Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pasta Maria

Flip noticed a face in his dinner after adding more pasta to his plate on top of the sauce he had already taken.

I briefly pondered the many people around the world who see Mary or Jesus in mud puddles or on the sides of refrigerators, and thought maybe we could have a shrine, too.

But then he ate it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness

I've been having a lot of "forgive them for they know not what they do" moments. People seem ruder every day but perhaps that is only in direct ratio to my getting older every day.

I decided to stop cursing in my car just when I had gotten really good at it. Wasting talent is rather like flinging gold in the streets, but expressing my anger in the vocabulary of a sailor's parrot has clearly not helped anyone's driving skills, even my own. Nor has it had an effect on the widespread lack of manners which have been replaced by an aggressive me-first attitude that is not conducive to loving kindness and tranquility. It is time to bring on the heavy artillery, forgiveness, for it can go where anger never can.

I have been contemplating the larger issue of forgiveness as it applies to more serious offenses than those committed by thoughtless, self-absorbed people in their cars. There is a natural reluctance to forgive because it can feel as if we are negating our own importance, but it is actually for the benefit of the wronged party because resentment is a heavy load to carry. Setting it down frees us to do more productive things with our energy, while dwelling in our pain and outrage keeps the injury forever fresh and unable to heal.

One of the lessons to be learned from abuse is to rise above it and not inflict it on others. While we know that most abusive people were themselves abused, it is not a get out of jail free card. Hurting someone else never evens the score. We all need to take responsibility for our actions, no matter how we were treated in the past.

Jesus spoke of "turning the other cheek," which does not come naturally to most of us. I resisted the idea for a long time, not because I am not a Christian but because I thought it meant that I did not deserve to be treated with respect, and I was unwilling to conspire in my own doormat-ness. I now believe he meant that our spiritual goals are more important to our soul's progress than bearing grudges reliving hurtful experiences.

It doesn't matter whether or not someone apologizes, and we further bind ourselves to a person by waiting for his remorse before we forgive. Our forgiveness sets us free. What he does with it is not our concern; our own emotional health is. Forgiving does not mean that it was OK to hurt us, but that we choose to do more rewarding things with our time on earth. We can have compassion for his suffering while protecting ourselves from future harm. When we have both understanding and compassion, we are able to truly forgive and move on. I have found this to be one of life's most challenging lessons, but also among its most rewarding, (right up there with becoming an accomplished cusser.)

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
Paul Boese

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Animals Were Hurt in the Making of this Post

I've decided to begin knitting again, which I have not done in at least twenty years, maybe thirty. I used to make multicolored sweaters out of handspun yarns I dyed myself with natural dyes made of various plant materials and the process, especially the knitting, was extremely relaxing in a zen zone way. (My daughter has already requested that I not send her any [more] Charlie Brown sweaters.)

In August I bought some yarn from a seller on eBay, yummy, 100% hand-dyed alpaca. It will be like wearing a cloud, and I thought the price was a steal.

It turns out it really was a steal because although my PayPal account states that the money was paid, the charge has never appeared in my bank account which is linked to the PayPal account, so I called my bank to find out why. They said it had not been presented for payment, yet I know that the seller got her money, so I began the process of trying to get PayPal to correct their error.

Their website has a make-believe person named Sarah who is happy to answer my questions, provided they fit her very narrow range of issues. If they do not, she begins to recycle them until one gives up and tries to call customer service on the phone. Here is yet another example of customer DISservice. I was told that the wait would be at least 1/2 hour and it is not even an 800 number. I hung up and sent them an email explaining that they needed to return the money to the person who inadvertently paid for my yarn and charge it to me.

Several months ago, I got a double bill from the phone company which stated that I had not paid our bill the previous month, although I had. I had the bank statement to prove it, but undeterred, the phone company continued to charge us double for several more months, which occasioned countless upsetting phone calls involving very long waits to speak with people who couldn't help me. Eventually, they discovered that they had paid someone else's bill with my funds and rectified their error. I will never get back the many hours, literally hours, that I spent attempting to untangle this mess. It would have been far less stressful to simply pay it again and forget it, but that offended my sense of fairness.

The new yarn winks at me seductively from its basket. It has been wound into balls and every now and then I pick one up and hold it to my cheek. I don't know when I will use it, though, as in conscience (with a tad of OCD mixed in) I must first complete a sweater I started before I stopped knitting, whenever it was. Both sleeves were completed, and they are perfect. Unfortunately, I no longer have the pattern so I have spent hours on eBay looking for old knitting magazines from the late 80's and 90's, hoping that one will look familiar. I even bought six old McCall's Needlework and Crafts issues, none of which has the pattern, but one had an ad for Homemade Magazine, which I now think may have been the one. It is no longer published, although there is another magazine in Australia with the same name. I am not a good enough knitter, especially after such a long layover, to adapt another pattern so that the shoulders match the tops of the two completed (and did I mention, perfect?) sleeves I already have. I will have to rip them out and start over, of course, but I am stubborn. I will continue to put myself through unnecessary stress even though the act of knitting itself is a marvelous stress reliever.

As I was typing this, I actually received a response to my email from a person at PayPal named Hans. (I think he's married to Sarah.) The money was already in my account because I had returned a defective item and gotten a partial refund, so the yummy alpaca yarn purchase was made with that money instead of being deducted directly from my bank account. Mystery solved. I think I should get an accountant to tend to these complicated matters so I can spend my days zoned out and knitting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Excuse Me, but is that Jackass with You?

I love that President Obama called Kanye West "a jackass." You have to trust a man who calls 'em like he sees 'em.

For those of you living on Venus or Saturn, West hijacked the acceptance speech of Taylor Swift, a county music sensation whose name I had heard but quite frankly, didn't know if it was a guy or girl. She won the MTV Award for Best Female Video and as she began her acceptance speech, West grabbed her microphone and announced that Beyonce should have won. (Beyonce later won the Best Video of the Year award.) Ms. Swift was so rattled that she walked offstage without giving her speech, and then had to perform live five minutes later. Beyonce proved that she is a class act when she got her own award and asked Taylor Swift to return to the stage to have her moment which had been taken away by West.

Apparently, a reporter preparing to interview President Obama a few days later asked what he thought of the drama at the awards.

"I thought that was really inappropriate," he said. "What are you butting in (for)? The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person. She's getting her award. What's he doing up there?"

A reporter then asked him, "Why would he do it?"

"He's a jackass," Obama replied. He immediately realized that he may have gone too far because he then appealed to the assembled reporters to keep his remark private. "Come on guys," he said. "Cut the president some slack. I've got a lot of other stuff on my plate." There is normally an assumption that presidential off-the-cuff remarks before a speech or interview are also off the record, but somebody immediately leaked his comment to Twitter where it caused a hail storm of debate.

I am not a Country Music fan but I watched the YouTube video of Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me" and it's adorable. She is adorable, although admittedly part of my fascination was with her flawless 19-year old complexion.

Kanye West finally called her to apologize and she accepted his apology. She is a class act, too, and a very talented young performer. But Mr. West may want to take up meditation or anger management so they don't have to muzzle him for next year's award ceremony.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

First, Do No Harm

I've heard wonderful things about the Bach flower remedies so I bought a tin of pastilles at the health food store. They are supposed to relieve stress, to which I am no stranger.

First of all, I couldn't open the metal tin even after removing the tape. I tried to turn the lid and also to pry it, but it wouldn't open although I did stab myself with a screw driver. I was getting angry and increasingly stressed. Flip opened it for me.

"How did you do that?" I asked.

"Read the directions."


Even with Alzheimer's, he is more mechanically adept than I. It never occurred to me that I would need directions to open a tin of something. I buy Altoids all the time. No problem.

I took one and attempted to close the lid, but it wouldn't close. Of course. I positioned my hand exactly as pictured on the tin and the pastilles sprayed all over the floor. It's very hard to find little red things on a predominantly red Persian rug. I had to throw them away because they were keeping company with a pair of shoes I hadn't put away, and I know where they've been. I am convinced that the manufacturer is deliberately creating more stress so that I will keep buying their product, which comes in several forms. I'm thinking of trying the droplets in water next. And sending a nastygram to the Bach company, for stress reduction.