Sentimental Me

I was on a mission recently to purge. My house is too cluttered, there’s just too much stuff, and I don’t need nor do I use most of it. I have a closet full of clothes, yet I tend to wear the same old favourites over and over. I have enough shoes to outfit a family of centipedes, enough purses to match each pair of shoes (ok, this is my weakness) and so many knick knacks, there’s no room for dust to settle around them.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder; I don’t keep every thing I come into contact with, unlike my husband. Now he’s a hoarder! Every scrap of paper he jotted something on, he has. Some date back years, so far back he can’t recall what they mean, but he has to keep them because ‘if he wrote it down he must’ve thought it important enough.’ (oi vey!) We have old letters and photographs, yearbooks, and trophies that belonged to an old friend who passed some 10 years ago and my husband has to keep them, all of them. His widow didn’t even want them but they’re in my house because my husband has to keep everything.

When I married him 37 years ago he had a 30 inch waist. He now boasts a healthy 36 inch girth but he still has some pants in his closet from when he was leaner because ‘they’re good pants…why would he get rid of perfectly good pants?’ I reason that maybe they’d fit someone who needs clothing and suggest we give them to the needy, but no, they’re his, and he’s going to keep them, for heaven knows what. He has a pair of shoes from an uncle who passed 45 years ago. They’re 2 sizes too big, but ‘they’re good quality….they don’t make shoes like this anymore’ and so they sit in the back of the closet, collecting dust. And God forbid I should offer them to someone who might use them, someone for whom they’d fit. No no, they’re his and he can’t use them, but he can’t part with them either. This type of hoarding is an illness.

Now I’m no saint. I have clothes that no longer fit but I keep them because I like to think someday I’ll fit into them again – I see them as incentive, not clutter, and these items are few, one or two at most.

Funny isn’t it, the things we cling to? And there’s nothing wrong with cherishing something of sentimental value as long as we realistically draw the line between what is truly of value and what is just clutter. I have 2 laundry baskets full of family photographs, some 40 plus years worth, and I can honestly say no one has looked at them for at least 10 years, maybe longer. So why are they here? Every now and then I pull the baskets out and start sorting determined to organize them. My intention is to toss the many, many duplicates and reduce the overall hoard to 3 or 4 albums. I create a ‘keep’ and ‘toss’ pile, but as soon as I start going through them a flood of memories come crashing down and after just a few hours my ‘keep’ pile is huge and the ‘toss’ pile is virtually non-existent. Discouraged at my lack of progress, I toss all of them back into the laundry basket and stuff it back into a closet.

I’ve always enjoyed sewing and so did my mother. She had several pin cushions and tin boxes for threads. (Actually, my mother was the master of hoarding. There wasn’t a square inch on any wall where she didn’t hang something and every table and shelf in her house held numerous decorations. She really liked stuff! Ah, but I digress) I suppose no one really needs more than one pin cushion and I have a large drawer that can easily house all my threads but sentimental me can’t let go of those little reminders of my mother. These little knick knacks meant a lot to her.

I have table linens that belonged to my mother or mother-in-law that I never use because they’re either too worn or don’t fit my table, but I can’t part with them because they conjure up memories of beautifully set tables and happy family gatherings. Ok, so maybe I’m guilty of a little hoarding myself. The things that bring us joy are worth keeping. Those that don’t seem to serve any purpose, like old clothing, another’s photos and year books, scraps of paper with meaningless notes, they need to be purged. It’s just not healthy to hold on to everything for no reason.

I guess what we each find of value is very personal thing and letting them go can be a betrayal of our memories. That said, Sentimental Me has no problem purging most useless items….like shoes that don’t fit, photos of some else’s life, pants you haven’t a hope in hell of fitting in to again, and…….uncooperative husbands!

sentimental me

Spa Day!

Let me start by declaring a shocking truth about myself. I am NOT a spa girl. I don’t have the time, the money, or the patience to succumb to a day of lazy luxurious pampering. Over the years I’ve been given gift certificates for spa days offering everything from deep massage to mud baths and I’ve either given them away or utilized them for pedicures and even those only recently. I’ve always done my own manicures and pedicures and to this day I’ve yet to find an esthetician who can do it better than me. As for massages and mud baths,,,,,I just don’t like the idea of them. (OK, maybe I don’t really understand them) Unlike most people, I do not find massage relaxing. In fact, I find it hugely irritating. I think it’s because I’m uncomfortably ticklish and all the rubbing and prodding just makes me squirm, but given the increase in the number of new spas opening it would appear I am the exception, not the norm.

Clearly women love to be pampered and since I am a woman I decided to give it one more shot, if only to help me bond with my female friends. (surely I’m missing something?) I scouted out 3 local spas that are in close proximity to my home and reviewed their menu of services, (which was surprisingly diverse) and I was really shocked to see the kinds of treatments available. A basic facial seemed the safest route for me, a ‘spa novice’, but I would soon find out a ‘basic’ facial was hard to find.

Choices included a HydraFacial; this boasts ‘vacuum’ technology that creates a vortex effect to remove impurities while simultaneously introducing solutions that exfoliate, hydrate and infuse your skin with antioxidants”  (what?) That sounds like a lot of big words for a facial and it is recommended that one would need a minimum of 6 such sessions for best results. Each session costs $250.00. That’s a lot of money to vacuum my face. Next.

Then there’s Microdermabrasion. This procedure uses an abrasive surface to gently ‘sand’ away the thick outer layer of the skin to rejuvenate it. (you’re going to ‘sand’ my face, mmmm, I don’t think so) On the upside this procedure costs less than vacuuming your face, but not much, and it sounds like it would hurt. Next.

A chemical peel is a skin ‘resurfacing’ (sounds like they’re paving a road) procedure in which a chemical solution, usually Glycolic Acid, is applied to the skin to remove the top layers. (mother Jesus, are you kidding me, acid, on my face?) The skin that grows back after a chemical peel is smoother and younger looking. (nothing like a little acid to the face to give you that glow) Chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, skin discoloration and scars. Now I do have some experience with this procedure. My mother in law was very self-conscious about some age spots on her face and had this procedure done a number of years ago. I remember her face was beet red and looked really sore. In fact, she looked like a burn victim. It took weeks for her ‘new skin’ to surface and when it did I can’t say I noticed much improvement. Needless to say this procedure held little appeal for me and since I’m not interested in vacuuming, sanding or peeling an portion of my face I decided the facial route was not for me, so I moved down the menu.

‘Full-body’ massage typically includes your arms, legs, hands and feet, your neck and back, your stomach and buttocks and, they go on to stress, ‘it doesn’t have to include your sensitive areas’ and,  they say  ‘area around the breasts is usually massaged but not the breasts themselves’. (They call this massage? I call it foreplay) Maybe we’ll just skip the massage section.

A Mud bath is a skin treatment performed by covering an individual’s skin with a thin layer of rich, dark mud, or by immersing them in a pool of liquid mud. This mud typically consists of seaweed, volcanic ash, clay and other mineral rich substances that are mixed with natural or spring water. (Ok, you can fancy that up any way you want but mud is mud and the thought of having to clean it out of your body crevices conjures up an image most unappealing – where’s that ‘vacuum’ technology’ now?)

Interestingly though, this procedure is considered sanitary despite the fact that the mud is ‘reused’. (how gross is that?) It has to do with the amount of natural salts found in the mineral mixture. (ok, I’m not convinced) Salt or no salt, I’m not comfortable with the thought that the mud on my face could’ve been ‘elsewhere’ on another stranger. Besides, my only benchmark for the benefits of a mud bath is the common pig. They live in mud and look at their skin. Nooooo thanks!  (OK, I’m running out of services here)

I suppose I could look at waxing but even that service has expanded its’ parameters….just read the description of the ‘Brazilian Bikini Wax’, it’s guaranteed to make you bellow like Tarzan.

Now I love the thought of being pampered but I struggle with the definition of the word ‘pampered’. I just don’t see the appeal of rolling in mud, succumbing to a near sexual body rub, or having any portion of my body, least of all my face, vacuumed, scraped or peeled. Am I weird? In the absence of any like-minded women, I’m afraid I have to acknowledge that maybe I am.

At the end of the day I decided not to book anything at a spa. There’s too many choices there and none of them hold any appeal to me. So much for bonding with my female friends! Maybe I’ll just find a nice pottery class instead.

spa day

Parenthood is a life sentence

You’re in it for life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not for everyone and it’s not for the faint of heart.

I recall a young man I worked with some years ago who was married but childless by choice and his reasoning was interesting. He was the 2nd eldest of 11 children so it fell upon him and his elder sister to help rear the others. By the time he married he felt he’d already raised his children because from the age of 13 he’d been ‘recruited’ to help with the parenting.  (ok, I have to interject here…No woman should have to endure 11 pregnancies,,,what are we, machines? I suppose there’s the odd one who actually enjoys perpetual reproduction but surely they have to be the exception and I suspect his mother his would be easy to spot in a crowd. She’ll be the one with her bladder hanging between her knees)

Now his choice to remain childless is fine, if it was a personal preference. But if it was a result of his having to play the role of parent in his young life, that is most unfortunate. To foist the responsibility of raising a family on a young man, simply because his parents chose to over produce is unfair, and selfish on the part of those parents. I get that for many birth control, or the lack of it, is a religious choice but at some point common sense has to factor in. How effective a parent can you be with a large family? (as in this case 11) How much one on one time do you have to spend with these children? And they do need individual attention. More so today than ever.

I squeezed 3 humans out of my body and that was enough. I fell in love with each one as they arrived but I didn’t delude myself into thinking they’d be perfect, or that at age of majority they would move out of my charge and into the world after which I could wash my hands of them and ride off into the sunset. It never works that way and that’s because children, no matter how old need to be nurtured, and as much as you might have a plan for them, they have their own agenda. They didn’t come in to this world simply to please us. They will not be molded into the perfect beings we want, nor will they ever entirely remove themselves from our sphere of responsibility because once you bring a child into your life, you’re in it for life and too late you find out the worry never stops.

As infants you worry about illness or developmental challenges. As children you worry about their integration into school and bullying. The teen years bring a whole host of potentially frightening scenarios; everything from learning to drive, to peer pressure and drugs. Finally, they mature and marry or partner up with someone who cares about them and you temporarily have that sense of accomplishment – your work here is done. You have effectively passed the torch to another who will love and cherish your child. Or maybe not. Maybe they’ve chosen a career over marriage and that’s ok cause either way they have found their niche in life and they are happy.

But maybe the marriage/partnership doesn’t work so you worry about that. And of course, as responsible adults they have jobs, jobs with stress, and you worry about their happiness and their livelihood. Maybe they start a family and that brings you pride and joy. But now the cycle of worry begins again because our children’s children will face all the same challenges they did, the very ones you worried about; illness, development, schooling, friends, their life happiness, and you worry,,,because you are still a parent.

Now I’ve painted a gloomy picture and I didn’t mean to, because with all the worry of having children so comes tremendous joy. The tears you shed over their hurts and losses, the nights you stayed by their bedside watching over a high fever, the fear you felt the first time they went out at night with friends. All these are accompanied by the shared ‘firsts’; the first step, the first day of school, the first job, the first date. And through all these shared successes you found the time to laugh together, to learn from each other and before you know it, you forged a friendship moving from the role of parent to friend; this is the most rewarding part for me. At least I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.

I think this is what I learned from parenting, that it can be exhausting, and challenging, and expensive. It can also be exhilarating, rewarding and fun. I guess it’s what you make of it and we all do the best we can with the knowledge we have. Your children will not always do what you’d like but if you raised them to act responsibly and exercise good judgement, you have to trust that they will do what is right and respect them enough to give them free reign. Your work really is over, it’s just the worry that lingers, and that is the life sentence.

At the end of the day, the effort we put forth in raising our children is no less an accomplishment than those who commit their lives to finding cures for disease, or ending world hunger. Everyone contributes to the society we create and parenting is no less worthy. It’s just more personal.

If you’ve chosen to remain childless, good for you – not everyone’s life path includes 2.5 children, a cocker spaniel and the house with a white picket fence. If however, you’ve chosen to share your life with a child(s) fasten your seatbelt cause you’re in for the ride of your life and it’s a full time commitment. And once you’re in, there’s no going back.

Make the time or find the interest in mentoring your child because being a parent isn’t easy but it is a gift, and if you can’t find the joy in rearing your child, you’re doing it wrong.

Parenthood

Through the eyes of another

While at the hairdressers recently my stylist mentioned how much she enjoyed the blogs I wrote about my husband – they made her laugh. Like any dutiful wife I support my husband because he is truly a wonderful person; bright, kind, funny, just an all round great guy…… but I’m not blind to his faults and I get a kick out of making light of them. We shared a good laugh about husbands in general and she happened to comment that it would be interesting to read a blog written by my husband about me, and that got me to thinking.

Do we ever really know how we are perceived by others? I’d like to think my husband would describe me as smart, witty, fun, industrious, thoughtful, beautiful, even tempered……mmm??? Ok, he might not use that last one but you get my meaning here. I think we all like to see ourselves through the eyes of another in only positive ways. We acknowledge our flaws but we’d also like to think others overlook them when assessing our worth.

When I really give it honest thought I have to grudgingly admit that maybe, just maybe, I’m not as flawless as I’d like to believe. (can that be?) My husband has, on occasion, indicated that I could be impatient sometimes, and set in my ways. (Actually his exact words were short tempered and stubborn as a mule but I ‘softened’ them because I’m sure he didn’t mean it) Now I interpret that as my being a quick thinker and determined. He says I can be outspoken and impulsive. I see that as confident and decisive.  He says I can be overbearing and somewhat domineering. I say he’s wrong. He says I spend recklessly. I say he’s cheap. (could this all just be some big misunderstanding?)

Maybe there’s just too many adjectives in the English language to describe a single trait (or flaw), or maybe it’s individual interpretation of the words that change the meaning. Whatever the case, I think it’s safe to say we all see ourselves differently from how others see us and we are all capable of justifying our behaviours to cast us into a more favourable light.

At the end of the day I think we all want to reflect the image of the perfect person; the good  Samaritan, the thoughtful partner, the well behaved and loving son/daughter, the supportive parent, and it goes without saying we just assume that all perceive us as smart, engaging and beautiful, right? Because we are, aren’t we?

The answer is yes. We all have our flaws. Whether we see them as such is personal interpretation and it’s sometimes, like my husband, we misinterpret certain characteristics labeling them as flaws, when really it’s just the observer reading me all wrong.

old lady and rolling pin

Don’t look back

I guess “old news” is like reading a history book. The facts are the reality and cannot be changed, and the hard part is facing the fact that reality isn’t always pretty. I’m the first to admit I am not a history buff. I hated studying history in school. Reading about the past was, in my mind, boring and most importantly, unchangeable, so why dwell on it? (I was so disinterested with history in high school my teacher offered to give me a passing grade if I promised not to retake his class…..ah, but I digress!) Over the years, many, many years, I came to learn that past experiences really do play an important role in our future. I also learned that letting go of the past isn’t always easy, but it is necessary if we are to move into that future successfully.

The experiences of our lives have fashioned the very beings we are today, good and bad, and what seemed intolerable in the past is now just that,,,,past…….so why is it so hard to move on? If ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ why can’t we embrace the bad experiences in appreciation for the lessons they provide?

Because we’re human; bursting with a variety of emotions, and riddled with insecurities.

My life isn’t always perfect. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve felt great joy and tremendous pride. I’ve also endured immense pain and deep disappointment, but I survived. I rode on the crest of the highs with gratitude, and absorbed  the pain of the lows with tolerance, because giving up was never an option and I knew that after every storm the sun really does shine again. The latter insight I gained with maturity and experience.

Do I have any regrets? Yes and no. Yes, because I’ve said or done things in my lifetime I wish I hadn’t. And no, because those very same experiences, the ones I’d rather forget, gave me cause to reflect on what kind of person I was…….and more importantly, the kind I wanted to be.

You can’t change what was, you can only learn from it – I guess that’s the true value of the ‘history lesson’. Move forward with confidence and the knowledge that every day presents a new opportunity to do right by yourself and don’t look back. That’s old news, and your future is only as bright and sunny as your optimism will allow, so give it free reign. Cut the baggage loose and the rest will follow.

Forget the past.

Just remember what it taught you.

Old News

The Handyman

I married for love but I would give my kingdom for a handyman! (actually, I always secretly hoped my daughters would marry someone in the trades, a plumber, electrician, a mechanic even, but no such luck. Both went white collar, just my luck!) Home repairs are a never ending task list and if you have to hire someone for every little chore it almost defeats the purpose of owning a home.

My father was handy and could manage any home repair. He just had an aptitude for, well, everything and I miss being able to just call dad when I needed a repair. Now I should point out, I’ve managed a number of home repairs on my own, thanks to a curious mind, ‘How to’ videos, and a cheap husband. (he flinches at the thought of paying for any home repair. In his mind it’s better to just live with it and when it really becomes unbearable, move.) Now, I don’t want to harp on his short comings because he’s really a great guy. He’s just painfully inept at home repairs. Is that a birth defect? Or maybe it’s a ‘selective’ deficiency, you know, you don’t do well the things you don’t like. Either way it’s an expensive inconvenience.

Now he has tried some home maintenance over the years. When we were first married we had pigeons nesting on our small balcony rendering it useless for our own use. Animal control advised us to toss the empty nest over the balcony. The pigeons would relocate their home upon returning to see it was gone. Sounded easy enough. The trick was getting near enough to scoop up the nest in the midst of all the pigeons – there were a lot (these things travel in hoards) and neither of us was keen on getting pecked by a bird. But, it had to be done, and the chore fell to the man of the house.

Unfamiliar with how to deal with any wildlife, he ‘suited up’ to ensure he was protected should any rogue pigeons attack him. He wore knee high rubber boots, my oven mitts, a long trench coat, and in the absence of a helmet for face protection, he propped a bucket over his head. (I wish I’d thought to take a picture!) After steeling up his courage he opened the balcony door and walked with determination toward the flock of birds. He grabbed the nest in a flurry of squawking and fluttering, and turned to quickly toss it over the balcony. As he did so the bucket perched on his forehead fell over his face and he stumbled slightly, over his rubber boot, and ended up tossing not only the nest but one of my oven mitts and the bucket that was his headgear. Not quite the smooth maneuver we had planned but it worked. The pigeons were gone and did not return, and all it cost was one oven mitt, a bucket, and a little humility.

Over the years he has tried random home repairs but most failed miserably and he eventually gave up trying the tough stuff, leaving it to myself or, if I couldn’t handle it, a professional.

Most recently he made to replace a light bulb in one of our driveway lampposts. Seemed simple enough. Now, I should preface this by saying (because he brought it up later) that I had recently thrown out an old 5 foot step ladder we had. It was left in the home we currently occupy and was rickety and unreliable. It also didn’t go as high as we often needed so we had recently purchased a 8 foot extension ladder and I had planned to replace the old step ladder in time. (apparently not soon enough) In any event, I was at the computer as I saw him head down the driveway with the new extension ladder. He said he needed to replace a bulb in our lamp post. I foolishly didn’t give it another thought.

A few moments later I heard a crash and the shattering of glass. Glancing up from the computer I sensed what had happened so I got up and headed out the door and down the driveway. There he was, getting up from the ground with skinned knees, a light bulb in one hand and a puzzled expression on his face. “This ladder is too long for this” he declared, and looked at me accusingly.  I don’t know how but somehow I kept from laughing. Maybe it was because I was biting my tongue so hard it bled. This 175 pound man propped an 8 foot ladder up against a six foot lamp post then expected it to hold his body weight as he climbed up to reach the burnt out bulb. Needless to say the post snapped and all 4 lanterns crashed and shattered. The ONLY salvageable piece left was the new bulb he was to replace.

Now, I could point out the folly of his strategy but that would be wasted on one so completely unfamiliar with home repair. Suffice it to say we now have a new lamp post and it only cost $440 plus the new bulb and the cost of a new step ladder (apparently all this happened because I threw out his ‘bulb changing ladder’)

Some people are handy, some are not. My darling husband, who is smart and funny and kind, is NOT, and if there’s one thing more expensive than hiring a professional, it’s letting ‘someone who’s not’ tackle the job!

Handyman

Drama Queen

There are those who walk with drama, constantly…… they seem to be surrounded by a whirl of emotion and turmoil. They attract it…they seem to thrive on it, and you have to wonder why because it’s exhausting. It depletes your energy and permeates the mood of all who come into contact with you. Those who thrive on drama can bring down a room just by entering it; so far reaching is their negative energy, and unless you can effectively surround yourself with a shield of emotional protection, you are better to avoid these people. They are, in short, a complete downer!

We’ve all encountered the over-sensitive individual. They read too much into any conversation and interpret everything as a personal criticism of themselves. They see only the darkness of the tunnel instead of the light at the end – a misguided interpretation of the situation and a complete waste of energy.

I suspect those craving drama are really just seeking attention and in the absence of constant accolades they embellish the simplest of situations to create a flurry of emotion at which they are always centered.  They are the victim, always. Every worldly woe is their burden to carry……”poor me look at what I have to contend with”, and if they left it at that it wouldn’t be so bad, but they don’t. For some reason they feel compelled to share their drama  with everyone and if they can’t engage enough sympathy they ramp up their sob story and expand their audience falling short of screaming at the top of their lungs in the middle of a crowd, “Look at me, I’m suffering and I need to suck you all into the vortex of my agony!”  Needless to say these people eventually drop off the top of a guest list. There’s a shock.

Then there’s the person who ‘feels’ another’s pain and suffers right along with them. They empathize too much taking on the burden of a situation as though it were their own because….. they don’t have enough drama in their own lives? (For heaven’s sake, get a hobby, or get a life….if only to get out of the drama of everyone else’s.) These individuals stress over everything, anticipating the worst and living in a constant state of high alert because a crisis is always just around the corner.

Could it be that those who live in constant drama do so because they need a distraction from their own deeper issues?  Or is it that they just want the attention, negative or otherwise, that comes with drama? Maybe it’s genetic, or maybe it’s just habit – if you grow up in an environment riddled with emotional drama it has to rub off on you (children learn what they live)

Regardless of how or why drama plays a role in some lives, it’s a cycle that needs to be broken because the energy spent on drama could be so much better utilized anywhere else. Deflate the overblown balloon of drama when you can, and when you can’t, just avoid the company of Drama Queens altogether…. cause life is too short.

Drama Queen

That Lovin’ Feeling

My husband plays cribbage with a group of men. Recently one of the group passed, quite suddenly. They resumed play a few weeks after, at our house, and naturally the first topic was the loss of their friend. I happened to mention how sorry I was and on a practical note, I added that death is inevitable and someone needed to go first. My husband without skipping a beat, leaned over, touched my arm, looked tenderly into my eyes and said, “ok, you first”.

Ok, not the typical display of tenderness one might expect, but I know my husbands’ playful attempt to lighten the mood was in fact a very personal display of his affection for me. That’s his sense of humour.  (Granted it’s also the cradle of idiocy but it drew some chuckles and it is his way of expressing warmth)

A dear friend complained to me that her husband wasn’t as ‘romantic’ as she’d hoped. He was a good husband, father, and friend. He adored her and she him. He just didn’t understand what it was she wanted from him. Now only a woman could understand this, she wanted those little extra touches. Opening her car door for her, (open any door for that matter), offering to help with the household chores, planning a date night, telling her she’s beautiful even when she’s  spent the day in her sweats cleaning. Any of these small gestures would go such a long way in nurturing that romantic need in her, but he just doesn’t get it.

The couple agreed to each plan a spontaneous surprise for the other, something to reignite that spark, that something special that would bring a smile to their eyes.  She planned a ‘naughty evening’ to entice him; dumped the kids at Grandma’s for the night, bought a sexy nightie and a bottle of wine and laid herself out for him for the evening. He surprised her with a ‘Thighmaster’ and a six week membership at a local gym because she had complained about gaining weight on her rear and he thought she’d really appreciate that he’d been listening. (kind of brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it?)

Ok, so the guy isn’t romantic, but he is practical. She grudgingly acknowledges that she has voiced her concerns about her weight on occasion, so he gave her what he honestly thought she wanted. How can that be bad? It’s actually pretty considerate, not smart, but considerate. Interestingly enough these two have found their happy medium. He still tries (and fails) to perform those little romantic gestures she craves, and she has learned to laugh about it, accepting him for the lovable lout that he is.

Expressions of love are as unique as the individual. Some are tender, some are playful, some are humourous, and all are delivered with a very personal intention. We might not always get the gist of their meaning but you have to appreciate the effort,  because they all, one way or another, inspire that lovin’ feeling, so just revel in it, and don’t complain about how it comes…… just be grateful it does.

That lovin feeling

Keep it simple

English is one of the ten most spoken languages in the world (Mandarin is number one) yet it is one of the most difficult to learn and I think the challenge lies in its’ phonetics. The English language is laden with silent letters and various pronunciations of the same letter combinations. Consider the spelling of words like trough (pronounced troff) and through (thru) The same letter combination with completely different sounds. It’s a wonder new immigrants can ever learn the language (and yet they do).

Why then do we further complicate our language with elaborate spelling of our names? Why can’t ‘Leigh’ just be ‘Lee’, or ‘Thomas’ just be ‘Tomas’, what purpose do the extra letters serve? Written communication should be simpler than it is.

I know a young woman who named her newborn daughter Sheelagh (Sheila) Now I get that many names are derived from other languages; in this case Sheelagh is from the Gaelic (Irish) but don’t people have enough challenges in life without having to constantly clarify the pronunciation and spelling of their names? And this particular child was born and raised in North America so what happened to ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’? (speak English already!)

I suppose an argument could be had in support of the numerous alphabets and I do not discount the need to maintain the worlds various cultures, but thanks to technology, there is a move to simplify. Anyone texting or emailing looks to abbreviate phrases.  “Are you ok?” has become “r u ok?” It’s like the population has moved to a verbal form of shorthand. I suppose it’s all in the quest to save time but are we losing something in the process? (or do these people not know how to spell?) In fifty years will we even know how to spell or will we have created a whole new language, one of acronyms and abbreviations? And will anyone care?

Cursive writing has been removed from school curriculums because students now type on computer keyboards that ‘spell-check’ everything so they don’t have to. Calculators now do simple math, so again, students don’t have to. God help us if the worlds computer systems fail. There’ll be a multitude of zombies wandering the world unable to communicate because they never learned how.

OK, ok, this is an extreme projection but you have to admit there’s an underlying inkling of truth here. Simplification has its’ purpose but in our attempt to over-simplify are we disabling our brains? (why think if a device can do it for us?) Is this how artificial intelligence begins?

I suppose as long as we have a variety of languages and alphabets in the world we’ll have to face the challenges of mispronunciation (assuming we can all still read…… computers will do that for us too) I grew up with an ethnic last name that was constantly mispronounced. It wasn’t that it was complicated. In fact, it was almost phonetically perfect (almost) to pronounce correctly yet people constantly bastardized it. When I married and changed my name to one that was much simpler I was (and still am) shocked to see that people still grossly mispronounce it. My current name couldn’t be any simpler and yet it’s a problem for many. Is it that people just expect the written word to be difficult or are they making it more complicated than needed?

It’s too late to change the ‘official’ spelling of words because the languages and alphabets are age old, however simplification is still within our control. It just takes effort and the flexing of your brain muscle…… and a really sound knowledge of your alphabet because acronyms are after all, the modern day phenomenon…and, I’m afraid, the future of language. So if you’re having a baby or getting a pet and need a name, please, keep it simple. Drop the silent letters…they serve no purpose and just frustrate those of us who have to listen to the painful mispronunciation of it. Besides your time is better spent learning the new language.,the one that only uses half the alphabet…….TTYL!

 

Keep it simple

Try a Little Tenderness

Tenderness is how we express warmth and affection to our fellow man. It can be protective, or sympathetic, or just plain considerate of another’s feelings, and for each of us there is a trigger; an indicator, either verbal, visual, or intuitive, that tells us when to tread lightly in the handling of others.  Beyond that we probably give tenderness very little conscious thought in our day to day lives. Could society use a few more acts of kindness,,,, maybe a little tenderness?

Children and animals typically warrant a tender approach simply by virtue of their size or innocence (naiveté). Adults, being more ‘seasoned’ with life, tend to be a little tougher (or closed?) They may interpret acts of tenderness with suspicion or they may see it as pity, and nobody wants to be pitied. We do however, all want to be treated kindly, because no matter how tough our exterior, we are all vulnerable to hurt, and each of us reacts differently.

Society is so hung up on image; boys in particular are ‘programmed’ from a young age to be tough because… boys don’t cry(?)  In the quest to ‘act like a man’ they are constantly reminded to withhold their emotions, when they really need to let it all out. (everybody needs a good cry once in a while) In truth, I think women have more respect for a man who is sensitive and unashamed to show emotion. Now that said, no one wants to see a man sobbing into his teacups every time the wind changes direction, but it certainly would be refreshing (if not human) to indulge a fellow man his pain, for whatever reason. Allowing them to feel and share their emotions is allowing them to heal and with healing comes knowledge and growth, for all.

Tenderness is quite simply that act of treating someone with kindness in a very personal way and we could certainly incorporate more random acts of kindness into our day. Maybe it’s a matter of putting ourselves in the shoes of another. The disinterested sales person, the irate customer, the sullen family member, or the depressed friend; all have an underlying issue that has brought them to a bad place emotionally, and we can fuel the negativity or diffuse it with an act of kindness. Amazingly enough, it takes little effort to redirect negative energy and instinct will guide you as to what needs to be done, and how.

The irate customer is looking to vent. They know you’re not the reason they have a problem, you’re just the last straw, the middle man, and you can roll up your sleeves and engage in a full on battle or you can try a little tenderness to take the wind out of their sails. A couple of tactfully voiced acknowledgements of their concern will let them know they are being heard, taken seriously, and empathized with. It’ll also gently point out that YOU are not their issue, rather their potential saviour.  I’ve seen this tactic work time and time again….it’s a win-win.

The sullen or depressed individual, unlike the irate customer, isn’t looking for a fight, rather they are emotionally wounded and without knowing the cause or extent of their emotional turmoil, you can’t fix the problem. You can however, provide emotional support with acts of kindness in the moment. Listen to them talk or, respect their need for solitude or silence. Perform whatever act of kindness you need to help them lick their wounds. It may provide only temporary relief, until they are able to deal with their issue, but even temporary relief is better than none, and for that brief period in time they might feel a little bit better, and they will remember you for your kind consideration.

Not everyone will be receptive to open displays of tenderness because not everyone is accustomed to having it. We don’t all come from loving environments, but don’t let that discourage you or keep you from reaching out. And maybe your attempt at kindness with a stranger will fall flat or feel awkward, but I bet that’ll only happen once because any true act of tenderness will eventually melt the coldest of hearts. Besides, it costs nothing to be kind, whether you smile encouragingly, or joke playfully, or simply make meaningful eye contact; the act of reaching out to another in need is just good. So go on, be good, try a little tenderness. Who knows, maybe if we all exercised a little more random kindness the world would finally find peace. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? (somebody should write a song about this)

Tenderness