Hello, Operator?

7 Jul

Remember when as kids “telecommunication” meant 2 cans and a string? Today’s tots are more tech savvy at smart phone operation than many adults. I readily admit my 9 year old grandson is more adept with his tablet functions than I am with mine.

Communications has changed so drastically over the course of a generation. There are 2 former telephone operators living in my building. BOTH were of the “plug and cord connection era” and I am not speaking of a new plug and play device to load on your laptop. I imagine them more as the fictional “Sarah,” of Mayberry fame…you remember, the operator Sheriff Andy was always asking to connect him to the sheriff’s office or maybe Aunt Bea—or the satirical “Ernestine” with her snorts of laughter and witty remarks form “Laugh In” fame. Yes, things have changed.

Speaking with both of these women recently I discovered, one had the distinction of being the final operator to ask, “Number please” before the final switch to automation arrived in this small town. The other had been an operator in Ft Worth. She shared her account of working the switchboard the day President Kennedy was assassinated. It was a day she will never forget. Even with the added trunk line designated to the presidential entourage the operators could not keep up with the call demands that day and the days that followed.

These women, and others like them, were the backbone of all spoken information exchanges. They were the calm voice when a harried first time dad dialed O for operator and announced, “My wife is having a baby!” The voice of information before there was an “Information Super Highway”—a term now nearly archaic. If you were looking for someone and didn’t know the phone number you simply dialed the operator and asked for the information. Later, the 4-1-1 designator, saved a step in the process as the answering operator asked for the city and state you were calling and redirected the call.

We live in an increasingly impersonal society. Call just about any major company and the first auto-answer directs you to choose the language you prefer the auto prompts to spout. It’s frustrating to get caught in an auto response loop making it impossible to resolve your issue. Recently I made a call and nearly dropped the phone when a “live” operator answered. I shared my enthusiasm with her and she laughed…”I get that a lot”

Technology has improved many things…made our lives easier. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if we have done ourselves a disservice by removing the human factor. I will admit I need people around me at times but I’m just a guilty of fading into oblivion staring at my phone or tablet reading comments made. And yep, some of those are from friends living in my building and only an elevator ride away. Guess I will have to add some face time to my “To Do List” which, incidentally is located in my smart phone. I’m a work in progress traveling on this journey.

What are you Selling?

6 Jul

Attended my first auction and managed to be outbid on every item I wanted. This was probably a good thing as the proceeds were for a local need and very worthy cause. It being my first experience has of course become blog fodder.

I was fascinated by the barkers lyrical cadence as he grabbed the attention of the good folks looking to support the cause.

“Now wouldn’t you just love to have this bath combo? Smells good and hey it IS Saturday night.”

He pointed out the unique qualities in order to interest the buyers. Once the bidding started it was competitive as one out bid the next as if daring the others to up the bid.

In another room items were set up for a silent auction. Each item had a bid sheet where you wrote an amount and your name, etc. Checking back I noticed an item I had bid on had a competitor. No sooner had I upped my bid than the other bidder DOUBLED the bid. I laughed and conceded. She shared how a hard to shop for friend admired the item and would soon have a birthday. She was definitely claiming the item at any cost. And so the evening went. Wanting to do my part in supporting the cause I managed to claim an item and cheerfully paid the cashier at the auctions end.

Society today is doing a great job of “selling” us on a concept. Years ago it was ads for cigarettes—always showing young, fit and beautiful models pleasantly puffing away as if to imply you too could be this young looking fit and beautiful if only…(Of course we all know what a lie that was.) So I ask, what are you selling?

Perhaps you are putting yourself out there for the highest bidder…advertising only the attributes you believe are in demand. Hey, you smell good and it’s Saturday night. Maybe you are silently on the fringe hoping SOMEONE will notice you and make an offer. Are you on the shelf assuming there is no market for what you have to offer—afraid of rejection?

Overhearing a conversation about an item being heatedly bid on I had an epiphany. The item was a single pecan pie made by a friend’s mother-in-law. It sold for a price any caterer would salivate over. His remark, “It’s worth every penny too—though I get it free.”

You see value isn’t necessarily tied to the price tag. Whether the pies were lovingly prepared for a family gathering, funeral repast of a lost friend or donated to be sold to the highest bidder for a worthy cause… it was still the same pie.

All too often we find ourselves with a “finger I one too many pies” spreading our time, talents and energy on wasted causes. You have value—don’t sell yourself short. Don’t remain on the shelf or silently hoping to be noticed then sulk and complain you are alone.

Yes, you have value. Finding the right relationships means risk taking. Yes, there will be those who entice you into giving of yourself—only to dismiss you later when you fail to meet their expectations. Yes, there will be those who have no clue of your real value—and those who will do whatever it takes to appreciate your worth. You will always be you—as God created you to be. Regardless of the packaging, everyone has value to someone. My advice…wait for and go home with the right bidder. Live loving the journey.

SOLD!

6 Jul

The auctioneer stepped up to the podium. Spoke into the microphone, his hand and voice trembled,

“I have been blessed to serve this community and surrounding area for 50 years.”

He noted the many unknown faces and how there was a time he knew everyone who attended the sales…now only a few remained. It was time—this would be his final auction… the gavel and quick tongue was being handed off.

He began strong—quickly dispatching a few items. As the evening wore on his throat becoming dry he apologizes with a bit of levity.

“I think I may have swallowed a bug.”

His voice gravely at times, yet he pushed on bid after bid.

“Come on folks,” he encouraged. “This is a worthy cause…who will give me 50?”…paddles raised—“That’s more like it…50, now make it 60.”

On and on…interjecting bits of knowledge he had gleaned from years of knowing his people. Some I am sure employed his skills out of necessity in times of great need. He has witnessed people at their lowest but also at their most generous I am sure.

The crowd was thinning—“we’re losing ‘em.” He intones to a spotter…nearly through. Then I watched amazed. The final item left to sell…2 one pound bags of shelled pecans. Now, Texans love their pecans—but they love their people more. Higher and higher the bid rose. I’m not exactly sure of the figures as they flew fast and furious. I know one bid was $50 a bag. SOLD! Then remarkably the purchaser shouts…

“Sell ‘em again!”

He did! 3 times! Each purchaser paying more than the previous bid and returning them to the man to sell again. I’m not familiar with auctions to know if this was “normal” but from the reaction of the crowd I think not. Perhaps it was the desire to add more to the success of the overall fund raiser…or maybe it was to delay the end of an era. To give the man behind the microphone one last bang of the gavel, one final SOLD. Regardless the motivation, I found it remarkable.

My friends, wherever you may be in your journey—just beginning, coasting along, facing adversity or seeing the end in sight. I encourage you not to sell yourself short. You are worth more than the wealth of the world to your maker. Don’t squander opportunities and don’t give up too soon. Hang on and live loving the journey.

Wise investments never Disappoint

14 Jun

She stepped out of the elevator, hesitated a moment as her walking stick made contact with the tiled floor of the lobby. One couldn’t help but notice her striking appearance—from the wide brimmed hat atop her head to the modest pumps on her feet she was garbed completely in black, save the single feather adorning the hat. She looked stunning and I said as much. “Oh these are just clothes I collected from years of working. They are still perfectly fine so I can’t see any reason to discard them.” She remarked. “When you invest in quality it lasts.”

She was on her way to pay her last respects to a dearly departed friend. The funeral parlor wasn’t far and she intended to walk the block and a half in order to attend the service. “There aren’t many of us left.” She said. “I believe we may be a dying breed.” And she walked out of the building.

I pondered her remarks. Having only seen the woman a few times I recalled she was always so attired regardless of event—whether attending the monthly pot luck luncheon or heading to a doctor’s appointment, she had her hair styled and her lipstick smudge free. And had to admit there were few individuals I knew who paid attention to such detail as she.

When did we become so casual about everything? Not only the way we dress for a particular occasion—but the attitude regarding how one carries oneself in public. Images of the numerous pajama clad shoppers I witnessed at the local Wal-mart crossed my mind. Some how I couldn’t see the woman ever stepping outside her apartment so attired. Yet she voiced no criticism regarding the garb of anyone else.

Perhaps she is correct that she, firmly established as an octogenarian, is indeed, a dying breed. I find it sad to realize how few invest in quality anymore…not just in our attire but in relationships. So many today seem to thrive on a form of drama that only allows for disposable friendships—a “keep it casual” mindset of take what you can get and get out. To gravitate to solid relationships would require growth and accountability for the relationship to last. Many find the investment too great a cost.

I must admit to holding most individuals at arms length. Few friends are privy to what is closest to my heart or always on my mind and are able to hold me accountable. There are a select few followers of this blog that can read between the lines, but most have no clue as to who I am on the inside. There is a recurring thought in many of my entries—one of solitude, of not knowing where I “fit”. Perhaps I have been trying to fit into a casual group when what I desire is quality.

Invest in quality my friend, in yourself. You are worth it. It may surprise you how lasting an effect it can be. Yes, invest wisely and Live loving the journey.

Raining on the Inside

3 Jun

It is amazing how many songs have rain either in the title or amid the lyrics. Country songs to Christian, melodic to rock ballads, blues or jazz…rain is almost synonymous with being down—with exception to the all time favorite in “rain” songs Singing in the Rain. I have to admit, unlike Gene Kelly. I have allowed rain to affect my mood negatively. Since rain for me often translates to pain my negativity may simply be a reaction to pain.

Living in a drought plagued part of Texas I fully understand the need for rain…so it was a rare rainy day in Texas and rather than fight pain I settled myself on the couch with my comfy pillows and DVD remote. I had chosen a movie title at random on loan from the library and had just laid back to drift at will. It was a drama full of heart wrenching injustices. One character—a surviving twin, often sat staring off, her personality rather flat. When asked why she responded,

“Some folks gotta do their best to feel nothin’ just sos they can keep livin’.”

That phrase struck a cord in me. I have oft struggled with the best way to explain the form of depression I battle… dysthymia.

Anyone who may struggle with depression knows the dark side. However, I don’t have the up and down mood swings of some, nor do I have dark or brooding thoughts. I simply feel…nothing.

The human body has a variety of coping mechanisms—it is how we deal with difficult life experiences. Dysthymia’s clinical description is as a mood disorder. It was my mind and body’s reaction to a life of uncertainty. I gave the appearance that all was well while pushing my concerns, desires, hopes, dreams and fears deeper and deeper. It became a way of life…for decades.

The past year has been a time of growing. Layer by layer the real me is beginning to take shape. With that growth comes a different sort of pain. Pain at the realization I missed so much. I feel like the unfinished country song stuck on the refrain…waiting for someone to come along and write the ending.

My friends, should you struggle to “do your best to just feel nonthin’’ in order to cope…my suggestion is to speak to a counselor who can help you wake up and move on. Live well, Laugh often and Love much.

Facing the Bully

1 Jun

While spending an evening with my grandson I had the opportunity to observe the workings of his unique mind. He is learning how to handle the stresses of his busy Asperger’s Syndrome thought processes and for the most part it seems a success story.

As he was playing a video game I noticed his growing agitation. Trying my best to redirect him yet he played on—determined to finish what he had started. The on screen enemy that at first was easy to defeat became a great challenge as the difficulty level increased. His squeals at a fevered pitch, I knew a full on melt down was imminent.

Arms flailing, drenched in sweat, my grandson shouted at the game avatar—“You are nothing but a bully. Why don’t you pick on someone your own size!?!” As if a light bulb of revelation dawned he calmed. “Oh, we are the same size.”

We all must face battles in life. There may even be situations that leave you drained and inconsolable. Failure seems imminent as our fears loom large above us ready to defeat. Wouldn’t it be great to stand firm, facing struggle head on, only to discover it is not as big and bad as we imagined.

My friend, I urge you to follow my grandson’s example—oh not the out of control, frenzy obsessions of his often over worked mind…but the ability to face life issues, accept them and move on. It may surprise you to discover they are not as bad as imagined. Live loving the journey.

Reading Between the Lines

1 Jun

My 7 year old niece, Bea, learned to read recently. She is often practicing her new communication skills by writing notes to Mom showing how much she has learned. One day Bea read the warning printed on a discarded plastic bag and was heard remarking—“It’s a good thing I can read so I know not to mess with these.”

Imagine if life came with warning labels: DON’T even THINK of doing that! WARNING!! Bad investment!! Continued Participation in this relationship may be toxic and hazardous to your health! What about instructional labels: For best results Handle with care, Gentle Cycle ONLY! Or the expiration date that validates the termination of an unhealthy relationship.

Life’s best lessons are learned by experience—not labels. Besides if there were such labels there is no guarantee people would bother to read them. Would Bea have learned not to play with plastic bags if she were a nonreader? Of course she would—that is where supervision and education play a major role. As parents and grandparents we do our best to be good examples of what is right and just. We share the wisdom gained by our own personal life lessons.

But perhaps Bea is on the right track after all…motivational speakers have long taught the habit of reading positive reminders on a daily basis. Beyond the Post-it Notes on the bathroom mirror to remind you to SMILE, Think Positive, or that You Can Do It slogan. Reading between the lines can change your outlook and improve your attitude when you realize how much truth is found there. Live loving the journey my friends and growing better every day.

Be the Rainbow

29 May

Not to sound like a Skittles commercial…but I was asked to post a favorite quote attributed to the late Maya Angelou. As I had just included a quote in my personal journal it was a simple task…                                                                                  “Be the rainbow in somebody’s cloud.” –Maya Angelou

This quote has been a goal of mine for quite some time. It isn’t always an easy thing to do. Especially of that person who has chosen to remain in the clouds of despair—your attempt at encouragement is not received and often rebuked. As though the old adage of “misery loves company” were gospel to live by. Pain is a cruel taskmaster and also a robber of joy.

There was a period of time in my life that I existed in a constant state of depression. Years of practice had allowed me to handle stress and pain in such a way as to hide behind a wall of conformity. It wasn’t that I appeared to be miserable—on the contrary. Few individuals knew of the Dysthymia diagnosis. Even as a young teen I can recall times of feeling absolutely nothing. It was my way of coping.

After allowing the diagnosis to dictate far too many years of my life I chose a path of rediscovery. By redefining the parameters of my life, my faith and my relationships I was able to change my future. Today I live my life striving to feel every moment of life. Yes, there are days of pain and doubt but the days of pure joy and pleasure far outweigh the negative.

By choosing to “Be the rainbow” in the experiences of others I have discovered a link to finding the rainbow in my own life. Whether I am delivering a care package to a friend or extending a smile to a stranger I know I am alive and enjoying that life one day at a time.

My friend, if you have been struggling to find yourself I suggest you employ Maya’s advice and try being the rainbow to someone and then watch how your own life changes. Enjoy the journey.

The RIGHT Stuff

11 Apr

The social media recently had several viral posts from families who felt it amusing to share the “wish list” from their youngsters at holiday time. Some have bashed and some have bantered about the lengthy desires from REAL unicorns to “a thing that turns into other stuff” all without comment from me. I chose not to lend any more attention to in my opinion the overly indulged children.
A few days ago a child proved to me there are a few parents “getting it right.”  Consider a 12- year old girl  who had achieved an award and was given a $100 gift certificate to her favorite restaurant. She chose to not only take mom and her younger brother along but the pastor and wife from their church. Thrilled to tell their server at the local Olive Garden Restaurant that the meal was “on her” her dimpled smile gained attention from those seated around the family.
Why do I draw attention to this act? It shows that not all children “want it all.” It also shows that when a child who obviously does not routinely get handed “whatever she wants.” does receive, she has been taught to show and share gratitude. Children learn from the examples set before them. If you are a harried parent and dislike what you are seeing in your children…look no farther than the mirror to find the first step in change.
There will be those negative downers who will call attention not to the generosity of the child but at how the group probably couldn’t afford dessert at today’s prices. Yet it was such a delight to watch this encounter the child was offered complementary desserts—which she initially turned down …because everyone was quite replete. The server promptly packaged “to go” desserts that were shared later at church with her friends.
Fellow travelers do not grow weary in doing good…it is always rewarded. No, this small, working class family didn’t make the news. There was no viral video coverage. It was enough for them to share a meal and a smile as recognition of a job well done. I encourage all parents to use learning opportunities to make teachable moments and make a difference. The next time your child does something great—be sure to let them know you are proud of them. Then take a moment to pat yourself on the back for teaching them the right stuff.

Fitting the Pieces Back Together

3 Apr

A recent journey was cut short as I was sidelined by an injury. My left knee after several long months has been poked, twisted, x-rayed, stretched and injected. The doctor has decided it will not improve without the intervention of surgery. A date has been set and after being poked, x-rayed, relieved of several vials of blood and given an EKG—I have been declared ready for surgery. All that’s left now is the food restrictions the night before and the lovely task of washing with the antibacterial scrub provided. *SEE Gelatinous GOO entry.

It can be frustrating, those times in our lives when we are delayed or detoured by circumstances. When it seems all we can do is wait for the fractured pieces of our lives to be fit back together. Sometimes the next step is painful in the same way a surgeon must take his scalpel and extract, trim, or remove whatever is causing the problem—our circumstances must also face the cutting edge of change.

I have been warned that once the cutting is complete and the surgeon carefully repairs and sutures the tattered and frayed edges back together I will be in pain. It will be necessary to first rest my knee and then to strengthen it through physical therapy. If I am to regain mobility it is important that I adhere to the doctors instructions—even though it will hurt.

Are there areas of your life that are fractured? Perhaps there are relationships that have been broken or wounded. Are there attitudes or habits that need adjusting? Perhaps you have been “running on empty” for so long you have forgotten your body needs rest. Are you holding on to past hurts—never surrendering them to the Healer of all hurts?

In the same way my knee would remain weak and pained without the attention of the surgeon…my heart would remain fractured if left embittered by holding on to past hurts. Moving forward means laying the broken pieces of fractured dreams, severed relationships and hopelessness at the feet of the Prince of Peace. My fellow travelers I urge you to lay your burdens down…stop, rest a bit, regain your strength and move on. Continue loving and living the journey.

Long walks and dark chocolate

Life as a wife, mom, nana and follower of Christ; hoping to share from lessons learned

A Word in Your Ear

Stories and Photographs of my travels, Tales of friends, family, animals and my life

Outside The Lines

Fun readings about Color, Art and Segmation!

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