A BUG’S LIFE (CLUB PROMPT – HOUSE FLIES)

Thinking of houseflies all week, I was starting to see them everywhere. But I still couldn’t come up with anything to say. But in an early morning light, I looked around and was astonished to see how I could recognize some of the bugs of the world in the people of my life. It was a little bit scary actually. But, it got me to thinking that if I could see this then most everyone could probably recognize some bugs in their own lives too.

My first thought was that houseflies are just annoyances and to be sure, there are PLENTY of people in my life I would categorize as an annoyance. Coming to mind first is, of course, in-laws and I think ex-husbands and wives would fit in here too. Consider it, you keep batting them away but they always seem to avoid that one good shot when you think you’ve actually gotten them and always show up again. In-laws and exes are just something to be suffered through much like a housefly. Actually, in thinking about it, I’d rather just deal with the housefly.

Another “housefly” that comes to mind is the leftover roommate from my oldest son’s college days. He seemed to adopt us the first time he came home for dinner with our son and his other roommates and even now, four years after our son finished college and moved across the country, he is still hanging on to us. We won’t hear from him for months and breathe a sigh of relief and then (kind of like the movie JAWS), “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”….here he is again wanting to come for dinner and willing to drive the 2 hours to get to us. He sings to us while he visits, imitates people he knows and we don’t with a very shrill voice that grates our nerves, and never seems to know when to leave. It’s a loooong day when he comes.

With the housefly explored, I moved on to other bugs. I began then to think about the earthworm. Earthworms move extremely slowly and are slippery and hard to get hold of. For certain, here on the Eastern Shore, I can definitely see a lot of earthworms in the workers I deal with who never seem to return calls until days or weeks later and even after that seem to decide on a whim when to finally show up and do whatever job I need done. I cringe when anything goes wrong because I know for sure it isn’t going to be a quick fix.

Another place I see earthworms in my life is when I’m driving. Have you ever gotten behind someone who signals 2 miles before they intend to turn off and then drives 20 miles an hour in a 55 zone all the way until it’s time to make that turn refusing, of course, to get into the designated turning lane? It’s almost as if they were put there just to send my blood pressure skyrocketing!

My grandmother was determined to make me part of the earthworm scene always warning me to signal to change lanes miles before the need arose. At 5 miles away you’d hear, “Now it’s coming up here – get ready.” On down the road we’d go and at 2 miles she’d say, “Now it’s right around this bend here.” At the one-mile mark, “Now don’t forget, you’re going to turn right up here.” And finally, she’d desperately grasp the door handle with eyes clenched and white knuckles when I dared go around the bend too fast. She was probably kicking herself for not mentioning what speed I should be going instead of just worrying about the lane change.

What about the mosquitoes in life? These would be the people who just use you for their own purposes sucking the ‘blood’ out of you and then moving on to their next victim. The ‘blood’ can be money, emotions, a place to stay (your house), a meal, or anything else you might do to help someone out. These are sometimes hard to spot in our lives because like mosquitoes, they move in and take what they need while you’re not paying attention and have various ways of craftily covering up the fact that they have no intention of reciprocation or any real interest in you other than what you can do for them. Unfortunately, in everyone’s life, there are people like this that have to be dealt with.

Anyone who’s ever had a teenage boy to feed will easily see my comparison with termites. Termites eat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can attest to this comparison with my son in the midst of his growth spurts right now. About once a month, I make it out to Sam’s Club where I stock up in bulk on every imaginable item of food I can, bring it all back, and stow it away, feeling smug and secure that it will last for a month. But then….Spencer shows up and demolishes my stash. Open cans of beans on the counter are considered an invitation, so I need to be quick in my prep and get things over a hot flame where he can’t grab them. Things go missing as he treks through the kitchen to take the dog out and again on his way back in. Food disappears on his way through to drop off his laundry. Bringing his empty lunch box after school to be filled tomorrow’s edible sacrifice is another dangerous time when I need to be in the kitchen on guard for the food termite. It’s not even just the times I’m aware of that are bad, but somehow most mornings I wake up to an emptier kitchen than I had the night before. Most people, when they buy food, try to finish it before the expiration date. We have a new game now, Spencer and I – we try to see if the food will still be in the house and not in him by the next day.

Speaking of Spencer, I also associate him with the praying mantis because it’s the only bug in the world with just one ear. Spencer’s selective hearing fits right in with this because unless it involves food Spencer never seems to hear when I call him. My mom seems to have the same issue with my dad who never seems to hear her talking about the walls she wants painted or the shopping trip she wants to take.

I’m sure everyone can recognize slugs in their life when they’re unfortunate enough to come across one. The slugs of life are convinced they’re far above most others but when asked to produce an independent thought or exhibit common sense, they fail miserably. Scientists tell us that sea slug brains actually have many things in common with our brains. Much of what passes for thinking in our brains is actually reacting to situational stimuli; hence, it is not thinking but reflex. Most adults have risen above slug status and can actually produce evidence of independent thought like here in our group where we’re all capable of putting our perceptions on paper. Some people mention the very public blunders of Sarah Palin or George W. Bush when talking about slugs. But, we all come up against people in life that might make us think they should swap brains with a sea slug to improve things.

But you see what happens here when you start off thinking of one annoying bug…..you end up with a very negative sounding paper to read. So with that in mind, I’ll leave you with two thoughts – ants and butterflies. In life, I’m blessed with my dad’s five sisters. My aunts are well-titled, because for sure they are the colony-makers in our family. No matter what the occasion, they each take on a job and cover every base to get things done. A few years ago, in the lead up to my son’s wedding, my aunts were into baking hundreds of cookies and helping me round up all the odds and ends needed for the reception. In the midst of all this, one of my cousins unexpectedly went into hospital with leukemia. She had been right in the middle of buying a new house, selling her old house, and moving with her four children to another state for her husband’s new job. With no hesitation of mind or break in their pre-wedding quests, our aunts drove hours to reach them, took on all four children, moved them into their homes, enrolled them in schools, and made a safe haven for them while their parents got through what they needed to and still managed to deliver cookies right on time for me. Every family needs ants like these.

And lastly, the beautiful butterfly……..the butterflies in life can begin with the non-attractive pregnancy bump which produces the child who grows up into a caring, loving individual enriching people with his very existence. A butterfly can be the addict that comes through rehab and finds his way to a better life for himself and his loved ones. It can be an amputee emerging into a now-changed world and embracing his new circumstance being grateful just to be there at all. Or, as in my own life, it can be the baby that came after the world’s worst pregnancy and drove us all to the edge of madness with the ensuing 6 months of colic but who now, 14 years later, greets every day with an infectious smile and a sense of humor that none of us can resist. A butterfly in life can be anyone that starts from a darkness and gradually moves into the light, spreading his wings in a magnificent array of glory for all to revel in along with him. We are lucky to have the butterflies in our lives.

As I look around, I am surprised to see the bugs I’m dealing with. Look around your life and see the bugs you can recognize and make sure you’re always the butterfly and never the housefly (or worse) in someone else’s life.

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THE DOMESTIC GODDESS (CLUB PROMPT – GETTING READY)

AFTER 3 WEEKS OF DEALING WITH WATER PIPE AND HEATING ISSUES IN OUR EASTERN SHORE RENTAL HOUSE AND A PIPE BREAK AT HOME IN PITTSBURGH, I’M FEELING A LITTLE FRAZZLED AND THE HOUSE HERE HASN’T BEEN PROPERLY CLEANED UP IN A WHILE AND IS STARTING TO GET ON MY NERVES.

THURSDAY MORNING

7.00A RISE AND SHINE. FEELING PRETTY GOOD THIS MORNING. WILL BREAKFAST AND GET READY TO GET THIS HOUSE   CLEANED UP AND BACK IN ORDER!

7.51A CALL FROM MARY. WRITER’S CLUB CANCELLED TODAY.  DRAT.  WELL, MUST BE SIGN FROM GOD…WILL HAVE MORE TIME TO GET THIS PLACE IN ORDER.

8.00A REMEMBER I HAVE WORK TO DO ONLINE.…MUST DO THAT. MUST PAY FOR RENTAL BEFORE CLEANING IT.

8.50A RECEIVE CALL FROM OIL COMPANY ASKING IF I WANT SHIPMENT TODAY. TELL THEM YES, DEFINITELY!

CONTINUE MY WORK ON COMPUTER

9.00A RECEIVE CALL FROM HEATING GUY WHO WAS HERE YESTERDAY.

CONTINUE MY WORK ON COMPUTER

9.06A RECEIVE FIRST SKYPE MESSAGE OF THE DAY ON COMPUTER FROM MOM. CHAT WITH HER FOR 20 MINUTES UNTIL SHE LEAVES FOR GYM.

9:27A CONTINUE MY WORK ON COMPUTER…REALLY NEED TO FINISH THESE JOBS.

9.38A RECEIVE CALL FROM AMAZON CONCERNING GIFT CARD ISSUE.

BEGIN THINKING I SHOULD GET OUT OF BRIGHT RED, MOOSE-PRINT P.J.s AND INTO CLOTHES ON OFF CHANCE OIL PEOPLE SHOW UP EARLY BUT THEN THINK, I HAVE NEVER HAD A WORKER ON EASTERN SHORE SHOW UP EARLY IN MORNING SO I CONTINUE TO FINISH MY WORK ON COMPUTER….ALMOST DONE WITH THAT ANYWAY.

9.43A OIL WORKER DEFIES MY THINKING AND SHOWS UP AT DOOR.

9.55A ONLINE WORK NOW COMPLETE. I’LL GET STARTED CLEANING AS SOON AS I’M DRESSED. OH, NEED TO CALL RESTORATION CONTRACTOR IN PITTSBURGH ABOUT OUR HOUSE THERE. WILL DO THAT NOW BEFORE I FORGET. LEAVE MESSAGE.

10:05A TOSS IN LAUNDRY

10:15A GET DRESSED

10:30A CALL MARY AND MAKE PLANS TO MEET AT 12:30P FOR LUNCH. CAN SURELY CLEAN UP HOUSE BEFORE 12:30P.

10:47A DECIDE TO CALL JAKE THE PLUMBER BEFORE CLEANING TO SEE IF HE’S COMING TODAY TO DEAL WITH PIPES HERE. HE REPORTS NO, NOT TODAY, PROBABLY TOMORROW.

11:00A GET SON OUT OF BED AND MAKE HIM BREAKFAST. NO SCHOOL AGAIN TODAY. WELL, MAYBE HE CAN HELP GET THIS PLACE IN ORDER. OUR DAY JUST GETTING STARTED OVER HERE.

11:20A MARY COMES OVER WITH A PROJECT FOR ME TO HELP WITH. WORK ON THAT WITH HER AND WE SIT DOWN TO CHAT FOR A WHILE. DECIDE AT NOON TO GO EARLY TO OUR LUNCH. SPENCER ALREADY HUNGRY AGAIN ANYWAY.

NOON OUT TO LUNCH. FEELING BAD THAT HOUSE IS NOT CLEANED YET BUT CONSOLE MYSELF WITH THOUGHT THAT EATING LUNCH WILL GIVE ME NEWFOUND ENERGY TO DEAL WITH HOUSEWORK ONCE WE’RE BACK. NO PROBLEM…THE DAY IS YOUNG.

1:10P RETURN FROM LUNCH. HUSBAND NOW HERE EARLIER THAN EXPECTED. EVEN BETTER. THREE OF US WILL BUZZ THROUGH THIS CLEANUP THAT NEEDS DONE. BUT HUSBAND VERY TIRED AND REPORTS HE WILL HAVE A REST FIRST. FINE. I WILL CHECK MY WORK, SPENCER CAN DO HIS ALGEBRA, AND WE’LL ALL MEET UP IN A BIT TO GET THIS PLACE BACK IN ORDER.

1:35P MOM ON SKYPE AGAIN. CHAT WITH HER FOR 20 MINUTES.

1:52P SHARE WITH SPENCER INTERESTING ARTICLE IN NEWSPAPER AND TELL HIM WE WILL BE CLEANING UP THIS PLACE ONCE HIS FATHER GETS UP.

2:23P FOLD LAUNDRY. DECIDE TO GET GOING ON HOUSEWORK. WILL SURPRISE HUSBAND WHEN HE GETS UP TO HAVE PLACE IN ORDER AND CLEAN!

2.27P RECEIVE RETURN CALL FROM RESTORATION COMPANY IN PITTSBURGH STATING THEY WILL BE IN THERE NEXT WEEK TO DO THE RESTORATION WORK.

2:40P MESSAGE MOM TO TELL HER ABOUT THE RESTORATION COMPANY NOT COMING IN TILL NEXT WEEK.

2:45P RECEIVE CALL FROM PITTSBURGH REALTOR ASKING IF HOUSE CAN BE SHOWN TOMORROW. SURE, BUT PLEASE LET   THEM KNOW WE’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A DISASTER THERE. SPEAKING OF DISASTERS…THIS PLACE I’M LIVING IN REALLY NEEDS CLEANED UP TOO…..IS THERE SUCH A THING AS DOMESTIC RESTORATION COMPANY?

2:50P SKYPE MOM AND TELL HER ABOUT HOUSE SHOWING TOMORROW AND MAKE HER DAY! (MOM MOST ANXIOUS TO HAVE OUR HOUSE THERE SOLD).

3:03P TRY TO CALL PITTSBURGH RESTORATION CONTRACTOR TO ASK QUESTION. NO ANSWER…WILL HAVE TO CALL TOMORROW. MUST GET READY AND MOVE ON THIS HOUSEWORK. WILL JUST CHECK AND BE SURE NO JOBS ARE ON COMPUTER FIRST.

3.15P DO HAVE ONLINE WORK SO I DO THAT FOR A WHILE.

4:42P OLDER SON ON SKYPE – SEND HIM MESSAGE ABOUT HIS UPCOMING B-DAY THIS WEEKEND.

4:43P SCHOOL CALLS WITH MESSAGE THAT THEY WILL CANCEL AGAIN TOMORROW. MAKE SPENCER’S DAY TELLING HIM NO SCHOOL AGAIN. SKYPE MOM TO TELL HER ABOUT THIS…ALSO REALIZE I AM NOT GETTING FAR ON CLEANING UP THIS HOUSE.

4:45P HUSBAND HAS WORK MEETING VIA COMPUTER AND THEN WE WILL DO DINNER AND THEN GET THIS HOUSE IN ORDER. FINISH MY OWN WORK ON COMPUTER.

5:10P MOM REPLIES SHE ISN’T SURPRISED ABOUT THE SCHOOL CANCELLATION, MAKES DREARY PREDICTION THAT NEXT WEEK WON’T BE MUCH BETTER AND THEY’LL PROBABLY CANCEL THEN TOO. OMG.

5:30P FINISH TALKING TO OLDER SON AND MOM VIA SKYPE. EVENING IS JUST GETTING STARTED, OF COURSE, BUT REALLY MUST GET STARTED ON HOUSEWORK. HUSBAND’S TUMMY GROWLS…..MUST FEED MY HUNGRY MEN FIRST. COOK FOR THEM.

6:15P REMEMBER I NEED TO GET BANKING IN ORDER AND FILE PAPERWORK ALL OVER DESK CONCERNING TWO HOUSE DISASTERS. WILL START THERE AND THEN CLEAN UP.

6:30P ANOTHER JOB COMES IN ONLINE. OKAY, WILL DO THAT AND THEN SEE WHERE THINGS ARE AT.

7:48P SKYPE MOM ABOUT POSSIBLE WEEKEND IN HOTEL IN FAIRFAX WHILE HUSBAND IS THERE FOR HIS JOB! HOW COOL IS THAT? BUT WE AREN’T SURE ABOUT PLUMBER AND WHETHER HE WILL NEED TO WORK WEEKEND AND POSSIBLY BE IN HOUSE INSTEAD OF UNDER IT. CAN’T REALLY MAKE FIRM PLAN. HMMM….

7:50P MESSAGE SON’S WIFE IN CALIFORNIA TO LET HER KNOW ABOUT HER PERSONAL ITEMS IN OUR PITTSBURGH HOUSE. NICE GIRL SHE IS….PROBABLY HAS CLEAN HOUSE TOO.

7:59P RECEIVE CALL FROM EASTERN SHORE PLUMBER. HE REPORTS HE WILL BE HERE IN MORNING TO DEAL WITH PIPES. THANK GOD!!! TEXT LANDLORD TO LET HIM KNOW.

8:05P RECEIVE TEXT FROM LANDLORD STATING HE IS HAPPY TO HEAR PLUMBER WILL FINALLY SHOW UP!

8:30P SEND YOUNGER SON OFF FOR SHOWER AND BED.

8:50P BANG ON BATHROOM DOOR AND REMIND SON THAT HE IS NOT TAKING 30-MINUTE SHOWERS IN MIDDLE OF WINTER WHEN OIL IS AT A PREMIUM!

8:55P HUSBAND AND I HAVE A LITTLE QUIET TIME AND WATCH A MOVIE.

10:00P SLEEPY NOW. WILL TRY AND DO HOUSEWORK TOMORROW. AFTER ALL, THE WEEKEND’S JUST GETTING STARTED………

Q: HOW CAN I GET READY WHEN I CAN’T EVEN GET CAUGHT UP?

A CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF (CLUB PROMPT – MY BEST ASSET)

A writing about my best asset. Okay….they want me to brag? They want me to write about this without bragging? Wow, this is such a weird thing to write about.

I have looked up the word asset to get a true definition to work with for this writing. The definition of asset varies, but the one I choose to use is, “an advantage.”

Have now asked a few others in the group about their intentions relative to this writing. Getting a lot of funny answers including one member who asked her family members what her best asset was and she was told that her best asset was slowly flattening as she sits on it over the years! Lots or people saying their family is their best asset which of course was my first thought too. Tried writing about my family being my best asset and covered 2 pages without even getting started. Am going to assume that of course everyone knows I have best family ever and could never hope to come up with any other asset to match what they bring to me.

Perhaps I should write about how organized I am. I have always been good at organizing! Consider the proof…. I am in love with boxes and containers of any kind to organize every single thing in my house. Everything must have a place and the place must not only fulfill the purpose, but also look good. Another example….a couple of years ago, I spent over 6 months patiently scanning and digitally organizing family photos from every available source I could find to make a digital history for the whole family to enjoy that now contains over 33,000 pictures, videos, and documents.

But…be honest here…..the minute you had that second child 12 years after your first, you gave up the title of Mrs. Organization. You might be capable of being organized at times, but organized you no longer are.

Instead, I should write about my attention to detail. Yes, I am all about details and being detail-oriented is definitely an asset! Think about it…I could write about how a simple vacation has never happened with me doing the planning – trips take months of research to ferret out every available option and find the best deal. Or, I could tell them shopping with me is a nightmare….I don’t want malls; I want to be online where I can compare and consider the options and various prices the world over and read a million reviews before I make a decision. Well, other than the fact that these two “great” stories include the word “nightmare” and show how complicated you make things, it just might work but….probably not your best idea.

Okay, maybe I should write about how I love to control things and how big an asset this is. Yes, this is good. I could talk about when I order something online and get a tracking number, I can tell you any day at any moment, where my item is, how long it will take to arrive, and even which post offices are the ones where it will get hung up. Or, I could illustrate my need for control by saying how I want to know where everyone is, what they’re doing, when they’ll be back, who they’ll be with, what will happen in a day, and plan for all the contingencies they might hit along the way. I live in horror of even the slightest deviation from the sensibly plotted paths I create for me, my family, and friends. Except……my control issues drive people insane. Probably not your best asset when your kid calls you a DEBT NAZI when you’re trying to teach him the dangers of credit cards or when they roll their eyes and mutter something about OVERPROTECTIVE MICROMANAGER when you keep tabs on their comings and goings. Okay, x-ing that one out too.

Am thinking I should say being a neat freak is my best asset. I really am into having things in their place and knowing where I can find things at a moment’s notice. It’s part of that whole organization thing I spoke of earlier. Yes, being a neat freak is a good thing especially when you have as much to remember as I do. But…..remember when Lucy came over the other day and you once again hadn’t gotten to the housework? Remember that feeling of absolute mortification when you realized she was sitting there on the couch and her first impression of how you live was seeing that you hadn’t yet swept the carpets and had disorganized stuff all over the dining room table waiting to be put away? Recall that piece you wrote for writing club talking about how hard you tried to get the housework done, but even in that piece you never actually did get it done? Right. Not going to write about being a neat freak.

Well, when all else fails, I go to the one person who always has the answers. I asked Mom.

With the luck we’ve been having lately starting with the simultaneous pipe breaks in two states and including last week when my husband hit a deer at the beginning of the week and I was diagnosed with a tooth infection and in need of a root canal at the end of the week and the week before that when the heating system broke down in our rental home and I got a rock in my windshield on the turnpike, she seems impressed that I’m still standing. She says my best asset definitely has to be my positive attitude. Like that idea. Positive attitude. Very good. Except….I don’t seem to exhibit any signs of actually having a positive attitude….generally I sit in various states of shock trying to figure out how I got here and who upstairs I got angry at me to end up in this boat! Okay, so skipping this one too.

So, am not getting very far at all. Have thus far figured out that I am not positive, no longer organized, not neat, a nightmare to shop with, evidently live under a black cloud, and a major control freak. Actually, looking back on things, perhaps I should write about how my best assets are my insurance companies!

THE ARTIST AND HIM (CLUB PROMPT – SUNDAY AFTERNOON)

SUNDAY – THE ARTIST HAS A COMMISSION. SHE BEGINS TO WORK FROM THREE PHOTOGRAPHS. SUNDAY AFTERNOON IS CALM. SHE SPENDS THE DAY ABSORBING THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND ALL THEIR MINUTE DETAILS. SHE GETS TO KNOW THE SUBJECT THROUGH HIS CLOTHES, HIS EXPRESSIONS, AND HIS SURROUNDINGS. SHE MAKES SOME PRELIMINARY SKETCHES.

MONDAY – THE ARTIST GETS A LITTLE MORE INTENSE. SHE BEGINS TO MEASURE TINY DISTANCES BETWEEN EYES, EARS, CHEEKBONES, NOSTRIL TO NOSTRIL, NECK TO COLLAR, ETC. SHE MAKES SOME SERIOUS SKETCHES. HOURS OF SKETCHING AND MEASURING TODAY. THE PRESSURE RISES.

TUESDAY – THE ARTIST FINALLY HAS A WORKING SKETCH THAT SHE’S PLEASED WITH. SHE TRANSFERS THE SKETCH ONTO A CANVAS AND BEGINS TO PLOT THE INITIAL COLOURS. SHE MUTTERS ABOUT VALUES NOT BEING RIGHT AND BEGINS TO SEE IN HER MIND WHERE THEY NEED TO GO. SHE PAINTS THE CANVAS UPSIDE DOWN TO TRY AND WORK TECHNICALLY RATHER THAN EMOTIONALLY. AFTER A FEW HOURS OF THIS INTENSE WORK, SHE’S BEGINNING TO PULL HER HAIR OUT TRYING TO PAINT SOMEONE SHE’S NEVER SEEN. THE PHOTOS DON’T SHOW HOW HE MOVES OR HIS PERSONALITY SHE COMPLAINS. QUITE A CHALLENGE TRYING TO CAPTURE SOMEONE’S ESSENCE THROUGH A FEW PHOTOS. “I KEEP LOSING HIM AND THEN I FIND HIM AGAIN. I WISH HE’D JUST STAY PUT!”

WEDNESDAY – THE ARTIST MOANS THAT SHE HAS OVERWORKED HIS FACE. THE SHADOWS AND WHISKERS ARE TOO DARK NOW -SHE ISN’T PLEASED. SHE HAS PUT IN A BACKGROUND COLOR TO ELMINATE MORE OF THE WHITE IN THIS PICTURE. A PICTURE OF A CHEF IN A WHITE KITCHEN WITH WHITE CUPBOARDS AND WHITE PLATES, ANY AMOUNT OF COLOR SHE CAN GET ON THE CANVAS IS A VICTORY….BUT IT CAN’T OVERWHELM THE SUBJECT. WHAT A TASK!

THURSDAY – THE ARTIST HAS TRIED ADDING A NEW COLOUR INTO THE BACKGROUND NOW. “NOT RIGHT,” SHE SAYS. SHE ISN’T CONTENT. BUT SHE’S MADE MUCH PROGRESS ON TONING DOWN THE SHADOWS AND WHISKERS. THE FACE NOW HAS A GOOD COLOR. SHE’S ELONGATED THE TEETH AND CAPTURED THE UPTURN ON ONE SIDE OF HIS SMILE. THE MOUTH IS NOW WHERE SHE WANTED IT TO BE. SHE’S FOUND HIM AGAIN AND HE SEEMS TO BE STAYING PUT FOR THE MOMENT. THIS MUCH, SHE SAYS, IS COMING ALONG.

FRIDAY – SHE’S CHANGED THE BACKGROUND COLOR NOW TO SOMETHING MORE NEUTRAL AND FINDS IT MUCH LESS OBJECTIONABLE. SHE’S ALSO ADDED ANOTHER NEUTRAL ON THE SIDE UNDER THE WHITE CUPBOARD. AH, IT DOESN’T DETRACT AND IT ELIMINATES MORE OF THAT WHITE – THE ARTIST FINDS THIS SATISFYING. THE FACE ALSO TAKES ON ADDED DEPTH TODAY WITH A FEW MORE STROKES OF THE BRUSH. THE CHANGES TODAY ARE VERY NEAR TO HER VISION. THE ARTIST IS FEELING CLOSE AND MANAGES A SLIGHT SMILE. HE’S STAYED PUT FOR 2 DAYS NOW!

SATURDAY – THE ARTIST SPENDS THE DAY MAKING TWEAKS HERE AND THERE. SHE’S LOWERED THE COUNTERTOP IN FRONT OF THE CHEF TO MATCH THE PHOTOGRAPHS BETTER. SHE’S NOT SURE WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE “FLOATING PLATTER” THAT NOW HAS NO COUNTERTOP TO REST ON. BUT BY EVENING, VIEWING HER GOOD WORK OF THE DAY, SHE FEELS BOLD! SHE DECIDES TO TRY A LIGHT FINISH ON THE PAINTING TO SEE IF IT GIVES IT THE LIFT SHE WANTS. SHE APPLIES THE FINISH QUICKLY…TOO QUICKLY TO REALIZE THAT IT’S AFFECTING THE PAINT. THE COLOURS BEGIN TO BLUR AND RUN. PANIC! THE WHISKERS ARE DARK AND HEAVY! FACIAL ASPECTS ARE LOST – THE SUBJECT’S NOSE IS NOT THERE! THE NECK IS SMEARED BLACK! THE DETAIL IN THE FOOD DISH IS GONE! HE HAS VANISHED IN THE VARNISH! THE ARTIST WRAPS HER ARMS AROUND HERSELF CRINGING IN HORROR BEREFT OF ANY HOPE OF SAVING HIM. HER THOUGHTS ARE VOICED…….”I’VE RUINED HIM. I WANT TO HANG MYSELF!”

SUNDAY – THE MORNING BEGINS WITH THE ARTIST SWEARING HE’S NOT SAVEABLE AT ALL. SHE WILL HAVE TO BEGIN AGAIN. A FEW HOURS GO BY. SHE WALKS PAST HIM SITTING THERE ON THE EASLE BECKONING TO HER TO RESCUE HIM FROM THE VARNISH – SHE INEXORABLY REFUSES. WALKING BY THE STUDIO, SHE BUSIES HERSELF WITH OTHER PURSUITS. AGAIN SHE PASSES THE STUDIO. HE SUMMONS HER MIGHTILY…..SHE CAN’T MEET HIS EYES AND MULISHLY TURNS AWAY. BY NOON, BRUSH IN HAND SHE APPROACHES HIM – HE’S WAITING. CAN SHE FIND HIM AGAIN? PERHAPS IF SHE JUST WORKED ON THIS BIT HERE NEAR THE NECK AND CONCENTRATED ON HIS NOSE FOR A MOMENT……A FEW HOURS LATER, THE PHOENIX HAS RISEN FROM THE ASHES! RESURRECTION! SUNDAY AFTERNOON IS FILLED WITH NEW LIFE AND NEW HOPE AS THE TENACIOUS ARTIST CONTINUES…..

THE CHANGE JAR LEGEND (CLUB PROMPT – A NEW CAR)

Anyone who has traveled in Washington during rush hour can attest to the fact that there are a lot of different cars on the road. However, I can’t help feeling that by only looking at the cars we’re missing half the story. How did someone end up with this car? Why do they keep it when it’s definitely past its heyday? Even just in my own family, the stories tell us a lot….

Scenario No. 1

The geeky teen walks down the street with his hair slicked back and his shirt tucked in. He’s hefting in front of him a very large jar of change. Skinny as he is with his bird-like legs, his pace never falters even carrying the incredible weight of the enormous jar he’s carrying in both arms. He walks straight ahead, his serious mission apparent on his face almost as if he is a soldier going into war. Yet, somehow even with the weight of the jar in his arms, he still manages to exhibit an excitement as he steadfastly moves toward his goal. People turn to watch the handsome teen and his change jar move gradually down the street wondering about his final destination. Finally, it seems he has arrived. He turns off his straight path and is now standing in the lot of the town’s only car dealership. Like a cowboy ready to face his rival in the street of an old western town at high noon, my young Dad squares up, hefts the change jar closer, and walks straight into the showroom. He moves toward the desk of the lot’s only salesman and finally (the cowboy pulling his gun out of the holster getting ready to fight) releases his burden, sitting his change jar on the desk next to the man now looking at him. At last he speaks with equal notes of pride and menace in his voice ….. “I’m here to buy my first car.”

Of course, Mom told me later, there was no showroom, there was no salesman, there was no little town, but this was my view of the “change jar legend” constantly retold to me by my 5 aunts who actually lived the prelude to my dad’s first car. According to my aunts, my dad’s first car purchase was heralded by a lot of work on his part and, for everyone else in his family, the ritual of him counting the change in his jar when it was payday at the ferry he worked on. Each of his younger sisters glories in the telling of how they could hear him in his room adding his pay into his change jar and counting and recounting that change night after night. Indeed, from the way they tell it, you can almost see them there in their beds trying to sleep but instead of sheep, they count the plink, plink, plink of the coins hitting the side of the jar. His mother always smiled when she heard the retelling of the change jar story and nodded her head obviously also remembering with pride in her son the plinking of the nightly coin count.

Of course Dad kept his new car in perfect condition washing, waxing, and keeping it free of any debris. He’s had many cars since that first one that he saved so long for, but he’s appreciated every one of them, still recalls their details as if through the eyes of a lover, and ran them till they just couldn’t run anymore.

This legend tells you a lot about my Dad without even meeting him because he hasn’t changed too much since that first car. Dad’s a SAVER – retirement accounts, life insurance, not living on credit – these were Dad’s benchmarks and he was always proud to be putting away for the future. He also still hangs onto things, never getting rid of them until there’s just no other choice.

Scenario No. 2

When my brother, Matt, finished college and moved out of state to take his first job, Mom and Dad proudly gave him a shiny red car and sent him on his way. They both felt a boy “needed” a car when he went out in the world and I imagine my Dad had the feeling of saving Matt from his own change jar stories.

Anyway, Matt took off in the red car and when he came home for a visit after a month or so, he came in a brand new car! He had traded the shiny red car from my parents and taken on the payments of a new fancy sports car. My conservative parents couldn’t believe it. But this was only the beginning. Matt repeated this process every few months…trading in a car and getting a new one. It got so bad that my Gram speculated that every time Matt got dressed he bought a new car. Matt also wanted extras; he spent lots of money kitting out his cars with window tints, personalized plates, bike racks, etc. My parents basically sat there with their chins on the floor and their mouths wide open at the incredible expense of it all. Matt is 42 now, married with children, and has owned over 31 cars, his new BMW bought just this past weekend.

We call Matt’s type THE FLASH AND DASH! And, indeed, that’s how he lives…it’s all about the flash factor with Matt. He doesn’t care about debt; he just wants to impress. He wants the latest and greatest in everything and he wants it out there for everyone to see – not in spite of the cost, but BECAUSE of the cost. He doesn’t want to keep up with the Joneses – he wants to BE the Joneses. These are his priorities.

Scenario No. 3

When I was first married, my first set of wheels was a laundry cart to carry our laundry down the street to the Laundromat and back. After a few years of public transport (on a good day) and walking the rest of the time, we were given an old car and then a few more old cars after that. Used cars made for lots of repairs and outrageous situations up to and including the mechanic who we visited to perform yet another repair on one of these many gems. As he looked at the knotted garden hose holding the muffler in place and the bent clothes hanger being used to keep the radiator attached, he declared, “Not even God himself could save this car!”

I didn’t get my first new car till after my second child was born and I’d been married over a decade. Signing up for a car payment was terrifying, but oh how I loved that car. I remember going to the dealer’s lot on Sunday when we could look without being bothered. I remember coming up on this small hunter-green station wagon and just knowing at that moment it was THE CAR. I said to my husband, “Doesn’t this look like a car for a mother of boys?” He agreed and that was that. I remember the next night when we bought it. Dad had come along with my husband and me to “do the talking” and “show us how it’s done.” When the papers were signed and it was time to leave, I remember my husband handing me the keys and saying drive us home. I remember my hands shaking as I pulled out on the road in our new family car – our very first car with no history but ours. No clanks, bumps, or dings; no things falling off. In the coming days, I took it all over the place showing off. That car served us well even after we paid it off and got our second new car. My husband took over the wagon and drove it till the door handles were falling off and it became obvious it was time for an upgrade. By then, it was like part of our family.

We are THE GRATEFUL. We have worked hard for everything all the way up. We’re grateful for the material trophies we’ve managed, we’re more grateful than most when we’re treated to something by someone else, and we don’t let go of things until they’re well and truly exhausted.

Scenario No. 4

When our son was considering a cross-country move, we asked him how he’d get around in an area with no public transportation. His response was he’d just “pick up” a car. My husband and I rolled our eyes thinking, ‘Oh, he has so much to learn’ remembering the years we would’ve loved to just “pick up” a car. Once in California living close to his university, he found that most people biked and so they did too. But at the end of that summer with his wife’s new job 40 minutes away, biking wasn’t an option. So out they went and bought their first little car. No used one for them, no freebie either, no one going with them to “show them how it’s done.” We began then to hear of what things were “in the budget” and what things were not. ‘Ah,’ we thought, ‘he’s finally beginning to see.’ After 2 years, his wife took a new job an hour away. She made the commute, but after a year they decided to move halfway between both their jobs which meant a commute for both. Of course, this meant they had to “pick up” another new car. We began to see even more signs of them actually making financial plans and less and less of the impromptu purchases they had done before. But the attitude they have of just “picking up” a car and making a move that ensured the need for a second car puts them in the category of being THE ENTITLED. Indeed, that’s the way I see them approaching life…they’re totally on their own out there and they merely decide what they’re entitled to and rearrange things to accommodate their entitlements. So far, they’ve actually done just fine.

As we said before, there are many cars on the road each telling a story about its owner, the roads they’ve traveled, and the attitudes of the moment. If you really want to get to know a person, find out the story of their car – look at how they care for it, ask them how they got it, find out how many other cars they’ve had. Chances are, once you know these things, you’ll have a pretty good idea who you’re dealing with and what their priorities are in life.

SHADES OF GREY (CLUB PROMPT – BLACK AND WHITE)

WHEN I WAS YOUNG, THINGS SEEMED VERY SIMPLE. EVERY QUESTION HAD AN ANSWER….IT WAS BLACK OR IT WAS WHITE. I KNEW WHO MY FRIENDS WERE. I KNEW WHAT I LIKED. I KNEW RIGHT FROM WRONG IN THE SIMPLE WORLD OF A CHILD. AS I GET OLDER, I FIND THAT THINGS COME IN MORE THAN ONE SHADE OF GREY…I KEEP HITTING SITUATIONS THAT MAKE ME QUESTION MYSELF AS TO WHAT I BELIEVE IS RIGHT, WHO IS REALLY ON MY SIDE FOR THE LONG HAUL, AND WHAT LOVE REALLY MEANS IN A GIVEN SITUATION. AS MY LIFE CONTINUES, IT SEEMS NOTHING IS BLACK OR WHITE, BUT SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN. I AM CONSTANTLY SURPRISED AT THE ANSWERS I COME TO.

A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS IN-BETWEEN AREA COMES IN A STORY I’VE BEEN REVISITING LATELY. I’M NOT REALLY SURE WHY I’VE DREDGED THIS UP IN MY MIND AS I REALLY DIDN’T PAY ATTENTION WHEN IT HAPPENED, BUT I’VE BEEN SPENDING QUITE A LOT OF TIME WATCHING VIDEOS AND READING OLD NEWS STORIES ABOUT IT ONLINE.

HOW MANY OF YOU REMEMBER THE NIGHT OF OCTOBER 3, 2003?

ON THIS NIGHT, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, KNOWN FOR ITS COLOURFUL NEON SIGNS AND BRIGHT LIGHTS DOWN THE STRIP, WOULD LOSE ITS MOST FAMOUS ACT, THE MAGICIANS SIEGFRIED & ROY AND THEIR FAMOUS MENAGERIE OF BLACK AND WHITE TIGERS.

SIEGFRIED AND ROY SHARED EVERY INCH OF THEIR HOME WITH THE 63 TIGERS, 16 LIONS, BLACK PANTHERS, CHEETAHS, LEOPARDS, AND A MYRIAD OF OTHER RARE ANIMALS THAT PERFORMED WITH THEM IN THEIR MAGIC SHOW AT THE MIRAGE HOTEL. FOR OVER 30 YEARS THEY PERFORMED DAILY ON THE LAS VEGAS STRIP WITH THEIR ANIMALS MAKING FOR OVER 20,000 PERFORMANCES WITH NO INCIDENT AT ALL UNTIL THIS NIGHT — OCTOBER 3, 2003.

ON THIS DAY, AS PER THEIR NORM, SIEGFRIED AND ROY LOADED UP THEIR ANIMALS AT HOME AND TOOK THEM TO THE HOTEL TO GET READY FOR THE SHOW. BUT 45 MINUTES INTO THE SHOW WHEN ROY BROUGHT MONTECORE, A 7-YEAR-OLD BLACK AND WHITE TIGER WHO HAD PERFORMED HUNDREDS OF SHOWS WITH HIM, ON THE STAGE SOMETHING CHANGED.

THE FIRST SHADE OF GREY CAME WITH THE INITIAL REPORTS WHICH SAID THAT MONTECORE BECAME DISTRACTED BY SOMEONE IN THE FRONT ROW OF THE AUDIENCE. LATER, IT WAS SAID THAT A WOMAN IN THE FRONT ROW REACHED UP TO TRY AND PET MONTECORE. ANOTHER THEORY WAS THE TIGER HADN’T BEEN FED ON TIME (WHICH WAS UNTRUE) AND WAS OFF RHYTHM BECAUSE OF THAT.

WHATEVER HAPPENED, MONTECORE BROKE ROUTINE AND TURNED TOWARD THE AUDIENCE AND AWAY FROM ROY.

WITH NO BARRIER BETWEEN MONTECORE AND THE ONLOOKERS, ROY QUICKLY MOVED BETWEEN THEM. THIS WAS ANOTHER BREAK IN THE ROUTINE. ROY GAVE MONTECORE A COMMAND TO LIE DOWN, BUT MONTECORE INSTEAD LOOKED AT ROY AND GRIPPED HIS WRIST IN HIS MOUTH WHICH IN TURN CAUSED ROY TO DROP THE LEAD FOR THE CHAIN THAT WAS AROUND MONTECORE’S NECK. AT THIS POINT, ROY LIGHTLY TAPPED MONTECORE ON THE NOSE WITH HIS MICROPHONE TRYING TO REESTABLISH HIS CONTROL AND MAKE HIM LAY DOWN. BUT AS HE DID THIS, ROY STEPPED BACKWARD AND FELL.

HERE IS ANOTHER SHADE OF GREY….IT WAS INITIALLY REPORTED THAT ROY STEPPED BACKWARD NOT REALIZING THAT MONTECORE’S PAW WAS BEHIND HIM. SIEGFRIED IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS, SAID THIS WAS NOT TRUE AND THAT ROY PASSED OUT. ROY LATER SAID THAT HE SUFFERED A MINI-STROKE ON STAGE AT THIS POINT. IN ANY EVENT, ROY FELL AND MONTECORE MOVED TO PICK ROY UP BY THE NECK AND CALMLY CARRY HIM OFFSTAGE HANGING FROM HIS JAWS LIKE A RAGDOLL.

BACKSTAGE, ROY WAS LOSING BLOOD QUICKLY. WHEN MONTECORE CLAMPED ONTO ROY’S NECK HE HAD TORN HIS JUGULAR VEIN AND CRUSHED HIS WINDPIPE. UPON ARRIVING AT HOSPITAL AND GOING STRAIGHT INTO SURGERY, ROY FLATLINED 3 TIMES DURING THE OPERATION AND NEXT DAY SUFFERED A SEVERE STROKE ALMOST COMPLETELY PARALYZING HIM ON THE LEFT SIDE. NO ONE EXPECTED HE WOULD SURVIVE MORE THAN A FEW HOURS. EVEN IF HE DID, DOCTORS SAID HE WOULD NEVER WALK AND NEVER TALK AGAIN. THE PROGNOSIS WAS GRIM.

ANIMAL RIGHTS PEOPLE, NOT HEARD FROM IN ALL THE YEARS OF THE SHOW, CAME OUT OF THE WOODWORK AS NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, RADIO, AND TELEVISION ALL CARRIED REPORTS OF ROY BEING “MAULED” AND “ATTACKED” BY ONE OF HIS TIGERS. EVERYONE HAD AN OPINION ABOUT WHY THIS HAD HAPPENED AND ANIMAL GROUPS PUSHED THEIR TAKE ON IT SAYING THAT THESE ANIMALS SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP BY SIEGFRIED AND ROY. THEY CALLED IT AN ABOMINATION OF THE ANIMALS’ RIGHTS AND SAID ROY BROUGHT IT ALL ON HIMSELF BY PLACING HIMSELF IN SUCH A PRECARIOUS POSITION.

BUT VERY QUIETLY IN THE BACKGROUND OF ALL THE CHAOS AND BLAME-THROWING WERE THE PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN UP CLOSE FOR YEARS AND WHO KNEW ROY HAD SHOWN A SPECIAL GIFT WITH ANIMALS AND HAD DONE SINCE HE WAS A CHILD. THESE WERE THE PEOPLE THAT HAD SEEN HIM BOTTLE-FEEDING THE CUBS, SLEEPING WITH THESE CUBS IN HIS OWN BED UNTIL THEY WERE A YEAR OLD, SITTING WITH THEM WHEN THEY GAVE BIRTH, PLAYING WITH THEM EVERY DAY, SWIMMING WITH THEM, CALLING THEM HIS CHILDREN, AND MAKING SURE EVERY THING ABOUT THEIR LIFE WAS TOTALLY AND ABSOLUTELY AS PERFECT AS HE COULD MAKE IT FOR THEM. THESE PEOPLE KNEW THE STORY OF WHEN MONTECORE WAS BORN AND WASN’T BREATHING AND HOW IT WAS ROY THAT PICKED HIM UP, CUT THE UMBILICAL CORD, AND BREATHED LIFE BACK INTO HIM.

INDEED, MANY WILDLIFE EXPERTS SAID NOT ONLY HAD SIEGFRIED AND ROY SAVED AN ENTIRE SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION THROUGH THEIR EFFORTS WITH THE WHITE LIONS AND BLACK AND WHITE TIGERS, BUT ALSO HAD USED THEIR MILLIONS TO CREATE THE MOST PERFECT ENVIRONMENT ON EARTH FOR THEIR ANIMALS AND ANY ANIMAL WAS LUCKY TO BE CARED FOR BY THEM. THE EXPERTS ALSO POINTED OUT THAT A TIGER LIVING WITH SIEGFRIED & ROY LIVED TO BE 18-25 YEARS OLD WHEN IN THE WILD A TIGER LIVES 8-10 YEARS. THEY INSISTED THAT WHAT HAPPENED ON STAGE THAT NIGHT WAS NOT AN ATTACK, BUT INSTEAD WAS AN ACT OF A TIGER’S PATERNAL INSTINCT….PICKING ROY UP BY THE NECK WHEN HE FELL AND CARRYING HIM OFF TO A QUIETER AND SAFER PLACE THAN WHERE HE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STAGE WITH THE LIGHTS AND THE CROWD.

THESE PEOPLE SAID WHAT SIEGFRIED AND ROY EVENTUALLY SAID TO THE PUBLIC, “IF A TIGER ATTACKS YOU, YOU’RE FINISHED.” THEY POINTED OUT THAT THERE WERE NONE OF THE INDICATORS OF A TIGER ATTACK IN WHAT HAPPENED TO ROY. AUDIENCE MEMBERS THAT NIGHT STATED THAT MONTECORE FIRST “BIT” ROY’S ARM, BUT ROY’S LONG-SLEEVED TUNIC THAT NIGHT HAD NO PUNCTURES FROM TIGER TEETH AND INDEED NO MARK OR SMUDGE AT ALL. MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE SAID THAT MONTECORE “JUMPED” ON ROY AND “ATTACKED” HIM WHEN HE FELL. ROY SAYS HE BELIEVES HE SUFFERED A MINI-STROKE ON STAGE AND MONTECORE COULD SENSE THIS HAPPENING AS ANIMALS SOMETIMES CAN AND WAS TRYING TO HELP HIM.

INDEED, EVEN THE MOST CYNICAL EYEWITNESSES STATE THAT MONTECORE APPROACHED ROY AND PICKED HIM UP VERY GENTLY BY THE NECK (AS A TIGER DOES WITH A CUB) AND CALMLY CARRIED HIM 30 FEET OFF THE STAGE USING THE EXACT SAME BLOCKING PATTERN HE HAD DONE EVERY NIGHT IN EVERY SHOW HE HAD EVER DONE WITH ROY. ONCE BACKSTAGE, MONTECORE PROCEEDED DIRECTLY TO HIS CAGE AS HE ALWAYS DID, ONLY THIS TIME HE HAD ROY’S NECK CLAMPED IN HIS TEETH AND DRAGGED HIM ALONG WITH HIM. THERE WERE NONE OF THE HALLMARKS OF A TIGER ATTACK LIKE TWISTING ROY FROM SIDE TO SIDE AND TRYING TO BREAK HIS NECK OR JUMPING ON HIS BODY ON THE FLOOR OR EVEN MULTIPLE BITE OR CLAW MARKS IN VARIOUS AREAS ON ROY, ONLY THE LONE PUNCTURES IN HIS NECK FROM WHERE MONTECORE LATCHED ON TO CARRY HIM OFF STAGE.

TO MY MIND, ANYWAY, IT REALLY DOES SEEM THAT MONTECORE, A YOUNG, STRONG, NON-DECLAWED, 385-POUND TIGER, COULD CERTAINLY HAVE DONE BETTER DAMAGE IF HE’D BEEN INTENT ON THAT. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE ONLY PROBLEM CAME BECAUSE ROY ACTUALLY WASN’T A TIGER, BUT INSTEAD A MORE FRAGILE HUMAN WITHOUT A TIGER’S USUAL SCRUFF AROUND THE NECK.

IN THE END, THOUGH, THESE SHADES OF GREY ABOUT WHAT DID OR DIDN’T HAPPEN REALLY DON’T MATTER AT ALL. NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW WHAT WENT ON THAT NIGHT THAT MADE IT END UP AS IT DID. PERHAPS WHAT I’M COMING TO IN ALL THIS WITH THIS STORY AND IN MY OWN MIND IS THAT AS WE AGE THOUGH THE HEART OF THE MATTER MIGHT SEEM TO BE IN THE SUBTLE SHADES OF GREY OF THE DETAILS, CONTROVERSIES, AND QUAGMIRE OF RIGHTNESS OR JUSTICE IN LIFE, THE TRULY IMPORTANT THINGS ARE MUCH MORE BASIC AND VERY MUCH BLACK AND WHITE.

BLACK AND WHITE ARE THE COLOURS OF THE TIGER NAMED MONTECORE THAT FOREVER ALTERED THE DESTINY OF SIEGFRIED & ROY. I BELIEVE THAT FOR MONTECORE, HIS DECISION WAS BLACK AND WHITE – ROY WAS IN TROUBLE AND NEEDED TO BE TAKEN TO SAFETY.

FOR SIEGFRIED, HEARTBREAKING AS IT WAS FOR HIM TO LOSE HIS BELOVED PROFESSION, HIS DECISION WAS ALSO BLACK AND WHITE….THERE WAS NO SIEGFRIED & ROY WITHOUT ROY – THE SHOW WOULD NOT GO ON. HIS PARTNER AND BEST FRIEND OF 45 YEARS WAS HURT AND SO HIS LIFE TOO WAS COMPLETELY ALTERED TO CARE FOR ROY AND TO MAKE A NEW LIFE FOR HIM AND WITH HIM AND THEIR ANIMALS.

TO ROY, HIS CONCERN WAS BLACK AND WHITE. EVEN BLEEDING PROFUSELY AND NEAR TO DEATH, HIS ONLY DISTRESS WAS FOR MONTECORE. PEOPLE BACKSTAGE AND IN THE AMBULANCE WITH ROY ALL REPORT THAT HE DEMANDED WITH WHAT WAS LEFT OF HIS VOICE OVER AND OVER, “DON’T HURT THE TIGER! DON’T SHOOT MONTECORE!” EVEN 10 YEARS AFTER THE INCIDENT OCCURRED AND STILL PARTIALLY PARALYZED, ROY WAS SHOWN ON CAMERA HAND-FEEDING MONTECORE, STILL SHOWING HIS DEVOTION TO HIS TIGER SAYING THAT MONTECORE WAS HIS BROTHER, AND PRAISING HIM FOR ‘SAVING’ HIS LIFE THAT NIGHT. INDEED, ANY FORGIVENESS REQUIRED ON ROY’S PART WAS TOTAL BECAUSE 6 YEARS AFTER THE INCIDENT, SIEGFRIED & ROY RETURNED FOR A FINAL PERFORMANCE, BOTH OF THEM SHARING THE STAGE WITH MONTECORE FOR ONE LAST TIME.

IN THIS STORY, THE PRINCIPLES OF FRIENDSHIP, OF LOVE, AND FORGIVENESS CAN ALL BE SEEN IN VIVID BLACK AND WHITE WITH NO SHADES OF GREY AT ALL. NOT ALL OF US HAVE TO TRAVEL SUCH A DIFFICULT ROAD AS DID SIEGFRIED & ROY, BUT I KNOW EVEN AT THE DARKEST MOMENTS, THE LOVE, CONCERN, AND FRIENDSHIPS THAT ARE THE TRUE MAGIC IN OUR LIVES WILL STILL BE BOLDLY THERE PROCLAIMING THEMSELVES IN MAGNIFICENT BLACK AND WHITE FOR ALL TO SEE.

THE DINOSAUR’S MANNERS (CLUB PROMPT – MANNERS)

I am a dinosaur.

It’s becoming more obvious by the day.

They’ve discontinued my shoe style. They’ve discontinued my favourite clothing styles. They’ve discontinued my TV shows. They’ve redone all my favourite cereals and snacks into new boxes and wrappers so I can’t recognize them anymore.

My eyes aren’t so great now. I’m into multifocal lenses. My vanity makes me pay the extra money to avoid the lines on the lenses that marked bifocal wearers for so long; but alas, I’m still in need of the magnification because my eyes aren’t getting any younger.
My knees creak and I groan when I’m forced into a position that isn’t upright or sitting and working out gets harder every time I do it. Recently, I got onto a fitness kick and read that hula hooping was THE BEST exercise for core strength. So immediately I decided I’d just pick up a hula hoop and go to town getting in shape. Well, I’m here to tell you that just remembering that you’re good at hula-hooping is not the same thing as actually hula hooping when you’re older and haven’t done it for 30 years! Took me quite a while before I could get back into that!

But one of the biggest ways I know I’m a dinosaur is technology. Don’t get me wrong….I’m really good on a desktop computer; I have a job that depends on using a computer and the Internet every day. I even have a small laptop that I take on trips and things to do e-mail and keep up on events in the world. I have also made the change from film to digital photography. I have a cell phone, long for a smartphone, no longer have a house phone (landline), and I can Skype with the best of them. So I feel I’ve kept up pretty well.

But……watching my son with his electronic gizmos and fighting to get him to take part in a family conversation instead of playing with his gadgets while we’re at a restaurant has opened my eyes further. Even a few years ago when my older son was at college, his roommate would be in next room and they’d send each other a message on the computer rather than get up and speak face-to-face. I find that happening even with my young son now when he’s upstairs on his computer and I’m downstairs on my computer. Easier to send that message than to get up and have that face-to-face.

And so it goes on like this…..people getting further and further away from people with the advent of all these great and new mediums of communication we have…..the darker side of all this latest and greatest electronics hoopla. This is the side that means people aren’t learning how to deal with people face-to-face and the side that has created a generation of kids that has a lot more to say online than they ever would in person and a lot of it really isn’t very nice.

There is a braveness that comes with the subterfuge of a computer screen and a screen name that would never happen in person. In person, we can see if we’ve hurt someone’s feelings or delivered a crushing blow. We can see if the person is sensitive to something we’re relating. You can’t see that with an e-mail….a string of words on a white screen where it’s up to the reader to put his own inflection into the words and determine the way it was intended. I myself have been victim of someone really hurting me through e-mail…things were written that never would’ve been said to my face because it’s a lot harder to hurt someone in person, isn’t it? Manners make you hold your tongue a lot better face to face. It’s also very easy to ignore an e-mail or a text message that you don’t want to deal with – just delete it and pretend you didn’t notice. In the cyber world, everyone is bolder, even if it is in a passive aggressive way sometimes.

My sister is a master at texting – anytime, anywhere. Even if she’s in the middle of a conversation with you standing right in front of her, she’ll take any text or answer any call that comes in on her phone….no matter about the real person standing right in front of her. But she’s not the only one. In fact, it’s a trait she’s passed on to her 16-year-old daughter. No reprimand is forthcoming if the daughter ignores the people in the room to take a text or won’t make eye contact with someone speaking with her because she’s too busy looking at her phone. Nothing at all is said. She’s learned by her mother’s example of ignoring her that no manners are required in the face of technology.

In this new cyber world, I’m hearing a lot of parents out there saying “Oh, I monitor how much time he has on electronics,” or “It keeps him out of trouble,” or even “Well, we can’t hold it back, it’s how the world is going and he has to keep up with his friends or be left behind.” On and on it goes and okay, maybe it’s right that you can’t hold it back and they need to keep up and certainly we do have to monitor what the kids are doing online. But……I’m not hearing the call for a new set of manners to go along with all this newfound technology. This dinosaur sees a need.

We must impress on people as soon as they are given a device that the human being in front of them takes precedence over anything coming in on that device. It also needs to be explained that face-to-face conversation always beats the indistinctness of online communication. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to also instruct on cyber etiquette in schools along with the hour they take to get kids better able to navigate the cyber world?

Going forward, the thinking needs to focus more on how technology can bring people closer and not just ignore all that it’s taking away. Until that happens, we’re going to continue our downward decline into an ill-mannered society. While it is important to teach people how to take advantage of technology, it’s also our duty to keep people connected to each other and able to deal with people here in the real world and to arm them with a new set of manners to keep things moving forward and not sliding into a mannerless place.

Dinosaurs like me see this now even with our old eyes….I wonder how long it will be before the hatchlings catch on?