Posts Tagged ‘ responsibility ’

So, you think your life is “interesting”? – Part 4

Hit another milestone today: received my “Revalidation of Advance Notification of Layoff.” By law, this must be delivered to the surplused – “displaced” – worker fourteen days before his last day as an “active” employee. What this really means is that, if the company does nothing at all, I am out the door in two weeks. However, the company can, in fact, deliver an extension anytime up to the eleventh hour. So, I am still between the devil and the deep blue sea for another 15 days, 8 hours and 30 minutes (give or take). Put another way, I am expected to be moving toward the door for the next two weeks and then, at the last minute, I could be extended (i.e., retained as an “active” employee). Pretty much a “it’s almost definite,” or “definite maybe, possibly.” Even being laid-off is not in the same category as death and taxes.

The daughter, and her little, precious angel have left. Both my wife and I cried. But, in bed that night, I told my wife that I didn’t think our daughter’s “new life” was going to last long. I would have said that anyway, but after hearing how things went at the airport earlier that day….

The daughter got almost everything packed up. Almost. ‘Course, she had the safety-valve of saying, “Mom, could you mail this stuff to me?” And, “Mom, could we drive to Tacoma to pick up the son’s birth certificate?” Sure, a thousand things to do that day (the wife is 24 weeks pregnant. With twins), and instead of having the birth certificate mailed to the address on record (where we live), and thus saving a two hour drive (round trip) to the department of vital statistics, the daughter chose the option to pick it up. On the way to the airport? Did I mention that the grandson is two months and two weeks old? And the grandson’s mother still doesn’t have a birth certificate? Really? How do people live like that?

The wife drove the daughter and the grandson to the airport, where Meathead was waiting. Now, I can appreciate (more than most) how confusing some airports can be – I have lost count (literally) of the number of airports I have transited in my life. But some, like Seattle’s “Seatac” airport I could navigate blindfolded in the dark. Even my wife knows how to get around. The daughter, who has been thru that airport on the order of a dozen times, got lost. Following the wife.

Seatac has a parking garage that is connected to the terminal building by a number of “sky bridges” (what other kind of bridge is there?). You get out of your car, get on an elevator (it doesn’t matter what floor you have parked on, it doesn’t matter what your airline is), go to the fourth floor, and via any sky bridge, cross the access road to the main terminal building. At that point, you have to choose to go upstairs to ticketing (departures) or downstairs to baggage (arrivals). My wife goes to the elevator because she is pushing the stroller, and our daughter takes the escalator downstairs. Meathead follows. Fortunately, wife is looking at daughter and gets daughter’s attention before visual is lost.

They rendezvous at the United ticket counter, where there are self-service kiosks.   I have used them, and if you are computer savvy, they’re pretty slick. How a 20-something can’t figure it out is beyond me; but, there’s the daughter, poking at the touch screen…and poking…and poking. Wife flags down an attendant and whispers, “They need help.” So, with expert help, daughter is well on her way to checking in, and waves off attendant. Poke…poke…poke. Finally, done.

Meathead just stands there with his thumb up his ass. So, he’s not a world traveler. I get it. But, is he the least bit interested in helping? Or learning? Daughter and boyfriend make Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels look like Einstein and Oppenheimer.

Oh wait, there’s bags to check. Poke…poke…poke. Attendant returns. More hand-holding. More poking.

There’s a plane change in Chicago. No offense to Chicago, but that airport is idiot proof if you’re just transiting. However, daughter and boyfriend have only one hour…. Did get a phone call (surprise) that the intrepid troupe did arrive in D.C. (another surprise).

BTW, I have to mail the application form for a copy of the birth certificate to the government. And write a check for twenty bucks. Any bets on whether or not the grandson gets his vaccinations? You know, the ones due at six weeks.

So, you think your life is “interesting”? Part 2

Dunno why GOD drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He could have just given them teenagers. Maybe that’s what “Original Sin” really is? We were all teenagers once, and maybe even have, or are having, or will have soon, more teenagers. Or, is it just hell on earth?

You can guess that yesterday was not a good day for me. And, it didn’t get any better once I got home last night. But a night on the sofa was nothing compared to the email I got from the boomerang daughter this morning.

I know, I know, I know: having values is just so, so inconvenient. I used to like John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” But, the more I heard the line “Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too” the more I came to hate it. Once every person and everything is beige and vanilla, then we’ll have peace and the world will be as one. Graham crackers and milk, num, num. And the poor lion of Isaiah who lies down with the lamb will starve to death. Lucky lamb. Sorry about that, lion. I have just one word for your world John: boring. Life is supposed to be messy. Sorry, I’m just biased. Maybe my world is so messy I think everyone’s should be. You know: share the love.

Back to the email.

So, she pretty much rips her heart out of her chest, lays it on the table, and says “I screwed up, and I’m sorry.” Whereupon my heart starts to bleed.

Then I get to paragraph two.

Last September, after she came back pregnant, she decided she needed to go see him – the guy who made her pregnant. So, she flew, coast to coast in October. She had the money for that, but I paid for her college class that quarter. Of course, I was silly enough to demand to see her grades from the summer quarter I had already paid for. And no, I have not seen any grades at all; but why quibble? When she asked if he could come out over the winter break, and I said he wasn’t staying in my house, he came out anyway and they stayed in my sister-in-law’s apartment. I know I had big plans for a family Christmas, including seeing the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker” (last season for the Stowell/Sendak version that I had come to love for nearly 30 years); my wife and I went, without our daughter (so much for the ballet lessons I had paid for).

The rollercoaster of course went into the clouds when our grandson was born. He’s two months old today, and is the absolute personification of an angel. How he manages to get cuter every day I will never know.

But, our daughter wants the father of her child to actually meet his off-spring. The fact that the horny little shit hasn’t bolted is not in his favor; I wish he would have (should that be “would have had”? yeah, more quibbling). I would lay money on a snowball in hell, before I would lay even a plugged nickel down on them getting and staying together. So, her email contains this: “He is coming here with his dad to see his son on March 31st until April 5th.” What am I, chopped chicken liver, here?

It just occurred to me that she has made plans to interrupt the most dear holiday of the year for me. As much as I enjoy Christmas, and the birth of Christ is a big deal; the Triduum and Easter is, by far and away, a much, much bigger deal for me.

Being at work, I do the only thing I can: write her an email. I tell her that I learned a few things over the years. That I didn’t paint rocks in the Marine Corps. That some things can’t be compromised without losing your identity, your “who I am.” I tell her I know her generation thinks my generation is irrelevant, and then point out the irrelevant house she is living in, the irrelevant food she is eating and the irrelevant car she is driving. I throw in the irrelevant car seat and stroller her son is riding around in for good measure. Forgot to mention the irrelevant diapers he’s wearing.

I say that, when what’s-his-name steps up and accepts responsibility, then he will be welcome in my house. I also mentioned something about the application of the quaint colloquialism, “shotgun wedding” – but only to say that, if I had a shotgun, I would meet him at my front door with it. And it wouldn’t be to force a wedding. I mean, what would be the point of doing that? Talk about irrelevant!

I stewed about it all day. I have prayed, and I have prayed hard. Two places in the Bible came to mind: the woman accused of adultery (John 8:11), and the blind man at the temple (John 5:14). In both instances, Jesus said “Sin no more.” I suggested that “repent” did not mean shedding a tear and then pressing on; it means a significant change in behavior. Not just a small course correction. I implied that to continue to live as she has was in no way something she should be doing; and hell would freeze over before I let it happen in my house.

After reading it the umpteenth time, I came to the conclusion that I would rather be known for believing in something, rather than believing in nothing (ala John Lennon). I told her I had already been called a self-righteous prig and that she needed to be more original.

Then I hit the “Send” button.

So, what can I expect at home tonight? Yesterday, after I did a whole 12-hour shift, I had to make my own dinner. They had already eaten. I guess it will be more of the same today. Will the daughter be there? She’s already left twice without saying good-bye (yes, she drove off in my – irrelevant – car on one occasion). I’m still “guardedly optimistic” that I will find another paycheck after this one ends next month (I know UPS is hiring “package handlers” at $14.75/hour). My wife is heavy with child(ren), and getting heavier and heavier.

Who says GOD doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Stray cats and dogs

Lots of people collect ‘em. I don’t. I collect books. But, like mongrels, the books on my shelves are not collectors’ items or first editions. There are some interesting titles (I think); but few people would give my books a second glance. In fact, few people have, tho most of my 1,000 volumes on are shelves in the living room. Opposite the front door. You can’t miss ‘em.

My point is this: you can tell who loves cats and dogs, either by the smell, or the bark, or the hair (or, is it fur? I can never remember). As my little brother might say, “Love my dog, love me” (or, do I have that backwards?). He might say it, but I won’t. I used to be ok with pets – just, “ok” – really ambivalent; didn’t much care one way or the other. Until I bought a house next door to a woman who owns about a dozen football dogs (little yappy things, the kind of dog I’d dearly love to kick), boards and grooms others (some, real dogs). When I worked nights, the little darlings often played in her backyard (while she stayed inside) and kept me company. Yet another reason why discharging firearms in the city is not permitted.

So, there’s Levi, inviting Jesus over to his house for dinner. I can imagine him then thinking something along the lines of, “Oops! I hope He’s not offended by the mess. When was the last time the wife cleaned? Maybe He’ll come tomorrow?” I’m thinking, “No such luck.” Jesus probably said, “What are we waiting for?” What would Jesus have noticed upon walking in the front door of Levi’s house? What would be His first impression upon entering yours?

In reading that passage of Levi’s invitation, I had the thot: “What if Jesus was at my door, right now?” I’d hear the knocking (I disabled the doorbell when I worked nights), I’d go open the door, I’d recognize Him immediately, and I’d blurt out, “Jesus Christ.” Maybe He’d smile (‘cause He knew that was coming), Maybe He’d make some quip like, “I certainly hope so.” I mean, Jesus has a sense of humor, right? I know His Father does, so “like father, like son,” right?

Anyway, He couldn’t help but notice the wall of books. He might think, “This guys sure loves books,” or maybe a more cynical, “I wonder if he’s read even half these things?” ‘Course, He already knows, so I guess this would be a rhetorical question? Is that a rhetorical question?

A better question is: “Are you living your life so that (a), if (GOD forbid, eh?) Jesus came over for dinner tonight (think of Sidney Poitier, if that helps) you could – in any way – be the least little bit comfortable; or (b) you’d actually like what you might find in Heaven?” Think about the latter possibility: what, exactly would you do if the streets of Heaven were, indeed, paved with gold? Not working? How about singing “Hallelujah” for all eternity (I was gonna say “all day, every day,” but of course, time has no meaning in Heaven). Maybe trying to make a joyful noise on Sunday mornings would be a good warm-up?

I see a lot of debate about whether or not there is a Hell, or if it’s populated. Logically, it makes perfect sense that there is nobody in Hell: of course GOD would make something that is absolutely worthless. And, since I am trying to prepare for that other eventuality (I accept that I haven’t filed my taxes yet), I’m very curious about what I read in the Owner’s Manual (as a very important man once described it to me – he was also a Disciple of Christ minister). I’m not finding much hope at all for the idea that there is no Hell, that Jesus won’t judge after all (maybe just wink-wink and a nod of the head?), and maybe being a goat is not just being the butt of some joke (or, maybe it is?). How else to read Matthew 25:41-46?

So, not much comfort in the concept that Jesus is my “Get out Jail Free Card.” No, I’m not thinking I can do much to guarantee that I’ll like what’s behind Door Number Two, when I’m standing there (naked, and alone) in front of the Pearly Gates. But, at least – at the very least – I will be able to say that I tried.

While I do believe the Bible is inspired (the Holy Spirit guiding the hand of man which held the pen), I don’t believe it is all, word-for-word, literally true (for starters, none of the original Bible has survived to this day, and none of what has survived was written in English). Some parts I do take at face value. like not trying to interpret the Bible by myself (2 Peter 1:20). Look to Burridge if you’re trying to get your hands around the genre of the Gospels – I’m only half-way thru his What Are the Gospels, and the thing I am really sure of is that I’m not really sure of much. But, I do believe that the entire Bible is about Jesus Christ; and the one thing that keeps coming back, over and over, is the idea that He is setting Himself up (forward?) as an example. He wants us to follow His example, His lead. Very much a “Do as I say, and do as I do,” kind of thing.

And that makes my trials and tribulations inescapable. I have no personal knowledge of scourging or crucifixion; but, like standing in front of a Mac truck on the interstate, I really (no, really) don’t think I need to. Granted, I might be missing part of the, um (forgive me) full impact; but I’ll take that chance. Nevertheless, the end of Jesus’ life here on earth was not all skittles and beer. And, I don’t believe He intends for us to have a free-ride, either. Pretty much a case of: “This is what I did for you, what are you doing for Me?”

Full disclosure: that last sentence, that question I originally wrote as “This is what I did for you, what are you going to do for Me?” A quick re-read and I discovered that it shouldn’t be future tense, it should be here and now: today. The Season of Lent is a great time, one could say the perfect time for an assessment of what you value and what you are doing (actually doing, not just planning on doing) to realize those goals. It seems that everyone I know is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Really, the only question is: “Busy doing what?” Anything important? Anything that will make a difference in your life; or just stuff to try to hang on to whatever your life is like at the moment?

Do you look out a window and try to find ways to help others, or do you look in a mirror and try to find ways to help yourself? What was the last book you opened? Got any books at all around the house? Any magazines besides Readers’ Digest? Read anything besides a menu? Anything at all? Or, just marking time? Just putting one foot in front of the other? Look around the house, exactly what do you think is getting you ready for your future? What you do today profoundly affects today, and very nearly makes tomorrow guaranteed. Yeah, the bell tolls for all of us. And, eternity is a long time.

Get out of Jail Free

Dunno why – tho I can certainly speculate – but the world has gotten to the point where it’s obsessed with “I want it all, and I want it now.” Of course, in this mad rush to accumulate toys, there is no time to consider the consequences, the cost. If there is any threat of accountability, then Flip Wilson’s classic “the devil made me do it” leaps to mind (if that is too, um, flip, then you can always go for John Belushi’s apology to Carrie Fisher in “The Blues Brothers,” as theatrical as it was insincere). A life of no payback and no pay-it-forward. A life of no stubbed-toes, skinned knees or bloody noses. The narcissists wouldn’t be so intolerable if they didn’t expect others to pay for their self-aggrandizement.

But, completely convinced that everything good is because of my efforts, and everything bad is the result of your screw-ups, we press on regardless. Until cut-down, or slowed-down, by some unfair quirk of fate, when we reach into our (or their) hip pocket and pull out the sacred “Get Out of Jail Free” card. And then life is not forever changed, and we go right back to the same hedonistic existence we have come to love, and expect. Infants are supposed to be all about themselves; aren’t adults supposed to be more than just large infants? What am I missing?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Even if you don’t believe in Jesus the Nazorean as the Son of GOD, there is still the purely historical account of the purely human preacher who was no less than a member of a long line of rabble-rousers (aka prophets). And, as well documented as anything else was in those days, the Romans were not impressed, and summarily executed Him. And, within another generation, razed Jerusalem (as if to say, “We’ll show those pain-in-the-ass Jews”). Those penniless preachers who made the moneyed elite squirm paid for their beliefs with their lives (voluntarily, as opposed to someone like Julius Caesar who probably did not throw himself on Brutus’ sword).

So, is Jesus my “Get Out of Jail Free” card? If He saved me, “once for all,” then I can pretty much do anything I damn-well please, and Bob’s your uncle (or something else equally non-sensical), right? Some would say, yeahsureyoubetcha (no, that’s not Yiddish, it’s Yooper). There’s a whole mess of folks who point at the empty cross…and pray, “I’m saved, I can do no wrong; and the rest of you are going to Hell.”

Really? Jesus died for me so I could avoid all unpleasantness? His only possession was the cloak on his back, so that I could accumulate so much stuff that my three-car garage doesn’t have enough room in it for my cars? (see George Carlin’s treatise on “Stuff” – it’s on YouTube, like most everything else). Maybe so; but I don’t buy it. Call it my old-fashioned, middle class and mid-west upbringing. The alphabet I was taught began with the letter “a” which stood for accountability – not accounts.

To me, the empty cross is hope; but I can’t allow myself to skip the Crucifix. I can’t allow myself to expect that this world owes me “the car and the dream vacation.” I’ll never believe that He suffered so that I wouldn’t have to. His whole point rather, was choice; and He showed me that free will is a two-edged sword. Christ offered salvation to me, He did not guarantee it. He’s knocking on the door, but I have to open it. I have to pick up my pallet and walk. I have to do something.

There’s the story of the guy who gets down on his knees, day after day, to pray to GOD for help. “Dear Lord, please just let me win the lottery. Please Lord. Somebody’s gonna win, let it be me.” Finally, more out of exasperation than anything else, a voice comes out of the heavens, “For pity’s sake, man. Meet me half way: buy a ticket.”

Yes, Jesus is my “Get Out of Hell Free” card; but I’ll be damned if I’m going to get to the Pearly Gates and have Him wave the card in front of my face and ask, “What have you done for me?”

Buy American

A good friend recently took me task for a “Buy American” video I posted on FB, along with my comment: “If it says, “Made in China,” I don’t buy it; if it is made outside of the USA, I think twice about buying it.”

First, let me beg the pardon of both Canada and Mexico.  I do appreciate that you don’t always like us Yanks – and you do have really good reasons (mostly, Mexico for the drug business) – but I am including you in “Buy American”.  While I can’t think of anything Mexican that I have purchased, the car I drive was made in Toronto.

Second, the video, and the comment that I posted, were aimed at Americans (specifically now, those living here in the USA).  I was pointing a finger at the conspicuous consumerism of my native land; the obsession with stuff – the more the better, and the cheaper the better.  Wherever they are made, this is the land of toys, as far as consumption is concerned.

However, this is not how she saw it.  Her rebuttal started with, “Typical American…,” and went downhill from there.  She has always been fiercely Norwegian, and as far as I can tell, with good reason.  I recently read what Norway is doing with their oil revenues.  As Americans are mortgaging the future of our children in our race to spend money we don’t have, Norway has created a fund and is running a surplus.  The USA: $7 Trillion in debt.  Norway: $828 Billion surplus.

http://rt.com/news/norwegians-become-crown-millionaires-349/

Before any Euro-phobes decry the high taxes in Europe, how is that Americans are so foolish with the “extra” money that we aren’t paying in taxes?  Logic tells me that our lower tax rate ought to be building a surplus, not a hole I believe we can never, um, spend our way out of.

Add to that the money we are spending against the eventuality of military action by the PRC (having grown up during the Cold War, it will ALWAYS be Red China to me), and it is completely unconscionable to fund their economic growth by buying their products.  Economic justification was behind the military action of Hitler, Stalin, and Hito; considering how much we owe Beijing, why is it we are surprised they are building a much stronger navy than they’ve ever had before?  Rockets to the moon, anyone?  Yeah, they are late to that party, but we have squandered any advantage we might have had.

My Norwegian friend gave me a reality check; I do, most sincerely apologize for my heavy hand.  I have the utmost respect for Norway.  I never set out to bash Norwegians.  I was trying to call attention to the typical American, ego-centric, “your life revolves around me” mentality.  A mentality I am trying to distance myself from.  Mea culpa.

Just your genes and your environment

I certainly enjoy the argument that “some people are just born that way.”  True, anyone reading this was born a human being.  And being human is not the same as being an avocado.  And neither is it like being a zebra – something that can’t change its stripes.  Being human means, more than any other trait, using the stuff between your ears.  Otherwise, you might as well be dinner.

One popular speaker/author has said:

    “You will be just your genes and your environment, UNLESS you make conscious positive changes to your mindset and habits.”

 He was speaking about being happy, but I believe the basic premise, that we can be – we have the ability to be more than our genes and environment – applies to all of our lives.  That would be all of us, and the entirety of our own world, our own reality, our own rice bowl.  There are limits, of course; I’m talking about staying within the window of your limits – but pushing those limits, finding the edge of those limits.  Not hiding behind what is easy, or popular, or convenient.

When I was younger, say teen-age and twenties, everyone I knew was competitive.  Like cats, we all had our “thing,” but we would stop at nothing to achieve it.  Tell us it couldn’t be done, or it wasn’t for us, and that was tantamount to pouring gasoline on a fire.  Now, looking at my sixtieth birthday, most people I know are complacent and petty.  It seems as tho the divergent world we saw forty years ago has been replaced with a convergent world; yet most of us can expect to live another thirty years, at least.  A long time to be on cruise, or worse, idle.

We bitch and moan about how “they” are doing this or that; but not how we are doing nothing.  We are resting on our laurels; which means of course that we are wearing them in the wrong place.  As kids, we didn’t care about material things and we were out to change the world; now, all we care about is material things and we hope the world leaves us alone.

If life is a race, being first out of the starting blocks is only a good start: no race was ever won by being first off the gun.  Races are won by crossing the finish line first.  So, why do we rest?  Why have we stopped running as if our lives no longer depended on our effort?  At one time, all we believed in was our effort.  Hopefully, with some maturity, we might consider that, as Gayle Sayers put it, “I am third.”  Physically, some of us are paying for our youth indiscretions; but that does not mean we have mentally turned into avocados, or like some aged zebra we are last in the pack and easily picked off by the predators.

Life is like your muscles and your brain: use it, or lose it.

 

Thanks to Shawn Achor, his book “Before Happiness,” and his website “goodthinkinc.com”

Decisions and Discipline

What makes us truly human? Or, put another way, what makes us different from all the other animals out there? (I see no need to explore what makes people different from avocados.) There certainly seem to be an overwhelming number of similarities; the differences are very few, but are they also significant? Since my goldfish has a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, I’m going to assume that the differences are significant. Besides, I’m the one writing this.

Fine. What are those differences? Inquiring minds want to know, dontchaknow? The two biggies, methinks, are the abilities to make decisions not based on the moment and the discipline to enact those decisions. Things like: no, I don’t want another helping of lima beans, I want to save room for blueberry pie. You know: important stuff.

‘Course, then there’s “identity.” Don’t suppose the dozen or so King Charles Cavaliers in the puppy mill next door quite understand why I don’t just adore their incessant chatter? But, strictly on the mano-a-mano level, I think there really are things about people that really are important and things that really aren’t. Which is why I am sorry that so many people I care about have abandoned letter-writing and adopted “social media” to share their lives. I should thank Facebook for all the photos my niece has posted of her two coast-to-coast trips this summer. I don’t think I will be so grateful for all the “idiotic prattle” that gets posted (and thanks to an old girl friend for accusing me of “idiotic prattle”; think she’d be happy to see I am still slinging the same old swill?)

Ah, so that is “self-discipline”? As opposed to the “I’m just sayin’” excuse for lack of self-control that seems to be an extension of Flip Wilson’s “the devil made me do it.” And, yes, I will just cleverly slip that in and not go off on a rant about the “inherent goodness of human beings.” Not this time. (So, you can heave a heavy sigh of relief. Just this once.)

So, why are decisions so damnably difficult? Part of it has to do with survival. Yeah, just staying alive. If we didn’t have some part of our brain tuned to the “What’s New?” channel we would quickly become food – we are already targets. So, we do need awareness of what is outside of our own comfort zone; but we also need to filter that awareness so that we obsess about the right things. And yeah, that begs the question of what are the “right things”? But, that includes the what as well as the why (not so much of a tangent as a four-lane off ramp). Let’s leave it as: “you get to decide”, ok?

Ah, the D-word, again. Decide. Pretty much, you have to move along Life’s road, you have to be able to sense the fork in the road, and fortunately, we can thank Yogi Berra for insisting that we take the fork. Or, we can choose to not decide, and stand there, and get run over. But, obviously, that was a decision. So, Life is all about making decisions?

Ah, yeah.

What do you do after the decision? That’s where discipline comes in. Discipline is the choice (“choice” is just a synonym for “decision”; but you already knew that, right?) to prove our decision wasn’t just an opinion. It is the chance to accomplish something, other than merely breathing, eating and fornicating (although, for some people, the order might be different). But, don’t all living things do those? Well, if they didn’t there wouldn’t be anything around to read about ‘em. So, we humans can decide to be just like all other living things, or we can decide to be different – from avocados, as well as other humans. We can be the same and just stare at the fork in the road until we get run over, or until the mass of lemmings pushes along the path that Robert Frost did not take. Or, we can be truly human and think about the consequences of our decisions (pretty frightening, huh?) and then do what we think is the right thing, or the best thing to do. You know: stand up on our hind legs and take responsibility for our actions.

Responsibility? Where did that come from? I think I’d rather be an avocado.