What I Saw

Everyday I see more and more bad behavior. Bad actions, bad decisions, bad words, and just plain bad and absolutely unnecessary behavior. I turn on the computer or the TV and it’s all negative. Anywhere there is “news”, the majority is negative. It’s not only negative but the level of disrespect that is happening in our world is atrocious. And I’m not limiting it to any particular anything…no specific group, no specific person, no specific anything. It’s just bad behavior straight across the board. It’s enough to make anyone cynical. At times, it’s easy to get caught up in it myself. Sometimes I think that this is just how it is nowadays and that becoming a hermit is the way to go.

This past summer, we took a vacation. My husband (then fiancé) and I, along with three of the kids, set out on a cross country car trip. We left Wisconsin and made our way to our final destination of Florida. That trip actually helped me to learn some truths about what I’ve been seeing in the ‘news”.

Our stops along the way exposed us to lots of people and the human condition in general. Of course the human condition is different for each person. It’s good for people to get out to see it for themselves. You may be exposed to something you never knew or only just heard about. Not once along our journey did I see anything “bad” as far as behavior from people. In fact, I saw lots more good from people. Oh, wait, I think someone gave us the bird on the freeway but that’s about it. People can just be jerks, some more than others. Jerks are a daily thing that we all deal with but I am not talking about everyday a-holes. That is never gonna change.

There are a few things that stand out from our trip. I’m a people watcher so I usually will just sit back and take in a scene. I find it fun and I also enjoy finding an occasional “character” that I could add to my drawing file. We spent one whole day playing at Pensacola Beach and I remember scanning the crowds and just taking in all that was going on around me. There were hundreds of people there, maybe a thousand spanning the entire beach. And I didn’t see one sign of bad behavior like I see plastered all over the “news”. I saw people and families of different colors, ethnicities, ages, basically all walks of life were represented. I didn’t see or encounter any bad behavior. I saw an Indian family swimming in full body coverings and no one said anything mean to them. They also didn’t say anything mean to anyone else. Right next to them were people in bikinis and shorts and no gasps were heard. Luckily, Speedos were few and far between but there were a few too many thongs for my eyes. But I digress. African Americans and Caucasians all parked their bodies next to each other on the sand and no one cared. There were fat people, skinny people, and all people in between. No one said a thing. If you listened, you could hear different languages. And not one person “freaked out”. According to the “news”, people are freaking out and heads are exploding on a daily basis.

One of the best parts of watching all of this was the children. Kids that didn’t know each other all came together and just played with each other. They built sand castles and played with frisbees. They ran around and splashed in the ocean waves. None of them noticed their differences. They all were able to have fun together and enjoy each other despite being different.

The elderly were also well represented on the beach that day. I remember being in the water and waiting for an incoming wave. A grandma was getting in the water when the wave hit and it pushed her right back to shore and she had to crawl out. She crawled her way onto the beach just laughing and we all laughed with her. No one picked on her because of her wrinkles or saggy skin. She was just allowed to “be”. We all should be allowed that. (For the record, I was not that Grandma! I know what you’re thinking.)

The more we traveled, I saw people working hard to take care of their families. I saw a woman at a restaurant say a prayer before her meal (can’t blame her, it was Taco Bell…). People let other people ahead of them in lines for the bathrooms. Cashiers were friendly and waitstaff did their best to accommodate people all while staying friendly during the stressfulness of their jobs.

I want to imagine that the world is more like my day at Pensacola Beach. That we’re all just people who are trying to live our lives and enjoy the things we can. We were a beach full of different people from different walks of life, full of different experiences and ideas. None of us had any ideas about the stresses of each others daily lives. None of us asked or cared whether another person was a Republican or a Democrat. People were probably there for different reasons. Some to have a family day, some to relax from a stressful job or event, some to just get away and spend some time recharging their souls. Yet, we were able to live amongst each other and enjoy the same things. At least for a short time.

Am I still cynical? Sadly, yes. I see how our world LOVES to play up the bad and we have to look far and wide to find the good. I am going to try to remember the good from this trip whenever I start getting too far into the throes of despair about our world. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative when you look at everything as a whole. When I look at it on a smaller scale, a more personal individual basis-it’s easier to see the good. I try to remember the phrase “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. I do hope that more people take that to heart and act on it and just allow people to “be”. Just like we all did that day at Pensacola Beach.


Or Ma, or Grandma or Gigi. Just a few names for my mother, Violet. My Mom passed away right before Thanksgiving of 2017 and I spent a long time trying to come to terms with the fact that she is no longer with me (at least in the physical sense). It wasn’t expected and there was no warning. So being that it was a shock, I spent the rest of that year and pretty much most of 2018 trying to just “do” stuff to keep from having to think about it. Relax became a four letter word to me. I didn’t allow myself to relax because the thoughts would rush back in and I’d be reminded of it all over again. There were times I would try to just be still and I couldn’t do it… it’s like I had forgotten how to even relax or enjoy a moment. I was stuck on some kind of autopilot that couldn’t stop moving. I don’t think I’ve even come to terms with it yet. Yes, I’ve accepted it because I had to. Living in denial wasn’t an option for me (even though I tried) because my Dad is still here and he needs my help now more than ever.

It’s funny that my “doing stuff” never really accomplished anything. I kept myself busy with mundane things like cleaning or running errands or work. I remember trying to read a book and my mind couldn’t even focus on any of it. One of the things that I felt I should be doing during that time was going through my Mom’s things. Downsizing. My Mom was a collector and she loved crafting and decorating. She could repurpose anything into something magazine worthy. If she found an old window frame, soon she’d have it repurposed into a wall decoration that everyone wanted! What I loved about her ability was that she saw the beauty in the broken. She could make something unwanted worthy again. Coveted even.

Part of the problem with going through my Mom’s stuff was that I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to let her go and I wasn’t ready to get rid of her things. I felt pressure from others that it was something I should do. I knew that it would make things easier for my Dad. I mean, he doesn’t dust. He just doesn’t need so much stuff to take care of. Plus, at 86 years old, I worry
about him tripping over something and getting hurt. But ultimately, my Mom’s stuff is my Dad’s stuff. I didn’t want to make it harder for him by making that many drastic changes. Not so soon.

At the beginning of 2019, I started to feel like maybe I could start looking through her things. Like I was ready. So one day I decided to open Mom’s dresser just for the heck of it. I was a bit taken aback when I opened the drawer and her scent came out. It was such a bittersweet moment. But it didn’t paralyze me and I realized that I can do this. I would take it slow and keep my Dad in the loop with everything that I do go through.

Like I mentioned earlier, my Mom collected things. Lots and lots of things. One of her favorite things to collect were ideas. Ideas about the things she loved to do like decorate, craft, sew, repurpose, read, bake and cook. Just to name a few. She followed through on a lot of the ideas she saved. She just saw something she liked and did it. She had bins and totes full of ideas she found in magazines and catalogs. So, one day I decided to grab a bin and just sift through the items in it. And going through it helped reinforce some things I’ve always known about my Mom.

Her stuff wasn’t clutter. Not to her. She saved things she liked for many reasons. She would save a picture or illustration because it may have evoked a special memory, or maybe she was struck by the coloring, or even how it reminded her of someone or something she loved. She loved artwork, from eloquent things right down to simplistic. Photographs of nature and natural beauty were also kept. She liked how light and color played into a scene. She especially loved trees and flowers. I remember as a kid we’d have to pull over to the side of the road so my Dad could cut her some cattails or pussy willows so she could use them to decorate with. Everything had a beauty and she brought them into her life.

And babies, can’t forget the babies. She loved them and their chubby, sweet softness. She saved drawings of babies and even pudgy-kneed paper dolls. Intermingled with her clippings were things from her grandkids. I found drawings that my girls did, a note from my niece and newspaper clippings about my nephews. It was like an inadvertent time capsule.

Another thing she loved to save were words. That may sound weird but she did. She had scraps of paper where she wrote things down that she liked – quotes, poems, sayings, and even names. I found lists of names she liked for babies or even future pets. She liked the sounds of names and words and also the way a word looked. If a word was written in an especially striking font or had a lot of character – it was torn out and went into her file. She saved them for future things, like a boat she painted and needed a special name for, as an example. She liked the cleverness or sentiment of a poem. She would sometimes frame a favorite or even hang one on the fridge depending on how she was feeling at the time. It was like she was putting out to the world what she was feeling at the moment, even if she didn’t say it herself.

I’ve decided to put together a “time capsule” for each of my siblings and the grand kids. Things that pertain to them in some way or even something that I know they would like. I think it would be a nice tribute to Mom and allow them all to have a little piece of who she was. A reminder of her sweet soul. Mom used to tease that my sister and I would be stuck going through all of her stuff someday. We didn’t think it’d be so soon. But I do appreciate what I was reminded of as I looked through her things. I was reminded of her love of art and how important creativity was to her and how she used it in her own life.

So, thank you Mom. Thanks for the clutter.

So Many Asses

Growing up I never realized just how much ass wiping life really consisted of. And I mean that literally. Maybe it’s just me and my life but wow, really, so much ass wiping.

Starting out in life it was really just my own ass that I had to take care of. So it wasn’t all that bad, I lived with it all my life and it was just second nature. Then I got older and a few nephews came along. And I started to babysit. Lots more asses to take care of. Yeah, it was gross but part of the job so I just did it. Sometimes I got paid to do it which made it semi-tolerable but not any less nasty. Go ahead, ask me about the time I had to pull a dry, rock hard turd from a constipated one year old that I was babysitting for. Not a pleasant experience for either of us.

Then I grew up and along came my own kids. I think I spent around 8 years just wiping their butts. In hindsight, I realize I should have purchased stock in baby wipes and toilet paper. (HIND-sight? See what I did there?) I can’t believe I held down two jobs in between wiping their asses. Even after some were old enough to wipe their own asses, I still had to do some dirty ass work. Once I had to wait until my oldest fell asleep, spread her butt cheeks open, and look with a flashlight to see if I could see pinworms. Yeah, I saw pinworms. No wonder she was rubbing her butt across the living room carpet like a dog. Oh the joys!

I did get a break from wiping other people’s asses while my kids were in their teens. Now that doesn’t mean I was ass free or poop free. We had cats, dogs, turtles, chickens, horses and even pigs for a while. I started calling our place “Dingleberry Farm”. Seriously, I can’t believe how much poop was made and how much clean up there always was. At times it felt overwhelming. We even had a dog once that went out to poop, then proceeded to eat said poop, came back in the house just to vomit up the recycled poop. Seriously, I had to clean up puked up poop. Not sure if it can get worse than that!

I now have two grandchildren. Back to the ass wiping stage again. And they both have the uncanny ability to ALWAYS have to drop a load (or two) at my house when they are visiting. Never fails. And my granddaughter insists that I WIPE HER BUTT. EVERYTIME. Yeah, because I’m a professional. My grandson isn’t old enough yet to ask specifically for my services so I can sometimes get out of it. But soon enough, he will insist that I do the deed for him too. It’s just inevitable. I figure he set the tone when he was about a week old. His mom (my oldest) was changing his diaper on the living room footstool when he totally blasted ass. Without a diaper on. Poop shot between my daughter’s legs and splattered all over the hardwood floor. It almost made it to the couch! So, I may be a professional ass wiper but that kid is definitely a professional pooper. Challenge accepted little man. Challenge accepted.


Fear Or F.E.A.R.

A 2019 Resolution

Occasionally I find myself thinking about if I was an animal (and yes , I realize people technically ARE animals but I mean animals as in “not human” animals) and what kind of animal I would be. Is there an animal that I relate to? Do I relate to more than one? I believe I do relate to more than one…maybe I relate to different things about different animals. Like some days I really understand what it means to be a sloth or a even an ordinary house cat hissing at something I don’t like. But as I’m getting older I find myself thinking about things on a different (maybe even bizarre) level. I think if I had to choose an animal that I tend to see myself as it would have to be a deer. And not just a regular deer….a deer in headlights that is second- guessing it’s own movements.

As I have been getting further into the decades of my life, I find myself contemplating my entire existence. I have not always been pleased with my choices and looking back, I see the common denominator of what was and has been holding me back in many areas. Or what has been the cause of my getting into situations that I don’t much care for. That one thing is fear. That’s how I feel that I relate to deer. They are born into a world that basically is out to get them….to eat them actually. Other animals and humans too. Deer need to be suspicious, cautious and well, basically scared in order to keep themselves safe. When I see deer, I watch how they are always on alert and quick to startle and run away. They need to do that for survival. That’s sort of how I feel that I have been living my own life. I did certain things and didn’t do other things out of fear.

As an overly sensitive child (and now, overly sensitive adult) I didn’t do certain things that I wanted to do because I was afraid of what might happen. I was always afraid of what someone might think, that it would be the wrong thing to do, that I wouldn’t be good at what I tried or just thinking I didn’t deserve to have what I really wanted. Most of the time I did things to just please everyone else. I felt it was expected of me so that’s what I did.

Deer also do have some “en-deer-ing” qualities (see what I did there?). Deer are quick on their feet and graceful. Sometimes I’m graceful. Other times I trip over air. Does also tend to be good mothers to their fawns. Instinct helps in regards to parenting, as does the fear. I was afraid of what might happen so I was sure to be highly cautious and on guard when it came to my kids. Hopefully, that is at least one good thing that came from my fear driven life. Fear can be a helpful thing and we can’t go through life totally fearless about everything. If we did, well, not many of us would even make it to adulthood. Fear does have it’s place. Until it’s crippling. I do believe that that’s where the second guessing comes in to play. I have always been a huge second guesser. On my drive home tonight, I came upon two deer and they did their normal panic and were unsure which way to go. One went one direction and the other went opposite. This time their decisions kept them alive. Other times they second guess and back track and a lot of times they wind up as road kill. I was thinking about the two deer and how they split and went two different directions. Fear sent the one deer back the way that it came. The other moved forward. I thought about that and about how many times I was afraid to move forward in my life. Or if I eventually did, it took me a long time. A lot of overanalyzing on my part. I, too, was afraid of becoming road kill.

It also made me realize that I am entirely sick of living this way. I was talking with my good friend (and cousin) recently and we discussed the second guessing that I have always been plagued with. She said she never second guesses herself because everyone else does it for her. I found that absolutely fascinating and a great way to look at it. One of the things that held me back was worrying about what other people think. How oddly liberating it is to think that if everyone else is judging my decisions and second guessing me….then I don’t have to. They’re doing it for me which frees me up to live and do what I want.

I recently read that fear has two meanings. One is to think like the deer – Forget Everything And Run. I’ve done that for far too long. I like the second meaning better – Face Everything And Rise. So one of my goals for the coming year and hopefully for the rest of my life is to follow the second definition of fear. I’m tired of hiding and playing it safe. As hard as it is for me to put myself out there and maybe even draw attention to myself, I’m going to do it. I have to.