Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's all about choices...

How do you handle what life throws at you? Do you duck and end up wishing you hadn’t because what you’re standing in is WAY worse than what just flew past your head?

I CHOSE to go shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year. I knew exactly what was about to catapult toward me with frightening speed. But my adventure into the dangerous environment of bargain hunting humans turned out to be laced with several very entertaining moments.

Moment #1 – The Drive-thru Opera:

Coffee! I needed coffee in the worst way at 1:30 a.m. The only place open was a 24 hr. fast food drive thru and everyone in the tri-state area had the exact same idea. So, we pulled into line. 45 minutes later, slightly frustrated and more than ready for our turn, we ease in front of the order box and a cheerful voice SINGS out: “Welcome to XXXX! We’re hap-hap-happy you’re here and we’re doing our best to make your DAAAAYYY better!!!!” Both my daughter and I explode with laughter. How could you remain irritated at a worker willing to greet his customers in such a cheerful way? And when he handed us our order, he smiled a GENUINE smile and wished us good luck in finding all our bargains.

Moment #2 – Be vewwy, vewwy quiet – they’re sleeping:

About three hours into our adventure, I collapsed on a heavenly bench while daughter plowed into her favorite shop across the way. Three older ladies plopped down beside me, dropped their heads against the back of the bench –and proceeded to snore. I would’ve done the same but the one closest to me was sawing them off pretty loud.

Moment #3 – The sales clerk who loved them all:

By the tenth hour of our shopping spree, my tail was wiping out my tracks. I’d grown silent, operating on complete impulse power, auto-pilot guiding me through the motions. I pulled my selections out of the cart and placed them on the counter of our last stop. The poor child chatted the entire time she rang up my purchases, oblivious to the glassy-eyed zombie I’d become. At the end of the chore, she patted me on the shoulder and winked. “You’re so tired: you forgot to give me one of our coupons. I know you’ve probably got it in your purse, so, I gave you the sale price.” With my last shred of energy, I pulled myself out of my lethargy and thanked her for being such a wonderful person. I thought about telling the manager, but I’m not too sure it wouldn’t get her in trouble. So, I’m hoping her good deed will bring her the blessings she deserves.

The moral? Life is what you make of it. How will you handle what’s tossed your way?

As an added note: Laughter is one of the greatest gifts. One of my friends emailed me these cute photo’s that brought a smile to my face. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Have I been here before?

 Have you ever had that eerie tingling sensation of familiarity with a place that’s entirely new? You know the one. All the tiny hairs coating your flesh ripple to attention as though summoned by some unseen force. Your entire being recognizes your surroundings and nudges your consciousness even though you struggle to deny it. It’s not possible. You know you’ve never been there before. Wikipedia’s definition of déjà vu is as follows:

Déjà vu (French pronunciation: [deʒa vy] (meaning "already seen") is the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined. The term was coined by a French psychic researcher, Émile Boirac (1851–1917) in his book L'Avenir des sciences psychiques ("The Future of Psychic Sciences"), which expanded upon an essay he wrote while an undergraduate. The experience of déjà vu is usually accompanied by a compelling sense of familiarity, and also a sense of "eeriness," "strangeness," "weirdness," or what Sigmund Freud calls "the uncanny." The "previous" experience is most frequently attributed to a dream, although in some cases there is a firm sense that the experience has genuinely happened in the past.

Some people believe in it. Some don’t. I guess that’s normal for anything unexplainable. I’ve always kept an open mind about such things. My family used to give me the collective eye roll when I’d wink and explain that the reason I couldn’t wear turtlenecks was because, in a past life, someone must’ve strangled me. Imagine their expressions, when we discovered that one of my poor ancestors suffered hanging and then burning after accusations of witchcraft. Now, I’m not saying that she was me...or I’m her…but who knows?

I experienced the eerie feeling of déjà vu quite strongly a couple of times during our tour of Scotland and Ireland. The first rush to my senses occurred while standing at the edge of Culloden field. My bones ached with the desolate chill of the place. Sorrow. Futility. Despair. The wind reeked with sadness. I couldn’t stay on the battlefield very long. I told hubby I couldn’t bear the cold and retreated to the coffee shop inside the museum and waited for everyone else to finish their tour. I knew my ancestors had taken part in the Jacobite uprising. I don’t know if I ever walked on that field before but I knew I couldn’t walk it again.

The second rush of “welcome back” came to me while standing at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. You see, my ancestors that weren’t slaughtered during the Jacobite uprising escaped or were herded to Ireland. I remember my brother found a scrawled statement in one of the papers that they’d left the land of their hearts and fallen in love with the beautiful women of the green isle. Hope. Yearning. Homesickness.
The air-splitting caw of a solitary crow shouted these words across the wind. This crow kept pace with us while we enjoyed the lovely cliffs. I wondered if he was trying to remind me that I’d been there before. What do you think? Have we walked these paths before?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Are you SURE you've got the right address?

We received a lovely red envelope in the mail yesterday.  Well, I say "we". Actually, it was addressed to my husband.  Early on in our thirty-odd year marriage, we established this rule: what's HIS is mine and what's MINE is mine.  So, after I admired the weight of the mystery packet for a split second, I ripped it open.  A card bearing the word Free Gift immediately grabbed my attention.  My inner bargain-hunting beast stirred from it's murky depths, rumbling with a hungry growl. "Free?  We LUVZ free."  Interest captured, I read the rest of the colorful card, then exploded with an unrestrained snort.

"What's so funny?" Hubby asked, peering over my shoulder at HIS mail.

Tapping on the card, I drew his attention to the following statement (direct quote from the card):

"This limited time offer is extended only to a select group of candidates whose lifestyles match our world class community."

"Did you know we had a lifestyle?" I asked as I pushed up the sleeve of my favorite faded sweatshirt currently sporting enough dog hair to build another pet.

Hubby grinned and replied, "I think they'd be a little surprised if we showed up at their establishment."

Now, don't get me wrong.  I consider us extraordinarily wealthy. Our cozy little home brims with character, fairly bursting at the seams with love and laughter.  We each have our own vehicle and more than enough food to satisfy our needs. 

But hubby and I are a down-to-earth, middle-class couple and we've got a rather bad habit of speaking our minds when we're so inclined.  My idea of a rocking good time is sitting in the porch swing in my backyard watching Hubby grill steaks for our family.  Oh --and hot dogs and marshmallows.  Our granddaughter's not too wild about steak. 

Yes. We've traveled a bit --after working overtime to foot the bill and then scheduling vacation from our jobs.  And while I consider us rich beyond measure, I don't think we fit the mailer's definition of "select group of candidates".

When it's all said and done, I believe the MAIN reason we don't fit into this elite group is because we don't want to be a part of their community.  Their aloof statement offended me.  Who are they to judge? 

So, they are welcome to keep their free gift (a set of golf clubs - complete with a bag and yes, Hubby has been known to play cow pasture pool on rare occasions).  Hubby and I choose to pass on this offer.  I think we're going start our own elite community and we're going to let everyone join...even them.  But they have to bring their own hot dogs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture – which is it and should you even care?

The debate of Nature vs. Nurture has been tossed about for years. It all boils down to the obvious conundrum: are we born this way or do our experiences mold us? Does it have to be one or the other? Could it be a combination of the two? As a writer, why should you care?

I’m no scientist or psychologist. I can’t prove or disprove either side of the argument. But as to why a writer should care is easy. By using nature AND nurture, layers of personality add depth to our characters to either endear or alienate them with our readers. A strong heroine triumphing over adversity triggers loyalty and affection. A character turned bad due to a history of abuse launches emotions ranging from heartfelt sympathy to an exploding sense of injustice and thirst for retribution. But writer beware. How you mold your character’s traits had best be plausible or you’ll catapult your readers right out of the story.

I’m a people watcher. I’ve studied them in an attempt to nail down believable reactions to outer influences. But have you ever noticed how reality often laughs at what “should” be? There are no constants when it comes to humans. Not every woman victimized by years of abuse turns out weak and unable to cope. Case in point: Oprah Winfrey. No one can deny the obstacles she’s overcome in becoming one of the most successful women of today. What made her different? Was it some special strand in her DNA enabling her to succeed? Or was it one particular life-changing event or person that led her through the darkness? Or was it a combination? We’ve read what she thinks. What do you think?

On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve all heard stories of the well-blessed child growing up to be a serial killer. What happened there? Close to my hometown, several years ago, we had just such a shocking incident. The seemingly well-adjusted son of a successful lawyer showed up at school, whipped out a gun and opened fire on his classmates. Everyone was astounded. Did he do it because he'd always been a loner and never quite fit in at school? Some blamed video games. I shudder to think that’s what caused the unexplainable violence. At the time the massacre occurred, video games couldn’t hold a candle to the games our children play now. The boy had everything he ever wanted, was well-loved and taken care of by his family. So, what went wrong? Nature?

I don’t know that there’s a correct answer to the question. What do you think? Have you ever read a book where the writer shaped the character by circumstances that were impossible to believe? How would you have told the story?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have you thanked a Freedom Defender lately?

I know it's been blogged about a thousand times and in a thousand different ways. But it bears repeating. We owe the dedicated men and women of our armed forces, both past and present, an enormous debt of gratitude.

My husband served in the United States Air Force for almost ten years.  Now it seems like a lifetime ago. We were a "lucky" military family. Yes, we relocated every two years. And no, not a single member of our family met our youngest daughter until she was eighteen months old because she was born overseas. But I considered us lucky since my husband served during a time of peace. I didn't spend months or years of my life wondering if I would soon be widowed and left alone with two children.

Sometimes, we were seperated for months at a time while he attended training. But thankfully, he was never sent to any hellish places filled with enemies plotting the most effective means of torture or battlefields exploding with action. Even though we were apart, I always knew he was safe.

I might not always agree with where they're sent or what our brave service members are required to do. But I am eternally grateful to them. Because of them, I'm free to post my opinions on this blog without fear someone is going to burst into my house and drag me off to some dank, cold prison. Thanks to them, I sleep a little easier at night because I know they're doing their best to keep our country safe.

So, even though the "thank you's" have been said a thousand times, I feel it's never said often enough. Too many of these courageous souls return to their families in a flag-draped box, or worse yet - they never return at all. I appreciate the sacrifices each of them have made and I also extend that gratitude to their families. Remember them. Honor them. They've more than deserved it. This post is for the defenders of our freedom.