Strictly My Opinion

There’s Only You And Me, And We Just Disagree

Recently I had a lengthy exchange on Facebook with others about an opinion I shared. Some agreed with me, others did not.

What struck me was not how differently some people feel about things than I do (no great surprise), but rather how it seems like somewhere along the way it has become the norm to simply ‘eliminate’ those who disagree with us from our lives.

Why?

There is a way to disagree with others and be respectful. There is a way to not only have but also to justify your feelings/thoughts/opinions on things while taking away nothing from anyone else…..

It involves, for me, a few caveats placed at the beginning of your statement:

1. In my opinion……

2. What works for me is…..

3. What I believe for myself is……

4. The way I see it………

5. I can only speak for myself, but…….

I am sure there are hundreds of other ways to say the same thing….to say ‘This is my opinion…I own it, I believe in it, and I live by it’…….and still not discredit or disparage the opinion of others.

There are ways to avoid inflammatory exchanges and insulting others…….it involves avoiding saying things like:

1. How can any intelligent person think that?

2. Any educated person will agree that…..

3. I thought you were smarter than that…..

By avoiding the above, and the likely hundreds of other ways you can call a person unintelligent, ill-informed, and outright stupid without ‘saying’ it directly…..you also stand a far greater chance of avoiding getting into personal attacks and pissing contests with others.

We all have our opinions. We all have our experiences, our histories, our triggers, or deeply rooted beliefs and values. We all have them…..it doesn’t make you right and someone else wrong…it makes you right for you….for your life…..

It also doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with someone who disagrees with you. I’ve ‘unfriended’ only three people on Facebook in the six years since I signed up. Three. All three were being beyond inappropriate to me personally…..and that I won’t read or tolerate…so I took them out of my friends list….they weren’t friends I wanted to have if they felt it was okay to say the things they were saying.

But just because someone doesn’t feel the way I feel about something, or think the way I think about something? I won’t ‘unfriend’ those people. I may not agree with them….but I do learn something from their viewpoints and opinions and experiences.

More than that….I don’t just ‘agree to disagree’ with people….I respect them and their opinion…..because it’s theirs. It doesn’t have to be mine. I might never agree with them on certain points….so what? Do we have to agree with everything about someone to be friends with them?

I can only speak for myself, but………..for me the answer is no.

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Strictly My Opinion

What Exactly Is Normal?

Today on Facebook a friend of mine posted a story with a headline saying ‘They look like a normal couple, but….’ etc.,

It was a wonderful story about courage and true love with a soldier who had undergone a quadruple amputation after stepping on a bomb and gone on to marry his high school sweetheart. So from the neck up, they look like Mr. and Mrs. All American Sweetheart. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Sounds like they are, too.

The story is heart-warming.

The headline is ‘annoying’. At least to me.

From the neck down, you can see artificial limbs on him. Artificial hands, artificial legs, artificial feet……and while the article is supposed to be such an uplifting, emotionally stirring portrait about true love and bravery overcoming even the most horrific tragedy – where does the writer get off saying ‘They look normal, but they’re not!’

The definition of normal, according to Merriam-Webster is: usual or ordinary, not strange

Per Dictionary.com, it’s: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

Per the Urban Dictionary, and the one I like the best, it’s: A word made up by this corrupt society so they could single out and attack those who are different.

Every day we are bombarded by images of what we *should* aspire to be, to accept, to admire, and to emulate. What if we aren’t that, or don’t like that, or know things about ‘that’ not to admire because we have knowledge beyond just the image that most everyone sees? What if we try to fake our way into making others think we are that by wearing the same clothes and using the same words, and yet deep down we know we simply AREN’T that, and when we spend more and more time getting to know ‘that’ we wonder why we ever wanted to be anything like THAT in the first place?

A line from the film ‘Working Girl’ sums up the end result of what trying to dress and act like someone else usually is:

‘Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.’

Normal is just a word….the world is made up of billions of people.  Things that are normal in my country are offensive in another. Neither is right, neither is wrong. Normal for some is appalling for others. It doesn’t make it any less ‘normal’ to the individual.

For years I listened to how my relationship (with another man) was not ‘normal’ and that’s why society rejected it. My ‘abnormal’ relationship consisted of two consenting adults co-habitating in an apartment. We both ate three meals per day with some in-between snacks. We both washed our hair with shampoo. Socks went on one at a time, as did shoes. We occasionally argued, frequently laughed, watched movies at home because the cost of going out all the time was getting to be too much, and the talking of other patrons bothered us. We shopped for groceries, planned meals, had friends over, put up a Christmas tree, and took the trash out every week.

All pretty much a ‘departure’ from the way other couples operated…….not.

Normal is different things for different people.

I don’t shop at popular stores. I don’t eat at trendy restaurants. I don’t know who 90% of the Billboard top 100 artists are, and have no desire to. Every once in a while I catch a pop song that I kind of like. I don’t listen to the radio unless I’m with someone listening to the radio. I don’t watch Bachelor, or Dancing With The Stars, and have never been able to sit through an episode of Seinfeld. I grew up with two siblings that are adopted. I am not adopted. My parents split up in 1976 and divorced five years later after many delays. I have known from the dawn of my teens, if not before, that I am gay. I like to read more than watch television. I like to sing rather than play sports. I don’t care for lobster, nor blueberries. Asian food, even the smell of it, makes me physically ill. Headache, nausea, etc. I hate having my feet touched and never go barefoot except in the shower or swimming. Small talk gives me anxiety, but I can carry on a meaningful conversation for hours. Popular, trendy things are typically lost on me, even though I am most of the time aware of them. I cringe when I hear someone sing something like ‘I’ve gah-choo under my skin’ instead of ‘I’ve got you’, unless they are doing it purposely as a parody of some sort. I still use the word groovy, even if it’s been out of style for 40+ years. I have never read any Dean Koontz books, my favorite author is Charles Dickens, and I get ‘giddy’ finding a Jules Verne book in a used book store that I’ve not yet read at a really decent price.

That’s my normal.

The aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. All-American Sweetheart ARE normal. They are people. They have overcome terrible tragedy and loss and stayed strong in their love of one another. He walks on and reaches for things with artificial limbs. That’s his normal…that’s their normal. Just like my normal is mine; theirs is theirs. Yours is yours.

Several years ago I stopped caring about trying to fit into what others consider normal. I am only concerned with what MY normal is, and happy to see others live their normal. As long as it hurts no one else…..who cares if it’s different from the rest of the herd?

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Strictly My Opinion

Three Cheers and Dammit, C’est La Vie – Reparations vs Resolutions, Round 2

One year ago today I wrote a blog post for the end of the year about how I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. They seem, to me, to be just a recipe for failure and disappointment if you set unattainable goals for yourself.

In my ‘work life’ I learned to set ‘SMART’ goals for myself each year – SMART goals are:

-Specific
-Measurable
-Attainable
-Realistic
-Timely

I also hear on a regular basis that life is to be experienced one day at a time.

I gave up long ago spending the last day of the year thinking about things I’d like to accomplish in the coming year. I have two heightened needs children who can prompt my goals to change on a dime, and I have to be ready to go with the flow there. I have been ‘criticized’ in recent weeks of being too strict at times. My only rebuttal to that is to say that I have always been taught and felt that children thrive predominantly on routine and structure and stability. Consistency is a major, major factor in successful parenting. Some days I don’t feel terribly successful. Some days I just feel like I ‘get by’. But I always try to be consistent, as consistent as I can be, in the face of an ever changing world.

This year I have a few reparations I feel the need to make based upon the events of the past year. I will make them now, although the intended audience will not be reading them. Nevertheless, to get them out of my head and into black and white helps me in a way…making them ‘real’.

1. To my boys – You are the lights of my life. You are my strength….your happiness and well-being are the only ‘higher power’ I truly believe in and work to fulfill my promises to. I know there are days when you feel like the rules are unfair and unreasonable, but they are there for a reason. I promise you that one day you will understand them, even if now you cannot. One day, hopefully, you will hold responsibility for a life, 100% responsibility, in your hands and you will then know what a parent goes through in order to keep their child safe and protect their well-being. I hope you will reflect back to your own childhood and remember these things being taught to you when you were young, and finally see why they are so important.

2. To my mom – this year has brought so much change for you – change that is so very difficult for you. You say to me, often, that I ‘don’t understand’…which makes me sad in ways, because I do understand and I wish you could see that. I understand who you are and what your makeup is, and though I wouldn’t be so egotistical as to say I know with absolute certainty what is right for you always – I want you to know that I have listened…for years…and heard the things you’ve said that have disappointed you, or been difficult for you, and I am doing everything in my power to make that less difficult for you now that you live here. You told me a long time ago that I had to have faith that all things happen for a reason, though not in the way we’d like them to always, and we have to believe that it’s for the best. Now is the time for you to have faith in me, Mom…faith that I have your best interests at heart…faith that I know how difficult it is for you to ‘give up control’ to another person – and faith that although I won’t always do things ‘the way you would’ – I won’t let you down.

3. To my husband – I told you within two months of our meeting that I don’t know that anyone will ever understand how and the depth to which I love when I love someone. We’ve been together for nearly 15 years now. We’ve both gone from young men to men approaching middle age (me closer than you). I didn’t choose you to spend my life with because I thought you’d always be the person you were then – I figured you were someone that I could sail the ocean of change with together, and at the core of it we’d still love one another for who each other was, or became. Goodness knows we’ve had our share of rough waters with all that’s been thrown at us. And goodness knows I have a very fortified wall of self-protection that I’ve built over time as a means of survival in the years before I met you. Sometimes I just don’t even know where the door and the key to let others in are any longer. I don’t know that, fifteen years later, you have come any closer to understanding how I love. I can’t say I’ve gotten any better at explaining it. Sometimes words fail even the writers and poets and we have to rely on the intuition of another to interpret what we mean. Let’s hope the next fifteen years bring us both closer to that understanding.

4. To my friends – Once again I find myself saying I wish there were more hours in the day to keep up with you all. It’s not for lack of caring.

5. And finally, to myself – One day you will find the switch to turn off the voices in your head telling you how things are not good enough and you simply have to find a way to do better and do more. One day you’ll find the lullaby to sooth the savage beasts that rattle around in cages inside your mind. You’ve come far enough to not let the words of others impact your self-worth; but behind that mask of strength the truth lingers there close to the surface that nothing anyone else can say to you is any worse or any more harsh than the things you already tell yourself in the silent war your head wages with your heart every day. I hope you learn to tame that inner voice a little more in the coming year.

2014 has brought both gain and loss to my life – great highs and great lows – and as I sit here at my keyboard, as if I have anything of any value at all to say to anyone else…I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. It’s my parting gift to everyone as a reminder that the only strength you ever need to find – already exists within you.

Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all
And, my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here

I’ve stuffed the dailies in my shoes
Strummed ukuleles, sung the blues
Seen all my dreams disappear but I’m here.
I’ve slept in shanties, guest of the W.P.A., but I’m here
Danced in my scanties
Three bucks a night was the pay, but I’m here

I’ve stood on bread lines with the best
Watched while the headlines did the rest
In the depression was I depressed?
Nowhere near, I met a big financier and I’m here

I’ve been through Gandhi, Windsor and Wally’s affair, and I’m here
Amos ‘n’ Andy, Mah-jongg and platinum hair, and I’m here
I got through Abie’s, Irish Rose, Five Dionne babies, Major Bowes
Had heebie-jeebies for Beebe’s, Bathysphere
I got through Brenda Frazier, and I’m here

I’ve gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover
Gee, that was fun and a half
When you’ve been through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover
Anything else is a laugh

I’ve been through Reno, I’ve been through Beverly Hills, and I’m here.
Reefers and vino, rest cures, religion and pills, and I’m here
Been called a ‘Pinko’, commie tool, got through it stinko by my pool
I should’ve gone to an acting school, that seems clear
Still someone said, “She’s sincere”, so I’m here

Black sable one day, next day it goes into hock, but I’m here
Top billing Monday, Tuesday, you’re touring in stock, but I’m here
First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp
Then someone’s mother, then you’re camp
Then you career from career to career
I’m almost through my memoirs, and I’m here

I’ve gotten through, “Hey, lady, aren’t you whoozis?
Wow, what a looker you were”
Or better yet, “Sorry, I thought you were whoozis
Whatever happened to her?”

Good times and bum times, I’ve seen ’em all
And, my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here

I’ve run the gamut, A to Z
Three cheers and dammit, C’est la vie
I got through all of last year, and I’m here
Lord knows, at least I was there, and I’m here
Look who’s here, I’m still here

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Disease or Disorder? Classifying ADHD, and the impact of technology on ADHD – Strictly My Opinion

A recent piece I read noted that a leading neuroscientist, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, has stated that ADHD, the acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is ‘not a real disease’ – and went on to state the dangers of giving psycho-stimulant medications to children.  If you care to read the piece, it can be found here:

http://themindunleashed.org/2014/10/adhd-real-disease-says-leading-neuroscientist.html

I have two children who have both received ADHD diagnoses, and are treated for it via both medication and therapy.  I have seen both the un-treated versions of my children, and the treated ones.  I don’t profess to be an expert or an authority on the subject in any way.  I know only what I have observed and read about.

There are numerous varying definitions for a ‘disease’ and a ‘disorder’ and comparisons of both.  Some feel that a ‘disease’ is an affliction or pathology which affects the function of the body, such as Parkinson’s Disease (something prevalent in my family on my father’s side) and a ‘disorder’ is more a condition of the mind or something that impacts the function of the brain only.

I suppose that an argument could be made that since the brain sends out the signals to our body for motion, pain, pleasure, and nearly everything else that we feel and do; anything that impacts the brain does have a trickle down effect on our bodies.  The brain ‘creates’ the impulse/sensation – and the body reacts to it.  A pleasant memory causes us to smile…a sad realization causes us to cry…a smell that we find offensive makes us gag….the sight of something unsettling causes us to recoil in fear or repulsion…an unexpected noise causes us to jump…there are likely thousands and thousands of ‘brain impulses’ that are then manifested into a physical response or reaction.

None of these things, however, that I have listed above can be classified as a disease.  Happiness and fear are not diseases. Most fears are classified as phobias (defined as ‘an exaggerated and often disabling fear usually inexplicable to the subject and having sometimes a logical but usually an illogical or symbolic object, class of objects, or situation’). Many phobias are treated with medication due to the anxiety they produce in people – often times the medication is a benzodiazepine (many are also used to treat depression).  Overwhelming sadness can sometimes be a sign of depression (defined as a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way), and this is often treated with medication as well.  Telling someone to ‘snap out of’ depression or ‘get over’ a fear hasn’t proven to be an effective treatment plan for people afflicted by them – just the same as telling a child diagnosed with ADHD to ‘pay attention and relax’ rarely ever does the trick. I’ve tried it. It didn’t work.

I’ve had numerous conversations with parents, educators, therapists, and social workers now about what, possibly, is behind the surge of ADHD diagnoses in today’s society.  One major contributing factor, in my opinion, is the advancement of technology and the prevalence of it in our world.  Research has been conducted to examine the impact of our tendency to get the majority of our information and entertainment via a ‘device’ these days as opposed to just thirty years ago, prior to the stone age before computers, tablets, smart phones, and other such instruments flooded the market and became a staple in nearly every home.

Scientific American published an article about the difference in reading from print vs reading from a screen, and what the possible impact is on our minds.  That article can be found via the following link:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

In this article, it is alluded to that our minds, when reading from a flat screen, do not navigate long texts and process them to a satisfying conclusion where we both interpret and retain the information.  We skim online text, seeking out only that which most captures our attention, and discard the rest as irrelevant, or simply not germane to what we sought to learn in the first place. When we open a book – we have black and white print in front of us. Certainly we skim certain sections or pages (I do this with long, descriptive lists such as a person describing everything laid out in a food buffet, or all the varieties of flowers in their garden), and yet I still retain that this section of the chapter/book I am reading is about a few things:

1. This was about a character with an interest in flowers

2. There are many different types of flowers, and this character had a lot of them in their garden.

3. Flowers come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors – they are scented or unscented.

4. Flowers can produce either a visual or olfactory response in a person.

5. The writer of the story had an interest in flowers and did a certain amount of research on them to be able to incorporate them into the story.

In truth, I cannot list five things I learned from the last online news piece (prior to the ones I am quoting/linking in this post) that I have retained.  I know ‘in general’ what it was about. I might be able to point out two, perhaps three points of interest.  By tomorrow I likely will only be able to recall two of them, perhaps only one….perhaps none.  In all honesty, I cannot recite from memory the name of the article, nor who wrote it, nor where I found it. That said, I can tell you what the last ten books I read were about. I can list four or five characters that interested me and what their character traits were.  I can tell you the names of the books, what the storyline was, what the conflict and resolution were, and how I felt reading them.  Some were ‘fluff’ books (thrillers and such) and some were classics with language that has ‘gone out of style’ and is a bit more difficult to process.  But all in all, I got a lot more out of them than I do reading things on my computer.

Reading a book is a vastly different experience from reading on a computer/hand-held device. There are no pop-up ads, no hyperlinks, no colorful advertisements luring us away from what we originally set out to read.  No blinking banners entice us to ‘click here and win $1,000,000.00.  No ‘lonely singles in our area’ seduce us away from our knowledge seeking.  ‘Advertising’ plays a major role in how long and how intently we focus on something.  Certain colors draw our attention and stimulate our minds in certain ways. Red is an indication of power and holds attention. Pink appeals to females. Green labels lead us to believe a product is wholesome, organic, and kind to the earth. A list of the 10 most powerful and attention getting colors to increase sales (and why) can be found here:

http://www.business2community.com/marketing/10-colors-that-increase-sales-and-why-0366997

Some people claim that in order to combat ADHD you simply need to limit the amount of time your child spends watching television or playing video games.  I cannot subscribe to that theory, whereas both my children play outside a great deal, read printed materials, play board games, work on crafts, color, and other activities that do not have a cord attached to them.  This has not done anything to reduce their difficulties in paying attention in school, nor to inhibit their impulse control issues.  Therefore, while I can attribute some of their ‘challenges’ to the deluge of technology we have available to us today, as I mentioned above, I also cannot solely assign responsibility for their attention deficit to it.

I can, however, state with all authority that the stimulants they take to treat their ADHD has had a positive impact on their education performance and on their overall ability to ‘relax’.  Prior to the medication, doing what should be twenty minutes of homework with one of them could take two to three hours with numerous sensory breaks and rewards built into the process.  That has now been greatly reduced, and is far nearer twenty minutes than it was before.  Whereas I could not give the children anything more than a one step task and anticipate completion, I can now recite multiple steps to them of things I wish them to do (brush your teeth, put on your shoes, and get your backpack) and they follow through with it most of the time.  They are, after all, just kids – I have to allow a ‘margin of error’ for that in the process.

I am not a doctor. I have absolutely no medical training whatsoever. I am a parent of two children with ADHD.  Whether or not it is a disease or a disorder is up to people far more learned than I to decide. I chose not to classify my children as being ‘diseased’ or ‘disordered’. They are who they are. Long-term use of certain medications has been known to produce undesired results (Risperidone has been linked to the formation of ‘breasts’ on boys with years of use).  Most medications have side-effects on some segment of the population.  I believe in medication to treat my childrens’ ADHD as I have seen it as having a very positive impact on their ability to focus and to learn.  I don’t advocate it to everyone. The best decision to make is always the decision that works best for you and for your child.

What I do advocate is moderation.  Children can learn from television and gaming devices just as surely as they can learn from books, outdoor play, and crafts. Medication is not the end-all and be-all of treating disorders OR diseases.  Treating a disorder or a disease is an ongoing process, just as living with the disorder or disease is, and is perhaps best viewed as such.  I watch my children for signs that the medication’s effectiveness is waning, just as I strive to engage them in both physical and educational activities…and even things that have purely entertainment value.

Along with this push to vary their activities to encompass a variety of stimulation for them – I also lead by example.  I go for walks (though not as often as I should). I read. I watch films. I listen to music. They see me doing all these things. In addition, I sit and talk with them. I take them for outdoor activities. I read to them and with them. I have introduced them to live theater and live music. I go outside and kick around a soccer ball with them, or toss a football. I do things with my children to teach them to do not only as I say, but also as I do.

Lastly, I also advocate ‘knowing’ your child, and figuring out their needs over time. No one article or source will give all the answers as to whether or not ADHD is a ‘real’ condition – just as there is no one way to treat it; via medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or simply ‘turning off the t.v.’  No one person, myself included, can ever know exactly what works or what is right for your child.  Talk to them – observe them and what impacts their behaviors – get to know them – raise the child you have, not the one you might wish they were or some ‘expert’ is telling you they should be.

As an aside, I’d love to know how many people who read this post did so without opening new browser windows with the web article links, or opened them along the way.

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The Unkindness Of Strangers – Strictly My Opinion

I wonder sometimes what has become of the world, or at least the part that I see regularly.

One day, a couple of years ago now, I was driving home with my son in the back seat.  I approached an intersection where I had the right of way and prepared to drive straight through. Suddenly a car made a sharp left-hand turn in front of me. I hit my brakes quickly to stop, thankful that my son was in a proper car-seat and securely fastened in place.  I came to a stop inches from being struck by the turning car and hit the horn. The young driver, one of four young people in the other car, stuck his middle finger up at me in response and completed his turn.  He was clearly in the wrong, had almost collided with me due to his foolhardy driving, and yet I got ‘the finger’ from him, rather than any indication that he’d perhaps misjudged the time he had to safely make his turn before I entered the intersection.

Two days after Christmas last year I received a very unkind email in response to a blog post I had made.  The anonymous email address attached to the message did not tell me who the person was. I gathered from the content that it was someone I didn’t really ‘know’…and rather was someone who had found their way to my blog by chance and was reading the posts I made.  They berated me in their email, and when I replied to it, inquiring more about who they were and fully prepared to have a mature exchange with them and even explain myself (not that I am under any such obligation to do so), they went on another rant about the terrible person I am, and how even minimal contact with ‘people like me’ sickens them.  I never did learn who this person really is.

About a year ago I made a solo drive to Ikea. I was hungry upon leaving the store and stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch.  The man in line behind me was ordering his sandwich from the clerk who clearly used English as a second language, and was struggling a bit to understand the customer’s request.  The customer, rather than speaking perhaps a bit more slowly and clearly, chose to insult the clerk and told him, ‘If you’re going to import yourself to this country, learn the language.’ He then turned to me and said, ‘Isn’t that right?’ I replied, ‘Unless your ancestors gave birth in teepees, you’re an import, too.’  He said nothing further to me, and the poor clerk was visibly shaking as he made the man’s sandwich.  I didn’t blame him. I wouldn’t want some loud-mouthed jerk talking to me like that and still have to smile and uphold customer service standards just to hold onto my job.

This morning I read a story in the news about a group at a restaurant who were annoyed by the ‘noise’ a special needs child was making at a nearby table and how they were overheard to say ‘special needs children need to go be special someplace else.’  They didn’t say this directly to the child, nor to the child’s parents, but it was overheard by their waiter who then refused to serve them and may have put his job at risk in doing so.

This is not the world I grew up in and the world where I was taught to respect and be kind to others, even strangers.  This is not the behavior that was presented to me as acceptable in daily life, no matter how frustrated or angry you might be, or how much of a hurry you might be in.  This is not what I was taught for behavior that would display even a small amount of dignity and self-respect in the way you treated others. This is not the ‘do unto others’ that I would imagine most want ‘done unto them.’  And yet, this is the world that we have become.

Whether it’s in person or online, it seems like people have forgotten the manners I naively assumed most everyone was raised with. It’s not just the younger generations in my experience…it’s all generations.  People of all ages and all walks of life have just gotten unbelievably rude in the way they interact with others.  No, it’s not ‘everyone’ and yes, there are plenty of nice people out there, but it seems like more and more are daily joining the ranks of those who have little to no regard for anyone else but themselves.

I am a firm believer in standing up for yourself, and asserting your needs and wants, but when did this ‘trait’ become laced with profanity and rudeness and when did it become ‘the norm’ to berate and belittle others just to get your own way or instead of admitting when you might have done something wrong or simply foolish, even accidentally, and just move on?  When did the golden rule become so very, very tarnished that people will do unto others exactly as they please?

I don’t believe that anyone who knows me would consider me a ‘Pollyanna’ who sees the world through rose-colored glasses.  I have had my own lapses in manners, certainly.  I’ve been rude to people many a time, but I cannot recall a time when it was not without provocation and in response to how I was being treated by them.  Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’ve just hopped up onto a hypocritical soap-box without any justification to lambast others for their rudeness and seem to be turning a blind eye to my own.

Maybe that’s the case.  But I do know that I try, every day, to conduct myself in a kind, decent manner when relating to others.

I wait my turn in line in stores. I don’t hold phone conversations when someone is trying to wait on me.  When I am holding up traffic to traverse a cross walk, I don’t dilly-dally and text my friends and give drivers the finger when they wish to proceed on their way while I take ‘selfies’ to share on social media, or turn to giggle with my friends about something and just stand there in the middle of the road. I don’t blatantly ignore ‘right lane must turn right’ signs and turn left and cut off traffic and call out ‘F*CK YOU’ when someone honks at me. I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to wait staff rather than order them about like they are indentured servants existing here on earth to simply do my bidding.  I don’t stiff anyone on tips because they might possibly have a ‘lifestyle’ that I don’t agree with.  I hold doors for people behind me, male or female.  I look at my surroundings when in a crowded place to make sure I’m not the jerk slowing everyone else down because I am too busy paying attention to my phone apps and tablet and weaving from side to side so no one else can get around me.  I try my best to quiet my children in public and not let them run amok and bother others and potentially break things.  I look behind me in stores before I back up to scan a shelf or rack for something rather than just do it and then say ‘WATCH IT!’ when I run into someone I backed into.  If I have a basket full of items in a store and someone has one or two things behind me, I let them go first and be on their way.  If I find that I have mistakenly stepped in front of someone in line, I back off and let them go.  If I’m behind two people in a line and a new register opens up and the clerk says ‘Next person’ I don’t just jump ahead of the person who is in front of me and has been waiting longer than I have…they are next, not me.

None of this is hard to do.  It’s called courtesy. It’s called politeness.  It’s how I was raised.

I, like many other kids, learned ‘the golden rule’ when I was very young. My family was not very religious, but I did attend church for some time in my youth.  These days I consider myself more ‘spiritual’ than religious.  And yet one does not need to sit in a pew nor scour passages of scripture to remember these simple words on a daily basis and apply them to every day life. I recall the lesson of Matthew 7:12 to this day, heathen that I have become.

‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’

I also recall the words of Edwin Markham….utilized so well by the only soap opera I was ever a ‘regular’ viewer of.

“There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

I only wish more people would follow this.

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Strictly My Opinion

Why The School System Needs A ‘Snow Day’ Makeover

I awoke this morning, like many other parents in the Boston area, expecting 6 – 10 inches of snow in my driveway. There are perhaps four…if that.  My family was sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner last night at 6:30 pm when the call came in that school was being cancelled for today.

The kids, as kids do, rejoiced having another day off this week, on top of the day off Monday to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  They looked forward to mountains of snow to romp in with their friends when they got up today.  They’ll be lucky if there’s enough to make a decent snow dwarf, let alone a snow man.

This snow day comes on the heels of the first two school days of the calendar year also being cancelled due to snow…we did have ‘more’ on those two days..it was a bit more ‘treacherous’ out there than it looks to be today…..but not the ‘apocalyptic nightmare’ that was predicted….either then or now.

When I was a working person the company that employed me did not offer MLK Jr.’s birthday as a paid holiday. If you took the day off you used either one of two personal days the company offered, or a vacation day.  The company, which more than 75% of the employees can perform their jobs for remotely (from home) did not, also, offer ‘work at home’ days for parents AND commuters alike.  Whether you travelled 5 or 50 miles to get to the office, you either came in or you took a day off from your personal/vacation days bank. This week, along with the two unscheduled days off January 2nd and 3rd, would have meant four full days of work being necessary to take off between January 1st and 22nd of the new year for me as a working parent.

In my childhood we woke at 4:30 in the morning on winter days where ‘inclement weather’ was predicted and sat down in front of the t.v. as soon as the news was on to watch the bottom of the screen ticker tape scroll of names for the schools that would not be open, praying to see our own school’s name in this Wall Street-esque NASDAC scroll of storm closings…..I’d sometimes watch it two, three times just to make certain there wasn’t some error and the school name was positioned out of alphabetical error, or added at the eleventh hour before I anticipated the arrival of the bus.

My mother, the custodial parent, likely prayed for school to be in session as hard as we prayed for it  to be out of session.  It’s a vastly different landscape when you have 2 or (if you are lucky) 3 weeks of vacation time allotted to you by your employer than the three months of summer and two additional weeks of vacation that school kids get.  If you have to use up all your vacation time for snow days, what’s the point of having kids on vacation at all, really?

That said….how realistic is our school administration being in relation to the working world of parents in the 21st century and their needs to cover all the vacation days, holidays, sick days, and storm days that our kids have? Gone is the era of ‘stay at home moms’ being the majority of the community. These days having both parents working is the norm.  Some families have one night shift worker parent and one day shift worker parent just to avoid the exorbitant cost of daycare, which isn’t really that much when you break it down hourly for a rate, but factored into a family budget each month, it’s a lot…especially for multiple children.  In most cases, it’s like making an additional mortgage payment each month to have childcare.

Ever since getting laid off, I have tried to come up with different scenarios in which I can earn a living (since unemployment won’t last forever) and contribute to the household finances but still avoid having to pay for childcare by being available to my kids and having to take unscheduled days off for storms/sick days/school holidays/vacations.  We can all have insurance through my spouse’s policy, thankfully, and no longer have to consider it as ‘income’ to me at tax time, so that is no longer a concern.  It does remain, however, that we cannot exist as a single-income family, even without childcare costs being a part of the equation.

In coming to this realization, I have to build into my search the school schedule and the needs of my kids for at least another five or six years until they are old enough to take care of themselves during the day (and even that estimate of the timeline involved is a stretch…a best case scenario).  In looking at potential employers, the list of items I need to consider before accepting a job, because I ‘choose’ to have children, has grown from ‘how much do they pay and what kind of insurance coverage do they offer and what is the environment like’ to many, many other considerations.

-How long is the commute from home in relation to sick days and time it would take me to get to the school to pick up one of the kids if they are sick, or if the school closes early for weather considerations?

-How flexible is the schedule for working parents on arrival/departure times?

-How many vacation days can I plan on simply to cover all the school holidays and snow days and MAYBE take a long weekend for myself during the year to recharge my batteries?

-How much leniency is there to work remotely on a snow day and not have to use a vacation day or a personal day?

-How flexible are they with the need to cover parent/teacher conferences each year and taking ‘hours’ off instead of entire days?

-How flexible are they with allowing a parent/caregiver to use a ‘sick day’ for someone they take care of/are parent to that is sick, rather than a vacation day?

This is just the ‘off the top of my head’ list of considerations for me.  It means a whole lot of research to be done on how a company considers the balance of work/personal life in relation to how they value their employees.  I understand that they have a business to run, and that is their top priority, but I know there has been some shift in the attitude of businesses in relation to their ’employees’ also being ‘people’ and ‘family members’ who have obligations outside of the office.  I estimate that my concerns and considerations are pretty much ‘the norm’ for the majority of working parents these days whereas most families do not have a ‘stay at home’ any longer.  I also do not have family members in the area to call on for ‘last minute’ things like sick days and snow days, unlike when I was a child and one of my aunts would show up in her curlers and head scarf and I’d go home with her for the day because Mom was working and my aunt worked at night (or not at all some times).

Speaking as a parent, I’m grateful that the safety of my children is important to the school administration.  Speaking as an ’employee’, to have to burn through an entire day for the LACK of snow that is on the ground as I used to have to, is beyond frustrating to see your vacation time dwindle or be depleted entirely throughout the first couple of months of the year for storm days as well as having to make arrangements for the school vacations coming up in February and April and explain to the kids that we aren’t actually ‘going anywhere’ as their time off does not mean their parents have the same time off.

It’s a changing world all around us, each and every day brings something new, something ‘re-imagined’, something ‘upgraded’, something ‘2.0’.  Having entered the realm of parenting eight years ago, and now having two school-aged children and a ‘two-fer’ on the amount of conferences, head colds that send them home, etc., that come with having children, I’m of the opinion that our school system needs a ‘makeover’ in their scheduling, or at the very least in their handling of storm days.  True, weather is not an ‘exact science’ – but having a storm day today in the Boston area, for three inches of snow, speaks to a need to re-evaluate how we determine what days are taken as storm days, and how quickly we pull the trigger on closing school for a day.  Though it is strictly my opinion, and I’m fortunate enough right at the moment to not HAVE to call out from work, eventually I will have to again. To look outside and see nowhere near the ‘Snowpocalypse’ that was predicted, I am of the opinion that this day off for the kids is nothing but a waste.

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Strictly My Opinion

Is My Problem As Big As Yours?

This may turn out to be one of the most random things I ever write…..

There is a ‘photo’ circulating on Facebook lately. It says ‘Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.’ I do believe in the meaning I assign to this ‘saying’….that you can never tell what is going on with someone, that they might smile for you, but feel like they are dying inside, so treat others with respect and kindness.

I know that I fight my own battles every day. We all do.  We all have ‘demons’ that we cage up until they rattle the cage loud enough and long enough to get out, at least a little. You can’t see them. You can’t touch them. And you most certainly can’t lock them up for me again, but they are there.  The smile I may wear to help me pass through each day, while I dislike being disingenuous with others, may be the only thing holding me together at that point in time, and yet on the inside, the part I hide…the part most of us hide from others because it’s just too difficult and personal and raw to reveal it, is kicking and screaming and wants nothing but to get out from under the weight we are carrying.

My mother always used to say, to me and about others as well, ‘you’ve got the whole world going for you, I can’t see what you’d be unhappy about?’  I’ve tried to explain it to her….about myself and about others.  You can be good looking, educated, intelligent, talented, famous, wealthy, etc. – and none of that matters if you are battling a demon inside you every day of your life that always seems to have the upper hand like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a whole list of other reasons….you can be sitting on top of the world and the only thing you can think about is the fear that you’re going to fall off.

Every one of us has a ‘trigger’ for hurt, anger, frustration, confusion, disappointment.  Sometimes there are multiple triggers for it.  Words, actions, etc., that bring all our baggage out and fling it open and let the contents spill out onto the floor and everyone can see it…all your dirty laundry, no matter how quickly you try to scoop it up, close the lid, and lock the catch on it again.  I have mine, definitely.  There are wounds so old and so deep in my personality that just one word can send me back over 35 years to a place I don’t know I’ll ever fully escape from in my mind and in my heart.  I like to think its possible to get away from there….that the only thing keeping me there is me…..but getting out of my own way proves to be an ongoing challenge.

All too often I hear people downplaying and devaluing their feelings…and their struggles…and comparing them to others and their difficulties and challenges.  People say things like ‘I shouldn’t complain, others have it so much harder’ or, even worse, I’ve heard people say ‘What are you complaining about, try my life for a change.’. I’m not referring to self-created drama, or imagined problems.  But it seems like we have become a society of people that think that someone else’s troubles are more important than our own, for whatever reason…..and that someone’s perception of a more immediate or pressing issue completely negates the struggle that someone else is having…and they shouldn’t even mention it. It’s not either/or….it’s both/and…..’your’ problem is just that….yours….it’s not ‘greater than or less than’ anyone else’s……you don’t have to deal with their issue…you have your own….and it’s an issue to you……..maybe it’s not the ‘same’….maybe it’s not a terminal illness vs a self-esteem issue, but that doesn’t make it any less important……you could wipe out all the terminal illnesses in the world and it wouldn’t take away your self-esteem issue…..so why tell yourself (or anyone else) that it doesn’t matter? It does matter.  I have come to realize that caring about my own issues, no matter how ‘large’ or ‘small’ they may seem to others does not take away at all from the concern and caring I give to others, no matter how ‘large’ or ‘small’ their issues may seem to me….it’s not a competition….it’s not a game of ‘Are You More Fucked Up Than Your Friends?’…..it’s life…it’s their life, and it’s your life, and life is a struggle each and every day we live it…..in so many ways.

I’m learning, more and more in life, that in order to understand people better I need to put on their shoes and walk the proverbial mile in them each and every day.  Whether to walk in those shoes causes me blisters or not (my half-hearted metaphor for if I find their life difficult or not) isn’t the point….the point is it may be causing blisters for them. Just as mine do for me.  You may never see them.  They may not tell you about them. They might smile and laugh instead of wincing in pain and crying.  It may be just a cloud that passed over their heads that looked like a heart and reminded them of a lost loved one…..and yet it can impact their whole day…..it might not seem like much in comparison to the suffering others go through, but there is no comparison…suffering is suffering….how can you devalue someone else’s just to elevate your own in order of importance?

I make judgments just like everyone does…..it’s hard not to.  But I also try to take inventory of myself at the same time, and ‘tend to my own garden’…..it has a lot of weeds that need pulling. I have little to no right to make comment on the gardens of others. I’ve been accused recently (by someone on here) that I don’t think I know personally of being a ‘nasty’ person who ridicules my friends, family, neighbors…everyone….and that I think I’m so far above everyone else, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not above anyone…nor am I below. We’re playing on the same field…..the same team….we all just wear different colors.

I laugh about a lot of things….and smile at people every day and say ‘I’m well, how are you?’ when they ask. Some days it’s true, others its definitely not, but the answer is usually the same regardless.  I don’t do it to deceive people. I do it because I’m protecting myself.  I’m not the only one in the world who does it…in fact I think most of us do.  Most of us look at the darker corners of our minds and try to throw something over it so others don’t see it.  Some of us are blessed with friends, family, therapists, and others we can confess all to without fear of judgment or reprisal….some don’t even have that. Some just can’t even put words to their anxieties.

I make a lot of jokes about life, people, stuff in general…because it’s how I get through.  I don’t do it because ‘everything is a joke’ to me…I do it because very little is a joke to me…..but it’s a lot easier for me sometimes to get through the day by ‘making’ a joke of it. I have my problems, just like everyone. And just like everyone, they matter…..they matter to me.  My angst on any given day may seem a negligible amount when put up against someone else’s troubles.  But you know what? It isn’t…..I have to live with my troubles just like everyone does…and try to go on.

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

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