Yeah. What’s going on? Where are you? You said you’d be back. We had plans.
Really? Well, I saw a robin yesterday. It tried to alight on a tree limb—which was covered in snow—and then it tried to alight on the ground beneath the tree—which was covered in snow—and then it sort of skittered onto the parking lot, bewilderedly chirping.
Well, I don’t speak bird, but I’m pretty sure it was “WTF.”
Yeah. The robins are here. Yes, they are.
Seriously? You’ve had 9 months’ vacation. Guess what, the rest of humanity gets 2-3 weeks. So spare me.
The time change? The time change! Don’t make me laugh. We’re all a little messed up from the time change, but it’s been over a week now. And you’re in Hawaii, where there is no time change.
You think I’m dumb?
Excuse me? Chill out, my furry butt! We’re all CHILL. Oh we’re very chill all right.
Do I? Do I sound stressed? Yeah? Yeah, well, the fear of imminent death is a tad stressful.
Dramatic? Have you checked facebook lately? Do you have any idea what I’m going through here? Well, maybe it’s time you think about someone else besides yourself. Maybe it’s time you think about me, your cousin Phil, the good ol’ ground hog who’s back here trying to cover for you.
Yeah. You said you’d be back early. Yeah, I told everybody.
They want to kill me.
I look like an ass.
Yeah, well, either you put down the mai tai, say good-bye to your cabana boy, and get your butt back on a plane to Pennsylvania. Or. I’ll tell Mother.
You wanna bet on that? Try to remember what she’s been like over the past year.
Okay, this weekend? You promise? You better.
Sometimes a life preserver moment comes from seeing another person that you care about do something that makes you happy. Fantabulous mini-moments when you know to your toes that the World really is an okay place. They can catch you by surprise and change your day. It’s espresso for the soul.
Today, I’m sharing a vlog from a girl named Amy. An amazing sweetheart who I’ve known pretty much since she was born. One of those kids who makes you believe that the next generation will do just fine.
She had a dream to go to Disney World and work there as part of a college program.
Note: Disney is a spot that is near and dear to my own heart. When I was 10 years old, my aunt and uncle took me, my brother, and my sister there. When I turned 30, I went again with some friends and cousins. At the time, I joked that I would just have to go back to Disney every 20 years. (Hard to believe it’s time again.) (Yes, I’m going.) But, enough about me.
This week, after lots of preparation, much hard work, timely follow-through, oodles of creativity, a bushel of enthusiasm, and support from her awesome parents I’m sure, my young friend Amy made her dream come true and arrived in Disney. She posted this
I clicked through that video to discover her vlog, which led me to this gem
It’s a bit of reality that feels like, well, a Disney movie. Yes, I teared up watching it. (Hell, I’m tearing up writing about watching it.) But they’re happy tears, and that’s life-preserving stuff.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about what my resolution should be for 2013. There is a long list of potentials.
I want to lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more. I could commit to changing bad habits, to being kinder, to swearing less while driving. I could make a firm commitment to clean the litter box every day or to never leave dirty dishes in the sink or to stop leaving clothes in the dryer until they’re so wrinkled I have to re-wash them. I could promise to talk to a tree guy about the once-weeds-soon-to-be-trees growing under my porch. I could return the busted comcast console that’s been boxed up and sitting in my basement for over a year. I could vow to write to my out-of-town nephews more often. I could say I’m going to wash my car once a week and clean out the papers, scarves, shoes, litter, water bottles, and who-knows-what-else on a more frequent basis so that there doesn’t appear to be a homeless person wintering in my back seat. I could start that novel. Or, at least, try to find a way to get all of the poems and short stories I’ve written off of two broken laptops, the old tower, and the stack of floppy disks. I should get my inbox back to zero (or, at least, lower than 1400 unread). I really should play the piano more often, and I want to learn to play my grandfather’s accordion. I could make a resolution to do more pro bono freelance jobs or hands-on volunteer work. I’d like to find a job that helps make the world a better place but still pays the bills. I could promise myself to be less shy, more hopeful, and at least make some attempt to assist the universe in bringing true love into my life. I could promise myself to cook a real dinner more often. I could stop cutting my own bangs. I could get organized. I really need to paint (walls, not canvases). I could promise to start doing one of those brain games that helps you improve your memory, so then I could promise not to forget stuff so much. I could resolve to get new glasses or go to the dentist. I could commit to cleaning out the garage and basement and sorting through the junk and making an overdue trip to Goodwill.
Yep. There are a lot of things I could focus on that would make for an acceptable, sensible resolution. Things to help make me a happier person or a more valuable member of society. A better friend, a better daughter, a better sibling, a better neighbor.
But, as things go quiet, with the hub-bubious distractions of the holiday season behind me, the goal has become obvious. Like a deer facing headlights on a dark and stormy night, like a track-tied damsel spotting the oncoming train, I see it clearly. I have 40 days. And there is but one resolution I can make.
I hereby resolve to do everything in my power to avoid a complete and utter, bug-eyed, jaw-dropped, screaming banshee, Don-Knottian, Daffy-Duckian, Thelma-and-Louisian, all-out-batshit-freakout when I turn 50.
Recent events have magnified my existing opinion that watching news programs (like CNN and Fox News) should be avoided. It’s voyeuristic. It’s rude. It’s wrong.
These entertainment-conglomerate-owned programs barely meet the requirements of journalism on a normal day. They are no longer staffed by journalists. They don’t appear to be at all concerned with being factual or unbiased. They spin; they manipulate; they squawk. They seek attention like a two-year-old in a very dirty diaper.
As bad as they are on a regular day, when a tragedy occurs, they are worse. So much worse.
I’m not preaching at anyone here. I have done it myself–been unable to look away, watched a situation for hours or even days. But I’m not going to do that anymore; this is a change I am making. This is a vow.
When faced with tragedy, human beings help. They reach out. They pitch in. They can–when a depth of understanding exists, when someone has been a friend for many many years–soften grief with a look, a touch, or the special language of intimates.
It’s one of the really beautiful things about humans, and I still believe it is true of the vast majority.
The problem is, when there is nothing you can do, when there is no action you can take, when you are not connected to those in pain, it is easy to get sucked into the news program. It may provide a false sense of relief (something that almost feels like grieving). Or it may seem disrespectful to not pay attention. Or, it can also be hypnotic; it can be hard to look away.
But what if we did? What if we all stopped watching shows like CNN and Fox News?
What if we all picked up the remote and pushed a button and said, “No.”
What if we said No to a paparazzi approach to the world? What if we said No to the frenzy and the falseness? What if we said No to the lack of depth, the lack of common sense, the over-dramatic narcissism? What if we said No to pretending that hundreds of total strangers with microphones and cameras descend on a community because they care? What if we said No to this expanding and disturbing intrusiveness that seeks to make all of us part of something quite creepy?
Do any of us need to know what happened in Newtown–at the level it is being reported–to be able to be respectful or to be able to say a prayer for those concerned?
Do we need a total stranger to tell us how to feel about this? Does some talking head on TV know your family better than you do?
In this world of more than 7 billion humans, do we need to focus on those who do evil? (or the spoiled, stupid, drunken celebrity? or the sex lives of politicians?)
Do I want to be even one tiny part of the reason a reporter feels justified in knocking on the door of a grief-stricken parent?
I’m not suggesting we all put our heads in the sand. We do need to be aware of the world around us. We need to be informed of dangers. We need to notice when someone else needs help. But in this mass-media world, we need to be careful about what we let into our brains, what we let into our hearts, what’s seeping into the collective psyche.
Read the paper. Get involved in your own community. Watch a legitimate news program (if there are any out there anymore) for a short while if you must. But let’s put an end to the 24/7, workin’-for-sound-bytes, cranking-out-designer-death-graphics, glorifying evil, microscopic but depthless, superfluous, horrible news shows.
I believe we are better than this. But we have to make choices and take actions that will ensure that we continue to be better than this. If we don’t watch, it will cease to be a lucrative media buy for advertisers. If we say No, it will go away.
I had ambitious plans for the past week of stay-cation. In review, my to-do list:
Goal: Put books back onto new shelves in office room.
Accomplished and enjoyed. (Proving once again that I am just about 1 chromosome short of being OCD.)
Goal: Move old office furniture to basement.
Not accomplished. Stuff was way too heavy and I am way too clutzy.
Goal: Prevent self from being found dead and crumpled at foot of basement stairs beneath ginormous bookcase.
Goal: Work out every day.
Accomplished. (Except for the every day part.)
Goal: Tidy up house.
Goal: Stay up late and sleep in a lot.
Goal: Buy wine.
Goal: Break open the new Abbott & Costello DVD set.
Goal: Tidy up the yard, put remaining porch furniture back into storage, clean gutters, hire someone to cut down trees.
Ahem. Um. There’s always next weekend? Or next spring?
Goal: Take Goodwill pile to Goodwill.
Nope, it’s still in my basement. But the pile is decidedly bigger now.
Goal: Get basement carpeted.
Goal: Take pile of clothes to dry cleaner; hem new pants.
Nope and nope.
Goal: Update address book.
Made it to the Ks. Got bored.
Goal: Clean out garage.
Goal: Enjoy a 1:00 Steelers game.
Goal: Scratch off pile of saved up lottery tickets and win enough money to avoid going back to work ever again.
Doesn’t seem like I did much of what I thought I ought to. But, as my week off ends, I am relaxed and (trying hard to ignore the incessant chuckling and lip-smacking of the Back-to-Work Demons) feeling happy and destressified, which was my number 1 goal really. No airplane ride, no scenic drives, no souvenirs, no new vistas, but the house feels a bit more feng-shui-ish, there’s clean underwear in the drawer, there are new Abbott & Costello giggles in my head, and there’s still some wine left in the ‘fridge. It was a life-preserving week, and I think I’ll be okay.
As Thanksgiving Day begins, I am reminded of grade school when we were asked to hang a picture on the wall and state for all to see what we were thankful for. That activity holds such simplicity: the easy tasks of childhood as well as the true meaning of this holiday. Despite the attempts of retailers and advertisers to turn this day into one symbolic of gluttony and consumerism, in the hearts of most, this holiday remains, simply, a day to embrace family and friends, a day to relax, a day to be thankful.
Here is what I hang on the wall for 2012.
Although I did not like the number, I am thankful I had another Birthday.
I am thankful that I got to hang out with some wonderful people and refill the hug bank at a Schmidt Picnic in June.
I am thankful for my Aunt Ann who turned 90 this past week. And I am thankful for my new littlest cousin who arrived a couple of months ago.
I am thankful for my nephew Stephen, now a Marine, serving this great country.
I am thankful that I have a home, a car (with four new tires and a new alternator), and a job.
I remain thankful, every morning, for coffee. And I am thankful to have discovered the coffee cream frother!
I am thankful for cookies. And, likewise, thankful that I managed to get my old fat butt up and moving once again to do what all the experts say you can’t do: Lose weight in your 40s. (Yes, you can.)
I am thankful that, for the first time since sometime in the 80s when I became eligible to get a credit card, I have no credit card debt.
I am thankful for books. And audio books.
I am thankful for some home renovations. And I am thankful that my construction friend did not laugh too hard when he discovered that my baseboard in the kitchen has been sitting there unpainted and unattached since his last visit to put in the kitchen floor about 7 years ago.
I am thankful that my neighbor, Flo, fooled the doctors yet again and made it home in time to hand out Halloween candy with me.
I am thankful for facebook and the connections it has strengthened and the reconnections it has made possible.
I am thankful for my friends who keep me busy, keep me centered, keep me laughing. Thank you for game nights. Thank you for liking the same sushi place I like. Thank you for taking me bowling. Thank you for your philosophical, brilliant, hilarious correspondence. Thank you for dinners and drinks.Thank you for commiserating. Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for my sanity.
I am thankful every single day of my life for my wonderful, weird, dear, and loving family who have made this year so much fuller and so much funnier. I am thankful for Mother-Daughter weekend. I am thankful for Wicked Weekend. I am thankful you had my house key. I am thankful for gorgeous room design support (and that you are feeling better). I am thankful for Overnight Fun Nights and kind of amazed that you still like to hang out with me. I am thankful for recipe tips, home tips, life tips, and that you are there when I call. I am blessed to be a part of this crew. I love you.
And, last but not least, I am exceptionally, happily, guiltily, giggly thankful that my sister-in-law and brother are doing all the work and all the cooking as our dinner hosts this year while I had time to sleep in and post to my blog while sipping coffee.