photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stepford Has Got to Be Here Somewhere

We live in the wilds of East Texas, just outside a small (just over 1,000 souls by the last count) town.

Our own place is a few miles outside of town, surrounded by hundreds of acres of bigfoot-infested wilderness, forests and creek bottoms (also known as 'swamps'). It's perfect.

Our boy is comfortable running around the entire farm barefooted and mostly nekkid day or night, and doesn't think monsters are going to leap out of the trees to eat him and the noises of the wilderness are comforting and not creepy.

Which is Awesome as far as we're concerned.

Because of Ward's doctors mostly being at MD Anderson down in the guts of Houston, that self-same boy is equally at home surrounded by buildings and concrete, bustle and noise, museums and many cultures in the 4th largest city in the US of A.

Also Awesome.

Being at ease no matter where you are is a very important skill to have.

There are only three places the boy cannot abide- places that creep him out to the max and make him completely squidgy.




And he has valid reasons for all of them. Since he's 13, those reasons are partly shit that's rubbed off from his weird parents and their unconventional viewpoints, but it's morphed into mostly his own observations and carefully thought out opinions.

The first two are no-brainers to anyone who knows us even a little bit.

The last one is recent.

We travel to Denton on a pretty much weekly basis. We are members of a tiny little home school group here in our area, but the Boy is of an age where he needs interaction with more kids his age.

Now. We 'could' join the huge local home school group- boasting over 1,000 families and so big it's got its own sports league and orchestra. By 'could' I mean if we signed the requisite Statement of Faith and stapled the recommendation letter from our church's pastor and a copy of our tithing history along with it.

Obviously...not happening.

So we drive 3 hours each way to Denton- north of Dallas and college town known affectionately as 'Little Austin'- to be members of a secular home school group and recently started staying overnight so he can indulge in the socialization parts of the home school co-op (also known as 'hanging out on the square and loitering') which is very important at his age.

The point.

Is that between the cities of McKinney and Denton there are no less than half a dozen huge subdivisions just on the main highway.

Perhaps you're not quite understanding the import of that statement.

What I mean is that this area of the countryside is flat and almost tree-free till you get into Denton which is flat and full of planted and attractive trees. So on that trip over you've got a pretty clear view of...every damn thing from the Oklahoma state line down to DFW airport. Miles and miles and miles of nothing.


That in several places along Hwy 380 you can crane your neck as far to the left as humanly possible and see nothing but same-colored grey-brown shingled roof tops without any breaks in them- no trees or different colored shingles- it honestly looks like the surface of the moon, or a huge ant farm, or hell (at least my version of hell).

Start at the very firstest house you can see on that left side and slowly turn your head all the way till you can't turn it anymore to the right.

Sans the narrow ribbon of road you're driving on, there is no break in the rooftops. None. Honestly. It's horrifying.

And every rooftop sits on top of a house. Every house houses a family. Every family uses literally tons of water for washing, drinking, cooking, laundry, watering their little postage stamp sized lawns of mono-culture grass.

Now wonder why the huge aquifer that feeds the entire center of Texas (Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and all points in between) is RUNNING DRY. Wonder why there are huge blackouts every summer from those brown-roofed, closely crowded dark-bricked abodes all racking up their electric bills by dialing down their thermostats. Wonder why the hell each and every roof is not sporting solar panels and rainwater collection gutters.

And our boy wonders, "What the hell do those kids do for recreation in there?"

So we decided to find out.

The biggest of the subdivisions in that stretch is a monster called "Providence". There are strip malls and mini-hospitals and restaurants and gas stations squished up between the road and the houses devoted JUST to servicing the FIVE THOUSAND (and growing, the bill boards crow)residents that call "Providence" 'home'.

Frankly, that one scares the shit out of me and I'm kind of afraid that if we go in there we'll never, ever find our way out.

So we went up road a bit to the one that has the carefully manicured welcoming look of the classic schmoozy subdivision- still very big- big enough to have its own elementary school, adult clubhouse and water park. This one is planted with imported and braced palm trees, has many carefully dug ponds that are treated with something that keeps the water Sonic Blue Coconut Slush blue and is called "Savannah".

I shit you not.

Out in the center of brown treeless, 9 hours from the ocean grassland, they tried to duplicate Savannah. As in, Georgia.

We drove into Savannah. Savannah, Texas ya'll.

There are several sections of Savannah. Right up front are the ponds (with non-native ducks probably wing-clipped and paddle boats waiting at the docks) and the water park. Behind that is the club house and Hospitality Center.

We drove through several neighborhoods- from the 'cheap seats' smaller houses with little yards to the huge freaking stone-fronted (but vinyl or brick on the other 3 sides) 'mansions' on larger lots. The smaller houses actually had more charm and character and there were people outside walking dogs and working in their yards but you could still tell that folks were given 6 floorplans and a carefully non-clashing assortment of colors for the exteriors and told to 'make it your own individual home'.


We eventually found the school- a really nice one that most 'regular' neighborhoods would die for- behind some carefully tended 'wild green space'.

While the boy allowed that the cheap-seats houses were sort of cute and all the people out and about gave it a community feel, there was still something icky about it, and the more expensive parts with the bigger houses looked totally abandoned- there were no people outside of those houses.

And that while he loves our place in the country, and he may at one point or another opt to live in a totally urban area (because that's where all the action is, yanno. And it is. And we appreciate all of it) he cannot for the life of him figure out the appeal in the freaking subdivisions.

And it made my heart happy that (at least right now) my boy will not be lusting after and working for his own little brown-gray rooftop in the ant farm.

On our way out we stopped at the gas station next to the strip mall of restaurants and stores that services Savannah so I could take this photo of the subdivision next door. Before I saw this sign I would've told you that I could not think of a less sensible subdivision name for a north Texas stubble-field to be called than Savannah, but I would've been wrong.


Oh. And we still don't know what the kids in there do- the water park was deserted, the green wild areas were deserted, we saw exactly 4 pre-teen type boys sorta wandering around aimlessly, and in a wonderful juxtaposition of idiocy, the school is directly across the street from the 'active adult' (AKA "no kids allowed) neighborhood.

Maybe they're all at the beach I'm sure is in the subdivision next door...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When the Answer is the Problem

"In times like these, only our Faith will get us through".

Over and over again I hear that and have heard it my whole life- any time there's a terrible (fill in the blank) exploding and oozing with senseless violence and the harming of innocents almost before anyone realizes what's happened people start to say it

"In times like these, only our Faith will get us through".

And I tried. I tried to lean on my Faith, reach for my Faith, drown in my Faith enough to squelch the pain and dim the horror but it never happened.

It never happened because there was always a little voice in my heart that wouldn't let me close my eyes to the fact that for every one looking to their Faith as solace in terrible times

every one who had committed the atrocities seemed to have also pulled courage and boldness enough out of their Faith to follow through with seemingly super-human and super-villain actions.

And I can't help but think that turning to Faith is not what we need to do.

How about turning to each other?

How about keeping our eye on the people in front of us instead of to the sky and a supposed creator?

It may seem less grandiose to do something "for the good of society" or "because my neighbor needs help" than "for the glory of god" but seriously- society and our neighbors need us; I'm guessing god can fix his own shit.

I can't help but think that the blind Faith needed to set off a bomb, or start a fire, or begin shooting into unarmed crowds of human beings would not be quite as determined if the directive came from Steve, or Peggy, or Hamid and not from GOD or ALLAH.

If we were to take Faith completely out of the equation- the people of action would be less driven and fanatical and those witnessing it or experiencing it would be more apt to freaking actually help someone rather than fall onto their knees and ask GOD to do it.

My contention, then, is NOT

"In times like these, only our Faith will get us through"


"In times like these, only each other will get us through the evils that Faith has wrought".

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Of Painted Ponies and Elevator Buttons

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Remember that song? Joni Mitchell? It was going through my head for the last two days.

Ward had a few appointments in Houston yesterday, so we drove down Sunday evening and came home late last night.

Nothing unusual about that.

For the first time ever, Alec opted to stay at home.

That was weird.

The back seat was hella quiet and when we got to the hotel we stepped into the elevator and were stuck.

What to do now?

Neither one of us had pushed an elevator button for over a decade. Anyone who's a parent knows what I'm talking about.

Not gonna lie to you- being alone with my husband in a hotel room overnight had some definite perks.

And we were in contact with Alec via text.

And Alec was 50ft away from Joe's house if he needed help, so he wasn't ALONE alone.

The reason the song was going through my head.

Once we first walked through the doors of MD Anderson almost 6 years ago now, we became part of the circle.

The circular routine of scans, exams, surgeries, rechecks, rechecks rechecks, and repeat. Ward's had 6 surgeries in 6 years there and we've lost track of the number of scans and rechecks.

We have spent every single major holiday inside the walls of MD Anderson at least once.

When we first started going down there Alec was a mere child of 7.

He's now a young man of 13- taller than I am by almost a head; yea verily looking his 6'1" dad almost squarely in the eye.

The good thing- nay the GREAT thing is that they got the cancer first shot out of the box 6 years ago. Every other surgery and complication has been graft and now dental related (radiation causes teeth to fall out and jaws to deteriorate- who knew?)

Some have been routine.

Some have had mild detours like MRSA or severe hives or difficult to control bleeding.

One almost killed him.

But he's been cancer-free.

We had 3 appointments yesterday.

The first one with the dental surgeon (he's a month out from his oral surgery to remove the roots of 5 broken teeth and then 'smoothing the bone') went great. He's healing well and after a good cleaning of the remaining teeth they'll start working on getting him some partials so he can...chew.

The second appointment with the pain doctor was routine enough. "Is your pain level being kept under control by your current medication?" "Yes. Yes it is, thanks". "Ok- we'll leave your dosage where it is and see you in 6 months".

We had about an hour before the last appointment and we sat outside in the sunshine- there's a little garden tucked between the hospital, the parking garage and the street with benches and pigeons and lots of flowers.

The final appointment was with the dermatologist- the yearly 'nose to toes' check for any recurrence of the skin cancer that started this whole mess. Nothing.

"Lemme just check your lymph nodes and we'll be done".

"Wait. There's a lump here".

They're scheduling the CAT scan for next week.

And the painted ponies go up and down...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Irony at Its Finest

The Pledge of Allegiance
Wasn't perfect enough when it read
"One nation indivisible"
Those three words
Weren't powerful enough

So they insisted that
"Under God"
Be added.

Our nation's motto
Engraved on our money
And our hearts
"E Pluribus Unum"
"Out of many, One"
Wasn't meaningful enough

So they insisted that
"In God We Trust"
Replace it.

They scream "PERSECUTION"
Wailing and gnashing teeth
When asked to move their nativity scene
Off of the courthouse lawn
And across the street
To the church lawn.

They demand that laws be changed
Or written anew
Laws for our entire nation
Consisting of
People of many Faiths
(Or no Faith at all),
Based on their own
Holy book.

And now
They are supporting,
Urging and imploring that
States pass laws
Against Sharia Law
Becoming the law of the land.

Because how horrible that would be-
Being forced to behave in ways
That do not conform
To your own personal beliefs.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Just Another Day at the Office

Today is the 15th. In my world that means payroll. The 1st and the 15th are payroll, no matter the day of the week or holiday status- since our clinic is open nights, weekends and holidays (it's an animal emergency clinic) I figure the employees need to get paid on time whether or not they can take their checks to the bank right then.

It's a little thing that comes from my years as being lower down on the food chain.

Because now I'm about 4 links up from the bottom.

Another 796 to go...

Anyway, payroll takes about 30 minutes, give or take. This depends on if everyone remembered to use the time clock to clock in, then I don't have to manually add up hours. Also if there's no holiday involved, because then I have to separate regular from holiday and re-add. Whatever. Less than an hour, absolutely.

I tell folks I'll have payroll out by 3pm.

So I got here about 1:45- shoulda been no problem.

Plenty of time.

(let me insert that Joe was going to come into town, take me to late lunch and then to Home Depot to get some porch supplies for Ward and Alec to get started on tomorrow. I had told him I wasn't sure of when I'd be ready- I'd CALL HIM TO TELL HIM WHEN TO COME IN)

Logged onto Quickbooks (hereafter referred to as "the devil").

A little notice popped up- one I've seen a few times in the last month, reminding me that I've got till April 25th to renew my payroll services and till June 1st to update to "the devil" 2013 as my "the devil" 2010 will no longer be supported after that.

Plenty of time.

Got my timecards in order and proceeded to enter the first employee's info.

Strange. There were no taxes taken out.

A new little notice popped up saying, "We're sorry- your payroll subscription expired 3/13/13". That's that thing they were telling me I had till April 25th to renew. And they took out taxes both on 3/15 AND 4/1.

So I "click(ed) here for more info"

Said I needed up upgrade to Quickbooks 2013 to continue.

So I did.

For $199.

Said, "This download will take approximately 2 hours".


So I did some filing and some banking and other work-related stuff while waiting.

(Roughly 1/4 of the way through this- Joe showed up. He figured he'd just come on in and wait the few minutes it would be till I was ready. Fool.)

Two hours later, I was done. It said, "Please backup your files onto an external media before proceeding".

OK- smart. It takes me about 3 minutes to do the bookkeeper's backup every month.

45 minutes later...

"Congratulations! Now click "next" to install "the devil" 2013 onto your computer. This may take up to 20 minutes".


(At this point, Joe turned off his truck, which had been running right outside my office window. No stress or pressure THERE.)

"Welcome to "the devil" 2013! Do you want to see all the new ways we have made your life easier?"

No. No I did not. I had seen enough.

I opened the program, found the payroll stuff and entered the first employee's information.

There were no taxes taken out.

A little notice popped up saying, "We're sorry- your payroll subscription expired 3/13/13".

Oh, hell no.

(Joe made the almost-fatal mistake of poking his head in and asking me "How much longer, honey?")

So I called customer support, and waited on hold for 10 minutes after running the pressing numbers gauntlet.

Seems the credit card on file was declined. On accounta it was expired. So I gave them the new expiration date and asked how much this was going to be. $400.

I told him good luck with that.

Because even though there was plenty of money in the account, I'd just spent $199 upgrading to "the devil" 2013 and there's a limit of $500 day charges on a debit card and it was now 6:15pm and no one was at the bank to raise the limit for me.

The bold lettering indicates where I was perhaps speaking more loudly than usual into the phone.

So I took out my own damn debit card and paid the $400 so I could run the damn payroll.

And we got lunch at 7:45pm.

And it was delicious.

On the way home, I'll be getting a bottle of wine.

And a straw.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Please Raise My School Tax

So we were discussing public school, my home schooled boy and myself.

Alec's been home schooled his whole life- never stepped foot in a classroom.

We home school for many reasons, and none of them have to do with religion.

We home school because a class room cannot possibly provide ENOUGH world experiences for children to be immersed in- cultures, food, travels, people.

We home school because of Ward's many trips to MD Anderson Cancer Hospital- if Alec went to public school, I'd have to either choose to stay home with Alec and let Ward go to the hospital by himself (unacceptable), or leave Alec here to attend school while his dad is in the hospital (unacceptable).

We home school because we believe that with the overcrowding and stress on standardized tests built into the public school experience, that school has become more about training a work force- people used to going somewhere 5 days a week for 8 hours a day to obey someone they don't really respect telling them stuff they don't wanna hear or do- than about teaching students to question, to think, to form their own opinions.

We home school because Ward's on disability and I have flexible hours and the public school starts at 7:30am and we don't feel like dragging our asses out of bed to get him there on time. (JUST KIDDING- THAT ONE'S FOR MY FRIEND CATHY, THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL)

So we were discussing public school, my home schooled boy and myself.

Discussing how important it is- this public school.

How important that schools are there, and stocked properly with up to date equipment and books and teachers who are paid well and respected.

That I'm more than happy to pay school taxes even though we do not use the schools- we vote for every single school improvement in every single election.

I'm well aware that not every family is in a position temperamentally or economically to home school their children.

We're lucky.

So very lucky.

In so many ways.

Last weekend we spent with my friend Cathy the school principal and her husband Mark and the breakfast table discussion was about the children she sees every day in her school.

Children with homes that are lacking in anything remotely resembling stable or normal or secure.

Parents who are distracted by too much work, too many addictions, too little training in the most basic of parenting skills.

This is not a poverty-stricken area; this is solidly middle class territory.

Cathy and her staff spend hours of time and invest so much of their hearts into each and every student in their school, and I know they're not unique- these teachers and administrators and students.

They are legion. They are common. They are America.

So where would they go and what would happen to these children if there were no public schools?

What would happen to the little girl whose very strict mother told Cathy "Don't you praise her- she should do her homework because that's her job- it's not something special".

Cathy praises that girl every chance she gets.

What would happen to the little boy whose mother has no idea where he is, grade-wise because her current boyfriend takes care of the watching of the children.

The woman was clueless that Cathy cannot legally talk to the boyfriend about any of the children- he's not the father of any of them.

And I'm afraid- truly afraid thinking of these children with nowhere to go except home where they're strangled by neglect, pummeled by ignorance, suffocated in indifference.

As a home schooling mother, I'm supposed to (according to the unwritten code) rage about the evils of public schooling but I just can't.

I see my own boy and his home schooled friends- all confident and literate and at ease in the world around them and I'm so very proud.

I think about the children Cathy sees every day- children who have no 'normal' other than the stability and care they get at school.

As far as my family is concerned- my home schooling family- we want more money spent on public schools. We know that we're in the minority- and always will be. It's vitally important that our children's public-schooled peers are also well-educated, and critical thinkers and skeptics, filled with both joy and caution, who have a solid knowledge of technology and a love for the arts.

Because all children are the future, not just our own.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Frontal Lobe Confectionary

TV is chewing gum for the brain.

I like to say that I don't watch TV and for the most part that's true. No daytime TV, no afternoon soaps, no prime time TV (other than listening to Rachel and Chris in the background while Ward watches them).

I don't have time for it, don't see the point of it, have better things to do with the numbered moments I'm given here on earth.

But we all have our little routines, don't we?

At the end of a long day (they're all long, but it beats the alternative), I crave just a little wine weed chewing gum.

So I try to get to bed by 11 for my 2 hours of chewing gum- the first hour to calm me down and the 2nd hour to blow off whatever steam is left. I'm aware that there are other things we could do in bed that relax and relieve stress and we do those, too. Sometimes simultaneously. TMI? You were thinking it. You get what you think for.

The first hour I watch The Office. I dunno. I've honestly never even worked in a traditional office.

The second hour I flip it over to HGTV and watch House Hunters and House Hunters International.

I've always loved real estate and looking at houses. Always.

So it's neat to see the different properties, especially overseas to see what's considered 'normal living' over yonder.

But the real stress relief for me is screaming at the house hunters themselves.

Because they're absolutely and without fail the stupidest people alive. Seriously, I wonder sometimes how they manage to make it to the different properties fully clothed and without vehicular incident.

And they all have a list. Of things they absolutely must have. Which everyone has, no doubt- things like number of bedrooms, bathrooms, single or multi-level, type of neighborhood...

Oh, no.

One couple refused to look at a house unless it had a gas stove. Even if there was gas running to the house, if the stove was go.

Last night one couple walked into a very nice place that had all the things on their list. It all looked like a green light UNTIL they saw...(insert dramatic music)the wallpaper border. In one room. A pretty small room.

"Oh, no! I HATE wallpaper borders! I don't need to see anything more- this house is OFF the list!"

Honestly, I had my 'absolute non-starters' too, when we were looking at land. It had to have a natural source of water, trees, a minimum of collected trash piled in weird places (there was still the front of a pickup truck buried at the old place when we left) and not next door to a toxic waste dump (we passed on a beauty place that was actually next to a toxic waste dump).

But I gotta say, even if we WERE looking at houses instead of raw land, wallpaper borders would not have given me hives.

On accounta that shit peels right off.

The border, not the hives- those take about a week to go away.

Another thing the House Hunters can't abide is popcorn ceilings and carpeting. Actually I'm with 'em on those two.

A big deal is 'space'.

"What a great space!"

"I just can't get over how big this space is!"

"This is a workable space..."

What they are talking about is ROOMS, for cryin' out loud. Space is the thing between typed words and that big void holding stars and crap.

Houses have rooms.

Call them rooms.

Calling them 'spaces' is faux trendy and sophisticated. It's stupid.

Another thing I can never get over is that people seem to think bathrooms and closets need to be the size of garages. Why the hell does anyone need a bathroom that fits half a dozen people comfortably? Or a closet that's bigger than a guest bedroom? How much quality time are they spending on the toilet or in the shower and how much clothing/shoes do they need???

So our poor realtors schlep these couples around to a billion three houses.

And then they must choose one.


How can you see THREE houses and then choose? Even if you're not ruling out houses because of wallpaper border or stove hookups it takes looking at many places before you realize

a) unless you build your own, no house will have everything on your wish list and
b) at some point you need to compromise and get on with life.

And yet, this show takes outrageously immature and bizarre-thinking couples, shows them three houses and then says, "OK- pick one house that you will then sign your life away for- and do it by the end of the show".

No pressure there.

By the time they've seen all three houses, I've gotten a feel for what they're looking for and they've even given subtle hints like, "I don't think I could live with this tiny bathroom" or "We really wanted three bedrooms and this house has only one" or "I absolutely LOVE this kitchen" or "This yard is AWESOME! I've always wanted a big covered deck!" that make me know which house would be the best fit for them.

Their first step is eliminating one house.

Invariably, they choose the house that I thought suited them best to eliminate.

That's when the screaming starts. From me. The dogs hate that part. They need their beauty sleep.

The end of the show has our happy couple settling into the house that they both hated in the beginning, while the house they both loved waits for a different owner to come along.

I spit out my mental chewing gum and turn out the lights.

If the windows are open, the sound of the crickets and frogs wafts into the house and I take a deep breath.

We go through the last of the day's routine- Smidgeon gets evicted from the pillow between my head and Ward's, I snuggle in right next to Ward and Fizzgig leans tightly against my tummy while Smigeon curls into the bend of Ward's legs.

Sissy snores on her blanket.

And I say fuzzily as I drift off to sleep, "If the worst thing that happens to that chick on House Hunters is that there's fucking wallpaper border to peel off of a wall, god bless her".

"No shit", says Ward.

And we inch even closer to each other, knowing from experience after awful life-threatening experience what really matters.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cutting Out the Middle Man

So there is this heartwarming little thing floating around the interwebs- something that supposedly shows us how good god is and how he works through people in wonderful ways.

The story goes that the author pulled into a gas station and noticed the man standing at the pump next to her was crying- he was wearing flip flops and no coat in a Minnesota winter and his wife and daughters were huddled in their old car. She asks him what's wrong and he says, "I'm so ashamed I can't provide for my family". So she slides her debit card in his pump and tells him to fill up. Of course she also says something like, "Jesus died for you". Whatever the hell relevance THAT has with this man's plight. Make him feel guiltier?


She then tells him that her entire car is loaded with stuff that she's taking to goodwill and her wife and daughters should just come take what they want to. And they do.

Seeing all this, other people step forward and give stuff to them, too- money and gift cards (?) and other stuff.

This is supposedly proof of god's greatness and how he works in wonderful and mysterious ways.


What if?

What if it had been me? Because I've done shit like that. Actually I've done lots of shit like that.

I just don't post it on the interwebs in a thinly veiled "Lookit what a great Christian I am" way.

And if anyone ever does notice or say something I get really pissed when they say things like, "You're really going to be rewarded in heaven", or, "God will bless you for your kindness".

Because I'm like most evil heathenous non-believers.

I do compassionate shit because it's the right thing to do, not because I wanna have the most gold stars on god's score card and/or am fearful of eternal damnation if I misbehave.

I do it because people have helped ME when I could never ever repay them. Some have been Christians, more often they haven't been.

I do it because it's the HUMAN thing to do- helping other HUMANS because we're all, yanno...the same species.

Was the help I received from non-believers of an inferior quality? Did it mean any less? To me? To them?

Is the help I offer somehow tainted because it's coming from me rather than a Christian?

I have yet to have that help turned down...even FROM Christians. Perhaps they accept it and tell themselves that I'm sort of a closeted believer. Deep down I really truly still am a good Lutheran girl from Wisconsin.

Sorry, Dorothy. I'm not.

I believe that humans are inherently good. That we ARE supposed to help each other because we're a social species and because bad things just randomly happen and that at some point we all need help.

I do not believe in the Middle Man.

I've cut him totally out of any equation in my life.

Am I angry at god? Nope. To be angry at something you have to believe in it first.

Am I thankful for my life and for my family and home and all the wonderful things in front of me? Of course I am. I'm lucky. And I cherish every good thing and person around me.

Not because I need to behave in a certain way or it'll all vanish at the whim of some jealous, really strict and punitive father-figure god.

But because bad shit, stupid shit, unbelievably unfair shit happens all the time to everybody- believers and non-believers both.

Believers need to believe that there's some order to it, some system of punishment/reward, some sense to be made of the randomness of existing.

That if there's no rhyme or reason, the world becomes a terrifying place filled with evil and violence and desolation and depression. If there's no rhyme or reason- no magic words or rituals- then everyone is vulnerable.

That's reason to despair and give up, right?

On the contrary. Once I realized that it's ALL random and there is no rhyme or reason I was able to focus on what really matters- the other people in my life, my society, my planet, my country, my existence. On being able to concentrate on making things better because it's the right thing to do- before I get recycled like every organic life form does, to leave this place better than when I got here.

Everything good becomes more precious not because it's a gift from god or done in his glory, but precisely because it's not.

Do I go to work, pay my bills, did we save and scrimp and bleed for the things we have on this Earth? Yes. Yes we did. But bad shit still happened to us. And it's not because we don't believe in god- I see the same shit happening to believers- the exact same things or worse.

The woman at the gas station did a good thing. So did those around her. They were there at the right time to help out a family who needed help.

Why bring god into it at all?

Why is it so impossible to believe that people will do good things all on their own? Why is it believable that without god's invisible finger nudging us all to do good works and away from 'sin' that we'd all just run around nekkid and murdering and raping and killing babies?

The lesson to take away from this story is NOT "God is so wonderful", as the author claims.

The lesson is "Keep your eyes and ears open and help each other without expectation of reward or repayment". Yanno- be Human.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In the Blink of An Eye

'Round about the time I turned 40, I realized that I really am on the downhill slide from birth to death.

I wasn't really too bothered then- women in our family live ridiculously long lives, so I figured at 40 I wasn't even to the halfway point. But still.

Even now, more than a decade later I hardly ever think about it.

But sometimes...

Sometimes I wake up in the morning with an acute sense of urgency. Even after I pee.

I look at the clock and think, "It's 7am. I have 16 hours in which to do everything I need to accomplish this day, because it'll never be back. Once I close my eyes tonight today will be gone forever".

I think about that a lot. Not always or obsessively, but often and sporadically.

This day, this time, this moment? When I blink my eyes it'll be lost.

And I'll never get it back. Ever.

I feel keenly and to the point of physical pain that my days and hours are numbered.

And the clock never stops.

I've had to learn the difference between 'busyness' and 'progress', between 'bullshit' and 'important'.

Watching most anything on TV is 'busyness'. Most reading is 'progress'.

Time spent criticizing my family and friends and employees is 'bullshit'. Time spent appreciating them and loving them is 'important'.

Shopping is 'busyness'. Trips to any museum are 'progress'.

Impatience is 'bullshit'. Compassion is 'important'.

Even though I've learned the differences, it still takes concentration and dedication to practice what I've learned.

Every single day.

We've all heard "Don't go to bed angry" and "Tell people you love them because you might not get another chance".

One of my favorites is "No one ever said on their deathbed 'I wish I had spent more time at work'".

I'm busy.

Terminally, sometimes exhaustingly busy.

I think I've weeded out most of the useless busyness and bullshit already, but it still seems that there's never enough time, never enough of me to go around where I'm needed and more importantly where I'm wanted.

I'm surrounded by the most amazing people- people I love, people I live with, people I work with.

Around me is the most breathtaking beauty from the smallest wildflower to the most lavish sunset.

My days here are numbered.

I can feel the seconds counting down with every beat of my heart.

Not all the time.

It's like being aware of your tongue.

Once you think of it, you can't stop feeling it right there and you curse the person who mentioned it (you're welcome).

But you stop thinking about it without even thinking about stopping thinking about it.

And life goes on.

Your tongue retreats back into its life of quiet anonymity.

The days pass one after the other- sun rise sun set sun rise sun set like it'll never end.

Because it won't end.

Only we will.

In the blink of an eye.