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Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

This week, I found myself using this phrase more than once as I read the headlines:

Why are they like that?

For example, reading about “PharmaBro” Martin Shkreli, I found out that his idol is Donald Trump. In pictures, they seem to be doing the same smug smile.

There’s one news article that perplexed me as I wondered why people do what they do – the one about the eighty-year-old woman who delayed a flight for five hours because she threw pennies into the plane’s engine for luck. Headlines characterized her in various ways, “Elderly Passenger,” “Chinese Woman,” “Buddhist Senior.”

She didn’t do this because she’s a senior. It’s not because she’s a woman. Or Asian. Or a Buddhist.

It’s because someone told her that this was “a thing” and she believed it.

Everything we believe is information that came to us through someone in whom we have faith. Parents, teachers, siblings, friends. Pastors, priests, gurus. Nowadays, the internet.

I know people who play their “lucky numbers” in the lottery every day. A man I know hit the “bonus” on the daily lottery number one day and won $500. He was so excited. But. He’s spent five dollars A DAY on those tickets for the last twenty years. He still hasn’t broken even. Actually, if he’d put those five dollars into a jar, he’d have had a nice little nest egg by now.

Actors won’t say the name of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, instead referring to it as “The Scottish Play” because saying its name inside the theater is bad luck. (Just to be on the safe side, I’m not going to write it either! You can Google it. 🙂 Okay, it rhymes with Quack-Breath.)

We do things like this so that good luck will turn our way, or so that, at the very least, bad luck stays away from us.

If I could give advice to the woman who threw pennies into the plane’s engine for luck, it would be this: Keep the change. You’re better off flying on a wing and a prayer!

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Despite my beloved mother’s best efforts (God rest) and the hours she put in playing Bach on the piano, I’m still nowhere near as cultured and refined as she was. She’d quote Chaucer for me, in middle English. She’d school me on the origin of words.

Still, I’m just an easily-distracted, uncultured, good-natured gal from New Jersey.

Doesn’t matter if I’m looking right at you as you tell me your long-winded spiel. In my mind, I’ve gone to Carolina.

Watching this video of Hilary Hahn, I was reminded of my mother playing Bach on the piano.

I’m amazed at how beautiful even one note can sound in the right hands. At the same time, I’m also utterly distracted by the fact that her producer looks like a combination of Fred Mertz (of I Love Lucy) and Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong).

Then I realized that her conductor looks like Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel). 😎

So whilst (little faux fanciness for ya) I try to be good at culcha, alls I can really do is appreciate it in my own New Jersey way. I’ll never have tea with the queen, p’raps, but I like to spin a yarn and have a good laugh.

I noticed that when Hahn plays, her whole body moves in a particular choreography. It’s as if she knows that she can’t reach the notes with her hands unless her feet move in a certain way at the same time.

Her whole body is her instrument.

In the same way, your whole life is your testament.

Most of the people you meet would never stand still and let you convert them to your beliefs.

All of the people you meet are seeing, hearing and feeling your beliefs every time you speak.

With all that’s going on in the world, all I can do is offer you this cozy corner where you’ll always be welcomed like a friend and we can share our stories. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, kind people. You’re okay with me.

So indulge me in a bit of reverie. Picture me one thousand years in the future, after science has unlocked the key to longevity, so that everyone in the world now has long life, prosperity and an uncanny knack for sassy accessorizing. Acc-sass-orizing, if you will.

This would be after science discovers that people like me with eyes that may be considered green or blue (depending on the comfy sweater we’re wearing) can actually see into the future, so we’re given government jobs sitting at the computer all day, surfing, and predicting stuff (sometimes correctly, sometimes not so much – but, like meteorologists, we still get paid.)

This would be far, far in the future, when I’ve finally learned that just because my Cosmic Cat is sitting at the back door of my mansion on Mercury, facing me with those big moon-pie eyes as if he wants to come back inside, he’s just window-shopping. I’ll ask my inventors to build an auto-cat door that scans his hologram retinas so he can open the door his dang self.

Maybe then my son will read my blog posts! This humble blog has become a time capsule of sorts, a snapshot of my life through the years. What’s important to me at the time. What’s in the news. What I hope for my son as he wends his way down the road of life.

Every so often, I’ll tell him I mentioned him in a blog post. Read it, would you, so I can be sure I’m not saying anything a teen-ager wouldn’t want his mom to mention. Of course, I do realize… That covers just about everything!

So in a thousand years, I’ll ask my son, About reading that blog, honey… How ‘bout now?

Sure Mom, I’ll get around to it. Just about to catch the shuttle to Saturn!

Oh well. If you only read this, Cole, just remember. I love you like nobody’s business. Wherever I am – New Jersey or some nebula in the night-sky – I’ve got your back. And if you call from Jupiter again, don’t call collect. It’s long distance!

Well, I might as well go all in and tell you about my colonoscopy. Oh, I’m fine. I got the all-clear from the doctor. But (there’s a pun. Sorry. First of many.) I have to say, I was confused by his report to my family physician.

To me, he said, “You’ve got pockets of diverticuli, which everyone gets as we get older. Maybe get some more fiber,” and he shrugged, as if to say, nothing to worry about.

In the report to my doctor, he wrote, “Counseled the patient at length about the importance of adding fiber to diet.”

Huh? At length? Let me think. Okay. He shrugged. Was that supposed to be code for: make sure to eat shredded wheat (despite the fact that it tastes like hay and you’ll hate your life every day of your life for the rest of your life. Enjoy!)  Finger wag would have made the point more clear.

My suspicious New Jersey mind went places. Why didn’t he tell me to eat more fiber? Hmmm? Is it because he secretly HOPES I’ll get tumors and he can make more money off of me in the future? Perhaps?

But I thought it through. He actually wouldn’t make any more gross income (there’s another pun! Yikes, indeed.) off of my tuchus if I did get cancer. He’s just the one checking the plumbing. An oncologist would be treating me in that case. Still being from Jersey, I wondered: what if he gets kickbacks for every patient that does develop tumors? Hmm? Perhaps?

Talk about your back room deals! 😕

Eventually, I came back to my senses and realized it’s just a matter of words.

The way doctors talk to patients is informally, to make sure we understand. The way doctors talk to each other is informed by legalities. They write in a certain way to protect their own ass..ets (hey now!) in case they get sued.

Overall, it was a moment I’d like to put behind me. Yuck/yuk. Kind people, that’s my TMI story du jour, but please allow me one final pun:

The End.

Okay. Maybe he’s not Adonis, I’ll grant you that. Hair growing out of his ears. Snores like a buzz-saw. Wears the same outfit every day: long black, mohair pants tucked into white socks. So why is he part of my life? Well, it’s my cat, of course! He’s one of the blessings that make my house feel like a home. I like seeing KitKat curled up on the couch, dreaming of the squirrel that got away.

I also like seeing my teen-age son with his headphones on as he composes songs the new-fashioned way: on the computer. Just knowing that he’s doing what he loves and that he’s comfortable here at home warms my heart.

So what is it that makes a house feel like a home? Well, of course, it’s the people and pets we love, but it’s more than that.

A little boy was lost at ComicCon and wandered around in tears until he saw two of his friends from childhood: Wonder Woman and the Flash. Soon, he was all smiles. It was like stumbling upon a little bit of the comforts of home: someone you know. Someone you can trust. Someone who will steer you in the right direction.

Of course, my idea of the comforts of home may be different from yours. For example, I love to see the process of houses being renovated. All of it. The tractor digging dirt in the yard, the drywall going up, paint color being chosen, deciding on the decor. That stuff may seem boring to most, but I like to see something being created out of nothing, so a blog like this one, “Enjoying the Simple Things,” feels welcoming to me.

This post about a trip to Ireland by the wonderful writer/artist, Jan Richardson, really conveys the sense of being greeted like family, even if you were a stranger when you walked in.

It’s what we’ve tried to do with this humble blog: create a place where you feel welcome, even if we’ve never met in person. So, feel free to consider this your virtual home away from home!

So, I’ve written before about my health issues, and while I don’t want to bring anyone down, I do like to share what I’ve learned from having MS.

Like the time I took my son, Cole, and his friends, Luke and Nick, to the movies a few years back. On the way out, I asked if they’d seen another movie that was out at the time. “So did you guys see Thor?” Without batting an eye, Luke replied, “Yes, we saw it last week. You took us. Remember?”

But he knew I didn’t. The upside is that these kids are like family, and they’re used to my sieve-like memory. It didn’t phase them. When people are understanding of your limitations, it makes you feel supported.

That’s why I was so thrilled to come across this article about a cafe that employs dementia patients, called “The Restaurant of Order Mistakes.” So you ordered a hamburger? Well, how about some dumplings instead! This shows that if people are aware of your story, they give you more latitude.

It goes back to my theory that there’s always a story, and everyone is dealing with something, often something that’s not visible to the naked eye.

People have taken the challenges of their own pasts and turned them into positive action.

These men took the pain of coming to another country penniless and hungry, and turned it into a kind deed, offering people a free meal if they have no money.

Sometimes a small act of compassion can restore one’s faith in humanity. This hairdresser with a posh client list reaches out to people on the street with his “Do Something for Nothing” campaign, offering haircuts to the homeless. It’s amazing to see what this simple kindness can do for a person who often feels invisible. One gentlemen looked at himself after his haircut and asked, “Why did you do that for me? It’s not an everyday thing.” The hairdresser’s answer was, “I loved hearing your story.”

It’s nice to know we can write the story as we go, and we’re all in it together.

Roxane Gay recently released her memoir, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” and it’s interesting to see how such an accomplished author can be defined – by some – solely by the number on the scale. I came across a quote of hers once that stayed with me: “When feminism falls short of our expectations, we decide the problem is with feminism rather than with the flawed people who act in the name of the movement.” The same can be said of politics and religion.

As the world seems to be more and more a constant headline of Us vs. Them, I found the author’s insights to be timely and true. There’s always a story, isn’t there? Something led a person to this place. Sometimes that place is one of accolades and applause. Sometimes it’s to impulsive actions based on flawed perceptions.

After the Manchester attacks, mosques in my home state of New Jersey opened their doors to the public. “We want to tell them we are against extremism, we are against terrorism, we are against violence, and we are against discrimination of any type against anyone,” said Imam Mohammad Moutaz Charaf, spiritual leader of the El-Zahra Islamic Center in Midland Park.

The fact that the we need reminders that not every Muslim is a terrorist is astounding. It always amazes me that people online feel they have some kind of birthright to make evil comments about people they don’t even know. Sometimes whole groups. You may not agree with a person’s ideology, or faith, or even their hairstyle, but how does it really affect your life, anyway?

Someday your story will be told. It can be a tale of compassion and courage, or of blame and bigotry. How that story unfolds is really up to you.

So I dropped something the other day – it made a loud noise, and I got annoyed because my teen-age son didn’t bother to check to see if I was okay. Out of nowhere, I experienced intense anger, and a real moment of unforgiveness. The place where my heart usually was felt like a stone.

Normally, I’m as pleasant as pie. So pleasant, in fact, I’ll bet some crotchety-types might find it annoying! Hey there! Turn that frown upside down, grumpy cat! 😾 There I go with the emojis again. I heart smiley-faces!! 😍

So that’s my default setting. Finding myself in such a foul mood was jarring. Now, it lasted less than an hour, but what an intense experience it was. I really had to ask pointedly in prayer, “Take this from me, Lord. I don’t know how to release it.”

The negative narrative was running in a loop: How could he not have heard such a loud noise? Doesn’t he give a heck? Haven’t I raised him better than that?

Even trying to forgive felt forced:  Why have I always got to be the one to let things slide? After all I’ve done for him! I just couldn’t let go of this anger.

In a previous post about Hugh Jackman (my next ex-husband-to-be, only he doesn’t know it yet. Yes, I’m willing to re-locate to Oz-Trailia) I said that it’s possible to find wisdom in unexpected places. This time it came from a roots Rock band called “The Record Company.I gotta pick myself up off the ground. I got the answer to my biggest question. Got to lose where I was to get my direction.

Staying in the moment that had hurt my feelings meant I was stuck in it, as if time stopped there. There was no present anymore, only this past pain.

I talked to my son again after I’d cooled my jets. He’d had his headphones on halfway, so it’s possible he didn’t fully hear the loud sound. Still, I reminded him: we watch out for each other. Because I don’t want to be emoji-less again! 🌈😊😺

“Thanks for your service.”

I’ve said this on occasion to soldiers in uniform that have crossed my path, and most of them seemed to appreciate it.

But I just found out that some veterans actually hate to hear those words, particularly on Memorial Day. Hearing the words, “thanks for your service,” conjures memories of fallen comrades.

In some cases, even saying, “Happy Memorial Day” to a veteran can strike a painful nerve. “It’s not happy,” said Rene Kicklighter, 37, who retired from the Army National Guard. “It’s somber. I try to flip the lens on the conversation a bit and gently remind them what it’s really about.”

Along these lines, a handshake is a friendly greeting that’s meant to be welcoming. The problem is, as this doctor reminds us, shaking hands is an effective way of transmitting germs, so he’s started a “hand-shake free zone” in his hospital.

We intend something positive and it ends up as a negative.

As hard as it is for those of us who want to express our appreciation, sometimes saying nothing is the highest form of respect. A nod to a stranger who has served, or a hand on the shoulder of a friend might be the best way to convey the message on this solemn, sacred day.

To those we’ve lost in the service of our country, I respectfully offer an homage with this moment of silence.

If ever there was a guy who seems to have it all, I’d nominate Hugh Jackman. He’s handsome, rich, famous and seems like a genuinely decent guy.

But let me just say this. He’s so multi-talented – it could be argued – he’s putting other people out of business. Think about it.

We need a dancer for this scene! Oh, wait. Hugh can do it.

We need a singer with the ability to tackle semi-operatic songs. Oh, wait…

This cat can do comedy, drama, stage, screen, song, dance.

I mean, even if he worked at the Amazon warehouse, I can imagine….

We’ve got to open all these boxes to get them ready for shipment. Anyone on staff with box-cutter fingernails? Say a mythical hero with epic sideburns? You there, with the Aussie accent! Let’s slash some boxes! By the way, do you always wear tap shoes to work?

Once, when Oprah’s TV show visited Australia, Hugh greeted her, flying in on a wire over the crowd to the stage. Something malfunctioned, though, and he landed abruptly, causing a gash to his face. After a moment, he shook it off like a sheepdog and the show went on.

What’s this guy’s secret sauce, anyway?!? This quote from Jackman says it all: “I believe actually the more you do something, the less frightening it becomes because you start to realize the outcome is not as important as you think.”

Tina Fey told the story of how her co-star from 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan, had mispronounced the Aussie star’s name as, “Jack Hughman,” and that tickled me. If we were to name a kind of prototype male of the human species, it would be a name like Jack Human. And it would be a guy like Hugh Jackman.

I think the reason he’s such a success is that he doesn’t dwell on failures.

I know you don’t expect to hear a story about a celebrity on a prayer blog, but my theory is, you take wisdom from any source that rings true. Here’s something that can’t be denied: Hugh can do it. You can, too!

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