Monday, April 17, 2017

Facebook – It’s the High School Cafeteria All Over Again


We enter the cafeteria in waves. We look around scanning for friends.  The self-proclaimed cool yell for each other from across the room. The louder we yell, the more important we feel. 
All the cliques jostle for space in the lunch room: the jocks, the nerds, the thugs, everyone. 
Importance is measured by volume and drama. Popularity is measured by number of friends, both true and imagined. Acceptance is decided by “others,” how we dress, speak, act.
We pretend our privacy, but relish rumor about others.  Rumor becomes gossip and gossip becomes truth.
Territories are marked, that club over there, that organization opposite, the undefined along the wall.
We dread the cafeteria but it is a part of who we are and cannot resist its lure. 
*     *    *    *
One billion of us log onto Facebook. We scroll through the feeds, scanning for friends, some we have never met or will never meet.  The Pope, the President, movie stars. We know more about the lives of strangers than we do about family members.  
On one hand, we bewail the loss of privacy; on the other we hope our posts crest over the FB algorithm and go viral, and we end up on the 6 o’clock news or Ellen or Huffington.
We are willing to sell our privacy to strangers, so we worry about selfies, platforms, domains, brands. We put up with trolls and threats from people with too much time on their hands and too little brains.
We have redefined “news,” and grammar, and punctuation.   We pin and tag and poke, meme and post. Every day we learn some new hook that keeps us lured to FB.   
Instead of outgrowing the cafeteria culture we left behind in high school, we are reliving it through Facebook.  




Monday, April 10, 2017

Stop to Smell the Zinnias


          For a brief time in the 90’s, I owned my “dream home.”  It was this spacious, two-story, four bedroom, two and a half bath beauty. It had two living areas, but I turned one into a “formal” dining room.  This gorgeous expanse of HOUSE met you as you walked in through the front door.
          The backyard was tiny compared to the half-acre we owned before so we built a deck that encompassed the whole back of the house.  I made it more welcoming by adding container plants, and we spent morning and evenings outside.
Landscaped by the builder, the front yard had the usual sapling and the all-purpose shrubs most new subdivisions provide. I wanted to distinguish it from all the other front yards on our street, so I went out and bought fifteen envelopes of zinnias. I planted them all in that front flowerbed. By June, the shrubs were hidden among the zinnias.  They had taken over and created a beautiful display of color.
          The flower bed was situated underneath this majestic, cathedral window, and whenever I was home I opened the shades to let in the view. I was surprised one Saturday morning to find people looking in my house while I was looking out. Parents positioned their babies in among my flowerbed and took picture after picture.  Photographers took close ups of my flowers. There were people on my grass and in my flowerbed at all hours of the day and late into the evening, so I made a polite sign for the trespassers and posted it in front of my flowerbed. 
YOU ARE WELCOME TO ENJOY THE FLOWERS, BUT PLEASE DO NOT TRAMPLE MY GRASS OR THE FLOWERBED.
          I sold that house after four years. The new owners were a couple who stopped one day to enjoy the flowers and fell in love with the house.  I have driven by twice, and the sapling is a tree now and the shrubs have been replaced, but the memory remains. I think of my zinnia experiment every spring when I plant flowers in my yard.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Aging Angst, Bad Bladder, and Keanu Reeves


          My intelligent, strong-willed, old-fashioned parents restricted my creativity.  I wasn’t allowed to do anything extra-curricular.  If it meant they had to go out of their way to take or leave me some place other than what the school bus provided, it was out of the question.
          School was a priority in our household; straight A’s a must, so I was shocked to learn that any college money saved was intended for my older brother. There would be none for me.  I got my parents to agree that if I could get financial aid, I could go to college.  They were more than surprised when the offers started coming in during my second semester as a senior. 
          I was allowed to accept the one offer that kept me in town.  At first, they were their usual negative selves, putting up barricades at every turn. They complained I was costing them money, and I was wasting my time and theirs. Secretarial school would be easier and faster than pursuing a four-year, teaching degree.
What changed their mind about me was that my older brother flunked out of his first year of college.  He got drafted and went off to Viet Nam, while I was speeding through university, making good grades.  They were suddenly proud of me. When family asked about my progress, my parents took full credit.  I never contradicted them in public, but privately I reminded them that they blocked me at every turn.
Burned by that experience, I made my first husband promise he would never hold me down in my pursuits.  He kept his word but his own endeavors took precedence over mine or of the needs of the three children we raised.  I was done with barricades in my life.  I was done with negativism.  Life is too short to let others stand in the way of accomplishing one’s dreams. 

The only angst that holds me back now is my aging body.  The aches, the pains, the bad bladder.  I am free to do whatever I please as long as I know where the nearest bathroom is located.  As for Keanu Reeves, nothing negative there.  I would love to meet him one day, but it better be soon.  Shout out to Keanu.  Hey, babe.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Moses Was a Nag

         
Last fall one of my friends decided she would read the Bible in one year as her New Year’s Resolution. She went on Facebook and invited anyone interested to join her on this venture.  To her surprise, several of us signed up. She spent the last few weeks of the old year working up a weekly calendar and forming study questions to help keep us on task.

          Over the years, I have attempted this on my own but I usually lose interest by the time I hit Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Moses becomes a real nag, and I get bored with all the goat sacrifices. When this opportunity came up, I decided to try it once again.

          Why am I doing this?

          I consider myself intelligent and a voracious reader.  I taught English/Language Arts for thirty-seven years to students.  I have read most of the classics and the contemporary masterpieces out there.  Some I have read multiple times and can discuss each at great length, but I cannot say the same about the one, most influential book in the history of modern man – the Bible. Maybe if I joined a group, I could stick through it and get it done.

          We get a weekly reading reminder and those of us who are still hanging in there, respond to the prompts.  Some members share videos, charts, and research found on the Internet, and these really help to give me insight.

          Presently I am halfway through Joshua, and Judges is next.  Instead of using the questions our leader provides, I changed the study more to my liking. As I read each chapter, I go back and find one verse to underline.  In some chapters, I have trouble finding one that I like, but in others, I have trouble choosing only one. I bought an inexpensive monthly planner, the kind where each month takes up two full pages when opened flat.  In the far left square (Sunday), I write the weekly assignment and then use the squares for Monday through Friday to write one quote from all those I chose from that week’s reading. I use the Saturday square and any additional space on the far right to summarize the readings.

          I am in the my third month and as I go back, the quotes and the summaries help me understand how the covenant developed between God and Man.

          It is not fun or easy, but the more I get into the Bible, the more I feel a connection, something I cannot describe. I feel a presence.  It is like He is in the room, observing me, like when a parent stands back and watches a child struggle with homework. There is also a sense of accomplishment, and I hope He is pleased with my attempt to communicate with Him on a different level. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pet Shop


My dad loved animals so he would often show up after work with a dog that someone was giving away free at the office.

Our first dog was a brown, bull terrier mutt. The other dogs in the neighborhood were afraid of this small, muscular, brown dog, but he let my two-year-old baby sister pull on his ears and tail. Butch kept an eye on all of us, but he loved her best.  I witnessed the day he yanked her away from the busy street by the seat of her cloth diaper. He died when I was about eight or nine.

Dad soon after came home with another terrier mutt.  This one was all black and had a white mark on his face, so we named him Zorro like the TV character we all loved. He too was the lead dog in the neighborhood but this one loved my older brother best and would perk up every time my brother played with him.

About the same time, we owned Zorro, Dad came home with a full-blooded English cocker spaniel. We named him King because he looked like a lion with his golden mane of hair. He and Zorro vied for lead dog, but Zorro always won. He wouldn’t play with us. He knew how to unlatch the gate and would take off on adventures at will.  When we chained the gate to keep him in, he learned to climb a vine that grew over the fence. One day he disappeared, so someone may have claimed him for themselves, not knowing they had done us all a favor. 
  
Zorro died when my brother was a senior in high school and I was a junior. It was devastating for all of us, so we all vowed we didn’t want to get a dog any time soon. By then we were growing up and would soon have our own homes, so it would be up to us to decide on whether or not to own any pets.

Newly married, my husband and I decided to adopt one of his mother’s dog’s puppies. Our dog was a small, fluffy, wimp of a pet.  Duke was part beagle, dachshund, and terrier.  A true mutt.  We took the largest, thinking it would be a mighty warrior. It took him months to learn how to bark and even then, it scared him. In a fight, he always lost or ran. He was hard to train, but he grew up alongside our three children, and they loved him.  He was with us for fourteen years.

We tried our luck with two other dogs to replace the family pet, but a tiny Peke died the day we brought her home, and the other, a Pug, had so much wrong with him from his blood line being overbred, that we had to return him and demand our money back.  I had never cried for a dog before, but the day my husband and I took Bubba back to the owners, I bawled so loudly, I scared everyone, including myself.

The kids and their dad went in search of another family dog. My only stipulation was to bring back a short-haired dog, one easy to groom and train.  

They came back with a golden-haired Pekinese, the runt of the litter.  My husband thought it would at least stay small and cute.  It had a pedigree and papers to prove it.  It grew to be over fifty pounds and lived more than fifteen years.  In that time the kids grew up and moved away from home. I got divorced and lived alone.  Our big boy developed cancer and the vet said I would know when to let him go. When the day came, I made an appointment with the vet, and called the kids to come say goodbye.  He perked up as each one came to visit but he became a young pup and got up to play when the youngest came to see him.  

My son slept over that night, but before midnight, he woke me and said his beloved pet couldn’t wait any longer.  My son found a clinic open twenty-four hours and while he held his pet and best friend, I drove us there. He stayed with his dear doggy until the end.

HoneyBunch and I do not own a dog.  I have asked and he has said no, definitely no. His pet stories are harder on the heart than mine. We have had so many loved pets in our lives and hesitate about going through that again.  I love cute puppies and kitties.  I enjoy watching the shenanigans of my granddogs, but we agree to protect our hearts and to be selfish with our time.

I won’t say we will never own another dog in our life time, but for now, we prefer to live with our memories.