Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Down Time is Bringing Me Down

When I woke from my two-hour nap on Saturday, I engaged in a bit of self-psychoanalysis. The sheer fact that I reflect on the state of my mental and emotional health as often as I do, is probably a sign that I'm worse off than I think. Or I'm just completely self-absorbed. But that's beside the point. The important thing is that these self-examinations provide me with blog material.

Speaking of blog material, you may be thinking that the reason I don't write as often anymore is because I have less to say. Nah. It's this new job. It's cutting in to my writing time. When I get to the office I actually need to hunker down and get right to work. No easing into my day with a period of self-discovery. You might argue that I could write when I get home from work, but anyone who has a full-time job and kids at home who expect a meal and a ride to soccer practice, and a church or synagogue that needs you at weekly meetings, clothes that demand to be washed, and a body sorely in need of a workout recognizes that writing probably isn't high on my list of things to do in the evenings. No, when I have down time, I want it to mean something. That's why I play Words with Friends or 7 Little Words, or I watch the TV shows on my DVR, or try to get caught up on Scandal before the new season starts. If my head's in the right place I might actually read, but writing? Well that requires entirely too much thought.

For the most part I'm okay with the way I choose to spend my down time. Or I was until Rob pointed out that someday I'm going to die. He pointed this out after I woke from my nap. He suggested perhaps I sleep too much and noted that there will be plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead. Well, damn. When you look at life through that lens, spending my time playing word games or watching television seems pretty ridiculous. When I'm gone, what will I have contributed to this world? Will someone go back and read my WWF scores? Will my TV viewing habits warm the cockles of someone's heart? I think not.

My blog on the other hand, well this sucker is leaving its mark. It will live forever. I know this because I've tried to delete posts that I later regret, and it's true what they say about things in cyberspace never truly disappearing. This means my uber-honest, somewhat snarky, frequently funkapotomusized, periodically painful and gladly grace-filled random thoughts will live on in perpetuity. Woo hoo!

SIDE NOTE: There's something to be said for the old fashioned written journal. The one you could burn before your parents, sister, boyfriend, best friend, husband or children read it. Those were the good old days. I think I have about 13 of those embarrassing tell-alls hiding in the back of my closet. Does anyone have a match? Perhaps I should do my own Freakin' Angel version of Throwback Thursday. I'll share an old journal entry and we can laugh together over how I've grown and matured stayed pathetically the same since I was 13. I won't make it more painful by adding an old photo to go with it. Some things really should remain private.

Back to the issue of my poor use of time. As is the American way, I refuse to take responsibility for my choices in this regard. Al Gore, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and that Zuckerberg kid are to blame. If they hadn't gone and created the computer, the internet, social media, e-books, on-demand video, etc., I would probably be a published author by now. And my son, whose technology addiction makes me look like a Luddite, well who knows what he would be doing with his life. He probably would have discovered some kind of new insect (he wanted to be an entomologist until he discovered the computer), written a comedy sketch for Saturday Night Live or made his mark in community theater. Yes indeed, we are being controlled by forces greater than ourselves. In fact, I think computer technology is the new Darwinism.

Think about it. Thousands of years ago "man" lived with the constant threat of being eaten alive by dinosaurs (I know this because I watched Land of the Lost). Natural selection meant that only the strong survived. Survival of the fittest, if you will. Today, we no longer are being chased by dinosaurs. Instead, we are chased by technology that wants to pin us down - mind, body and soul - and trap us in a  never-ending web (pun intended) of useless information. Those who are not strong enough to rage against the machine are destined for chunky thighs and a big butt, distorted thumbs and wrists, and a future spent in their parents' basement. Our "natural" selection has been replaced by man-made selection. Only those who break free from this technological tyranny have a chance to survive and live as the actual human beings we were created to be. I feel a doctoral dissertation coming on.

In conclusion, between the demands of my new job (how long can I consider it "new?"), my need for sleep and the distraction of technology, I'm lucky if I can write one blog post a week. I promise that once the kids leave home and I'm off these committees at church, and I've given up on trying to keep in shape, I'll resume my more prolific output. In the meantime, I'm sure you can find something to amuse you on the web or my DVR.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

If I Could, Would I?

Ever since I graduated from college, my dad has wanted me to go into business for myself. He's offered to help financially, and even offered his support if money is the obstacle to my writing a book (it's not; it's just laziness on my part). After 50+ years of "working for the man," my dad knows that true job satisfaction comes from pursuing your own dream, not someone else's. While I'm certainly blessed to have such supportive parents, unfortunately, I'm chicken shit scared to death at the prospect of going out on my own. The work I do for others stresses me out, and that's with a guaranteed paycheck and benefits. I can't imagine how insane I'd be if financial security and success rested almost completely on my shoulders. This fear of doing something so radical leaves me awed and inspired by those who go for it.

In the past few years, more than a couple friends have taken the leap to fulfill a dream. My college friend Tom and his girlfriend moved to Florida from PA and started a kayak tour business. Freakin' Angel Kathy decided to go solo with her law practice, and FA Andria is engaging her creative side in making unique pieces which she sells in local stores and at shows. MPC friend Bill opened a Sports Clips Haircut location. My former Judson Press colleague Linda ventured out on her own as a marketing consultant; and while I'm not exactly sure what she does, my old Lehigh Valley friend Cathy appears to be successful in whatever endeavors she's pursuing. Among my craziest most inspiring friends is Dave, who just a couple months ago fulfilled his dream of opening a restaurant (get thee to The Granary!). I'd be scared to death, but even if he's a tad nervous, he doesn't show it. Geez, imagine my blog posts if I was trying to succeed in business on my own. You think I bitch, whine and complain now!
An example of Lori's stunning photography

As impressive as these friends are, there is yet another who inspires me at an even deeper level. Imagine sacrificing your salary and the comforts of home to spend thousands of dollars in order to travel to a foreign country to help others in need. In two short weeks, my friend Lori Sheppard, a pediatric physical therapist, will leave for Morocco where she will train and provide support to people caring for children with special needs. This will be Lori's third visit to this country - her first two visits were for two weeks each, but on her last trip she felt called to return for nearly three months.

Lori's company is kind enough to hold a position for the duration of her trip, but she needed to resign from the management job she held and will return as a staff physical therapist. As you can imagine, this decrease in salary adds to the financial burden of this opportunity (home mortgage payments don't stop while she's away). Lori has made some lifestyle and budget changes over the past year and has started a small photography business (she's amazing!) to help bring in some funding. These changes alone are not enough, however, and this is where we come in to the story.

While many of us like to think we would do something like this if we could, realistically, most of us can't. Lori can and is, and her only reward will be the joy of helping others in need (a nice reward, albeit with no monetary value). The cost of Lori's trip is $12,000.00, including travel (airfare and in-country), living expenses, ministry expenses and financial obligations here at home that cannot wait. Would you be able to give a tax-deductable monetary donation to help out?  There are a couple ways to give:
  • www.compassion-corps.com - On the donation page, select ‘short term trip-Morocco’.  On the payment info page, use the drop down box under ‘designation’ to select my name.
  • Checks (payable to “Compassion Corps”) can be mailed to the address on the website – put Lori Sheppard's name in the memo line.
Lori would remind us that the finances are not the only important item to consider. If you are so inclined, would you please keep her endeavor in prayer?

Thanks for thinking of her and offering your support. Of course I also encourage you to eat at the Granary, buy Andria's cool gifts, get your haircut at Sports Clips, and seek legal counsel from Kathy. And if you're ever in Holmes Beach, FL, visit Sea Life Kayak Adventures.

As for me, I'm going to ask my dad if he'll support my desire to purchase a boat and take friends fishing. I'm sure that would pay the bills!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My New Fear of Flying

Air travel was never an issue for me. No fear. No need for a drink to calm the nerves. Heck, I didn't even mind getting stuck in the middle seat. I think my only real issue with flying was the increasing expense. Damn them and their luggage fees and unwillingness to give me a freakin' bag of pretzels! Yes, the dollars and cents of it was the only gripe I had. But that was before Friday, when my family and I flew from Denver to Philadelphia. Friday's flight changed everything. I'm just glad no one was hurt.

I knew I was in trouble when I sat in a row with a mommy and daddy and their 11-week-old bundle of joy, Samuel. Sammy looked a bit like a Cabbage Patch kid, but he wore the bug eyes and bald head really well. I oohed and aahed and that's saying something because I'm one of those terrible people who believes there are ugly babies in the world. But I'm getting off track here. The important thing for you to know is that Samuel started to cry before we even left the runway. Karma at work. If I had let Rob sit in that seat instead of foisting our children off on him, I would have had relative peace and quiet. Or so I thought.

I'm not sure when the disturbance began. Early on I was probably distracted by Sammy's Cabbage
Patchness, or that heart-breaking newborn cry of his. At some point fairly early in the flight, however, I became painfully aware of what I was dealing with. I should say what "we" were dealing with given that she affected at least a dozen people - certainly those seated directly in front of, behind, and next to her, but those across the aisle and a couple back as well. I was one row behind on the other side of the aisle and could not escape. The "she" in this story didn't have gas, wasn't snoring and didn't fall asleep and slobber on her neighbor's shoulder. Those fairly typical airline experiences would have been preferable. No, in this case, "she" turned around in her seat to talk to someone in the row behind her. For the entire flight. No exaggeration. Certainly that would have annoyed the person sitting next to her or next to the person she was speaking to, but here's where it gets ugly. This MAAPE -- Most Annoying Airline Passenger Ever -- spoke loudly enough for my dad, my mother-in-law, and the deaf guy on Project Runway to hear her. Did I mention this continued for more than three hours?

You know how people come together in times of crisis or despair? They form a special bond having lived through a terrible experience together. Well, that's what happened to passengers in rows 14-17 on flight 1752. As the hours went by, trips to the bathroom were opportunities to share a sympathetic and somewhat crazed smile. When the MAAPE volume increased, or she took a rare breath, our brothers and sisters in travel hell turned their heads to look at one another and communicate their frustration wordlessly. The poor guy next to me was trying to get work done, but gave up because he couldn't concentrate. Even earplugs didn't help block the noise. About two-plus hours into it I turned to my husband and told him I was going to say something (in keeping with my Grumpy Old Woman status). It seemed absurd that we should all suffer when perhaps she just didn't realize she was a loud talker (the polar opposite of Seinfeld's low talker). My husband, never one to make a scene, told me not to. Why I listened to him is beyond me. I said nothing and the dozen-plus people around her suffered in silence. Until...

One man, seated in front of me (the aisle across from the MAAPE) finally could hold his tongue no longer. He stated, loudly enough for all of us to hear, "Thank God this isn't an overseas flight! Three hours straight?! Seriously??" In the ultimate display of camaraderie, a gentleman sitting in front of the MAAPE passed back one of those airline-sized bottles of whiskey. Followed by one filled with vodka. Followed by a can of Coke. "So this is how you're surviving!," replied the grateful fellow passenger who took the whiskey in one shot. The laughter united us, and the MAAPE turned around and smiled, wondering about the joke she must have missed. She then continued talking. As loudly as before. We all had one more good laugh at her expense when I sneezed (never a subtle thing on my part) and my quick-witted son Ian announced for everyone to hear, "Geez, Mom, must you be so LOUD!" Love that kid.

When at last the plane landed and passengers disembarked, the palpable tension was broken and along with sighs of relief were comments and questions like, "Why didn't someone say something?" (We can all blame it on Rob.) One woman suggested the flight attendant should have spoken for all of us. The attendant responded with "I couldn't believe it. I kept thinking she had to stop eventually, but she just kept going."

I learned several valuable lesson on this flight:
  1. Everyone should own noise-canceling headphones.
  2. Alcohol is a good idea, regardless of whether you need it to calm your nerves.
  3. Never listen to your husband when it comes to dealing with a problem.
Oh, and one more thing. Don't diss the baby. Little Samuel slept through the whole thing. Lucky little Cabbage Patch kid.