Open letter to my Earth Angels

The past 30 months have been challenging to say the least. Some of which I have fallen down while trying to learn the lessons put in front of me. Some I feel I have learned with honors. I have begged and pleaded at times for the challenges to lessen or to cease completely. Yet, “the voice” always would remind me – “Ask not for your load to be lightened, only the strength to endure.”  I am finally understanding that each of these challenges have taught me invaluable lessons and each of these lessons were necessary for me to move forward. So, thank you to my Angels – those who are physically here with me and those which never leave my side. You have helped me to become the woman I am now – the woman I was not three years ago. Certainly not the woman I was even a year ago.

I have been blessed over and over again. My prayers have been answered in numerous ways and I am humbled.

Thank you.

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Falsus Corpus: Thoughts About Women’s Stupid Bodies

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You Monsters Are People.

In prehistoric times the thing that made a woman the most desirable to the rest of her pack was having both arms. Things like sharp teeth and having no diseases were just perks back then. If you were some archaic human female spending her days trying to pull all the skin off a mammoth carcass, had most of your teeth, functional reproductive organs, and could start a fire without help, then you were probably the sexiest woman on the planet. Every man in your tribe would show up in front of your cave with a cup of dinosaur milk and a sharpened rock in the hopes that it might be enough to gain your favor.

Fast forward into modernity and the dinosaur milk has dried up. Everyone is arguing about body shape and what not to wear. There are campaigns endorsing fatness and abhorring skinniness where people make outrageous claims…

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Weekly Challenge: Moved By Music: Southern Cross

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you’ll understand now why you came this way.

I don’t remember the first time I heard Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Southern Cross,” but I’m sure it was as soon as the video was released on MTV in the early 80s. I know that at that point in my life, I was learning how to sail and spent my summers on the waters of Lake Erie where I found great peace.

The song has resonated with me in a way no other song ever has. Every time I hear it, I’m filled with a great sense of freedom as I imagine myself out on a sailboat with the wind filling the sails. It holds the promise of achievement in staying true to a goal. It speaks of travel around the world and of adventure.

With an overwhelming amount of change in my life recently, I find myself searching for meaning, purpose and direction in life. I’m embracing the concept of things happening the way they are meant to even if it is beyond our comprehension at that moment.

Thirty years after first hearing it, the song has provided a completely different message. It has become a reminder that when I reach my destination, I’ll understand why I had to climb over the hurdles placed before me. When the road ahead seems clear at the start, but suddenly takes an unexpected turn, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t meant to reach your initial destination; it’s more of a test for your resolve. How important is the goal? At what lengths will you go to achieve?

Failing is the easy way. Failure will happen despite best efforts. Giving up is easy. Continuing forward after setbacks is the hardest part, but well worth the effort.

…the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small. But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day.

Contemplating why a life hurdle was placed before you necessitates being introspective. We all hide certain truths from one another. It may be a small secret; it may be something we aren’t proud of. But our truths are always within us. These hurdles often appear so that we search within and find the lesson we are to learn.

My daughter recently painted a canvas for me that is hanging in my bedroom. It says simply, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time…” It’s my continual reminder that while I may not understand why things happen, there’s an immense promise in tomorrow.

Southern Cross
Crosby, Stills & Nash 
1982

Got out of town on a boat
Goin’ to Southern islands.
Sailing a reach
Before a followin’ sea.
She was makin’ for the trades
On the outside,
And the downhill run
To Papeete.
Off the wind on this heading
Lie the Marquesas.
We got eighty feet of the waterline.
Nicely making way.
In a noisy bar in Avalon
I tried to call you.
But on a midnight watch I realized
Why twice you ran away.

Chorus
Think about how many times
I have fallen
Spirits are using me
larger voices callin’.
What heaven brought you and me
Cannot be forgotten.
I have been around the world,
Lookin’ for that woman/girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.
When you see the Southern Cross
For the first time
You understand now
Why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from
Is so small.
But it’s as big as the promise
The promise of a comin’ day.
So I’m sailing for tomorrow
My dreams are a dyin’.
And my love is an anchor tied to you
Tied with a silver chain.
I have my ship
And all her flags are a flyin’
She is all that I have left
And music is her name.

Chorus
Think about how many times
I have fallen
Spirits are using me
larger voices callin’.
What heaven brought you and me
Cannot be forgotten.
I have been around the world,
Lookin’ for that woman/girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.
So we cheated and we lied
And we tested
And we never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.
You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about loving you.
At the Southern Cross.

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, EMI Music Publishing

Loving and Letting Go

A friend I’ve known for several decades is laying his son to rest today. Even as I type the words, tears fill my eyes. Again.

His son was a handsome 22-year old just beginning his life with an energetic 2-year old daughter.

Unfortunately, what began as smoking weed in high school turned into a heroin addiction less than two years ago.

Despite his family’s efforts (his daughter’s mother denying him access to his child until he sobered up, a stint in rehab, tough love with his father calling the police on him for various things), he overdosed. In a shady hotel room. Alone.

While I never met him in person, I have known his father for 20 years. I remember the stories of the energetic, wonderful little boy who loved all things Barney.

His family will be, I’m sure, filled with “what ifs,” that will haunt them. But sometimes you have to let an addict sort through things on their own not allowing them to pull your into the black hole in which they are stuck. Sometimes all that can be done for an addict is to love and let go.

Studies have shown that while teen use has gone down one percentage point since 2001 (3.1% down to 2.4% of teens have used heroin), young adult use is on the rise. Nearly 30% of seniors in high school say heroin is easy to obtain and even middle schoolers know where to find it (12.6%).

Average age of first time use is approximately 20-1/2 – right when my friend’s son tried it for the first time.

Heroin and morphine account for approximately 50% of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Use is typically preceded by abuse of prescription opiates such as vicodin or codeine.

Spending $150 – $200 per day to support their habit, many addicts also deal drugs, steal to support themselves or live in squalor. Of course, there are the unusual few who are “functional addicts” and support themselves with full-time jobs.

Further statistics show that 80% of addicts use with someone else. Yet the negligent actions when under the influence have shown that 80% of victims of overdose are found alone.

Unfortunately, my friend’s son is just a number to those who never knew him. Another heroin fatality. Nothing more.

 

http://www.heroinabuse.us

www.michaelshouse.com

 

 

 

The under-rated top performer – the Admin

I never really gave much credit to the secretarial field (no offense intended). I had aspired to make my own mark rather than working for someone in a support role. Now after many years in business, I realize that most roles are support roles in one form or another. We work for people with deliverables to other teams and individuals. Unless you are at the top of the corporate ladder, you’re supporting someone else. Even CEOs are supporting shareholder  and Board member goals, so none of us are “free” from being accountable to someone.

As the years have passed (and thinking back on my brief stint as a temporary Admin many, many years ago), I’ve come to the conclusion that being an Administrative Assistant is much like being the mom of the office environment – they take care of all of us in ways we don’t even notice sometimes.

  • They make sure our desks are set up when we arrive.
  • They always ensure that we have what we need (as long as we ask nicely).
  • They set up travel plans.
  • They communicate necessary information about goings on.
  • They order lunch (keeping dietary needs in mind) and make sure coffee is available.
  • They make sure all gatherings are set up just right (meetings and team building events).
  • They remember birthdays and company anniversaries.
  • They set up the necessary appointments (meetings).
  • They always know who to talk to if there is a problem.
  • They circle back to ensure that things are done correctly.
  • They know where to get the best sweet treats.
  • They listen. And remember.
  • They smile a lot (when they like you).
  • They are protective of the team.

At the highest levels, Admins handle much more than general staff support. They cross over into personal arenas. It’s a job that isn’t given the credit it deserves.

Our jobs would be much more difficult without the support of our Admins.

Although today isn’t Administrative Professionals Day, I want to give a shout out to all of the Admins and say, “Thank you for all you do!

Life Lessons from My Housemates

I share a 4 bedroom home with three children, two dogs, one mini-macaw, two Beta fish, one newt, one hamster, one bearded dragon, one chinchilla and two guinea pigs – plus 3 in utero guinea pigs. We aren’t quite bursting at the seams, but it’s getting close.

It’s primarily my “fault” we have so many creatures/housemates. I love animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was growing up, but then my dog died when I was 13 and the world was just different.

The older I become, the more I am able to look at things in different ways. I grew up with pets, albeit small ones like parakeets and a turtle, but my dad always had dogs – faithful, loving, soft dogs. I believe kids learn so much from having pets. I’m thankful I’ve been able to provide exposure to animals to my kids (and friends’ kids). Yes, zoos are wonderful and I love them, but having a creature sharing your home can teach you so much.

1) Unconditional love.
Dogs, in particular, are amazingly devoted. There are few things better in the world than when a dog looks at you with big eyes and you see the devotion and dedication. The times when you aren’t feeling well and a dog can sense it, so he/she lays down next to you providing warm, quiet comfort rarely felt elsewhere. The happy jumps when you come through the door are something you won’t find anywhere unless your children are young, not busy and love to hug still. The sweet puppy kisses just because they love you. The unending supply of peaceful comfort just being with another creature happy to be with you. Dogs will forgive you for having a bad day and raising your voice. They just want to love, as do most creatures who look to us to fulfill their need. Even a bearded dragon enjoys affection.

2) Empathy.
Empathy is a difficult concept for some. But it’s not too difficult to feel for a creature who got hurt. Animals, just by their nature seem so helpless even though most could survive in the wild better than we can. I’ve been blown away by the concern my children have for creatures that are injured or in bad situations. The kids look at things through a softer lense and, while they can’t feel what a creature is feeling, they have concern and desire to make things better.

3) Be kind.
It’s a beautiful thing when a child can sit and gently hold a creature understanding that their actions will determine how that creature reacts to them in the future. Soft kisses and a gentle touch can get you so very far while angry voices and physical reprimands cause a creature to back away.

4) Be responsible.
Life moves so quickly it’s easy to become so wrapped up in our own agendas that we neglect those who are most important to us. Staying in tune with the needs of others who are dependent on you forces you to look outside of yourself. While it can be annoying to take the dogs out so many times in one day or continually ensure that everyone has enough to eat, it’s incredibly important to be responsible for those who need our help. Stepping outside of our own worlds for even a few minutes each day provides a valuable perspective and a great sense of accomplishment just because we can be responsible in taking care of someone/thing other than ourselves.

5) Death is part of life.
We’ve had our fair share of losing beloved creatures (parakeets, dogs, several hamsters, a few frogs and many fish). While the pain of the loss lessens, the memories remain some days bringing tears, and others laughter. Death is a bitter part of life and shouldn’t be hidden away. We’ve learned to understand that sometimes the best thing we can do is kiss everything up to God and ask for discomfort and pain to go away even if it means we lose someone/something precious to us.

6) Birth is an amazing and disgusting event.
We’re about to experience the first birth in our house as my daughter’s guinea pigs prepare to be parents. According to the vet’s x-ray, we’re going to add three new beings to our home. I am thankful that my daughter is reading everything she can about guinea pig births and is already anticipating the mess. The x-ray showing us the babies growing has built up our anticipation.

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7) We can’t know everything.
As much as we’d like to think we are intelligent humans, creatures fascinate us with their daily feats. The internet has made learning if particular actions are typical or unique. It’s a wonderful thing to step back, wonder and continually learn.

8) Some mistakes have lasting effects.
We’ve lost at least two hamsters who found their way out of their cage when doors weren’t securely closed. The two most recent were found in the sump pump well far too late. Those freak accidents have taught us to not keep creatures in the basement because there are places where harm can come far too easily.

Our chinchilla will, most likely, lose his eye because he also found his way out of his cage (my fault this time) and punctured his eye. Our fluffy little guy has been a pretty good sport with every antibiotic eye drop dose, but he will never be the same.

Mistakes happen, however while some errors can be erased, we need to be diligent to avoid mistakes that could cause harm.

9) Look out for one another.
As much as barking dogs can be annoying, there is a wonderful feeling of protection when they are there to defend all of us at any cost. My macaw reminds the kids (loudly) when it’s time for bed. We all function as a team and pick up the slack for one another when someone needs something. The creatures keep us moving forward as a collective, rather than individuals.

10) All families look different.
I have yet to meet anyone who lives in suburbia with more creatures than we have. Farms are different and they’d blow away our count of housemates. Friends may have a dog and a cat, a snake or two or maybe no animals at home. Every household is as unique as the personalities we see in our creatures. Our mini-zoo doesn’t make us better or worse. Just different.

11) Don’t judge by appearance
When our bearded dragon first arrived at home, my daughter (who was the creature’s owner) was afraid of him. He’d look so intently and would move so quickly, she put her perceptions on him. After time, she’s come to understand how he loves to cuddle if she’ll pick him up. She can read his movements and know when he wants to be alone or not. He’s no longer intimidating.

My macaw waves hello or goodbye. She’s not lifting her claw in preparation of an attack, she’s being friendly. Looks can be deceiving.

12) Play as much as possible.
Our creatures do nothing except entertain themselves and one another. As humans, we can become so wrapped up in ourselves and what needs to be done, we forget to play. We become stressed and find it difficult to relax some days. If we’d look around we’d see birds outside flying together and seeming to enjoy it. We’d see the simply things in life that we’ve forgotten to notice – fish swimming peacefully, butterflies landing on a flower. Animals play. It’s what they do. If only we’d make the time to play as much as they do, we could relax at the end of the evening with a blissful look and a happy heart.

The Courtesy Flush and Other Things I’ve learned in the Office

Please allow me to (for forgive me for) being crass. 

I’m sure most people have read Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” at least in part. I think we need to have a grown up version that encompasses more than just those incredibly basic people skills and social niceties.

For those of you who haven’t read “All I need to know…” the list includes such things as:

  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Play fair.
  • Share everything.
  • Live a balanced life.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.

Basic words of true wisdom.

One of the basics Robert included in his list was “Flush.” Ummmm… ya. Seems easy, right? Not so much sometimes.

I want to create a list of “All the Things I Need to Function Well in Society, I’ve Learned in the Office (by watching other people and thinking, “Holy Crap!”).” Let’s start with the flushing thing.

  • There is such thing as a “courtesy flush.” As adults, we all know about bodily functions (and some appreciate bodily humor more than others), but we don’t need to bring those to the forefront in the office. I’m sorry that you are having issues, we all do at some point, but flush if you know you have gas and someone else is in the room. That little flush shows that you acknowledge me in a stall next door and we can both pretend that you’re not doing that a few feet away from me. I may be in a meeting with you in an hour or two and I don’t need to know you that personally. (I think this mostly applies to women, but I’ve heard stories from men, too.)
  • We all need underwear that fit. Your body does not exist to me from the neck down, but tight underwear and pantilines can really ruin an outfit. I am not one to really pay attention to what other people are wearing, but even I can’t stop staring when your underwear cut your ass in half.
  • Keep your cleavage to a minimum. I have big breasts and some days, with some of my clothing, I distract myself. But I really try to keep them covered at work. I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to show off their ta-tas in the office. If you’re going out for the evening, show off those beautiful breasts all you want, but please not in the office.
  • Invest in good t-shirts. Men sweat more than women and hairy chests do show through dress shirts. A good t-shirt will help avoid seeing your chest hair and man cleavage. Thank you.
  • Always carry breath mints. I don’t know about you, but some days, my mouth tastes like something died. It could be my stomach, it could be the food I just ate or it could be the occasional cup of coffee. Last thing any of us want to deal with are having our eyebrows melt off from our colleagues’ bad breath. Don’t be known as the person with halitosis. Pop a breath mint before any meeting or stopping by someone’s cube. They will secretly thank you for the minty fresh air.
  • Be considerate of other people. This can encompass all sorts of things from being a loud talker to being the person who stops by and never leaves when you’re trying to get work done.
  • Your personal phone calls should be kept to a minimum at your desk. I have kids, but I do my best to not talk with them during the day because I don’t want everyone to hear the craziness that exists in my life outside of work. I respect that other people are nearby and may be focusing, so I try not to disrupt.
  • Observe adequate personal space. One of my worst work memories was when a boss of mine would continually invade my personal space. I finally lost it and told him to get away from me. One of the many less than professional moments I’ve had. But, he needed to understand that I have space issues. I think most people need a respectful distance from their colleagues.
  • NEVER touch someone personally. A pat on the arm or maybe even a quick forearm grasp is okay when you know that person well. But, don’t ever put your finger in a colleague’s cleavage. It’s happened to me and I still twitch. She liked my “big ta-tas” apparently. Refer back to the adequate personal space note.
  • Walk gingerly. Now, maybe I’m getting really picky here, but at one job we’d joke about how it was like JurassicPark when particular people walked by (you know, the ripples in the water). There really is no reason to stomp your feet as you walk.
  • Be pleasant. This one goes to something I learned when my kids were in preschool and I repeat it often – We don’t have to be friends, but we have to be friendly. Don’t be that miserable, scowling person that people avoid. Smile. Make eye contact. Just be pleasant. After all, we do have to see each other five days a week.
  • Don’t drive a bus over people. In the business environment, sometimes we have to lay things out on the table and colleagues can be hit with shrapnel. However, if you continually throw people under the bus, then back that bus up and continue to ride over people, your reputation precede you and no one will want to be associated with you. Be fair. (Isn’t that what Robert said?)
  • Be responsible. Aren’t we all adults who are here to earn a living and contribute? If you make a mistake, find a solution, but fess up. Don’t allow things to fall apart because you made a mistake. We all make mistakes. We’re all human. Above all – take responsibility for things that are your responsibility and don’t allow someone else to take the fall for you or have to cover up for you.
  • Keep an open mind. Just because you feel a certain way, don’t assume that everyone in your group/on your team feels the same. Be open to learning. Don’t shoot people down when brainstorming – sharing ideas is simply to grow, no one is wrong. We all have different perspectives and can all grow with one another’s help.
  • Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Yes, lunch meetings are the inevitable situation where you may have something in your mouth when you need to talk. However, in most other situations, this is completely avoidable. Just take a breath, finish chewing, swallow and then share your thoughts.
  • Be upfront and honest. Now, this is not to say that you need to say EVERYTHING that is on your mind, but you also should be upfront with people and not the one who carries a set of knives around to backstab everyone. If something bothers you about someone on a personal level, don’t share it at the office. We all have to work together. Just be nice.
  • Be aware of your body odor. I’ve worked with people whose pores are still spewing out alcohol from the previous evening. Please, just bathe adequately and use body spray of some sort if you need to. If your deodorant isn’t working, please invest in a new one. On the flip side, please don’t pour a bottle of fragrance over you every morning.

I will admit I’ve had some truly horrific and unprofessional (but hilarious) moments. I’m not perfect, nor am I a “fast tracker” racing my way to the top. I’ve had too much fun some days and have been completely inappropriate other days, but we all need to co-exist. Hopefully these few items are some good food for thought.

Let’s be honest with ourselves

I haven’t written lately because I just haven’t been inspired. Burying my thoughts deep within myself, I’ve felt that I’ve had not much to share or contribute (and that’s not a bad thing).

Ironically, I flipped the page on my perpetual calendar and this is the quote for today:

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. Thomas Jefferson

Exactly what I’m thinking of today – being honest with ourselves.

I’ve written about the problems inherent in seeing only color rather than character before, but this entire Trayvon case has me just at odds with so many things. We’ve see so many crazy cases where obviously guilty people have been acquitted (for example, OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony) and now Zimmerman. I do believe in trial by jury. I do believe in karma. So, I can’t necessarily say that the verdict was wrong, but I will say that I disagree.

The Trayvon Martin case has gotten so much press. And that’s a great thing. It has people talking. Unfortunately, it became a focus of race rather than a focus on right and wrong. Bottom line – an unarmed teen was killed by a neighborhood watchman. Black, white, Latino, Asian, the teen was unarmed and the armed, non-police officer, shot and killed him.

If Trayvon had been my child, I would demand justice. I would be devastated that Zimmerman walks free. Yes, his life is absolutely changed. And, yes, we need to let the universe sort this out. But – what about the teen?

I don’t care if he smoked weed that night (while, I’m not a fan, it doesn’t make people violent or volatile). I don’t care if he posted pictures of himself in poses that some claim make him look like a gangsta. (A look through my photos could probably paint me in several different ways. It all depends on how the photos are framed in conversation and presentation – which photos you choose.) Add in racial comments (“cracker” or those people type comments) and it’s a gas bomb exploding everywhere.

A teen lost his life because a watchman did not stay in his car as he was instructed by the police.

To me – that’s all that matters.

Why is everyone outraged? Is it because the shooter was a different skin color and he was not convicted? Is it because the laws are skewed? Is it because some cases get so much attention and others not enough? Is it purely racial? Is it because racial discussions are at the forefront and people are forced to be uncomfortable with their conversations? Is it simply a bad decision by the jury? Let’s be honest with ourselves and find the reason.

Let’s flip for a moment.

A woman is walking down the street with her infant son in a carriage (she had already lost a child to violence). She is approached by teens who demand money. One then shoots the baby in the head.

The teens cannot face the death penalty because they are under 18 and in Georgia. People are outraged. The teens should face trial this year. The verdict will be interesting. Why are people outraged here? Lack of media attention? Is it the law that is wrong?

Does it matter that the woman and her child were white and the teens black? No. Evil happened. A baby is dead in cold blood.

A celebrity admits using the N-word and wants a “traditional” service where African Americans are dressed as slaves/servants. In 2013 America, it’s just wrong. Consider history and how inflammatory those statements can be. She’s lost many of her current business deals and potential future career because of her lack of awareness. What is the real issue here? A woman voiced her thoughts, but because she’s famous, she needs to be more aware? Is she perpetuating raw stereotypes and opening up wounds? Why does this bother us?

From all the comments on social media and across this amazing internet, these types of cases are further dividing our country based on color of skin. Race relations continue to suffer.

To me, none of this is a matter of color. But, my eyes are open more every day to the concept that trying not to see color is not typical. Yes, I notice what someone looks like. Yes, I even said it to friends in passing recently – “These Asian kids are cracking me up.” Why did I have to specify Asian? I don’t know. They spoke English, obviously lived in the neighborhood in which they were playing tennis. Maybe it’s because we’re so busy classifying one another, so busy trying to stand out – make our children stand out – or feel important that it’s just who we’ve become as a society, as a world.

Where are you from? I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. Well, not really Cleveland, but Northeast Ohio in one of the suburbs. It’s an Italian Catholic neighborhood primarily, but I’m not Italian or Catholic. I went to one of three elementary schools that had been in the town – two of which closed when I was a child. To this day, my friends from my hometown and I divide each other (in jest) by which elementary school we attended. It’s who we are. The girl with brown hair. The boy with the wide eyes. She wore green. He played football. He drove a beat up car. She lived on the other side of the tracks. We constantly divide ourselves.

We are all stereotypes of some sort. We are continually classified and pigeonholed by what we look like, how we speak, what car we drive, what job we have.

But that shouldn’t be how we base our thoughts and decisions about others.

On any given day, I could be dressed for business, then wearing mismatched clothing when I work outside – fitting into different stereotypical demographics. I’m in my early 40s, but certainly don’t feel like it. I’ve been told I look even 10 years younger than I am. I can dine at the fanciest of restaurants and enjoy food at a dive bar. People are different in these places, but does it make any of them all that different at the core? I can say I’ve tried the experiments – going to an upper scale mall in crappy clothing vs nice casual wear. I’m always treated differently. I still act the same – polite, courteous. It’s not me who is different aside from my clothing. But the one thing I typically have in my favor is that I’m basically an unassuming white woman. I can get away with a lot. I’ve learned to work the system when I need to. I’m not above wearing a tight low-cut shirt to the auto parts store to get extra help (it works). I know if I want the best service in certain places, I need to fit in. I can typically talk my way out of a speeding ticket. It’s not too difficult 90% of the time. I am 1,000% sure that the way I am treated is NOT always based on my character. It’s based on my appearance.

I don’t know why the middle aged woman at the restaurant is a server her entire life. Nor should it matter. I’ve been the 30-something woman serving coffee and treated like I’m a moron because I’m looked at as “less than” because of my job (for the record, I love food service). I know who I am and try very hard not to be offended although I’d love to set the record straight every single time. I go home to my nice house in my 2013 car and sit comfortably although paying the bills has been tough. I’m extremely fortunate to be who I am. And I don’t lose sight of where I’ve been (food stamps and free lunches).

I’ve been told I can come across as arrogant. But is that what it is – arrogance? Is it someone who has seen and learned and keeps a distance for a reason? Is it the battles I am fighting that cause me to close ranks to protect myself so I don’t cry in public? Is it my insecurities you are seeing? Or yours?

Why does a friend work so many long hours? Is she compulsively trying to prove something to herself? Does she not want to be home? Is she making up for a lag in her career? Is it just part of her character that she does everything 120% or not at all? Does it really matter?

Why does another friend sequester away from everyone? Anti-social? Having problems and overwhelmed? Burned so many times it seems easier to keep a distance? Does it matter?

Step back. Breathe. Look at the situation from all different angles. Why are you thinking first of a person’s appearance? Are you looking AT the person, or INTO the person trying to find motivations? Are you looking to see a situation for what it is – based on a person’s character? Or are you looking for an issue based on appearance?

Compassion and empathy don’t take much, but they seem to be very difficult for some. “Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you have no idea where I’m coming from,” could not be more true for any of us. It’s all about awareness and what we want to see. Look within yourself to find your motivations. Be honest with yourself.

The road to self-awareness never ends. We’re all walking it in some way, at our own pace. We need to remember that what we don’t like in others tends to be what we dislike in ourselves. We are all one human race, at our core, in our DNA. When are we going to realize it and look beyond the obvious?

Life Highlights and Movie Clips

The older I get the more I realize that I’ve actually had some pretty great movie quality moments. Sad that I’m striving for film clip type memories, but isn’t that how our memories work? I’ve written about the highlights reels that we show people via our social media persona, so it only makes sense to compare our memories to movie clips. I’ve mentioned the best date I ever had. I’ve briefly talked about my adoration for Italian men and their serenades….

Looking back over my life, it’s been an interesting ride. Not nearly as interesting as some people I know, but I’ve met some fascinating people along the way.

I’ve debated who discovered America with some street vendors in Pisa, Italy. (They contended that it was Christopher Columbus {Cristoforo Columbo}, I argued that it was Amerigo Vespucci.) Then they invited my friend and me to a party. “I have cousin who will like your friend,” one of the men told me.

I was followed by a group of American servicemen through Verona who kept trying to strike up a conversation. I pretended not to understand English and would only respond in Italian. Then when we passed my hotel, I stepped into the lobby and bid them a great vacation in American English.

The smell of the pineapple plantations on Oahu is something that I’ll never forget.

An incredibly handsome Egyptian man who ran a hotel I stayed in in Rome and I struck up a brief friendship after conversations during my comings and goings. In the elevator up to my room at one point, he looked and me and, “may I kiss you.” Wow. How could one resist? And, yes, he stayed in the lift when I exited. But…. Wow. Great moments.

I drove a Navy harbor patrol boat around Pearl Harbor in the dark of night. (shhhhh don’t tell anyone)

As I was viewing some amazing architecture in Assisi, a man approached me. (I am certain he was a mafia capo of some sort with his “men” standing slightly behind him.) He looked me up and down with a sly smile and asked if I am Italy. When I responded no, he looked at me again and said, “Che peccato. Ciao bella.” What a shame. Goodbye beautiful. Then walked way. I still wonder what would have occurred had I said, “Yes, I am Italian.”

I’ve sat on the roof of the Duomo in Milan and had long conversations.

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I walked the lakeside promenades along Lago Maggiore with handsome Italian men.

I rode a train with an Italian family, helping their young child speak English. When they left, they gave me an Italian horn keychain. They had never spoken with an American before.

A friend and I were hit on by (according to our hotel staff) the biggest drug dealers in the Bahamas. They were charming, I’ll give them that.

I saw a mafia hit in Rome near the Spanish Steps. Watching the Carabinieri sit on one corner while the victim was lying in the street surrounded my suited men. As my friend and I left the piazza, I was stared down by another Mafioso running to the scene. I couldn’t look away.

Brought into an “argument” between a stereotypical “ugly American” and a French railway employee, I translated to allow the American to purchase the tickets he needed. Then chuckled while the French employees called the man all sorts of derogatory names.

I’ve had a “party” on a rooftop in Sicily. And sang an impromptu acapella song with some friends in the ruins of a Greek theater in Sicily (ahhhh those acoustics!).

Stopped to listen to a group of Americans singing along with local musicians in front of churches in Assisi. The Indigo Girls’ song “Closer to Fine” has had special meaning for me ever since.

I walked from Chateau du Chillon in Switzerland along Lake Geneva all the way to Montreux, enjoying the friendliness of the people who live there. The sites are so amazing and cannot be given justice.

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I’ve observed. Watched. Listened. Participated. Learning so much from the people around me. Nothing could possibly replace any of these memories. One thing that I do “regret” in a way is that some of these memories I made on my own. As I traveled solo. So there’s no one with whom to say, “Remember when?” But solo travel is something I would do again in a heartbeat. I recommend it highly.

My day-to-day is so typical. Get up early, help the kids prepare for school. Work. Come home, cook dinner, clean. Take care of the kids. Sleep and start all over. These are wonderful things, but don’t make the highlights reel simply because they are so mundane.

But, road tripping to Tulsa from Cleveland with my kids during a 6 day period definitely was an amazing movie in and of itself. Even some quick snapshots of entertainment that come out of the blue like the text from my 11-year old son complaining about summer reading that simply said (dripping with annoyance), “I have to read Hatchet… thanks a lot school.” Or the memories of my oldest when she was a preschooler walking into the room with crayons sticking out of her nose and ears. My middle daughter and her kitty imitation when she was a toddler.

I love my highlights reel and these movie clips. I have been very fortunate for these moments and so many more.

My soul is aching for another adventure. As soon as I save up, I’m going to go – somewhere – and, hopefully add more precious memories. For now, road trips will have to do. Along with the surprise moments that occur during the day-to-day. I am thankful for all of these.

To all of you fellow bloggers who share your adventures. I thank you. I enjoy your life stories. I live vicariously through you. Please keep writing!

Search Terms and Blogging

One of the biggest challenges for me in writing this blog’s posts is to select search terms. I do not claim to understand how the wonders of the internet work, but I do know that I need to add some general search terms to my pieces to help the magic happen.

For some odd reason I am greatly entertained by the search terms that lead people here to The Forgetful Genius. Many, obviously, are about being a genius, knowing or dating a genius; being forgetful; and Italian men. The “men topic” is a huge draw, I’m sure because of one particular post I wrote about my infatuation with Italian men, as well as other posts about my love for Italy.

Today I found one of the greatest search terms yet that brought someone here, “Are ostriches forgetful.” Apparently the post I wrote about my crazy Fellini-esque dreams and my ostrich dream combined with my “name” worked. Hey – whatever gets people here.

As a new blogger, I’m never quite sure what to write about, so it’s a treat to see what brings people here. Judging by the statistics, I need to write more about Italian men, Italy and genius type stuff. Luckily I have an Italy obsession, so I’m good with that. Maybe I’ll have to throw in some stories about random creatures like Nessy, sloths and frogs to see who else happens by. I also have on deck a story about schizophrenia and a video with dancing gummy bears in it that I need to finalize and get posted.

In the meantime – Thank YOU for stopping by!