Monday, April 20, 2015

Living Off the Grid


My too-cool-for-his-grandma, thirteen-year-old grandson asked me the other day if me and his grandpa “lived off the grid.” The little toot was referring to the fact that we live on three, shaggy acres six miles outside a small town.  We do not mow the lawn until the spring wildflowers go to seed, so our ecosystem is a little WILD.
Grandpa HoneyBunch attempts a summer vegetable garden every year and he collects rain water to care for his plants. Those big, bulky rain bins do not lend themselves to the esthetics of the place, neither does the compost pile, so we do look a bit RUSTIC.
HB loves to hunt and fish, so it is not unusual for me to fix a roast one does not usually find in the meat department at the grocery story.  At our family gatherings the grandchildren are expected to eat whatever I fix, and they are expected to finish whatever is on their plate. Their grandfather does not believe in waste.
Our nearest neighbors are an acre away, but our most frequent visitors are usually skunks, snakes, and huge spiders.  Migratory birds and an assortment of owls and hawks also frequent our three acres, so the kids see us as the living biosphere version of the WILDERNESS.  
Inside the house, we have two wood stoves, four air conditioner window units, and a TV that is older than our oldest grandchild. We do not own a PlayStation or iPods, so in a world obsessed with the latest version of electronics, I can understand why our grandson thinks we are ARCHAIC.
 I hate to disappoint him but we have water, electricity, and flushing toilets, all provided by the city for a fee, but if we had to go “off the grid,” we might be able to do it with more ease than he could. We have access to the Internet and Direct TV, and our cell phones are just as smart as his.  I own a Kindle and my car has Bluetooth, but what might buy me some points on his how-archaic-is-my-grandma scale, is that I own the Oral B Pro 5000 toothbrush, and it too has Bluetooth capability!  Bam! We are just as embryonically attached to the grid as he is!  
I answered him we are “on the grid,” but try not to abuse it nor are we dependent on letting it define who we are.  We want all our grandkids to learn that, so when he comes over, I limit his electronics.  I force him to go outside, get some fresh air, and get bitten by chiggers.  I want him to appreciate that food does not magically appear prepackaged at the grocery store, and there is benefit to eating fruits and vegetables instead of chicken nuggets and takeout pizza. I want him to learn that he is responsible for his own learning, health, and survival, and I want him to develop the art of human conversation, imagination, and interaction.  

That’s the trick, isn’t it?  We all live off the grid; we are dependent on it, but it is not there for us to abuse it, nor is it there to steal our independence. By asking his question, my grandson showed his intelligence and sense of humor. There is still hope for him if we can get him to tear himself away from all those seductive electronics so that he can observe the more alluring world around him. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Big, Fat, Wide Screen TV


Back in 2003, I bought one of the first wide screen TVs on the market.  It is a huge, 50-inch, HD-compatible Toshiba, about five feet tall and three feet deep.  It takes four, able-bodied, muscled men with strong backs to move that big boy.
It cost me $2000 back in the day, but that is with all the extras I had to purchase.  It demanded a controller through which all the other attachments are channeled.  I had a VCR player back then and a few DVDs, but since then I got rid of the VCR player and added a Wii, a Blu-Ray machine, and the Direct TV monitor. Most of these were invented after I bought the TV so additional machines and wires have had to be purchased and attached to the old boy to bring it up-to-date. The same goes with subscription services.  The TV is not “smart,” so since it cannot connect to the Internet or Wi-Fi service, we cannot access Hulu or Netflix or other modern services like that.  We can do it on our computers but not on our TV.
My three kids have grown accustomed to this old boy, but my grandkids are techno-snobs and are embarrassed that their grandparents hold on to such an antiquity. Their PlayStations, iPads, and other doodads do not work on our Toshiba and I refuse to buy one more attachment or one more wire to make that happen. They give it the same jaundiced eye they give us, surprised that we are still alive and kicking even at our advance, decrepit age.
I have only had it fixed once and it cost me $200, but the repairman warned me back in 2008 that I would probably not be able to fix it again since the parts for it are obsolete. I figure I got my money’s worth, so my HoneyBunch and I have decided to keep this old relic until it dies.  We have selected its replacement and have made plans for the space it will open up in our cramped living room.  We never talk about it in its presence.  That would be rude. It has been with us through so many good and bad times that the old Toshiba is like family, kind of like when one gets attached to  the old family car, so until then we treat it with respect.  


Monday, April 6, 2015

Two Faced


In the 9th grade, I was “going steady” with a boy who attended the same Catholic Church and school as I did. We had known each other most of our lives, but we didn’t “notice” each other until the seventh grade and started “going around” in the 8th grade.  This was the 1960’s – before smart phones, iPods, and the Kardashians – so we hardly talked or did much of anything else.
Every Sunday, the families in our church sat in the same pews, so it was easy to see who was there and who wasn’t.  After the service, the kids gathered in the courtyard on the church grounds and we talked while our parents visited with each other.  This one Sunday, my boyfriend wasn’t there, so when I walked over to our crowd of friends, one of the girls asked about him.  I meant to sound “cool,” but instead I said something cruel, something I have never been able to take back. 
I said, “I know he always follows me around like a lost puppy, but I am not his trainer.” I even smirked.
Instead of laughing, the girl’s eyes focused on someone behind me and they widened in shock.  I turned around expecting to find that my parents had overheard my sassy comment, but instead there stood my boyfriend. He must have been somewhere in the church where I couldn’t see him and was about to tap me on the shoulder and surprise me.  His smile turned to disgust and his raised hand dropped to his side. He turned and walked away. 
We were never friends again.  Whenever I ran into him I tried to talk to him.  I wanted to tell him how terribly sorry I was, but he and I went to separate high schools and separate colleges and he avoided me at church.  Fifteen years later, when I went back to university to get my master’s degree, he was there too, but the moment he saw me, his demeanor changed and he looked right through me.  He always walked away.
That incident taught me a huge lesson about being two faced.   
I know too many people who pretend to like others.  They smile and chummy up to each other.  Sometimes it is to gain favor and use the other’s friendship or position; sometimes their pretense is nothing more than cowardice or arrogance.  Two-faced people think they are superior; they lie to themselves and they are more than glad to lie about others. 
They covet what others have or they want to be coveted, believing themselves to be better. They talk about others, stealing or degrading another person’s reputation in order to make themselves sound blameless.  Two-faced people are pretentious, envious, dishonorable thieves.  They are unworthy opponents and unworthy of anyone’s friendship. They do not deserve trust or respect.  
That fifteen-year-old girl I once was never intended to hurt that boy’s feelings.  I really liked him, but that terrible incident forced me to look at myself and I didn’t like what I saw. 
I have come to prefer the truth.  I prefer honesty to lies.  I can live without false friendships because I have true ones.  I can get along with what I call “acquaintances,” people who I do not like but who I need in my circle.


          PS:  I Googled him not too long ago.  He retired recently from an amazing career. I don’t know if we would recognize each other since that incident happened fifty years ago, but given the opportunity, I would still offer him my apology.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Last of the Red-Hot Introverts


People laugh when I tell them I am an introvert.  I am dead serious, yet they laugh and snort at me.
They confuse “shy” with introvert.  I am not shy.  I know how to defend myself.  I can talk to strangers easily.  I have social skills.  Anyone who has met me knows I LOVE to talk.
I am an introvert.  I like people but I also need to be alone.  As a charismatic introvert, getting along with others is a priority, but it tires me.  After a day of smiling, chatting, and seeing to the needs of others, I go home exhausted.
I can go for days (and have) without needing the proximity of another living being, animal or human.
I choose my friends with great care.  If you have gained my favor (not necessarily my confidence), I am fiercely loyal.  But I have been known to disown family and friends. They cease to exist in my circle. It takes a lot to lose my friendship, so it should not be a great surprise to those who do.  They only have to look at themselves and how they treated me to understand the alienation.
It surprises me to hear that I am rude, or cold, or arrogant. It usually comes from those who find me a threat.  They do not understand that my rudeness is a defensive strategy or intolerance for stupidity and hypocrisy.  If they find me cold, it stems from my introvert nature.  They mistake my smile for friendship and are insulted when it isn’t. As for the arrogance, I have no excuse.
Introverts are thinkers and great studiers of their surroundings.  While others force their ideas on others with their loud voices and threatening body language, introverts (or at least this introvert) see through their affectations and call their bluff.
Data shows that introverts make up half of the population, but I beg to differ.  I would say we outnumber the extroverts if you count many have been falsely classified because they are or have been in the public eye. Abe Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks were introverts. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are introverts. Audrey Hepburn, Candice Bergman and most authors, especially my favorite J. K. Rowling, are introverts. 
It’s not a laughing matter; it is a personality trait, and I am glad to be one.


Monday, March 23, 2015

My Address Book


I need a new address book (the inside front cover says November 2004), but I wonder if it would be disrespectful to replace this one with a new one.
Names, phone numbers (from those who still own landlines), and addresses with zip codes would be lost.  Some folks still accept letters and thank you’s and invitations, and I do not trust listing everything on my smart phone.  One accident and everything would be erased. I would not feel too smart.   
Where would I keep the thousand (it seems like a thousand) of user names and their updated passwords and the security questions (where I lied about favorite vacations spots, first pets, and maiden name that do not exist, at least not in this lifetime)?
Sure section “G-H” needs additional pages (maybe I will make note to use “X-Y-Z” since I only have two or three entries in that section). All those scratched out entries document the many travels and the many places my children (whose last name starts with H) and HoneyBunch’s sons (whose last name starts with G) have lived. Arrows point east to west, north to south, just like their lives have done until recently.
Other entries are scratched out because businesses no longer exist, doctors closed their practices, and dear ones have departed this life. My Dad and all of his siblings and their spouses are gone.  Too many of my dear friends are widows now but I have kept their husbands’ names tucked next to theirs. Time has pared down friendships and only the true blue are left.  Newer entries take their place: doctors specializing in all the major organs of my body, hotline numbers to Medicare and Aetna and AARP, and a growing list of birthdates and clothing sizes for grandchildren.
Some entries are embarrassing confessionals.  I have joined Weight Watchers Online six times in the last eleven years and Defensive Driving twice.  Some are sad reminders of the past.  I have my old online info for Borders and Kobo, and for several online military supply stores (the three times my son was deployed, our government did not purchase all of his necessary equipment, so I did). Some are reminders of another life – the name and phone number of my divorce lawyer, the code for the alarm system from my old home, and the names of my kids’ best friends and their parents’ phone numbers when they were teenagers in case they didn’t come home in time for curfew (probably none of these are current).
Should I buy a replacement address book (do they still make them?)?  Would it be callous of me to forget the past? Would it be disrespectful of me not to keep my Dad’s name as a reminder that he lived and that I loved him with all my heart under the “M-N” section?
What if I need the history list of my eleven passwords for my Gmail one day?