Mothers Day / Fathers Day And Commentary

Mother’s Day was started by a woman named Anna Jarvis, one of 13 children in her family. (For grammarians, Anna was insistent on the singular possessive form of the holiday, indicating that the celebration should be specific to each family – and not a celebration of all mothers in general.) Anna’s mother had founded an effort during the Civil War to get mothers on both sides of the conflict to foster peace, a movement she called the Mothers Friendship Day. After Anna’s mother died, to get Mother’s Day celebrated, Anna incorporated a business, as well as trademarked certain words and phrases to keep others from using it. Anna became increasingly agitated over the crass commercialization of the holiday. When the candy, card, and flower industry appropriated and then changed her traditional emblems, she fought against it. Unlike everyone else, she didn’t profit from the holiday and was relatively poor when she died. (No one told her that her stay at the place she died at was paid for by a group of florists.)

Anna wanted Mother’s Day to “to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She fought to get people to stop buying flowers, cards, and candy. She referred to these industries as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.” Anna thought that you should go see your mother and spend time with or write her a sentimental letter. As she said:  “A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.” And “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card.” Anna worked as hard to abolish the holiday as she had to get it started and celebrated, so angry and reviled by the commercialization of the holiday.

Fathers Day is widely credited to a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, an Arkansas living in Spokane, Washington. (Her own mother died when she 16, giving birth to her 6th child.) She initially got the idea after hearing about Mothers Day. Sonora originally wanted the holiday to be celebrated on her dad’s birthday, but local ministers didn’t have time to prepare their sermons and thus agreed on the 3rd Sunday of June. When Sonora moved to Chicago to attend art school, the holiday faded. She returned to Spokane and then revived the holiday. From several sources, I’ve learned that the holiday was very much resisted by most people, as it was considered to be a crass ‘cash-in’ on the Mothers Day holiday. There are a lot of satirical words and pictures on the internet about it, if you are interested. Even Congress feared it would become nothing more than a commercialized observance. (For the grammarians among us, Sonora wanted the day to be titled “Fathers’ Day,” but due to previous bills, the apostrophe was placed before the ‘s’ in the name.)

If you are interested, please google and read some of the links. Like most history, what lies beneath, behind, and sometimes out in the open is much more interesting than what we commonly know.

Since this blog is supposed to be about my opinion, you probably can guess my general attitude about such holidays. I’m in agreement with those who scoffed at the ‘necessity’ of a Mother’s Day. Again, though, I’m not preaching to those who feel the emotions that the day was supposed to have elicited. As the creator of the day learned, nothing is sacred and commerce trumps what lies in the heart. While not everyone who honors their mothers succumbs to the superficial meaninglessness, many do, and we all suffer from the relentless commercial obligation of it all. It creates a societal pull of guilt and artificial inclination to do and say things that aren’t spontaneous, true, and authentic. I’ve never understood the need to adhere to a nationally-agreed upon day of honor for any person or group in my life. Those who love me and those whom I love and value know that this is the case. If it were my decision, all such holidays would fall to the wayside, with the emphasis being placed on interpersonal appreciation during our daily lives. Everyone would be encouraged to express their respect and acknowledgement of those in their lives – without the expectation that such expression could be warehoused and shared on a pre-arranged day.Collective observance would be a relic of the past.

If I were to have had children, instead of encouraging them to participate in Mother’s Day, I would have instead talked to them about the importance of not waiting to surprise someone with words of love, shared time together, or a heartfelt gift, one given at the time the urge to express overcame them. It is too easy to be molded by incessant commercialization or to put off expressing what you should express often and at your own prompting. I would also encourage my children to ignore the precepts of Father’s Day and instead surprise me some other time. We would make a game of rebellion. (On the hand, I had mercy on my imaginary children by not having them at all. Not everyone should have them and genetics and/or environment have proven this to be all too true with my family tree and genetic lottery.)

In general, I have the same attitude about almost all modern holidays. The things I find meaningful in these holidays are not the same as what most people find worthwhile. There are few days that pass me wherein I am not thankful, not only because time and circumstance have chosen to allow me to continue walking the earth, but also because I have a good life with some great people in it. I am always more welcoming of shared time and eating, even if the turkey is disguised as pizza and the wine is cheap stuff from the bargain bin at the store. We too often focus on the pomp and pageantry, when the spirit of the occasion lies within each person smiling, laughing and celebrating. We sometimes salute the flag without taking the necessary time to learn of our shared culture and history, for it is a more honorable thing to learn about the circumstances of our country and its reasons for sending people to fight for it than it is to salute in general to idea of patriotism. We sometimes take too much time to go to church and sing our hymns, instead of stopping to help someone who needs it.

Holidays need their spontaneity and meaning in every regard.

 

 

Life’s Angry Residue

Who specifically I’m referring to in this post isn’t the issue. No one will ever know unless the people involved decide that I’m talking about them. Anyone reading this might as well assume it is a work of fiction, especially since I’m often accused of living in a fantasy world, or of egregious exaggeration. 🙂

I recently practiced sentimental minimalism and it was much more difficult. This time, I was trying to eradicate vestiges of archived anger. This archive contained recorded voicemails, texts, and emails from people whose intention was to seed anger in my mind. Sadly, much of the intent was successful. Some of the effort came close to dragging me into seemingly infinite pits of negativity. There were a couple of points last year that got the best of me.

To listen once again to some of the insanity and read some of the written poison was worse than I expected. It reminded me again of how vicious people can be, especially when their pride is at stake, or when someone insists that another person treat them with respect or stay out of their lives. It was quite the task to recall being accused of some of the stupidity I had been accused of. I don’t blame some of the behavior, though, as I wouldn’t have wanted to accept responsibility for some of those words, both written and spoken, had I authored them. It was easier for them to vilify me than to simply stop bothering me. I get that. It’s the stalker’s mentality of being righteously right – and of getting the last word.

Most of the threats and profanity weren’t even interesting; rather, it was the garden variety stupidity that life tends to dole out with much greater frequency than the interesting type of hate that I find more interesting. (Most of it, too, falls into the category of: “You horrible person! I’m a great person, though. I am going to kill you because of how you acted or what you said. Meanwhile, please allow me to poison your eyes and ears with foul words and language.” The people spouting this nonsense rarely stop to think of just how stupid and crazy they sound when they talk like this!)

If you are more or less normal and reading this, I know you don’t understand how abnormal of a thing I’m describing. I’m not talking about someone you know or love being upset with you for your views on politics or for being late to Thanksgiving dinner. No, I’m describing situations where someone close to you calls or writes and vividly describes how you are going to be killed, or your house set on fire, and how your life is going to be ruined, including all the well-planned details to accompany the threat. Over and over. Normal people rarely need to contend with this level of idiocy and anger.

Since this blog should at least hint at my life, I have to admit that some of it was leftover from someone close. Especially with the audio content, some of the things that were said gave me chills. The anger in that stuff was beyond normal behavior. Some of it lingered in my digital life because I just couldn’t quite get past the idea that I might need to preserve some evidence of how mean they could be. As always, I’m not writing here to ruin anyone’s legacy. Like anyone else, they did good in the world. But the cloud of the misbehavior is more indicative of her true legacy, at least in terms of me. Nothing good comes of me being needlessly harsh toward another person – but it is also true that no good comes from trying to maintain a falsehood of someone’s life, or one not tortured by alcohol.While I haven’t deleted all of the craziness, I rid myself of 95%. In the years to come, it won’t be my opinion which determines someone’s legacy. It will be the collective anecdotes of everyone who knew them, both good and bad. My opinion weighs very little in the balance.

For the very few who have read and listened to some of the things that I had archived and just couldn’t get rid of, the sheer shock and surprise was apparent. I wanted them to see this person with my eyes and ears and a get a glimpse based on evidence, rather than just my word, of the level of evil that could come from people.

I try to delete this stuff with the idea that if I die without notice, the people I love won’t have to weed through the craziness and need to focus on it. It tends to stain everyone it touches, regardless of who is “right.” Those who are close to me know well what was said and done and what my motivations were. Everyone else can and will freely be revisionists to history.I know that if I were to die unexpectedly, there would be a lot of anger from some people about their inability to change history, or at least to change the minds of people who experienced some of that toxic stupidity with me.

The same is true of another family member. Reading some of the anger sent to me in the past was an error on my part. It should have been deleted almost immediately. Unfortunately, some of it had to be kept in case of legal action, which sounds crazy when I write it out like that. I can’t quite get my mind to accept that someone can be so angry that they would actually send some of that anger to another person. But I’m not surprised, given that the vitriol was over years and not limited to single outbursts. That’s a pattern and such long-term anger needs to be met with caution.

As for the last paragraph, it was difficult to let go of the attempt to control how this person had infected people’s opinions of me. The angry person had no choice except to reframe the problem and get attention away from their own life. I was acting in good faith and had attempted to calmly get the person to stop spewing anger – at least toward me. I failed. And at the end of the ordeal, at least in some people’s eyes, I was the villain.That’s the way life is and probably always will be. It’s up to time and friends to watch everyone’s life and to use what they say and do as a litmus to determine who has been lying and spreading dissent and hatred.

Ridding oneself of sentimental baggage is still one of the hardest minimalism challenges for many of us. It’s one thing to get rid of our four extra George Foreman grills or Reader’s Digest condensed books, quite another to trash powerful emotional residue.  I have looked at a couple of my archives over the last year and was simply unable to delete them entirely- even though just looking at it added misery to my life. Digital stuff can be just as depleting as piles of old hangers in one’s closet. It doesn’t enhance your life or make you happier – and it crowds out the “new”in one’s life. One thing I could do was to minimize the volume by writing a synopsis and having it notarized. Some day soon I will discard that, too.

I love photos, but hate photography. Another digital leftover were hundreds of pictures of an old friendship. I was close to someone who lashed out in anger and told me to go fly a kite. While I kept a very few pictures of our shared times, I finally was able to delete almost all of the pictures from that time. It wasn’t easy, but I felt better about it after all the photos and backups were gone.I was hoarding my past, or trying to. It’s difficult enough to keep one’s mind trained and focused without veering off into neurosis without adding constant reminders in the form of pictures, emails, texts or voicemails.

 

 

Colors? Normal? There Are No Real Rules

I’ve written several different ways about our tendency to choose the visually boring, usually due to a misguided belief that ‘normal’ is a real thing or that another person’s aesthetic should set our standard for us. Some of it is our growing expectation of perfection, which is laughable to me. Chaos and entropy always get the veto in our lives, yet we tread on this planet as if they don’t. Concepts of beauty, style and even art evolve. No matter how much you strive for ‘the look,’ your clothes, houses, cars and hair will all fall from fashion.

Sometimes, bland is easier, but sometimes it isn’t. We have to exert more effort to make things look ‘normal’ or ‘appealing,’ instead of allowing the different style to flourish. Just as I think that a broken voice is usually more interesting to hear, I think we lose much of our individuality through adherence to imagined rules about what looks good.

Whether it is the dark blue paint on our bathroom walls, a metal ceiling in the bathroom, wood trim made from abandoned tree limbs (and then painted yellow), shoes deliberately mismatched, or clothing of multiple colors, I think we do ourselves a disservice.

Occasionally, I’ll have an insight wherein I realize that I have once again drifted away from interesting for no other reason than to look ‘normal.’ This word almost universally translates into boring and without creativity.

Our tombstones should be distinct, without symmetry. The cars we drive should be as differentiated as wildflowers and the colors we choose should be infinite.   But somehow we persist in painting the world in that horrible shade of “Desert Tan.” Blah.

 

Irrelevant Blog Post Title Goes Here

“Propaganda masked as news, ignorance disguised as politics & greed dismissed as capitalism are the woes that plague us.” – Internet

“It is no accident that those who scream the loudest for you to speak only when you have something positive to say are usually the ones with the most interest in keeping you quiet.” -x

“Once you’ve stood on the shore of a vast ocean, you have no need to smell the pond.” -x

Pro-Choice

As an avowed liberal, it should come as no surprise that I am pro-choice.

Having said that, I don’t like the horrid labels of “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”

We are either for abortion (whether we are totally in agreement or not) or against it.

Stop clouding the subject with misleading political speech. Stop trying to control the negativity that comes with either opinion.

Abortion is a terrible choice. I find it hard to imagine that people take the choice lightly.

It’s easy to judge people, isn’t it?

I wish that the conservative crowd would also FUND an alternative whereby anyone who would forego an abortion would be provided for during their pregnancy, as well as having an adoption arranged. A true alternative, rather than rhetoric.

What I find most interesting is that absent a disaster, we will one day control every aspect of procreating. I’m convinced of it, based on an optimistic view of humanity’s ability to survive.

From the internet: “Abortion is another issue that gets conservatives all worked up. Look, no one likes abortion. I’m pro-choice but I’m not a fan of abortion. I am, however, a supporter of giving women the right to choose what it is they want to do with their own body. Would God agree with abortion? I sure as heck don’t know. But guess what? Neither do Republicans. There’s not a single person on this planet with a direct link to God, getting play-by-play analysis of what is and isn’t right.”

Resolved: Leaving Inappropriate Drinkers In the Closet

Unlike many people, I hold the belief that alcoholics don’t say things they don’t mean when drunk. Rather, they says things that they otherwise couldn’t say. Alcohol removes one’s inhibitions. If Mel Gibson decides to rant when questioned by police, it is likely that he holds a secret in a bigoted corner of his mind. Alcohol didn’t mix up the crazy batch of ideas in his head – it uncaged them and convinced him to let them fly.

I have no problem with light-hearted, good-natured drinking on a very infrequent basis. But to expect me to willingly tolerate much of it is an abuse on me. Most people who have drink excessively simply don’t see themselves as behaving like baboon asses. The alcohol convinces them of their wittiness, intelligence and social popularity.

Most of the time, I just can’t stand being around people drinking. It has caused me problems throughout my life to be increasingly unable to be around it. It had led to countless fights, gunshots and broken relationships.

For a rare few, alcohol allows them to be social and to be quite entertaining without crossing the line of baboonassery. They are the miraculous few drinkers. The issue is that most alcoholics think that they aren’t misbehaving or irritating people. 

I grew up surrounded and imprisoned by alcoholics. Don’t get me wrong, they were outnumbered by the boring rank and file normal people. But like an apple with a worm, I don’t focus on the good part of the apple I’ve eaten – I focus on the rotten, nasty taste and the partially-eaten worm in my mouth. It’s a more natural response, isn’t it? When you’re young, you aren’t allowed to hurl the apple into the yard with disgust. No, you are required to sit on couch and eat one after another, regardless of the consequences.

People who drink too much with frequency usually have a horrible hole in their lives that can’t be filled. Whether it is a disease is up to the “experts” on the matter. For whatever reason they drink, their “right” to do so ends when it affects other people negatively and avoidably. This means that I don’t have to be around you if you are going to excessively imbibe. I don’t have to listen to you ramble on incoherently about whatever subject gets lodged in your head.

Expecting me to ‘grin and bear it’ is unacceptable. I think that hitting you on the head with a skillet is a more productive response. And it solves future recurrences, too.

Since I’m going off on a tangent… Every once and a while, I experience someone suffering from living with an alcoholic or excessive social drinker. The drinker acts stupidly and immaturely. The person stuck with the drinker is forced to smile and pretend that everything is okay and the he or she isn’t embarrassed by the drinker’s antics. If you try to point this out to either the drinker or the person suffering from the presence of the drinker, it is as if you have accused someone of murder. The retaliation is immediate and fierce. Part of the code of silence of drinking is that you are made to look like an ass for alleging that there’s a problem. 

Adding the element of love to the equation of excessive drinking sets my proverbial goat on fire, too. Just because you are family to someone doesn’t permit you to excuse abuse under the guise of “drinking too much.” You choose to drink too much. You choose to get angry and violent when drinking. You choose to get into a motor vehicle and hurt and kill people. You should be held 100% accountable for what happens when you are drinking. Just trying to use the alcoholic excuse should earn you a severe beating – just for bringing it up.

That I am a member of your family earns exactly ZERO free points to be drunk around me. You have the right to drink like an idiot, but not to do it in my presence if I don’t want. Please don’t turn the issue around on me when I leave the room or house without explanation. I don’t owe you one.

As I age and look back on my life, I’m disappointed in myself for tolerating it when I clearly shouldn’t have. I can’t alter those previous decisions. But I can overcome the fear or hesitation NOW, can’t I? If someone is drinking too much in my presence it will be responsibility to either leave the area where the stupidity is occurring or break the social barrier and confront the drinker. Confrontations with drinkers work out more elegantly if you wait until the drinker is sober. He or she will do anything to get away from the accusatory conversation. No one wants to eat a gallon of ice cream and then be forced to have the empty reminder in your lap for the next two hours.

Resolved: zero tolerance to be in the presence of inappropriate drinkers.

05292012 I Didn’t Know I Was Already a Minimalist

I might be a minimalist, but at times I can get a little crazy. One of my favorite cousins wanted a hard-to-find cookie. Instead of a sleeve, I got him an entire case to celebrate.

All my life I have used the “6 month or a year rule” to throw things out. Even when I didn’t actually throw it out, it  didn’t control my emotions. I could throw things out without much consideration.

Granted, one of my weaknesses used to be electronics and related supplies. At one point, I had 1/2 a decently-sized closet full. They didn’t get in the way of anything but it was an unnecessary amount of “just in case” philosophy in action.

Having lost my stuff several times in fires probably deserves some of the credit, too, though. After watching Hoarders, it occurred to me that most of the crazy hoarders on the show use loss as an excuse to be a packrat. In my case, the opposite happened.

Another thing about me is that I NEVER sell things that I no longer want. There were a couple of exceptions when I was younger and I hated it, especially in one case when the TV I had sold went out almost immediately on a friend from work. If I have things that I no longer use, I give them away. I’ve given away treadmills, recliners, computers, DVD players, all while in good condition. I’m not saying that for a pat on the back. I’m saying it because I think it’s the best way. Unless you are starving or desperately need the money, giving your stuff to people who will use it is the best possible option for everyone.

Most minimalist sites seem to encourage you to sell your stuff – and that’s fine for most people. At least you are getting rid of it. But what better way to get a boost by surprising someone with “free” ?

Lately, without any fanfare, I have been throwing at least 1 thing a day away, usually more than 1. I’ve done it for three months now.

My wife knows that I am cleaning out or organizing but I don’t think she knows how far it has went. There have been many items that I have simply tossed when I should have given them to someone. An example would be the Gem Saloon whiskey glasses. But my desire to rid myself of them couldn’t be ignored, so I tossed them when the urge struck.

Likewise, I discarded almost 1,000 pictures this week. I scanned anything I wasn’t absolutely sure about, just in case. I backed them up on another computer and in the cloud before actually tossing them. But it’s yet another box in the closet that will no longer be there.

Performing Marriages in Arkansas

Even though many people don’t understand it, I had long wanted to be able to perform marriages. After months of procrastinating, I recently finished all the paperwork, went to the courthouse, and became “legitimate,” so to speak. The State of Arkansas decided to allow me to pay the fees and register to perform marriages.

It still seems surreal to me. Literally speaking, I now have minister credentials. It will be interesting to see how a few people respond.   On the other hand, there were a couple of people who never offer anything other than criticism – their derision was to be expected. Those who would be malicious in their criticism are the same people who make weddings sometimes hideous spectacles instead of a simple joining of two people

Part of my reluctance was due to my cousin Jimmy who has been ill for well over a year. He had been putting off getting married. I had told him to let me know when he was going to tie the knot. Although I might be wrong, I think my sudden ability to do weddings might have pushed him along somewhat.

Whether I ever perform a marriage or not, it is no longer a question of getting the details accomplished. I would hope that I might help people see that there’s no need for expensive, complicated weddings. When the hoopla of the event fades, all that is left is the daily routine and, hopefully, lasting love and patience to temper it. Daily life exacts an angry toll on most people.

Language Bully- Article on Slate

Language Bully Article on Slate

As I’ve aged, I have started to learn that arguing over language or words can be fun, especially if I learn something. One thing I hate about myself if I catch myself doing it, though, is being one of the asshats mentioned in the Slate article linked above.

As Matthew J.X. Malady writes: “Those who use their advanced knowledge to embarrass or humiliate others are the absolute worst. Yet, for whatever reason, language bullies don’t seem to get this, or they don’t care. Either way, they are out there at this very moment, lurking, lying in wait, ready to pounce. (They know you used the word nonplussed improperly the other day, and you will be hearing from them shortly. So prepare to feel dumb.)”

To avoid most encounters with language bullies, all you need to do is to avoid internet forums, comment sections, and similarly anonymous writing. I’ve learned that most language bullies don’t really practice their art directly to one’s face. Some of it is due to the realization that they know they are being asshats and the other part is that being clever in person is devilishly hard to do in real time. 

The goal for all of us should be to wait until a language bully emerges and lashes out. At this point, our efforts should be focused toward pointing out the stupidity of their attempt and making them feel as if they are on the defensive. Not because they are right or wrong, but whether they are behaving right or wrong.

It will make language more fun for us all.

03052012 Wall Murals For Your Home + “CrazyWall”

Linnaea Mallette     http://goo.gl/uxzm5M  I know this is an outdoor mural, but imagine something such as this inside your house.

The older I get, the more I am intrigued and even convinced how much more interesting our lives could be if we would have wall murals in our houses. Murals are great along public walls, in restaurants or in art galleries.

As an addition to one’s home, I think they could not only be interesting, but a cheaper alternative to traditional walls, paintings or decorations. Granted, I would prefer ones painted by members of the family, friends, co-workers, etc. Otherwise, support an art student or local artists by giving them permission to do the best they can, or even to surprise you.  Murals can be “fixed” with a coat of paint. That’s not true of most decoration or style ideas in a house.

I know that we are supposed to be trapped and confined by our irrational obsession with “home value” and treat our lifeboxes as if they are nothing more than an investment to be devoid of interesting quirks and adornment. (By the way, I think “Lifebox” would be an ideal alternate name for the word “house.” It almost mocks the nature of what a residence is versus what it could be…)

(Another sidenote: we could convince HGTV to start another word’s creation: Crazywall. It would be used to indicate that an area or space has been deliberately done in a creative, crazy way.)

Wall Murals to Spark Your Imagination! (Click)