Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Me

Here in the Midwest it is finally starting to feel like the autumn.  The leaves - delayed by hot, dry weather - have finally begun to turn.  The warm days give way to cool nights.  And the pumpkin spice products are everywhere.

Coffee shop windows declare that the pumpkin spice lattes and cappuccinos are now available.  Burt's Bees has come out with a pumpkin spice lip balm.  And grocery stores advertise pumpkin spice-everything, from baking chips to cereals to protein bars.

I am waiting for the local gas station to announce that pumpkin spice scented gasoline has finally arrived.

This pumpkin-flavored frenzy may seem a bit much.  But there is something that drives this pumpkin obsession: the words "available for a limited time only."

That is the problem with this beautiful season we call autumn.  It is with us for such a limited time.

Here in Michigan the winter seems like it will go on forever.  The spring brings a slow warming and a promise of what lies ahead.  And the lazy, idyllic summer days, when we are in the midst of them, often feel like they will go on forever.  But that is the thing about fall. It seems to go by in a heartbeat with the leaves falling from the trees before our very eyes and the temperature falling ever so steadily toward that first snowfall.

And with that sense of urgency comes an overwhelming desire to visit that pumpkin patch for the perfect jack o'lantern, take that drive to see the trees in all of their blazing autumn glory, and grab something pumpkin-spice before it is gone.

Now that November is upon us, pumpkin spice flavors will slowly be replaced by more traditional Christmas favorites like peppermint and eggnog.  And so, I will happily indulge in something, anything, pumpkin spice before--like the fall season itself--it is gone.

Here's hoping that you too find something to enjoy during this all-too-short autumn

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cat-egorically Speaking

With my children now grown, working and in college, the house is now quiet during the day.  It is the perfect setting to work from home--no arguments coming from the next room, no little fists banging on the office door, and no competition for my attention.

Except I forget one small detail.  I have cats.

I have a dog as well (two if you count the days my son's beagle puppy is here), but the dog does not seem that desperate for my attention.  She will bark at the door if she needs to go out, but other than that she is content to nap on the floor or patrol her domain in the backyard.

The cats are a different story.  Especially my son's cat, Saito.  He is a large black and white shorthair.  And when I say large, he more than covers the entire keyboard on my laptop when he decides he needs to lay across it.

My office is in our basement and gets quite cold, so I generally run a portable heater.  Saito loves the heater.  If he knows I am in here and the door is closed, he will scratch and screech at the door to get inside.  And then proceeds to lay directly in front of the heat.  I have had to move him away from it at times for fear that he will catch himself on fire.

You may be thinking to yourself, "That does not sound so bad. Certainly it is less distracting than working with children nearby."  But there are certain tactics that cats will employ that are far more annoying than a child whining in your ear. For example:

  • Your work space automatically qualifies as a cat bed.
  • If you have any document sitting on your desk that is the least bit important, it will emit some sort of chemical signature that signals to a cat, "I must chew on this."
  • Cables and phone cords are as enticing as yarn.
  • Pens, paper clips, pencils or any other small items fall under the category of "cat toys."
  • Paper coming out of a printer is a mortal enemy that must be attacked and subdued.

Working with pets may have its challenges, but there is also something soothing about having an animal companion nearby.  Studies have shown that workers who are allowed to bring pets with them to the office have higher productivity and lower stress levels.  For this reason, some companies have instituted special "Take Your Pet to Work" days.

I do feel fortunate to be able to work with my kitty companions nearby.  Right now Saito is curled up on a pile of documents on my desk.  And I would not have it any other way.  Even though I know my hand will be under attack when I need to retrieve them.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Ties That Blind

The latest presidential election has come at a great cost on many levels.  It has affected relationships between friends and co-workers and, as I can attest to personally, it has damaged family relationships as well.

Yesterday I shared a post from a friend that featured an ignorant woman screaming and swearing at a couple speaking Greek and insisting that they "speak @&$%#!* English."  The name Donald Trump was never even mentioned in the post, nor in any of the comments made by friends that followed.

Here is the link to that post:

A few hours later a family member chimed in.  This person claims I have made this woman a representative of everyone who voted for Donald Trump. They posted an angry and confusing message saying something about my valuing the Black Lives Matter movement over the lives of police officers and supporting criminals visiting the White House.  As far as I can tell, I am being accused of joining the Black Lives Matter movement and bringing criminals to the White House for a tour.

Then this person said they were only using my own "analogy" to make a point.  How there is an analogy between a bigot screaming obscenities and my apparent conversion into an African American White House tour guide for incarcerated individuals, I have yet to figure out.  Perhaps someone else can tackle that one.

I am connected to hundreds of people on social media.  At least half of them have political views that differ from my own.  I can have a rational, respectful and logical conversation with each and every one of them on any subject, including politics.  With the exception of this one person.

When confronted with the nonsensical, clarity is generally your best defense. I pointed out a quote featured put on this individual's own wall from Winston Churchill that said, "Some people's idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back that is an outrage." I told this family member that they must have directed that quote at themselves because they were incapable of responding to any difference of opinion without hurling rude and insulting comments. They are the only one I know who behaves like this. And all of this is coming from a person who puts the most vulgar and mean-spirited political posts on their wall that they can possibly find.

I then suggested that if they did not like my posts, perhaps they should simply not read them.  And as far as the ugly comments directed toward me are concerned, they would not be justified with any sort of response because I am not insecure and feel no need to stoop to that level.

And this person responded exactly as you may expect someone who has been cornered to reply.  They lie.  They attempt to manipulate words and statements to justify their bad behavior.  They repeated the statement about my using screaming racist woman as a representative of all Trump voters.  They repeated several times that I had declared I was no longer part of America.  I had my husband, son and daughter all read the initial post and asked them to point out where I had made either of those statements.  They all agreed that this person had fabricated that information.

And the coup de gras of this person's argument was that I had proved theChurchill quote right because I got mad.

People who live in glass houses really should not call out others on Facebook.

Anyone reading that exchange could easily have discerned the utter ridiculousness and immaturity of this person's argument and logic.  I certainly would have been justified in responding, even though I vowed I would not.

I didn't.  Instead I made a decision. As far as I can tell I am the only one in the family this person chooses to treat this way, even though not everyone in our family shares this individual's views.  This is not the first time this person has been abusive towards me over politics. But I decided it would be the last.

I went into Facebook and deleted most of this person's comments.  Then I went into my contacts and removed them from my list of followers. And I have no intention of making contact with this person through social media or on a one-on-one basis anytime in the near future.

Was I happy to do it?  Of course not.  This person has been part of my life for over 40 years.  Was it hard to do?  Not as difficult as you may think.

Because I came to a realization.  The ties that bind are often the same ones that blindfold us to the truth.

For some people, being right, justifying your viewpoints and using any means to make yourself appear superior override all else, including relationships.  People like this feel justified in exhibiting any behavior they wish, no matter how offensive, vulgar or ridiculous, but the fact that you express anything that challenges their view of the world is a threat not only to their superiority, but a threat the validity of their very existence.  And they cannot allow that.

More importantly, a person who has so little respect for your views that they would go out of their way in an attempt to publicly embarrass you has absolutely no respect for you as a person.  And life is too short to surround ourselves with people whose only intent is to use us as a scapegoat for their own insecurities and proceed to take pleasure in tearing us down.

Sometimes, for the sake of self-preservation, it is best to simply cut our losses and walk away.  Perhaps it preserves hope for reconciliation in the future.  But that re-connection will only happen with an apology, and whether or not that would ever come remains in question.  People like that tend to think they do no wrong.

For  the  time being I will allow myself to have contact with this person in group settings.  They have a birthday coming up and we will send our well-wishes as a family.  But as far as my having any individual contact with this person which will allow them to use me as the sole outlet for their anger issues and make me their political punching bag, they will simply have to find someone else.  I resign from the job.

Regardless, anyone reading this needs to remember to value yourself, your happiness and your well-being over all else, and most importantly, remove the toxins in your life as much as you can.  Let them go, no matter how hard it may seem.  Surround yourself only with those who value you.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."  Never, ever give it to them.