was, we played a game called gossip. We would sit in a circle and one person would whisper something into another person’s ear and they would pass it on likewise until the person at the other end said it out loud.

No matter what was said in the beginning, it never came out the same at the end.

I suppose it was supposed to teach us that anything we hear as gossip is unreliable. But honestly, I think it just taught us to whisper better.

Today I apparently caused a chain reaction event that culminated twelve hours later in a complete and dramatic implosion of someone’s volunteer “work”. But … I didn’t really cause it. The chain of events caused it. Their inability to “let it go” caused it.

I have been part of something called the “Art of Criticism” project. It is no longer. As someone in the know told me, the art of criticism project is no longer ultimately because the people in charge of the art of criticism project couldn’t take criticism.

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Here, we’ll teach you how to critique others … but don’t you dare critique me.

Really???

The whole thing came down to a dramatic interpretation of a game of gossip. What came out at the end had nothing to do with where it started. A badly worded email …

You’d think a writer would be able to craft an email that said what the writer meant … But then there is that whole human thing. Mistakes. Emotions. Overreacting. Drama. Headache.

Yes, sweetie pie, even adults give in to that. If you think cat fights between teenage girls are bad … you should see them between a bunch of women on an internet forum. Toss in a couple of perfectionist men and it’s all over but the count down. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-…

And I’m being asked for my side of the story … I don’t even have a side to the story. I was sent an email and responded to it. That’s it. That’s where my story ends. What happened after that, … who knows but it had nothing to do with me.

I’m sure the whispers will prevail, bold, unabashed … and completely and totally wrong. Okay.

So what makes us so susceptible to things like gossip? Whispering in the coat room? Juicy tid-bits that belong in a grocery store rag? Why do we ever believe them?

Life is too short. And unfair. And stupid. And filled with unexpected hiccups along the way. Quit whispering behind the lockers and speak up. Be heard. Say your peace. Believe with your heart. Open your mind. Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.

 

Well, After All, Who Can Compete With a Sponge?

I have a habit of reading the news on my tablet before I get up in the morning. Since I don’t watch the evening news on tv, it’s my way of staying connected to the world. My favorite part about it is reading stories from multiple sources, just to see if the information changes. Sometimes it does, other times not.

This morning I was perusing what has become the norm of late – stories of terrorists, bizarre murder suicides, Bruce Jenner’s latest adventures, etc … when I stumbled across the headlines “New Spongebob Movie edges out American Sniper to win Box Office sales”.

It made me laugh.

For the past few weeks my newsfeed on Facebook has been inundated with posts about American Sniper, which I personally found annoying. I have not seen it and have no intentions of seeing it and find it offensive that I’m being told repeatedly that if I don’t go see it and support it that I’m somehow less of an American.

Sorry, but no.

As I skimmed past all of these posts, I reminded myself that it would blow over, like all things. The thought kept me from pulling my hair out and responding to someone in a negative way.

So this morning when I read that Spongebob was now the new American sweetheart at the box office, I had to laugh. Sure enough the American Sniper hype was blowing over. It was blown over by a cartoon of a sponge.

It seems a fickle world we live in. And yet, I think, it shows what a complex world we live in and how complex the human mind really is. We switch our loyalties from this to that in rapid succession. We embrace war and cartoons and elevate both to positions of honored status.

Andy Warhol once said that everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame. What a wise man he was. A visionary, not just because of his art, but because of what he conveyed through his art. Like all artists, he made a statement about the world. He saw universal truth.

But I have to wonder what he would think about a cartoon sponge having fifteen minutes of fame.

“Absorbent and yellow and porous is he” …

Aren’t we all Spongebob? Aren’t we all.

It’s All a Great Big Facade

My daughter is 17. Funny, laid back, easy going, personable. She makes friends easily and socializes without a thought.

At least that’s what people think.

She’s in a virtual charter school and they do all of their classes online. They have lessons that are computer driven as well as live classes through a conferencing program. Honestly, it’s a pretty cool deal that I wish I’d had as a student.

The problem with it is everything is very … limited. At least in perspective, that is. Her teachers only “see” what she interacts with them during their 30 minute sessions once a week, and then through assignments she turns in. That’s it.

But they have NO idea what goes on behind the scenes.

Early on we knew that she needed to have a solid organizational system if she was going to get everything done in her courses. So we developed one together. And when she uses it, it’s great. Problem is, she doesn’t use it most of the time so she doesn’t get her work done so I’m spending hours helping her over the weekend to catch up.

But her teachers don’t know that.

This week, after one more excuse and lying to me that she’d “really really tried” on a simple assignment that she’d read 2 out of 16 pages on, I took a stand and laid down the law. And I informed her teachers of it.

LOLOLOL

Two of her teachers insisted that she was doing perfectly in their classes and they saw no problems whatsoever. One of them was adamant that she was brilliant and sailing through her class with no issues at all.

Of course it’s The ONE class where I have to repeat every single lesson because my daughter has no clue what she’s doing and can not comprehend the online lessons as they are written. I have to explain everything in a different way to her because the presentations that they use are horrid for her learning style.

Sigh.

It all reminds me of just how little we know about another person based on a few words here and there, a smile in passing, a thirty minute conversation, a class once a month. It’s all just surface dirt, really.

So much of who we are is not on display for the world to see, and yet the world perceives who we are based on the snippets of information that they receive. And then we turn around and think about ourselves based on what others say … even though they don’t really know us at all …

No wonder depression is rampant in our society.

It isn’t bad media, or violent programming, or non attention by the medical community, or whatever else may be blamed this month. It all boils down to what we believe about ourselves.

If we base those beliefs solely on what others think of us, we are going to be mislead somewhere along the line. Because no matter how perceptive someone else is, if they only have bits and pieces of our lives to work from, they don’t know who we are or what we are capable of.

Nor can we look at someone else and understand them in the same regards.

Which all goes back to what I’ve said before, many times over … promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate and the world will be a better place.

Be kind to yourself. You are your own best friend … or your own worst enemy. Love is the better path.

Small Blessings (or the avoidance of poo)

Yesterday, as I went out front to help my husband de-clutter our mini-van, I stepped out on our deck, avoiding the pile of bird doo from our resident doves that needed shoveled. It was raining heavily and had been for several hours by this point. And it was cold.

Almost imperceptively my foot slipped and I did what I can only describe as a slow motion back splat. I knew I was falling, but before I could react to that knowledge, I was already staring into the gray sky as it piddled down on me.

And then I heard the unmistakable sound of cooing.

Despite my now throbbing knee, screaming back, soaking wet clothes, and panting lungs, I tipped my head enough to see the residents both perched high in the eaves over my head, black little eyes staring down.

And then that thought ran through my head. “I hope they don’t poop.”

They didn’t, by the way. Thankfully. Perhaps they knew that the world had already dealt me a blow and laid me out for the day. Who knows.

Whatever, I was grateful for the small blessing at that moment.

I’d say things like that don’t happen often. That small blessings are few and far between. But the reality is they aren’t few and far between and they do happen often.

We just don’t stop to see them.

Perhaps that’s what the universe was trying to tell me. I need to stop and see the blessings in whatever form they come. Big. Small. And everywhere in between.

Regurgitation of Reality

I probably shouldn’t write today on a blog post. I have a million other things to write and prepare for state competition and reviews for fellow writers that could easily be occupying my full attention. I am also fully vexed (to put it nicely) with any number of people this morning making what I say here … chancy.

Disclaimer in place – here I go.

As a young woman, just out of college, I ventured around the world and ended up in England where I worked as an architect. I learned many things during that time. Attitudes towards life. Social norms. World views. Life as an adult.

I learned a lot about England I never knew. And I expected to learn about England as that is where I was living.

What I didn’t expect to learn was how much I didn’t know about being an American. And with my mood today, I could easily go on a rant about all the things I learned about Americans that I can’t stand … but I won’t. Because there are more things that I learned about being an American that I love.

Above all I love that little document we have called a Constitution that guarantees us rights as citizens of this nation that far exceed any other nation in the world.

But I digress …

When I lived in England, we sorta kinda watched the news some. (Honestly, we were so busy going places and working we hardly had time for TV.) I lived there during one of the most volatile times in history since the world wars – the late eighties and early nineties. The Berlin Wall came down, the Czech Republic split, Tianamen Square massacre happened, the IRA was bombing London, etc. At least twice a week we would show up to ride the Tube somewhere and be met with a placcard announcing the closing of the Tube station.

The interesting bit is that we never knew why the Tube stations were closed. No one said. It wasn’t in the news. The station guards would just ignore us if we asked and tell us to “move on”.

And then my mom would call, a little frantic, wanting to know if we were where the bomb was found.

You see, in England when I lived there, nothing was ever a problem as long as it didn’t end up in the news. No one had a drinking problem because no one ever talked about it. There was no terrorism because no one mentioned it in the media. Crime in London? Where? That wasn’t in the paper. It must not exist.

So, when I came back to the states, I was in for a rude shock. Because not only do we talk about everything under the sun good, bad, or indifferent, we make everything a federal case worthy of filming a movie about it and plastering it around the world for everyone to know.

Sigh.

My dad told me once that the media was aimed at the average twelve year old. I was twelve at the time so I didn’t take it as a compliment. But he was right.

I joined the social media sites reluctantly and only after numerous members of my family sent me multiple requests to join them there. I joined to keep in touch with family and stayed because I discovered the great thing of reconnecting with old friends.

But lately, social media has gone the way of all media. Instead of posting happenings of their lives, people are posting regurgitated news articles or memes, at least half of which I doubt they’ve even read beyond the headlines. Instead of pictures of Joe’s daughter getting her driver’s license or Mary’s birthday dinner, my newsfeed is full of articles from obscure news sources with sensationalized stories whose headlines at least half the time don’t even match what’s in the story.

More disturbing than inaccurate headlines, though, to me, is that these are the things people are spending their time posting as if they mean something or say something about who they are. This is their expression of life to the world.

And yet, it isn’t an expression at all. It’s a regurgitation of inaccurate facts. Most of it is simply someone’s opinion of something, not even a report of something that happened.

Whatever happened to thinking for ourselves? Forming our own opinions on the world? Having the ability to stand up and speak our own thoughts?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … with the advent of social media, we not only have our small group of local friends encouraging us to “follow” them, we have the world coaxing us to jump off the bridge. And more often than not, I’m watching my friends and family, people I care about, jump in with both feet.

What does it matter? It’s not like they are going to die from believing a new article or spouting off someone elses beliefs, right?

No, they won’t die physically like if they jumped off the bridge … but what is life if not what we think and say and express to one another on a daily basis? If you’re just regurgitating another person’s reality, where is your own life? Who are you?

The Wrong End of the Stick

I’m a private person.

Okay, that may seem like a funny thing for a person who’s writing a public blog to say, but it really is true. On my blog I choose what I write. I choose what words, what stories, what pieces and bits of reality I will share or not share with you. When you read my blog, you are in essence viewing a play or reading a book with limited character knowledge. My entries are snippets of my life and thoughts.

I have been reminded recently, because of our limited knowledge of others “real” lives, how easy it can be to grab the wrong end of the stick and whack ourselves in the head.

I can count on one hand the number of people who actually know what my life is like and three of those people live with me. It’s their life, too. And even though we live together, we all have our own viewpoints on the things that happen. I am typically the pessimist. If something can go wrong, I will plan for it … even if it never goes wrong. My husband, on the other hand, is an eternal optimist. Even when the world is crashing about his ears he’s still cracking jokes and figuring out what he’ll do with his imaginary lottery winnings. My daughter … well I’ll let her and my son tell their own stories when they want to.

Reading a person’s blog or Facebook posts or comments on Twitter is much like reading a novel. Maybe a real life novel, but a novel all the same. When authors write fiction, we create characters. The depth and breadth of a character is limited only by imagination and yet, authors tend to use set standards and formats as boundaries for their characters. We have lists we use and fill out. We know their birthdays, their favorite color, and what they did for vacation as a child.

Even if none of those things never show up in the novel at all. Those tidbits of information combine to drive a characters actions and dialog within a story. It’s important for an author to understand that Bernard hates his mother because of disagreement that occurred when he was 11 over what shoes to wear to school, even if Bernard is now 63 and his mother is dead because that event, like all events in a person’s life, mattered to them.

And what matters to you, changes you. It affects you. It influences how you think about the world. And how you interact with other people.

How you interact with your family … well that all boils down to how big of a stick you have.

There’s that stick again.

The point is no one is one thing, one moment in time, one conversation, one disagreement, one celebration, one thought, one word, one deed.

When someone does something that shocks you or disturbs you or causes your blood to boil, just stop and remember that this is a single moment in time, not the sum total of who that other person is. And most people, I figure, are like me. Private. They aren’t going to share every detail of their lives with you. Your knowledge of their character will be limited to the scenes and dialog they choose to share.

Don’t go grabbing the wrong end of the stick. You may be the one who ends up with the black eye.