Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Last Words?





Thirteen years ago, I discovered a place where I could indulge my compulsion to splatter words on blank pages—the internet.   Specifically, I stumbled upon the Petri dish containing the tiny zygote which would eventually become the blogoverse—AOL Journals. 

It was September of 2003.  I was completely stoked that I had found a place I could record  my challenges associated with “coming to terms with middle age” (I was 48 years old!); and—wonder  of wonders—other people could read, react, provide input…make me feel as if I wasn’t the freak I had always felt myself to be.  I was hooked.  

And, yes…it WAS September of 2003.  So the deadly nature of what was going on in our country was loud enough to penetrate the voices inside my head…and become one of them.  A stolen election.  A horrendous national tragedy.  The politics of fear, division and lies that eventually led to an illegal war and a degeneration of our national principals to the point that We The People gave the nod to any means available—including torture, illegal imprisonment, and utter disregard for “collateral” death and destruction—to keep us “safe.”

I discovered I had a previously untapped talent for political commentary.  Which quickly became a compulsion.  I was physically unable to allow what was going on in the USA to transpire without comment.  And without raising a regiment of red flags. 

I made my  first post of a political nature on October 5, 2003.  It was a short (they all had to be short, back then—with the 2000-character limit imposed upon us by AOL) commentary about the political goings-on in California, starring Republican Arnold Shwarzeneggar in the recall of Democrat Gray Davis.  I got no comments on that one…as I frequently did not on my political posts.  But it didn’t seem to matter.  The compulsion to comment and warn took root and grew.

Over the next twelve years, my internet musings upon the challenges facing an aging Baby Boomer were interspersed with peppery political commentary.  I wrote volumes before the 2004 presidential election; and continued, even through the insanity of my sortie into the minefield of entrepreneurship, to comment on things political through the 2008 and 2012 election cycles.  Things were happening that demanded notice.  It was important to comment.  I could no more keep my thoughts to myself than I could stop breathing.

Anybody who reads this blog must notice, then, the marked absence of political posts here at “Coming to Terms” this election cycle.  Surely the hideous mess with which we are now presented should be inspiring volumes of commentary from folks like me.  Surely there is enough insanity out there to wring at least one scathing commentary a day—even one an hour—from  my prophet’s heart.  And yet, I have been largely silent. 

Why?  Because it’s just NOISE.   Noise coming from everywhere, all directions, louder and louder, shriller and shriller.  The ugly, crushing roar of an angry mob. Two sides holding their hands over their ears and screaming curses at each other.   A soul-shriveling racket…that produces no results. 

No advice is heeded.  No warnings are acknowledged.  No pleas for sanity are recognized.  It all becomes swallowed up in the noise; becoming itself part of the discordant symphony…only adding to the hideous, deadly cacophony. 

I can’t do it anymore.  I can’t be part of that time bomb that will surely destroy us all if it doesn’t somehow fizzle out of its own accord.  Because I can’t stop it.  I don’t think anyone—any person—can. 

And don’t think it isn’t painful for me to stay silent.  The danger is so much more grave, the stakes are so much higher, this time around.  But the ceaseless noise has effectively silenced my voice.  As I go through my day, I think of a hundred talking points, come up with dozens of arguments, envision a kaleidoscope of debate scenarios through which I might get through to those who will not think but will only follow.  And then I sit down with my laptop at the end of the day, stare at the blinking cursor at the top of the page and write…nothing.  Because I know it would be pointless.  I know that all it would do is add to the miasma of negativity and contentiousness that has already swallowed us.  And that, I refuse to do.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my last bit of advice, the last word out of the prophet’s mouth, concerning the coming election:

Vote.  If you have already chosen your candidate—and I’m pretty sure that most people who intend to vote this cycle have already chosen their poison—keep your peace and mark an “x” in the proper box on November  8th (if you haven’t yet been stripped of that right…)  Make your choice and SHUT THE FUCK UP.  All the words, pictures, videos, brain-droppings that you can possibly put out there are not going to change anyone’s mind, are not going to win people over to your side.  People have made their choices, and they are as adamant and unshakeable about them as you are about yours. 

And if you feel that you have to dig up, make up, blow up, or otherwise broadcast filth about the “other side” in order to justify your own choice, maybe you need to rethink your personal selection process. 

I’m done. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Little Lies or Big Truths?

The other day, I overheard the husband making some "getting to know you" conversation with a young couple who run a food booth next to ours at the Sunday Market.  When asked if we had any children, husband responded, "No..."  And then went on to declare that the reason for this was that "we've always been so busy working...!"

Say what?  

I honestly don't know if he came up with that response because he believed my fertility issues were nobody's business... Or if that's what he actually believes.  I've never known him to have the ability to come up with quick, plausible fabrications to substitute for divulging sensitive truths in social situations.  Granted, we are not often together in social situations among people we don't know well.  But if this is a skill he possesses, I've never seen him use it.

Which is why I'm more prone to think that this is what he actually believes:  that we were too busy to have a family.

And I find that more than a little disturbing.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lessons



I have a thorny problem with the “resident” sister.  It doesn’t bear explanation here…suffice it to say the problem reared its head in a most obvious and frustrating way over this past weekend.  She just…irritates the crap out of me, and I get to the point that I really REALLY want not to continue to enable her quirks for One.  More.  Minute.

But in this morning’s short meditation with the Spirits, I was told in no uncertain terms to “Let It Go.”

Hmph!  I thought.  Why?  How can her behavior possibly be excused?

No.  You don’t get it.

No excuses.  No explanations.  No rationalizations.  No forgiveness, because forgiveness implies transgression, and this is not that.  It’s just a fact.  Like the sky is blue and water is wet...it is what it is. 

Just Let It Go.

Ok.  I’ll give it a shot.

But why is this so hard? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

..Two Steps Back

After a slow and tedious winter, the time has come for my business to wake from hibernation.  We've done one event, plus the opening day of Sunday market.  Both have shown significant increases over last year's sales.  Yay, right?

Maybe not so much...

The first of this year, our water/sewer rate increased by 20%.

When our trash bill arrived last week, we were surprised by a rate increase of 33%.

Our "twelve month special" at Comcast expired, and our internet bill jumped 50%.

Gas prices are going up at the rate of at least 10 cents per gallon per week (which is no surprise...it's summer.)

I had to scrape together $1700 this month to pay off our American Express bill, as they plan to sell us out to Citibank VISA in mid-June, and I have no intention of being forced to do business with Citibank.

So, really...  As an aging member of America's once-great middle class...

There's really no getting ahead, is there?  Or, even, catching up. 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

"World's Worst..."


 
 
Recently, I read an article on thrillist.com that was supposed to be an indictment of "the world's worst customers."  (I had to reload that story, or it reloaded itself, at least ten times before I was finally able to read the entire thing...what is it with "a problem occurred with the page, and it was reloaded..."  SO annoying...but that's a different rant.)

Now, I am generally right there with anybody who complains about 21st-century customers; they are rude, picky, entitled, and selfish.  Though I did notice in this collection of first-person experiences, the horrible customers were almost always nasty little old people;  but in my experience of five years running my own restaurant, the seniors were as a group the sweetest, least grouchy customers we had.  I suppose this is what comes of presenting an issue from the point of view of twenty-somethings.  Old people ARE the enemy when you're that age.  But the taint of ageism was not what bothered me about the article.

No...what struck me as...sad, came from one of the longer anecdotes in the piece, where a young woman provided a sort of TMI presentation of background about why she was not necessarily concerned about giving her best to her job at a WalMart deli, where she ultimately suffered her encounter with her "worst customer in the world."  She was young, she had a newborn, she and her boyfriend were not getting along well, she has just graduated college but because of the economic downturn had been unable to get a job in her field, so she was bitter about having to do menial labor to survive...drama, blah-blah, more drama.

It was plain, to me anyway, this girl had no business standing behind a counter in a customer service capacity.  But THAT is a strike against her employer, and against our culture in general.  Service work is looked at as the bottom of the barrel; the thing you do when you haven't the skills to get a "better" job.  I, personally, suck at it, so I know enough to understand good customer service is something not just anyone can provide.  Why can't Americans and American business concede it takes skill, knowledge, patience, and even a particular personality type to graciously deal with the demands of an increasingly ornery customer base? You really need to have the talent for it, every bit as much as you need artistic talent to paint a mural, or musical talent to play a symphony.  So, no...the person telling this story should never have been hired for a position where she could encounter--and walk out on--the worst customer in the world.

But it wasn't her obvious unsuitability for the job that sent up a red flag for me.  It was this young woman's attitude toward work in general which gave me pause.  She chose to devote the first several paragraphs of her story to the dismal circumstances of her personal life, indicating that she places "job" far down the list of personal priorities.  "I had all this horrible, negative crap going on in my life...and, oh yeah...I had this job, but surely you see why I couldn't be expected to be more than a "decent" employee."  Worse, it's plain the author of the article had no problem buying in to her attitude, and apparently assumed readers did, too.

And there's the nugget.  This is the culture of the 21st-century American workplace.    Businesses treat their employees like crap, and employees don't give a rat's ass about the business. Employees have gone beyond dissatisfaction, to disassociation. A job is merely an unpleasant chore that has nothing to do with who you are, or who your friends are, or your personal life in general.  You show up at the job as infrequently as you can get away with, you skate by putting in as little effort as possible when you do show up, and if a more attractive activity should present itself which might conflict with the time you're supposed to be at work, you have no problem at all tossing the job aside and opting for the extra-curricular.

On top of the general low priority given to anything having to do with paid work, there is the compounding issue of today's electronic society.  Young adults are surgically joined to electronic devices that rule their lives to such a degree that they're unable/unwilling to be fully present to face-to-face encounters.  Anything that might interrupt that constant flow of electronic social chatter--like a job--is instantly assigned negative status; so the attitude going into any job is poor, before a person even steps foot across an employer's threshold.
 
My posts are beginning to look like the sour rants of a crabby old lady.  I try not to be too judgmental of today’s young people and their habits.  And it’s not that I don’t understand the allure of electronic society—between the old AOL Journal Land and Facebook, I’ve experienced my share of that sort of addiction.  But sometimes I can’t help but feel that young adults are missing out on important social interactions—rights of passage, even—which we experienced back in The Olden Days; experiences that helped us grow, shaped our lives and our communities.  Millennials, and whatever we are calling the generation nipping at their heels, may possess technological knowledge completely unheard of when we were young, but they lack life experience and face-to-face interaction skills.  And in a society where one is required to be employed if one desires any kind of decent lifestyle, these social deficits are not doing them any favors.
 
First of all, if you have to work (and you WILL have to work) it doesn’t do anybody any good for you to go into it with the attitude of, “I’m only doing this because I have to.”  Will every job you have be some expression of your personal talents or heart’s desire?  No, it will not.  But if you can’t do what you love, it’s a good idea to find some way to love what you do—find fulfillment in some aspect of the job.  Why be miserable? 
 
Then there is the question of life priorities.  “Job” will not be at the top of anyone’s priority list; not anyone who isn’t a total workaholic, anyway.  But it can’t be at the bottom, either.  How can anyone expect to be successful—or content—when one has to spend thirty or forty or fifty hours a week doing something they really don’t care about?  Never mind how it will affect your employer.  How will it affect the people you work with—people with whom you spend the lion's share of your waking hours and with whom it would brighten your own life to get along?  How will it affect YOU?
 
The thing that was saddest, and most frustrating, about this girl’s tale of woe was the apparent ease with which she wallowed in the drama of her personal life, and dragged it everywhere she went.  Back in the Olden Days, a job was a good place to go to get away from the heavy problems of your life.  Job and home were two different entities; you didn’t bring the problems of your job home, and you didn’t take your miserable home life to work with you.  Work was a great place to step away from challenges at home.  It was a place to immerse yourself in something besides yourself.  It was a place to be social with a group of people outside of whatever mess your personal life might be in.  It was an escape. 
 
How many times in my own life, if I hadn't had a job, might I just not have bothered to get out of bed, or put one foot in front of the other for weeks, months...maybe ever again.  Young people today don't have that escape.  They can't (won't?) step away from sadness, frustration, failures--drama--at home and into an alter ego where the things they do matter.  They help.  They make a difference.  
 
I don't know whether the sea change in employers' attitudes toward employees has created this dismal mindset for today's workers.  I suspect it has a lot to do with it.  But I also feel like, somehow, we as parents, grandparents...the preceding generation...failed to instill in our progeny the work ethic that kept us more or less sane and grounded in the workaday world.  Instead, we passed down our resentment of having to work for a living, at something we mightn't necessarily love.  Maybe we believed we could somehow save them from that fate; but things didn't work out that way.   So we did our children no favors by not passing along our coping mechanisms--the things our parents taught us about "work ethic" and "teamwork" and the proper place for those things in our lives.  We created a generation of self-centered malcontents who would rather do anything other than work for a living, and are not afraid to make that very clear from the outset.  Not a great sampling from which to build the army of customer assistance workers needed in today's American "service economy."
 
So I take any stories about "the world's worst customers" with a grain of salt, these days.  How valid, after all, can these stories be, coming from the "the world's worst employees?" 
     

Monday, May 2, 2016

Summer Plans



My  “job” –that little business to which I have clung for fourteen years, now—enhances the tone of opposition my life has always had, by choice or by chance.  It’s a summer job.  While everyone else is indulging in vacations, barbecues, gardening, yard projects, all that fine-weather folderol, I am designing promotional materials, purchasing supplies, scheduling production shifts, and arranging travel and lodging for the next six months’ business opportunities.  There’s no doubt that summer employment puts one noticeably out of step with the rest of the world. 

And since I have never been one to follow the crowd—have, in fact, intentionally NOT done so most of my life—I don’t find the peculiarities of my choice of vocation to be overly burdensome.  But there are some summertime activities in which I like to indulge, or have thought I NEEDED to indulge, that get crowded out during this all-too-short and frenzied season of fun and sun.

I have always loved to adorn my outside areas with pots of bright summer flowers.  At one time, I was quite the accomplished container gardener.  And in more recent years, I’ve taken on the  challenge of attempting to cultivate a salad/veggie garden.  The last couple of years, since we purchased the building in Junction City that houses our production facility, the additional strain of running up and down the I-5 corridor several times a month and spending two or three nights a week away from home, has turned what were once enjoyable leisure activities into just that many more tasks staring at me from the dreaded “To Do” list.  

This past weekend proved to be a sort of epiphany for me.  It was our last “free” weekend until mid-October.  Next week, we start our weekly jaunts to Astoria as vendors in the Sunday Market.  (We like the market; it has been good to us.  And the income it has generated is vital.)  The weather was fine, and it was a perfect opportunity to toil in the yard and get all our outdoor ducks in a row before we run out of free weekends. 

So…

We packed a couple of little overnight bags, jumped in the van and hustled over to the coast, where we had a thoroughly enjoyable 36-hour mini-vacation.

Yesterday morning, as we were about to head across the Young’s Bay Bridge on Highway 101 heading toward Warrenton from Astoria, I was treated to a sight I have never seen in the fourteen years we have enjoyed the scenic delights of that area:  a line of six white pelicans floated low in the sky, over the road ahead…we passed right under them.  Here in Oregon, white pelicans are generally birds of inland waters.  I have never seen them at the coast.  In fact, I’ve rarely encountered them at all.  Until this spring; I’ve crossed paths with them unexpectedly several times in the past six weeks.  So, of course, I see this (finally!) as a message from the Almighty, which I just fully figured out after I started writing this post.

Pelican tells us to lighten our load, to unburden ourselves.  Not only to let go of anger and resentments, but to let go of things, activities, than “no longer serve.”  Between pelican’s visits and our happy “stolen” hours of recreation this past weekend, I’ve come to realize that, at least now, this “Farmer Lisa” cap that I have felt compelled to don in the summer no longer serves.  When something that started out as an enjoyable avocation becomes a task—one for which you have to carve out time that you really do not have—then it’s time to lay it aside.  Perhaps only for a few seasons, until the time to embrace it again becomes available.

So here’s my new plan for this summer:   I’ll cover the veggie beds with mulch and let them go fallow.  I’ll tend the container plants I already own (of which there are plenty) but keep the “fuss factor” down to a minimum.  We have so much “deferred maintenance” that has to be dealt with on the property this summer, I’m sure I’ll have enough to keep me busy without the additional burden of vegetable and flower gardens I really have no time to enjoy. 

That’s the direction I’m setting for myself.  I’ll head along that path and see how it goes.              
 
  

        

Friday, April 29, 2016

Kicking and Screaming, Part 2

So...this is my new phone:


Yes.  It's an iPhone.

And, no...it doesn't have the QWERTY keypad I was so adamant about having.

But I guess at some point, one simply has to let go of the old technology.  When the powers-that-be are intent upon making something obsolete, you eventually have no choice but to go with the flow.

I tried...oh, I tried!  I wanted a keypad so badly that I dove headfirst into the Blackberry pool.  Only to find that Blackberry has its own proprietary data technology that does not dovetail well with standard cell phone carriers.  Bah!  Who knew?!  After two weeks of relying on bad information from my cell phone carrier and weak promises of  "I'm pretty sure we can get it to work!" I had to send the thing back.  And at least THAT ended well, as the eBay seller managed to cough up a full refund--which, since there was nothing actually wrong with the phone, was purely out of the goodness of their hearts. 

Just as I was wondering which old and possibly soon-obsolete phone I could try next (I had my eye on a five-year-old Nokia model, which had iffy reviews at best...) my cell phone carrier came up with an astounding price on this iPhone 5s.  After my "loyalty discount"--the $35 off that Consumer Cellular is offering to old farts needing to shit-can their ancient cell phones--I will pay just $165 for this iPhone.  Yes, I know it isn't the latest model, and I couldn't care less.  It does everything I need a phone to do, has a better camera than I have EVER had on a phone, and I think I'll be able to get used to texting on the touchscreen.  Best of all, I didn't have to shell out $400 for it...which I utterly r.e.f.u.s.e. to pay for a phone.   

And there is no real learning curve here, because I've had an iPad for three years, and this thing is just like a teeny-tiny iPad, only it makes phone calls. 

So...yeah.  I've been dragged into the 20-teens. 

But I will miss my solid little rock of a Nokia cell phone...  

Restoring America


I would add: 8. Recalibrate our moral compass (when it comes to attitudes towards torture, gun ownership, the poor, business practices, professional sports...well, just about everything.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

People!!!!!!


My choice can be RIGHT 
without yours being WRONG!!!!!!!!