It’s been one of those weeks where it seems like every question is a hard one, and unfortunately I’ve been designated as the “go to” person for those thorny questions that just don’t have a clear answer. I’m not sure how I got this honor. People say I’m smart, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that I’m not afraid to make up an answer if “I don’t know” won’t do. And of course, it often won’t. Hence, my inventive instincts kick in and alas, the unanswerable continues to come to me for an answer. I don’t know why others aren’t comfortable taking what they know and extrapolating an answer. Maybe it’s my personality. Or maybe it’s because I’m not afraid to do it.
Still, despite my creative instincts, there are still some things that I just don’t get. Don’t call me a “know it all” yet people, because I don’t understand:
1. Why charisma wins popularity but integrity isolates. I know people swarming with friends that don’t do anything for anybody but the almighty “I” and others that give and give, and people tell them it’s never good enough. Real story: I can tell you of instances when I took off work to go to funerals or to visit people when they were sick. “Thanks!” they said, but once they recovered I was relegated back to my place on the Christmas card list while they ran right back to their buddies that were too busy and couldn’t be bothered with “using their leave like that” or dropping a card in the mail. Why was my time out not good enough but their casual “oh, sorry for your loss” when you went back to work okay?
2. Why is it fine for some people to “be like that” but others need to get their act together. This harkens to my last entry about how it seems people like some people and their problems more than other people and their problems. An undependable person that you can’t trust to show up when they say they will is thought of as a “swell guy” because he has that charisma and can light up a room with cheerful banter. “Yea he’s not dependable, but that’s just him!” People say. But his shy neighbor that always shows up when he’s needed is “shady” because “I just don’t know if I can trust him. He really needs to be more open and honest with people.” I tell you; it seems that character doesn’t matter anymore. Why doesn't "swell guy" need to clean up his act and keep his word? And better yet, why do people get angry and defensive if you even hint at such a thing? It seems to me like people pick their friends arbitrarily and they won’t get facts get in the way of what they want to believe.
3. What's up with cliques? Why, people? They’re useless. You don’t have to be in one to have friends. I know because I’m not a group or clique person and I get along with people just fine. In fact, if I ask people questions then they usually tell me things because they know I’m not going to gossip or use it to create drama. Which brings me to my next item …
4. Gossip and drama. OMG. Why even bother? I have enough to deal with without having drama stirred up by people being sensitive and/no nosy. As the saying goes, nobody’s got time for that. At least I don’t.
5. Why are we quick to assume the worst of those we know and the best of strangers? Some people do. Here’s a recent conversation I had:
Them: “There was a bag in my yard this morning! Why would my neighbor throw their trash in my yard?”
Me: “You saw them do it? Why didn’t you ask them about it?”
Them: “No! I mean, it was between our houses. Do you think they pushed it on my side?”
Me: “So you’ve counted out that a stranger driving by might have thrown it out of their car and it blew into your yard?”
Them: “Oh. I didn’t think about that.” Pause. “Could that happen?”
Me: “I’ve seen bags blow in my yard a lot and its windy out today. But hey, you know your neighbor. If you think they did it …”
Them: “No! They probably wouldn't ... I mean, it probably blew in my yard.”
Why were they quick to blame the neighbor and count out a stranger being an igit? I don’t know. And yet, this is a small example of what I see often. People are harsh with those they claim to love and will grant eternity’s grace to strangers. It seems to me it should be the other way around: suspect the stranger, assume the best of the inner circles. But who am I to say? It seems human nature is drifting toward assuming the worst in a lot of cases. We see nefarious intentions everywhere.
6. The weatherman can be wrong 50% of the time (or more) and keep a job. Could you keep your job with a record like that?
7. Why does everybody want Friday off? Friday is my easy, catch up day because of staff shortages and slower calls/emails/mail. I want Monday off. That’s the day everybody comes back and it hits the fan.
8. Yield signs. I saw somebody stop at one a week ago for the first time in I can’t remember when. People ignore them. We need to replace them with Stop signs.
9. Wearing a watch on an airplane when you’re crossing time zones. I learned the futility of this when I went to Arizona. I think I was the only one on the plane wearing one. And yet, I was pestered to death. “What time is it in Charlotte? How long have we been in the air? How much longer till we land?” Why ask me these questions? The watch doesn’t control time and its ability to tell it was compromised. Next time, I don’t wear it or hide it in my carry on. Geeze.
10. Why do thermostats even have settings below 70 degrees or over 75 degrees? You know people get uncomfortable at temperatures outside that range. Choices, schmoices. Build HVAC systems for reality, folks!
11. Why is everybody wearing yellow today? I’ll wear my new yellow shirt, I thought this morning. Then I got here and saw about 10 people coming in wearing yellow. What’s up with that?
I don’t know. These are some of life’s questions that I can’t even hazard a guess. So I suppose my inventive instincts aren’t that sharp after all. But maybe they do still work to a degree, because the beauty of being a writer is that I can pass the questions I can’t answer on to you, the reader, and let you be the judge. Heh heh heh.
That’s all today. Happy Friday to you. Have a great weekend.
What’s wrong with this picture? To you, probably nothing. To me, a lot. Now, finally, I’m going to tell you why I have a rather complex issue with red poinsettias. It’s a story that began on this very night 25 years ago.
My grandmother died on December 6, 1987. Big whoop, I hear you say, everybody loses grandparents. I mean, Rick’s grandmother died on December 21, 2000 and he has no issues of this type, so what’s the deal? I’ll tell you what the deal is. First of all, Nana’s death was the first major loss I suffered in my life. Other elderly relatives had passed away, of course – great aunts and great uncles, but at age 12 this was my first brush with death taking somebody close to me. And I was close to my maternal grandparents. It wasn’t the “see you a few times a year and at the holidays” grandparents. They lived next door to us. My brother and I had no babysitter because we stayed with them if we weren’t at a friend’s house. We were close to Nana and Granddaddy and this was the first time I experienced the
death of somebody that was a regular part of my life.
Those are things you deal with over time. Of course I still miss her (and Granddaddy, who died less than 2 years later), but by and large I have moved on from that. I realize the world has changed a lot and they’d be miserable in it now. I realize they’d want everybody to go on living, to be happy, and to have the best life we can until we meet again (but hopefully not too soon). I thought I had this covered and was good, until 5 years ago, when Rick and I moved in the home we built and he asked me to get some red poinsettias for the house. We finally have a nice house, he said, so let’s fix it up right. So off I went to dutifully get them and once I was at the store, I panicked. There they were, blood red and mocking me. I got a bit short winded. My heart raced. I couldn’t do it. I bought a white one instead. Rick looked at me funny.
“It’s pretty,” he said, “but I thought you liked red. Didn’t they have any?”
“Yes they did, but I didn’t want it.”
I found myself face to face with an issue I thought was deal with. See, when Nana died, people sent red poinsettias. Lots of red poinsettias. Our house was full of them. Granddaddy’s house was full of them. And frankly, for years I couldn’t recall much about her funeral until I saw that huge rack of red poinsettias in my face
and all of a sudden, it came back to me. Obviously, I had blocked a lot of the painful memories of that bad Christmas and it all came back to me – and continued to, every time I saw red poinsettias.
But wait, that’s not all …
For three years, I let it go. Time, I decided, would heal, and it was just one thing. But two years ago, I went through some major life transitions and decided that while I was doing some life and spiritual “housecleaning, then it was time for me to do something about this too. My life was being rewritten, and I determined that if
I was going to change my life, then I was going to do it right and make the best of all things, and this was definitely a chink in my armor that I allowed for far too long. It was silly, really. I grew up. I have a good life. But it seemed there was a 12 year old inside me that was still hurting, and that had to be dealt with. I refused to be held captive to my past. That’s just stupid. So I had a brilliant idea. I hadn’t been to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried since their funerals. I needed to go out there, I thought, and pay my final respects. It was time to face their loss as an adult. I was driving by while running some work related errands, so I decided I’d make a quick stop and get this done. So one cold day two years ago, I made my first stop to the church cemetery in a very, very long time. I found their burial plots, took a deep breath, and …
I had nothing. I mean, not one thing to say. I was looking around that cemetery and it hit me: These people are done with life and this world. They don’t belong here. Their labors are over and now they rest and are in glory. They don’t care. It’s not their problem and there’s no wisdom or help here (as it seems our church members
aren’t ones for epitaphs, and the ones they had weren’t *ahem* brilliant parting words). The world belongs to the living and it’s up to us to make things right and keep on going the best we can.
So I dealt with it the best I could, and left feeling much better. The problem is, there were some side effects. I was no longer plagued with grief and bad memories. They were soon replaced with something more … bizarre.
I left my grief at the cemetery, but the problem is that I picked up something that I didn’t realize followed me. Since that time, I’ve been plagued with recurring dreams of walking in a cemetery. I’m looking for my grandparent’s burial site, but I can’t find it because there aren’t any names on the tombstones. After wandering around for a while, I get pissed off, say “to hell with this, I’m leaving!” and wake up. It’s not often – maybe every few months, but it most recently happened night before last. I always wake up from that dream pissed off and frustrated. Seriously? Again? And after 2 years of searching for meaning, I finally decided its sole purpose is to mock me and make me mad. I mean, geeze. If paying my respects causes my mind to do wacky stuff like that, I might as well skip the trip to the cemetery, get a cheeseburger basket at the Fat Boys down the road, and do a drive-by wave at the graveyard! It’s easier, less trouble, and I get a good meal out of it, right?
Then I visualize myself driving by the cemetery with a French fry in my mouth waving and saying “hi guys, it’s all good!” as I zoom along Highway 1 with other people gawking at whatever-the-hell-I’m-doing and I laugh at my own insanity. So now, every time I see red poinsettias, I think of cheeseburgers, French fries and seeing how fast I can drive up Highway 1, and I shake my head at … myself.
Well, my own crazy ideas are better than sad memories and anxiety attacks, I suppose. At least my distaste for red poinsettias has settled into a more dissociated issue, but I still buy poinsettias in other colors. I have an awesome blue one in our entry way with silver bows and glitter and a white one for the office. And since Rick
and I did want a red Christmas plant for the house, I got an amaryllis. And when a red poinsettia did show up in my home, I put it on the front porch. I only have to look at it when I come home from work now. Maybe raccoons will take it. No luck there yet but hey, they may want to decorate for Christmas. Maybe? Probably not. Even the wildlife knows better than to touch that one with a 10 foot pole, it seems.
So yea, I’ve got issues but at least I’ve tried to deal with them – even if it led to more madness that I bargained for. Cheeseburgers and a drive by wave. Hrmph. That’s a heck of a way to solve a problem but if it works …
And by the way, the reason Rick doesn’t have an issue with poinsettias is because his grandmother that died at Christmas liked carnations, so the people that sent flowers sent carnations to her funeral (they also accepted donations to the church in lieu of flowers). No poinsettias there, even though her funeral was on December 23. Well played, I say.
That’s all today. I hope you’ve enjoyed my bizarre yet true tale of dealing with grief, myself, and the madness of life during the holiday season.
So, I see on http://www.examiner.com/article/westboro-church-protestors-head-to-aurora-memorial-thank-god-for-the-shooter
that the members of Westboro Baptist Church are planning to picket the memorial for the victims of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. They're even taking to social media to say that "God sent the shooter" and basically, the victims got what they deserved. Well, I have a message for them from the rest of us Christians out there. Shut the hell up, already.
It's judgemental hypocrites like you that give the rest of us a bad name, and we're sick of it. You might think you're spreading the Gospel but really all you're doing is making fools of yourselves. So please, stop already, and save yourself more embarassment. Because if you keep on, people like me are going to make a point to piss you off so you'll picket our funeral.
I mean, why not? People say I'm interesting. Well, my funeral might as well be interesting too. So come on over when the day comes. You've probably got quite a wait ahead of you (I certainly hope so), but in the meantime I'm sure I'll do plenty more to tip your radars and make you scream "sinner!" louder than an aviary at feeding time.
I'm Christian too, but I'm no saint and I never pretended to be. I know I have my rough edges and you know what? They're there because the good Lord put them there!
Yes, I drink.
Yes, I listen to rock music.
Yes, I know people think I shouldn't have switched from writing Christian inspirational to fiction.
That I wear too much makeup and flashy jewelry.
That I say more than they deem appropriate online.
That I'm loud.
That I'm an intellectual snob.
That I should calm down and quit with the sci-fi and fantasy and turn myself to things "more pure."
That I use to many big words.
That I'm too bold.
That I'm too opioniated.
That I'm too quick to size up a situation and make a judgement call (a "flaw" that's saved my life once or twice, mind you).
That I shouldn't have a CWP and use it.
That I'm too conservative on some things and too liberal on others.
That I should calm down and be a "proper lady."
And no, I'm not crying, weeping, gnashing my teeth, or losing a minute's sleep over it, because I am what I am by the grace of God. If you think He made a mistake in me, I dare you to approach His throne and take it up with Him. Because I know the path He wants me on, you don't, and I'm not obligated or inclined to share it or justify it with you - not that I would anyway. What's betw
The point is that I'm not perfect but neither did I profess to be. I am what I am boldly and proudly. I'm not perfect, but it's not a sin to be spunky and I won't stop because you have a problem with it. In fact, I'm too busy living my life to be bothered with looking over my shoulder and worrying about what other people think. Sorry folks, but I just don't have the time or mental energy for that crap.
So there. If that makes me evil, then I'm proud to be a villian.
That's all today. Have a great week.
December 6 is always a tough day for me because my maternal grandmother died on that date in 1987. I’ve lost many people, but that date stings every year – no doubt because of the holidays that wrap around this month. Losing people is always tough, but losing them during the holiday seems to cut a bit deeper. It’s something you feel more. I usually don’t talk about it much and do my best to be a “big girl” and move on, as is expected.
Until this year. I know it’s been 24 years, but I’m all grown up (middle age now, in fact), I’ve found my voice, and now there’s this great thing called the Internet where I can post things. And now, you’re going to hear ALL about it.
One of the reasons why dealing with death over the holidays is tough is, naturally, because the entire world is celebrating, and you just don’t feel it. A hole has been ripped in your life and, as I said in my last entry, a date in red on the calendar doesn’t hasten the healing of the heart. I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said death is unnatural because people weren’t created to die, and I believe it. Death is such an aberration to our spirit, and that abnormality is especially evident in a season where we celebrate the birth of our Savior and eternal life. Emotions know no season and if they take a smack then nothing is going to expedite the healing process. Here they parallel the body. Don’t believe me? Burn your hand, break a bone, or sprain something today and see if you’re healed by Christmas.
The reason I sound cynical here is because of the other reasons why death is hard to deal with during the holidays. Yes, the whole world is celebrating, and they don’t want to stop –not for you, or for any pesky little problem like (gasp) death. They want to be happy and have fun and by God, you aren’t going to stop them. I thought perhaps it was my still child-like perspective on the world in 1987, but in the 24 years since then I still hold to the opinion that:
1. People don’t cope with death well, especially during the holidays;
2. The dumbest things are said at visitations and funerals; and
3. People can be incredibly selfish, rude, and insensitive in their desire to create “the perfect holiday” (which we have already acknowledged won’t happen).
I thought it was because people kept telling me to “cheer up” and “be glad the holidays are here to help ease the pain.” I thought it was because people kept telling me to “grow up” and“get over it because it was just a grandparent.” I thought it was because people kept saying “you mother has it worse - don’t you owe it to her to get over it and try to make Christmas good for her?” Yes, people really said these things, without exaggeration. But the problem is that I learned it wasn’t just me when Rick’s grandmother died on December 21, 2000. I warned Rick of the incredible stupidity and insensitivity he was about to experience and lo and behold if he didn’t see I was right within 10 minutes when a lady walked up to us with a huge smile plastered on her face and said “What a wonderful time to go to Heaven! She gets to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with him face to face. But oh, your poor father, this must be awful for him. So, what are you doing to celebrate?”
If looks could kill, the one Rick and I gave that lady would have made her the funeral home’s next customer. I noticed she hurried away and we’ve never seen her again.
I wish I could say I’m embellishing these comments, but I’m not. In fact, I’m fighting a rare urge to name names here so the whole world will know who the igits are. But I’m not going to do it because the point of this entry isn’t to debate right and wrong. It’s to acknowledge that people do die during this joyous time of year and to guide you toward the proper way to help somebody that’s suffering a loss during the holidays. And so, I have offered my experiences to give a few tips on how to best console people that are grieving over the holidays.
I’ve already hit on the first one. Emotional healing knows no season, so please don’t try to push people into celebrating if they don’t feel like it. Not for their sake, or the sake of the kids, or the family, or anybody. My mother and Rick’s father tried to put on that “brave face for the family,” and let me tell you – it didn’t work. Grief was the pink elephant in the room and everybody saw it by Christmas. Not only are you headed for disaster by not allowing them time to grieve, but you risk more damage by your selfish demand that the holidays will go on, come hell or high water. So please, back off. If they don’t want to put up a tree this year, go caroling or attend parties, don’t make them. Back off and give them the space they need. If you feel you absolutely must do something, do it in more practical ways that are not holiday related, like offering to bring them a meal, help them clean the house, or take care of the kids one evening. Believe me, they will appreciate you not force feeding them to a world high on Christmas more than any present under the tree.
Second, please use discernment. Everything that flies through your head doesn’t need to fly out of your mouth, and as the non-grieving party you have a higher obligation to put a lasso on your tongue. This is true always, but it’s absolutely essential at visitations and funerals. This is not the time to be witty, wise, or philosophical. There are people trained for that, so leave it to them: You know, the pastors, priests, rabbi’s, therapists, psychologists, and others trained in the religious or mental health fields. I have no doubt that losing a parent is much worse than losing a grandparent, but that’s an inappropriate thing to say to ANYBODY, especially to a 12 year old that’s confused, hurting, and doesn’t know what to do. Logic doesn’t work in highly emotional situations like this, so don’t go there. In fact, when it comes to funerals then the less you say, the better. Just say “I’m sorry for your loss” and let it go. People in these situations don’t want a dissertation on dealing with grief or a lecture on getting over it. They want people to acknowledge how they feel and have respect for it.
Third, don’t take it personally. People are already stressed out this time of year and that tends to work on nerves. Unfortunately, sorrow and anger are part of the grieving process which can strip nerves raw and increase emotional outbursts. I know it’s awkward if somebody burst into tears when a carol comes on in a store, or shouts insults at the mall Santa, but unfortunately seasonal things that seem benign to most can trigger deep grief responses in those dealing with loss. I know from experience that it can be extremely frustrating to watch the world celebrate when a huge hole has just been ripped in your life, and sometimes the strangest things knock holes in those walls of restraint. Don’t make a scene bigger. Simply try to diffuse the situation as smoothly as possible, remove the person from it, and do your best to control your emotions so you can help them control theirs. They’re weak right now, so give them the gift of being strong until they are healed and able to be strong on their own again.
I have a word for those of you that have recently lost loved ones, or that have lost them this year and are facing your first holiday season without them. Please know that you aren’t alone. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you are going through a natural process. Understand that it will get easier, but it can only get easier if you take the time to go through the grieving process in your own timing. So don’t try to be brave or try to sweep it under the rug because it’s the holidays. Some people don’t get it, but that’s not your problem. They will one day because we all lose loved ones and have to deal with that empty seat at the holiday table eventually. The holidays come around every year so believe me, there will be more chances to “do the holidays” later. It’s ok to take a year off if you just can’t face it this year. It doesn’t make you Scrooge. It makes you a human being – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Finally I’d like to say, for the record, that all the people that said those rude, insensitive things to me in 1987 and to Rick in 2000 deserve a smack. So I’m saying it now, on the INTERNET, to the WHOLE WORLD, on MY WEBSITE right now. Consider this your virtual kick.
Wow, I do believe that’s something like Nana would say.