Posted in choices

Tired of excuses

blogexcusesIt’s Thursday.  Page three already in Chapter 11 in my Opportunity book.  And you know what?

I can’t wait for Friday!  I cannot wait for this week to be over.   I’m not usually one to wish my week away, but this week…..yeah, so ready for it to be over.

You want to know why?  Several things actually have contributed to my crankiness but there is only one source.  People.  That about sums it up.  So if you arrived at my blog expecting to find something lighthearted or heartwarming today, you might want to stop reading now.  You can go ahead and click out of here, I won’t know and I won’t hold it against you.

Today I’m tired of being irritated and I’m going to vent.  And I’m not making any excuses for it.

My fellow human beings can truly be annoying.  My fellow human beings can be extremely disappointing.  My fellow human beings have the ability to irritate me, anger me, and make me want to throw up my hands in disgust and say, “That’s it.  I’m done with that.”

Why is it that when someone has done something oh, so very wrong, excuses are made for their behavior?  Pick one:

  • “He’s just a product of his poor upbringing.”
  • “She doesn’t know any better.”
  • “He has issues that make him feel uncomfortable.”
  • “She comes from a very disadvantaged family.”
  • “His problem is [insert whatever here].  That’s why he can’t control his behavior.”

You know what I hear when I hear these explanations?  Excuses.

So what is the excuse for someone to willingly prowl up and down a city street in the darkness to deliberately slash parked automobile tires for a Halloween “prank?”  This happened to oldest daughter’s car this week.  And the culprits, who will never be brought to justice, didn’t just slice one of her car tires but three and dozens of other cars were damaged as well.

What is the excuse for being completely disrespectful and defiant to someone trying to help you?  This happened to me somewhere this week, but I’m not able to share the details.

What is the excuse for stealing someone’s credit card number and running up huge purchases on that person’s card?  This happened to my middle daughter and a friend of ours.

What is the excuse for two teenage girls getting into an argument on a social media network which escalated into physically mauling one another?  This happened this week and was reported on the news.

What is the excuse for road rage?  Or harassment?  Or physical abuse?  Or theft?  Or murder?  Turn on your television, your computer or read your newspaper and more than likely, those things have happened in your neck of the woods this week.

There are no excuses.   We all make our own choices.  And we need to take responsibility for our actions.

I’m reminded of a movie from a few years ago, The Pursuit of Happyness, based on the real-life story of Chris Gardner.  According to his autobiography, Gardner’s childhood entailed poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and family illiteracy. Even though he never knew his father, lived in foster homes from time to time, he was determined to not let his disadvantaged upbringing define who he was.  He knew that “in spite of where he came from, he could chart another path and attain whatever goals he set for himself.”

After a stint in the Navy, he found a job, married and had a child.  But his wife abandoned him and his son when their finances took a turn for the worse.  He ended up as a single dad, broke, with no job and homeless.

Did he make excuses for the turn his life took?  No.  He did what he had to do for his son and himself to survive even when that meant eating in soup kitchens and sleeping in public restrooms and worked hard to learn as much as he could about a profession he dreamed of entering.  He persevered until he landed his dream job as a broker without a college degree, limited experience and no connections.  And he didn’t blame his circumstances on excuses.

No excuses.  I like the sound of that.

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” ~ Benjamin Franklin


Posted in family, grief, memories, nostalgia

Mystery man, I hardly knew you

The only picture I have of this uncle
The only picture I have of this uncle

His real name was Arnold, but he answered to other names.  Some people called him Jim, some named him Skis, but I never knew why.   He was different, a little odd – definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer than most folks.

As far as I know, he never drove a car.  For certain, he didn’t own one.  Instead he walked everywhere he went or hitched a ride with someone.  He never married.  He stayed with relatives and for only a short time had a place of his own.

I don’t know what jobs he ever held, if any.  I suspect he just took odd jobs here and there whenever someone offered him some honest way to make a little cash.  He never had much money, which was evident.

He didn’t have many words to say either.  Every once in a while, he’d mutter something that you’d have to really strain to hear.  You couldn’t tell what he was thinking or feeling because for the most part he guarded his thoughts and words, probably because he had been ridiculed on one too many occasions.

He was a mystery to me.  Part of me was a tiny bit afraid of him, yet part of me wanted to get to know this strange man.  He was my uncle, my father’s older brother.

By the time I was born, he was middle-aged, but I always thought of him as an old man.  Many years ago, he passed away, but for some reason, this eccentric relative crosses my mind lately.

My husband and I lived in another state when my parents called to tell me that this uncle had died.   I don’t imagine many people  – other than a few relatives – attended the viewing or funeral.  My uncle didn’t appear to have friends.  Living so far away, I couldn’t attend either, and after the phone call announcing Uncle’s death, I felt like weeping.

Weeping for a man who no one, including me, really knew…or understood…or took the time to know or understand.  And that made me incredibly sad.

My family alluded to his being a little “off,” maybe a mental illness or a nervous breakdown, but I never knew the real story.  He often just showed up at our house unannounced, never strayed beyond the kitchen, never accepted the invitation to sit on the good furniture in the living room.

He’d only sit in a kitchen chair a few minutes, then jump up, pace back and forth, jingle coins in his pants pocket, look out the kitchen door, and then mumble, “See you” and he’d depart.  My mother, who treated him kindly but found him exasperating sometimes, would shake her head after he left, say “That man’s too nervous,” and continue whatever she was doing.

Sometimes he appeared at the kitchen door holding out in silent offering a honey comb from the bees that he kept.  I know he had discussions with my father, his younger brother, but for the life of me, I can’t remember one thing they ever talked about around our kitchen table.

A few vivid memories of Uncle from my childhood linger in my mind.  A tiny trickle of water ran through a marshy area on our property with weeds, cat tails, and reeds growing around it then into a culvert under the road.  In the spring, the little stream rushed with extra water from melting snows and rain.

I loved launching little plastic toy boats into the upper part of the steam and watching them sail under the road into our neighbor’s yard.   One day, shod in my rubber boots, I trampled through the weeds to find the perfect spot to set a boat adrift.   Uncle showed up, asked me what I was doing and growled, “You better watch out for copperheads.”

Snakes?  The thought had never occurred to me, let alone poisonous ones.  I gingerly picked up my boat, recoiled from the swampy area, and marched back inside, a little angry that he had spoiled my fun.   My 10-year-old mind was divided about his warning.  Part of me wanted to call him a silly old fool, but part of me believed him and thought he was looking out for my safety.

Another memory I harbor is of Uncle watching my father take pictures with his movie camera.   One spring the huge lilac bush in our back yard was lush with fragrant blooms. Dad grabbed the camera to take pictures and told me to get in the shot too.

As soon as I moved to the bush, Uncle bent a branch down low and near to me so blossoming flowers would be in the picture with me.  But he didn’t want my father to take his picture, just like the reclusive uncle not wanting to be noticed.   And I realize today that I have only one picture of this uncle when he was a young man.

My parents and I lived in what once was my paternal grandparents’ house.  When I was growing up, Uncle lived much of the time with his oldest brother, another of my uncles, whose home had a perfect view of ours.  Uncle seemed drawn back to his childhood abode – our house – but never visited us for very long.

I often wonder if Uncle just couldn’t bring himself to stay long in our house because all the memories of childhood and particularly his deceased family overwhelmed him.  As a toddler, he lost a brother to leukemia.  His father, my grandfather, died when Uncle was eight.  His only sister succumbed to cancer.   Uncle lived with my grandmother until she passed away, and then middle-aged Uncle was basically left alone.

I know he didn’t deal well with death because I witnessed that first-hand.   Uncle stayed with his elderly aunt and uncle from time to time, who lost their home to a fire.   A few years later,  his aunt – my great-aunt – passed away.   It was summer and I was home from college at the time.  My uncle showed up at our house, plopped down at the kitchen table, and did something he rarely did.

He looked straight at me and asked a question, “Are you going to town today?”

I looked back at him, noticed his weepy-looking eyes and answered hesitantly,  “Noooo…I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Okay,” he answered, jumping up and starting for the kitchen door.

“Wait a minute,” I stopped him.  “Do you need something?”  I felt really sorry for him for some reason.

“I just wondered if you’d get me a new white shirt to wear to the funeral home,” he replied. “But never mind.”

I was actually impressed that he wanted to look presentable to go to Great Aunt’s viewing, so I told him I would run his errand for him.  Did he want to go along?  A brief look of panic crossed his face as he pressed some money into my hand, muttered his shirt size, and darted out the door.

That evening, looking uncomfortable in his stiff, new white shirt and tie, Uncle sat alone in a corner of a far room at the funeral home.  No one really seemed to notice him; no one seemed to care to speak with him.

I quietly sat down beside him, noticed he looked upset, and asked if he was all right.  He nodded his head yes, then hung his head and that’s when I noticed huge, quiet tears streaming down his face.   It occurred to me that when Great Aunt died, he again lost one of the few people who probably were ever kind to him, one of the people he loved.

Because of his odd ways, people tended to shun him.   And I was just as guilty as they were.  But that evening was a turning point for me because that’s when I began to view this strange uncle as a real person with real hurts, fears, and the capacity to love.  And I wept there with him, not so much for Great Aunt but for him.  Years later, I again wept when Uncle left this world alone.

Even now, 30 plus years after his death, tears well up in my eyes as I think of this misunderstood uncle, lost in the world’s shuffle, that few people may even remember.  Today I wish I had taken the time to really explore his life, ask him questions, and try to understand him.

Opportunities present themselves to us every day, often we just aren’t wise enough to embrace them at the time.  When we realize we missed the chance to touch someone’s life in a positive way, it’s too late to make amends.

On this beautiful day, Page 18, Chapter 8, in my life’s book of Opportunity, I remember you, Uncle, but you’ll always be a mystery to me.

© 2011

Posted in Life

Why is appropriate attire so foreign?

Scanoldfam2“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”  ~ Leslie Poles Hartley quotes (English Writer, 1895-1972)

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for some time now, you probably realize I love quotes.

This oddity stems from my fondness for the written word and when I find a quote that ‘speaks’ to me, I squirrel it away in my trusty quotes notebook like a treasured nut for winter’s sustenance.

Then at the appropriate time, that quote lends itself well to thoughts I may be pondering.

I’ve stewed over one idea for the past few weeks.  This particular notion presented itself when hubby I ventured into the city and it has retained a spot on my “Things to Blog About” list, but I just couldn’t find a handle to hang it on until I discovered the above mentioned quote today.

I’m reminded more and more that the past really IS like a foreign country.  All I must do to witness this is visit a public place – a school, a church, a store – or drive down the streets of the nearest city.

When I was younger, the majority of people dressed up in their nicest clothes and made themselves look presentable to go out into public.  They wore their “Sunday best” to church, weddings, funerals, shopping, even the doctor’s office, and especially if they were visiting the city.

I vividly recall one day when I was a college student, a friend and I planned a shopping day downtown in our nearest large metropolis.   As I was leaving my parents’ home, my father, who traveled there often for meetings related to his work, asked me with a hint of disdain in his voice, “Is THAT what you’re wearing?”

I thought I looked presentable in my bell-bottom slacks with a cute sleeveless summery shirt and my wedged platform sandals.  Dad thought differently.

This was a man who dressed himself in a suit, shirt, tie and hat for work every single day even in summer’s heat.  My attire, he informed me, was not suitable for the city.   And he was correct.

I was stubborn and refused to change, but after my friend and I stepped off the bus onto the hustle and bustle of the city streets, I realized for myself how grossly under-dressed I was.  Everyone was outfitted in very nice clothes and I felt self-conscious about the way I looked.

By today’s standards though, I would probably have looked dressed up. Recently, hubby and I drove to our metro area on a week day, a work day.   I didn’t see many men walking along downtown dressed in suits, let alone ties.  Women weren’t “dressed for success” either.

Almost everyone was casually attired and some were dressed inexcusably inappropriately with body parts and/or under garments exposed.

I couldn’t help thinking that my dad would have been appalled to see so many slobs in this downtown city, where he would not have been caught dead without his hat.

While hubby and I discussed this ‘trend,’ he recalled traveling on a field trip to Washington, DC when he was in elementary school.   His mother made him wear a suit and tie because that was just good form back then.

He was, after all, visiting our nation’s capital and should be dressed respectfully.  He still remembers a couple of classmates, clothed in regular pants and shirts with sweaters, calling him “Senator” because of the way he was attired.

Both he and I grew up during a time when people wore their best clothes when going out in public, not like they just rolled out of bed and were wearing clothes in which they slept.   We also grew up in the thick of tumultuous change – the 60’s – and were in college and a young married couple in the 70’s.  So we embraced the new freedom of style, but we still managed to understand dressing appropriately and to teach that concept to our children.   Now, anything goes.

Before you call me an old fuddy-duddy, let me firmly state I don’t believe we should live in the past.  There were definitely customs and ideas of the past that we gratefully put behind us, but I must ask why people prefer to dress like slobs today.

I don’t know if it’s just that society in general has become so casual about everything or whether people have just become more lazy and slovenly.   Do they really not know any better? Or is it that people just don’t have respect for anything any more, not even themselves?

I wonder this when I attend a lovely formal church wedding (not in an outdoor setting) and notice not only men without suits or ties, but men clad in shorts.   I wonder this when I witness middle-aged women attired in Daisy Duke shorts and revealing tops.   I wonder this when I catch a glimpse of a person in t-shirt and jeans enter a funeral home to pay ‘respect’ to one who has passed away.

And I shake my head in amazement why people want to be seen in public like that.

I realize I’ve just delivered a bit of a rant, but on this 4th page, Chapter 6, in my book called Opportunity, I’m seriously wondering am I just a foreigner in this different age?  Tell me what you think.

Copyright ©2011