Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says "Oh shit, she's awake."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Help! I've fallen off my soapbox and i can't get up!

I’ve noticed something…in a world where the word “tolerance” is thrown around in most any situation or discussion, there is very little tolerance in the world. How does that work? I keep mulling this over and trying to come up with some valid explanation for this phenomenon, but….ummmmmmmmmm…hmmmmmmmmm…nope, I’ve got nothing. Tolerance is quickly becoming a thing of the past, like cassettes, and good television.

Maybe I’m wired a bit differently than some people. Maybe that’s how I’ve lived in DC for over 25 years, and never gotten sucked into so much of the drama and politics that lives not only Capitol Hill, but every PTA, homeowners’ association, or other organization in this town. Politics has always been backyard discussion around here, at least since I moved here. People in DC tend to be full of themselves, all with an over-inflated value of self-importance and a need for power of any kind. I thought this character trait was unique to Washington, and indeed, I think a decade or two ago, that may have been the case. Now? It has spread across the country, the world in fact, like some sort of virus, and everybody seems to have caught it. Every day I pray for the vaccine to become available… again…I’ve got nothing.

Seriously, I can’t drive to work on any given day and not see a bunch of people parading in front of some office or business with signs protesting one thing or the other, and this is a DAILY occurrence. Do people have the right to free speech? Absolutely, it’s a constitutional right, and I applaud it. What I can’t understand is how so many people in the world came to the conclusion that everyone else in the world really cares about what they think or believe, or what causes they support. Does everything have to be aired in such a public forum? (Thank you Facebook, I hold you accountable for that one.) Does everyone have to beat the rest of the world about the head with a picket sign or pen their editorial comments in bright lights so they can sway everyone else to their way of thinking? Don’t get me wrong, debate is healthy, and necessary in order to affect change. But so many people are doing nothing short of harassing or bullying anyone who will give them half a second so that they can get on their soapbox and beat their drum. And if they can’t sway a particular individual into their way of thinking? Well, then those people who can’t “see the truth” are subject to nothing short of a smear campaign replete with words such as “mentally unstable”, and “stupid.” For the record, I think I fall into the stupid category a lot with a lot of these drum beaters. That’s cool, I never said I was rocket scientist.

Maybe it’s just me. I am not motivated by politics, or agendas, or the need for my 15 minutes. The closest I come to my “15 minutes” is this blog, and really, writing is more for my own sanity. I get a lot of satisfaction from emptying my brain periodically of all the thoughts and observations that build up – some annoying,some sad, some reflective, some just plain freakin'funny. I just live my life the best I can every day. I recycle, I turn off lights, I try to make a difference. I abhor most politicians because they appear to me to be individuals who derive great pleasure from tearing down someone else so they can make themselves look like the savior of all mankind, or at least their district. Personally, if I know you, I don’t care if you are democrat, republican, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, a fan of NASCAR, or the WWE. If you’re a vegan, good for you. Personally, I think pigs are adorable, the problem is they taste so damn good. What I am concerned about is that you care for others, and you are a true friend to me. I don’t care if you’ve made mistakes (who hasn’t), and I’m not concerned about your religious or political affiliations. I’m not a fan of organized religion, but if you are, then I’m happy that trips your trigger. If you’re an alcoholic, I probably won’t be your first choice as your best friend, because I like to drink on occasion (ok, often), and I’m not giving that up until someone tells me I’ll die from red wine. But I respect anyone’s choice not to drink, as long as you respect my choice to be a wino. It’s all good in my book. Some people would say I’m not “in the know” or “in tune with today’s society.” Truth? I don’t care. I like the bubble I live in and I’m not leaving it. Do I pay attention to what’s going on in the world? Of course I do – with the 24 hour news cycle, it’s hard to miss most things. The point is I try not to let it consume my life. To do that would be taking time away from the people and things in my life that are truly important, and what a tragedy that would be. I don’t want to be on my deathbed thinking “Gee, I really should have spent more time getting to know those candidates in the last election.” or “Wow, I could have really made a difference if I had gone to more homeowners’ association meetings.” And for the record, I absolutely will not be the woman on her deathbed thinking “I really should have ordered the cheesecake after dinner.” Trust me, cheesecake and I are buddies, and always will be.

When I think of how I live my life day to day, I like to think of my relationship with someone I consider a very close friend, whom I won’t name, but she’ll know I’m talking about her. While we have a lot of commonalities, we are mostly on polar opposite ends of the political and social spectrum. She tends to lean WAY left, and I am a professed fiscal conservative and social liberal. We disagree on a lot of things ideologically, but not once has it colored my feelings for her. I love her like my sister, and truly, she is one person I wished lived closer. As it is, she is in Astoria, and I am here in Manassas. I don’t care what she thinks about politics, or religion, or the state of the country as a whole. What I care about is that I know I can call her anytime and we just pick up where we left off. I hope she feels the same about me. I hope she knows how important she is to me.

Like someone once told me, opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one. I have opinions, lots of them. If someone asks for my opinion, I’ll gladly give it, and I encourage most people to chalk it up in the “for what it’s worth” column. I don’t profess to know everything. I don’t even pretend to know a whole lot about anything. I do have a certain amount of knowledge about certain things that is mostly based on my past experiences – both good and bad. Should someone ask me to pass along my knowledge from these experiences, I will gladly do so. I like to help folks in any way I can, also part of my wiring.

I just enjoy living my life the best I can every single day. I’m not perfect, and I wouldn’t want to be…that would be a hell of a thing to keep up on a daily basis. All I know is I find myself wishing for a kinder, more compassionate time, before the advent of the Internet and Facebook, before everyone became SO important in their own minds, when people picked up the phone to chat about the weather, or stopped by someone’s house just to have a cup of coffee. Maybe I’ll put that one on my list to Santa.

Peace to you all, every day, without exception.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sleepovers? When does the "sleep" part start???

So here I sit, with my glass of truly mediocre wine, trying to figure out why I yet again relented and allowed my beloved daughter to invite her closest BFF's to my home for a...gulp... birthday sleepover. I really need to lay off the crack, as it is apparently affecting my decision-making capabilities.

I should preface this whole scenario with the fact that, as a mother, I have known from the beginning that I will never be awarded Mother of the Year...ever. I fully disclose to you that I am impatient, demanding, controlling, and often speak in a tone similar to that of Gunnery Sargeant Hartmann in Full Metal Jacket. Upon delivery, my daughter was presented with discount coupons for therapy. If I didn't know better, I would swear I saw the labor nurses murmuring "poor dear" under their breath as they handed me my sweet bundle of baby wrapped up in pink. That being said, she is an amazingly grounded and wonderful kid - a bit too dramatic sometimes for my taste, but my mother tells me the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Don't get me wrong, I love Tricia more than anyone in the world, and indeed, I would lay down my life for her. But if that child doesn't learn to stop leaving her room looking as if an F4 tornado just blew through, she won't have to ever worry about learning to drive. She'll never live that long.

Back to the is what I think. I think that instead of sending a child to a sleepover with birthday present in hand, the child should donate a bottle of wine (of at least decent quality) to the hosting mother. If it is a "little girl" sleepover, each child should bring two bottles. How could I forget such giggling, screaming, running through the house, and high-pitched squealing? I think my ears are going to start bleeding any second. And I'm lucky because I love my daughter's friends...truly they are the sweetest little girls ever. But Oh My God, where is the OFF switch???

I know they are having the time of their life. I want her birthday to fun and memorable, and magical. Eleven only happens once in a lifetime, and I know someday I will long for the days when she was eleven and thought I was the best mom ever for letting her have a sleepover. Maybe Mother of the Year isn't such a distant dream after all? Ok, who am I kidding? THAT is never going to happen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lift Us Up On Angel's Wings

Everyone has that one thing that simply touches his or her heart as nothing else can. For some it is the innocence in the face of a child, for others it is the love and companionship of a canine or cat. I, myself, have an incredibly soft spot for all animals – a trait I like to think I inherited from my father, who was constantly rescuing some animal from certain tragedy. But of all the animals in the world, birds seem to hold the very most special place in my life, particularly cockatoos and parrots.

I “adopted” my first parrot from an exotic bird shop in Key West in 1991. She was a small Jenday parrot who sat shyly on a perch near the floor. Her colors were magnificent and she let me gently pet her on the head. I was smitten. Two hundred dollars later, I smuggled her home on the plane from Miami; she never made a peep the entire ride. From the moment I got her home, she never stopped squawking, loudly I might add. I loved her to pieces and we were fast friends for many years, but unfortunately, my now ex-husband was allergic to her, so I re-homed her to a lonely old woman who was looking for a bird to replace her recently deceased parrot companion. In hindsight, I should have kept the bird and unloaded the ex sooner.

These days I am the proud mommy to a very special flock of feathered critters - an umbrella cockatoo, a blue-headed pionus parrot, and a high-strung cockatiel. I adore them all, although the pionus is clearly my fiance’s bird now, and wants almost no part of me. Such is life with birds. They develop attachments to a person, and the bond is incredibly strong. I accept it. He still lets me scratch him on the head occasionally, and that is fine with me. The cockatiel loves people, but isn’t much of a cuddler. She prefers to have her ongoing love affair with her many mirrors. That leaves my cockatoo—my sweet darling Lola, my heart wrapped in a warm soft pile of feathers. She is always there, waiting for me to play with her, or wrap her in a blanket and let her snuggle with me in bed. She’s an amazing creature with unbelievable intellect and understanding. You look at her and you just KNOW there is a lot going on behind those eyes. And there always is… and some of it isn’t good either – she is very skilled at being very naughty.

So when I heard something this week via Facebook, I was completely stunned by the viciousness and cruelty of the story. A woman named Carol Mayo, posing as a pet sitter, had been offering her services to bird owners. Apparently these birds left in her care were inhumanely plucked of their feathers, tortured, mutilated. Owners were told their birds were missing or stolen, when in fact she had killed the birds, disposed of their bodies, then sold their feathers on ebay or craigslist. Her latest victim, an umbrella cockatoo identical to Lola named Angel, had been brutally killed, although they have yet to find poor Angel's body. Angel was to be with the “pet sitter” for four days while the bird waited to be relinquished to a rescue organization, Broken Wing, in the Phoenix area. The owner, who was living in an apartment, was forced to give up her beloved pet because of her screaming. (Anyone who has spent time with an umbrella cockatoo will tell you, their screams can be deafening.) The owner and rescue organization are pursuing the matter with authorities, and were actually able to rescue a blue and gold macaw from the woman’s residence (with the help of Ms. Mayo's daughter) which was being tortured as well. Unfortunately, there was no rescue for Angel. I’m not sure how this will work out, but certainly this person deserves a stiff punishment for her actions. Personally, I believe that torturing her by pulling off her skin would be appropriate…just saying…

I cried for that bird. If it had happened to Lola, I would have been inconsolable. I don’t understand how such evil can live in a person’s heart unchecked. I need to believe in the human condition, and that deep down, most people are good, but that becomes more and more difficult each day. Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion? I know those qualities must exist somewhere. I do see signs of them every day – sometimes in small ways, sometimes big. But I’m so afraid that the balance is tipping in the wrong direction. Maybe we just hear the stories more, because society is so connected and wired into so many vehicles for information. My personal belief? We are losing our humanity at the hands of our technology, knowledge, greed and ambition. We, as a society, move at lightening fast pace to be bigger, faster, smarter. We are conditioned to look for instant gratification, and too often look past our fellow man in the hope of finding more more more…more money, more gratification, more power. Who loses when acts of cruelty such as this happen, or any act of cruelty for that matter – be it an animal, child, anyone really? We all lose, in ways that you cannot even calculate.

I want more for my daughter, my family, YOUR family. I can say with great pride that my friends and family are extraordinary people with an incomprehensible capacity to give of themselves and never ask for anything in return. I wish that for everyone, I really do.

For some, they may say, “It was just a bird. To that I say that it was a living breathing creature, and it deserved better. We all deserve better.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grande Bold Pick in a Vente Cup

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am pretty much a creature of habit…not that I can’t be spontaneous – actually I love being spontaneous, compulsive even. But every morning I leave my house at close to the same time and drive 3.3 miles to the office. On the way, I stop at the my favorite Starbucks (the one with the hot barrista) and order my grande bold pick in a vente cup (got to have room for that quart of half and half.) This morning was no exception, and I needed it bad for a number of reasons, which I will not bore you with. Honestly, if I could get my java through an IV, that would be super duper.

So I’m standing in a line three people deep. Everyone had that same, half awake, zombie-like look on their face, alluding to the fact that if given a choice, they would probably have been somewhere else, like back in bed. The woman at the front of the line was buying a veritable grocery order – coffee, a banana, a pound of beans, a bagel, and God knows what else. I think I even saw a plastic bear full of honey in her hand, and I didn’t even know Starbucks sold honey. Suddenly, the lovely drone of the usual Starbucks white noise was disrupted by Grocery Lady (to me she will forever be Grocery Lady) knocking over three Robert Plant cd’s from the rack in front of the register. It startled all of us into a state of “WTF???” Then, it happened…one of the things in the world that is my biggest pet peeve, maybe even one of the things that pisses me off the most. Grocery Lady looked down at the scattered cd’s, and did…NOTHING. I could feel my temperature rising at her complete disregard for something which SHE was clearly responsible for doing. She finished paying for her $500 worth of crap, turned around, looked at the cd’s and everyone in line…AND WALKED AWAY. I couldn’t believe it. I rolled my eyes at her LOUDLY (if that’s possible) as her glance passed over me – sort of the way my 11 year old daughter does when I tell her to clean up her room – in complete and utter contempt and disgust. I could feel the words “lazy bitch” gurgling in my throat, dying to come out. But I didn’t say it. The next person walked up to the register. I stepped forward, picked up the cd’s, and put them back on the rack. I could only hope that Grocery Lady saw me do it, as she was pouring her fifteen sugar packets into her coffee. I hope she chokes on it.

Which brings me to my point. What ever happened to personal responsibility, and common consideration? You really don’t see it much in today’s world. Once in a great while, you see a glimmer of it, but mostly, it is glaringly absent. This woman not only had zero regard for the fact that SHE was the one who knocked over the merchandise (responsibility part), but was completely ignorant of the fact that SOMEONE ELSE would have to clean up after her (the common consideration part.) She gets an “F” for today, since she failed miserably at being a decent human being. Am I overreacting? Maybe, but it’s the little things in life that make all the difference.

I try to instil these attributes in my daughter every day…take a moment to be considerate, always show compassion for people who are less fortunate, always take responsibility for your mistakes. These are simple things, but they seem to be missing from everyday life. It makes me sad. I’ve always lived under the premise that it is part of the human condition to hold these attributes close to your heart and live them every day, but now I’m not so sure that is the case with most people. I have far more respect for the person who is willing to stand up and be accountable for everything in their life. I certainly am not perfect. In fact, I’ve done some incredibly stupid things in my life which have cost me dearly in ways I can’t even explain. But everything--good, bad or otherwise—is mine and I own it. Mistakes suck, but they make us who we are. As long as you learn and move forward in a positive way, then it’s all good.

Ok, so I have had my rant for today. Now I will exercise that OTHER human attribute which is important to remember. I FORGIVE Grocery Lady for not doing the right thing. Hopefully, at some point, she will be in a position where she will be forced to remember those poor Robert Plant cd’s on the floor, and think to herself, “I really should have picked those up and put them back on the rack.” Hope springs eternal I suppose.