September 28, 2007

R-E-S-P-E-C-T....what does it really mean?

OK, once again, no poem tonight. Tonight I'm blogging about respect. This is a two-fold thing. Part of it has to do with celebrities and part to do with just regular people.

Am I the only one who's noticed lately the slew of celebrities getting arrested and/or just plain attention for doing the stupidest, most idiotic things? Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney and all her problems, and now, even Keifer Sutherland has been arrested for a DUI! I used to think he was one of the celebrities you could look to as a role model but no more.

See, here's my thinking: A celebrity should be more than a face in a movie. They should be role models, someone to look up to, to want to be like. Not necessarily the whole famous, tons of money thing, but to be like them in terms of personality and good deeds. They just aren't that anymore.

There are about 5 people that are celebrities that I can think of right now that I admire and respect. Yes, I said respect. I have no respect for most celebrities today; I may like their acting/singing/writing etc, but I don't respect them because they just don't seem worthy. Let me tell you the people I do respect and why:

1. Melissa Etheridge: Yes, because she's a lesbian, and no, not because she's a lesbian. Let's be honest here; most people today feel the need to conform, to hide who they are, what they are, for fear that people won't like them, won't buy their movies/music/books, hire them, etc. Melissa doesn't do that. She also doesn't feel the need to crow from the rooftops about who/what she is. She simply is. Period. She's a happily married lesbian, with a beautiful wife and children, all of whom she loves, and she simply is. She's honest about it, but doesn't need to shove it down your throat. When she had breast cancer, she was honest and open, and showed the world just how tough she really was. I admire someone like that. Someone who can be who she is, without feeling shame, anger, or the need to be in your face all the time. She has a "Take me or leave me" attitude; either you like her for who she is, or you don't, and she doesn't much care either way. She's as human as anyone else, so I'm sure when someone makes disparaging remarks about her or her wife, it hurts her. But that doesn't make her run out and proclaim she's not who she is, or that she's being treated differently because of who she is. She simply moves on with her life and doesn't let it get her down.

2. Queen Latifah: This woman is another like Melissa Etheridge; she is who she is and you either accept her or you don't. She's a full figured woman, but you don't see reports of her starving herself, binging, or being on the newest crazy diet. She has accepted that she is larger, and made it work for her. This is the biggest part of it for me. I have had 2 children, and my body shows it. I am out of shape and overweight, but seeing someone like Queen Latifah helps me feel better about myself. It reminds me that we are all beautiful. She also doesn't get herself into trouble all the time. You look at some of these other celebs, and they're out drinking, and drugging, sleeping with whoever or whatever. She doesn't do that. Her love life is discreet, if she drinks or does drugs, it's behind closed doors. She sets a good example publicly. This is the kind of woman I want to be like.

3. Camryn Manheim: Same thing as Queen Latifah. She's a bigger woman who's comfortable with herself. You don't see her dieting, drinking, carousing, or generally making an ass out of herself. Again, she makes me feel better about myself.

4. Reba: A beautiful, wholesome country girl who can write, act, sing, run a business, raise a family all at the same time. What the hell isn't to admire there? She's multitalented, responsible, again, no drinking, drugs, dieting, no offensive comments coming out of her mouth, no fueding with anyone. She's one of those celebs that you just feel like if you met her on the street, she'd end up being your best friend. I think Melissa, Queen, and Camryn would be similar, but with Reba it's just something that you can't help but feel.

5. Stephen King: Aside from his incredible imagination and talent, he's just another down-to-earth person who doesn't seem to have let the fame and money go to his head. He has a wife, children, a life outside his public persona. He's humble, and real.

See, these are the kind of people we need more of. People who are real, who are humble, who don't let fame, fortune, and attention go to their heads. Nicole, Britney, Lindsey and the like have all let it go to their heads. Not to mention that they feel the need to live up to this ridiculously idealized image of what they should be. I don't want to see some size 2 bimbo as the ideal woman and what I should aspire to be. I want to aspire to be like the women on my list: happy with who I am, no matter what my size, lifestyle, orientation, money situation, etc. I want to be able to be comfortable with myself, and not constantly wishing I was smaller, taller, richer, more famous, whatever.

On to the next aspect of the whole respect issue...My employer has merged with another company, and is upgrading the computer and phone systems. Not a bad thing alone. But, I see bad things coming down the road with the power of a semi. I see my entire location being shut down by Dec. 1st., give or take a day or two. But no one in a position to know, and trust me they do know, will tell us anything. Now, while I understand that they may be concerned about us walking out on them, my problem is this: I have 2 kids to support. I have a mortgage, bills, food, etc. to take care of. If you're going to put me out of a job, couldn't you at least respect me enough to give me a heads up so I can prepare for that? Of course, if you call them on it, they'll claim they couldn't say anything, that they were told by the higher ups not to. Grow some balls, would ya? When you know people have families, responsibilities, bills, you should have the damn decency to show them the courtesy of a little advance warning.

People don't give or earn respect anymore. You used to be taught that you should respect someone until they give you a reason not to. These days, it seems that it would be more appropriate to say give respect only to those who earn it.

OK. I'm done with my rant for tonight. :)

September 27, 2007

The Vulnerability of Love

Anyone who's ever been in love knows just how vulnerable it makes you. Not just romantic love, any love. Love that's true, deep, intense, and real makes you vulnerable like nothing else in life can. Your heart is on display, outside a protective glass box. Anyone can throw a dart and pierce it so easily, when you love someone.

I've loved many people in my life. The obvious ones: parents, grandparents, blah blah blah. And I do love those people dearly. This is where one aspect of the vulnerability appears. My great-grandmother, a woman I truly love dearly, is 97 years old. She has breast cancer, and at her age, there is nothing that they can do that would serve any real purpose to help her. I'm 28 years old. I've lost other family, I've lost friends, to death in various forms, including to breast cancer. But this love that I feel for this woman, this love makes me nothing more than a child. I've accepted that she will die, I have for many years. I'm not living in a fantasy world, I know that eventually, all those that I love will die...that's life. But accepting an abstract concept of reality, and facing the rather immediate reality of that same abstract concept are two very different things. Now that I'm faced with the fact that she will be gone from my life soon, I find it difficult to face. My heart hurts, my eyes well with tears and my brain just can't wrap itself around the concept. Every time I talk to someone about her, we do the usual "How's Grandma?" "The same" or "Getting worse". The answers are what I expect yes, but not what I hope to hear. I still, childishly, pathetically, ridiculously, hope to hear someone say that her cancer has miraculously cured itself. I've never wished so hard for a cure for cancer than I have now.

She's not the only one I love though. I love my children even more desperately than my great-grandmother, my parents, myself. They are the beings that truly put my heart in the middle of the street for the world to run over. I would die for my children without hesitation. I would die for them on the hint of there being the need for me to do so. I want everything for them: all the things they need, the things they want, a bright future with a good job, nice home, loving wife and incredible children. I want to be able to simply hand them all these things, even though I know the only way they'll appreciate them is if they work for and earn them. Still....a mother wants to provide. That's our job. It's in the manual.

But romantic love...that's a funny one. We claim to love unconditionally. I've noticed, this unconditional part...seems to really only apply fully to those we have no choice but to love: children, parents, siblings, other family. Unconditional love when it comes to boy/girlfriends, spouses, and the like only applies when they do what we want and don't hurt our feelings. Think about it: When someone cheats, betrays your trust in someway, or does something we find morally reprehensible, suddenly we don't love them anymore. Or claim we don't, at any rate. What's up with that?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not judging anyone for that feeling. I've done it. When my former husband cheated on me, generally the first words out of my mouth ran something along the lines of "I hate you!" or "I don't love you anymore!" Of course, in the end, those quickly spouted phrases turned out to be fateful prophecies of our future, but that's not my point. My point is, why do we claim to love someone unconditionally when, in reality, we place many conditions on them? For those of you who are sitting there right now, saying, "Hey! I've never placed conditions on my boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/person I'm seeing/insert your situation here", let me ask you these questions:

1. Do you expect him/her to be faithful?
2. Expect him/her to be honest, not lie to you?
3. Expect him/her to live without breaking the law?
4. I bet you expect him/her to work at a decent job, to want the same things you want, to have similar interests, right?

Well, look at that, there's 4 conditions right there that you place on your love, your lover, and your relationship. See? Now, don't misunderstand; again, I'm not judging. I have those conditions, too. My point is why do we want to be crow about unconditional love and such when really, we only love under certain, rather rigid circumstances?

I've had many loves in my life, some great. My ex-husband does not fall under the category of "great". In total brutal honesty, he really doesn't fall under the "love" category much at all...but that's a blog for another time.

One of my great loves was a boy I met at the very tender age of 13. He was a sweetie of a boy, and we were together for 5 years, until I was 18 and we went our separate ways. He was also the first boy I was...intimate with, hence his status as a great love. Sweet boy, and I truly, without a doubt, loved him. We just wanted different things and got to different stages in our lives, and it couldn't work anymore. We both felt bad, but we ended things amicably. I truly hope he's found happiness in his life and is with a woman who loves and appreciates all his wonderful qualities.

Another great love was a man I met when I was 18. He was my best friend for several years after we broke up. Part of why he was a great love. We loved each other even after we broke up. We looked out for each other, kept each other sane and from making huge mistakes with dating. We talked about everything. He was the first person outside my family to find out I was pregnant. He was so excited for me. Unfortunately, our friendship ended when our respective spouses found out that our very solid friendship started out with us dating and sleeping together. They were not happy, and both insisted we end the friendship. Although it was painful, we did what we felt we needed to do out of respect for our spouses. They deserved to know they could trust us, and we both could see how they might feel they couldn't in those circumstances.

The greatest love of my life, though, was a indeed a very tragic story. OK, not really, but it really does kind of suck. He's a sweet, really incredible guy I met when I was 19, and we've been friends for all these years, with an on-off relationship. Yes, it was off during the years of my marriage. We love (yes, I used present tense) each other so much it's just unbelievable. But, we want such different things in our lives, and can't seem to compromise. This is a man that I feel so safe, so secure with, that I felt comfortable telling him things about my marriage that I never even told my parents. He has truly, even more so than the other, been my best friend. He listens, makes me laugh, makes me feel sexy and beautiful and loved. But we're just so different. I live in a small town and love it; he wants to be in the big city. I love my children and have them with me 24/7; he loves his son, I know, but he doesn't have anything to do with him except to pay child support and ensure that his son is taken care of should something happen to him. He says he's doing that because he loves his son and he believes it's best, but I don't agree. I don't fault him; I just have a different opinion, and this is a bone of contention between us. It's very disconcerting to love someone, and yet you still can't make the damn relationship work. It also makes it hard to stay friends. That whole thing about once you say I love you, the friendship never stays the same, is very, very true. Our friendship has never been the same since we took that destined step.

Which brings me to my point...I think. Love makes us so vulnerable; puts us in a position of insecurity, doubt, and reservation, and yet at the same time makes us more powerful, safe, secure, and happy than anything else. It can hurt, and end badly, and yet we still search for it, seek it out endlessly, hoping for that happy finale. Why? Is it because we enjoy being vulnerable, being open to hurt and pain? Or is because we are so desperate to have that happy power, that security that we'll continue to risk the hurt and pain until we find it? I'd like to think it's the latter, but some of the relationships and couples I've seen make me think the former might really be the truth.

And while I'm on the subject, let's talk about the other love: who the hell is anyone to say someone is wrong for who they love? I get so sick of people who want to criticize gay and lesbian couples, and deny them the same rights as any straight person. I happen to have a very close family member who is gay, and I see no reason why he should be treated any differently. What the hell difference does it make if he loves a man instead of a woman? If he's happy, and the man he's with loves him and treats him with respect, love, and dignity, what the f*ck is the difference? I hear people say that allowing gay marriage will undermine marriage between a man and a woman. Can I tell you a secret? I was married to a man, and let me tell you, he undermined our marriage all on his own. The two lesbians five houses down or the gay guys three miles north of us didn't have a damn thing to do with it. I say if someone makes you happy, then it doesn't matter what their gender is, they make you happy. Life is too short to try to conform. Take your happiness, and your love, where you can find it. A lot of the time, love only happens once. Why on earth would you want to pass it up just in case there's something more "acceptable" and "normal" down the road? Who defines "normal"? Certainly no one I want defining it.

It's late, and I have work tomorrow. I think I'm off to bed, to dream of being vulnerable in love once more. And to contemplate once again just what lengths I would go to for love of my children and others that I love.

September 26, 2007

A day without problems would be...a miracle

There are days when I love my life, adore just everything about it. Then there are days when I feel like everything and everyone is out to get me. Today is somewhere in between, I suppose.

I currently have satellite service with an unnamed DISH provider. I am extremely displeased with their service: the signal goes out if you breathe too deeply, and they consistently charge me for a past due balance that does not exist. Here's the best part though: When asked to explain how I owe this alleged past due balance, they tell me about the money they owe me!

Last week, we had a very, very nasty storm rage through the area during the night hours. Now, Florida storms can be bad anytime, but they are much more intimidating and problematic at night, when you can't see a tornado coming if one should form, which they did that night. Needless to say, I lost my signal. There were tornadoes nearby, and I knew nothing about them because I had no television. The storm was so ferocious that I couldn't even get a radio station on the stereo. My parents down the street still had cable though.

So, I decide I've had enough of DISH provider, and I'm going to get cable. I'd already started checking into it, but that made my decision. The local cable company, BRIGHT HOUSE people that they are, claimed they needed to do a survey to determine if they could service my house. OK. My house is brand new, so I can understand this. This process took more than 2 weeks, however. And in the end, they say they can't service my house. I'm in the middle of my block, surrounded by houses that can or are fully capable of getting cable, and apparently, somehow, I'm the ONLY house on the block that can't get cable.

I'm thoroughly disgusted. The only option left to me was to find out what another provider could do. So I called a DIRECT satellite provider, which a co-worker of mine has and swears by. They insist that their signal is very good, and that I will rarely lose it. Of course, they're paid to say that, just like I'm paid to say my company is the best. But, I get more channels with them than I do with the idiots I have now, for the same price, so I figure what can it really hurt right? I mean, if the service sucks, I guess one sucky service is the same as the next right?

The biggest problem I have with all of this, though, is this: customer service. Almost 12 years ago, when I started working, I worked in retail sales. The first thing we were taught is always smile. Never argue with the customer, no matter what. If you must argue, argue politely, with a smile on your face, and don't sound like you're arguing. The people I have dealt with, with the exception of the DIRECT people, have been rude, argumentative, harsh, impatient, and clearly annoyed by the fact that I have simple questions I want answered. Now, I won't lie to you: I work in a job where I deal with customers, and yes, they do annoy me. You'll see, in the future, on my blog, me complain about them. But I never complain to them, I never let on that I'm annoyed, my voice is always perky, polite, happy, and helpful, no matter what they say to me, no matter how stupid, rude, arrogant, annoying, or whiny they may be.

I know I can't be the only one who's noticed that customer service seems to have deteriorated in recent years. It seems like no matter where you go, who you call, or what you need, the people you have to deal with are impatient, rude, or bored. Or....ohhh...the one I really love: the one who makes a mistake and then refuses to admit they messed up. The BRIGHT people did that one: she tried to tell me on the 25th that they came out on the 26th. Not that they were coming out, but that they DID come out. HUH? I say to her: You can predict the future? She says: What? I say: The 26th is tomorrow. If you're telling me they came out on the 26th, then you can predict the future. She says that's not what she said, but I heard her say it. She keeps coming up with different things she claims to have said, and each time I shoot down her excuse, she comes up with yet another. Wouldn't it just be easier to say: Oops, I messed up. I'm sorry. ? I guess not.

I'm just disgusted with society in general right now. It really seems as though we've stopped caring about our fellow humans, and only care about ourselves. We only seem to care about not looking bad, and how long until our shift is over so we can get back to our lives. Or how to get the cute guy we saw in the store, or whatever shallow concern is obssessing our minds lately. Is obssessing a word, or did I just make that up? I don't know. I don't care...hey, look at that. One simple statement, and I'm just like everyone else.

No poem tonight. I couldn't find one that I'd already written that fit, and I just don't have the energy right now to come up with something new. Tomorrow night, I'll have one. Maybe a love one...maybe I'll write about love. We'll see.

Stay tuned. :)

September 25, 2007

Childhood revisited...through another's eyes

Standing on the brink
Of a new and wondrous adventure
You look back at me
Excited fear in your eyes
Holding onto my hand, fingertips to fingertips
On the very verge of letting go
I give you a trembling, encouraging smile
Hiding my breaking heart
I don't want to let you go
Even though I have no choice
You do not belong to me alone
Though, deep down, I wish you did
I wish you could be my own little angel
That I could hold you safe from harm
But that just isn't the way it works
I can't hold you close and protect you forever
So off into the world I'll send you
To watch you grown and learn
To see you move away from me
Become the man you're meant to be

My oldest son is 6 years old. He'll be seven in a few months, but I refuse to think about that right now. :) He's in first grade, which is a very different first grade than the one I was in. We live in Florida, which is a state that has implemented the stupidest system for determining how much a child has learned. But, that's another story.
My point, and as others have said, I do have one, is that my child is in school, and he brought home his interim report today. My son is very, very intelligent. I know, I'm his mother, and I'm prejudiced, but in all seriousness, and not being a braggart, my son really is incredibly smart. He has the ability to do so much with his brain. His downfall, which is also his greatest gift, is his imagination and his energy. He gets the imagination from me, so I am (partly) to blame for this. He cannot sit still. On those rare occasions when he can be still, he drifts off to a world of his own design, where no one else can join him. This makes for some very poor conduct grades come interim report time. He got his interim report today: A's & B's and nothing else for his academics, which I'm so proud of I could bust. But all N's for behavior. This does not make me happy. He could be on the A/B Honor Roll if he could just behave. My biggest problem is: How do you tell a child to stop using his imagination and to contain his energy at school without stifling that same creativity and turning him into a lethargic lump? It seems like a catch-22: If I tell him to stop, he'll take it so literally that he'll stop using it period, but if I don't tell him to stop, he'll get in trouble all the time. It's frustrating, and yet at the same time, I have to be proud, too, because so many people these days seem to lack imagination and energy. The energy to run and play, the energy to chase their dreams and hopes and wishes. The imagination to come up with creative, outside-the-box solutions to world problems as well as personal everyday problems, to dream and dream big, to inspire, create, and grow.

My other son has the same imagination and energy, but those will not be his downfall. His downfall is, without a doubt, his unequivocal stubbornness. He gets an idea, a thought, an opinion and just will not back down. If he thinks he's right, that's the end of it. He won't hear otherwise. When he wants to do something, he will never stop trying, and if he's not allowed to do it, he will never stop trying to think up ways around that. Isn't it amazing how something so silly can be such a double-edged sword? It can be your best trait or your worst.

I get frustrated with both of them, for those things mentioned above. I don't know how to get through to them, to get them to see that they must compromise, between where they are now and the complete opposite. My mother will laugh and remind me that I was this way as a child, too. When I deny this, and I do, she points out specific instances that I have blocked somewhere behind the pain of childbirth and where I left my car keys when I got home tonight. Oh, yeah, I forgot about those. But still, my children are supposed to be better than I was, right? No, my mother says. I have that old axiom wrong: I'm supposed to want better for them, not expect them to be better than I was. Damn. Can't we re-write it?

But, as mothers do, she made me think. And when I look back on my childhood, I see those same traits that are so blocking me in my sons, blocking my parents with me. And I see how I turned out, which if I do say so myself, is not half-bad, thank you very much. So, I guess it can't be too bad, right?

When I look back like this, though, I see other things as well. I see dreams that fell by the wayside as I grew and changed and experienced life. Reality has a way of tearing dreams to shreds, sometimes, and others, we just are lazy and decide not to hold the tender threads of those dreams together. And when you pick the tatters up later, it's impossible to tell which was the case. Some dreams are destroyed with no hope of revival, such as the dream of having only one marriage that lasts my whole life through. Divorce tends to run over, shred and burn that dream while it's still singing it's love theme. Others can be revived, with a little CPR and TLC. And then there are the ones that didn't fall away, that are still present, still being dreamt, but you just forgot you have to work at.

My still alive dream is to be a published writer someday (no, a blog doesn't count. Unfortunately.) I write poetry, novels, short stories, whatever mood strikes me. I've never given up this dream, never stopped thinking of it, but I've stopped working at it. I write my poetry, and post it on a website and forget about it. I write my stories and novels....whenever I'm bored and think about it. I get tons of ideas, all of which I duly note...and then promptly forget about. In the hustle and bustle of school, work, homework, dinner, baths, bedtime stories and childhood illnesses, I tell myself that I just don't have time, too busy, have more important things to do. But really, is there anything more important than a dream? Think about it: Food sustains the body, love the heart, but what sustains the soul? Dreams. Without a dream, your soul will starve. If your soul is starved and slowly dying, what will happen to the heart and body? I can't help but think it wouldn't be good things. So, I think everyone needs a dream.

And I would not have thought of this if it were not for my child and his unacceptable behavior. It's interesting how something as mundane as a school interim report can send you on a journey through your memories and dreams, to help you find that place where your soul resides. Not just your soul, but your childhood self, to remind you who you used to be, before children, work, responsibilities and life itself took over and turned you into an adult while your back was turned to put away your barbie doll.

September 24, 2007

Seeing is Believing

Who do you believe
When everyone is telling lies
What do you have faith in
When all you hear are half-truths
Everywhere you look
You see people hating others
Slinging insults, throwing slurs
All based on your skin or who you love
Yet they ask you to believe
They're doing what they should
Because what they have faith in
Would want them to
You're expected to believe
In something great and good
Even though everywhere around you
Evil and horror fester and grow
They want you to agree
There's magic in the air
And that you can close your eyes
And change your life
So, I ask again
Who do you believe in
What do you have faith in
Do you believe at all

What a note to start my blog on, right? LOL. I'm just having one of those periods of time where I'm feeling very pessimistic and down. It seems like when things don't go right, it happens all at once. And unfortunately, I just don't have a whole lot of faith in people right at this moment.

There are those people that you know you can always count on. My parents are two of those people. My parents give everything they can to me and my kids, and often, including just today, give what they don't have for my children and I.

But then, there are those people that you should be able to count on, and just can't. My ex-husband is the epitome of this. He is the father of my two children, and does not one damn thing for them. Doesn't visit, doesn't call, doesn't pay the child support he was ordered to pay. I gave the man a break, and let him start fresh with a clean slate even though he should have owed me several months of back support. I've bent over backwards giving him chance upon chance to change, to start paying, but he just ignores all this. He thinks this is nothing more than a big game.

Sometimes I feel that I'm the only person who understands what it means to be a parent these days. I sacrifice every day to ensure that my children have what they need. I wear clothes that are five, six, or more years old, with holes in the ass of my jeans, and never get to go out, to be able to provide the things my children need. To me, this is being a mother: your children come first, regardless of what price you personally must pay.

But because my ex doesn't pay child support, I find myself in situations such as: going to the World's Fair at my child's school, I had to tell them no, they couldn't have a balloon that cost fifty cents because I couldn't afford it. Am I the only one who knows what it feels like to watch your child's face crumple with utter disappointment over something that should be so simple and easy to give them?

My ex doesn't understand this. He's never had to do this. Hell, he's so fucking heartless and self-centered that it probably wouldn't affect him anyway. And that pisses me off more than the rest. That my heart is on the outside of my body since the day my first child was born: everything I see, hear, think or feel affects me deeply. I cry at any hint of a child being hurt or suffering, for anything. And yet my ex can stand there and feel nothing when it's his own child. How do you turn your feelings off like that? How do you turn off the love that should be so natural, so effortless, so impossible to not feel?

It's not just my ex...there are thousands of other people out there that do the same thing. And that's what bothers me. How do all these people manage to just shut it all off? People complain about the way the world is today: this is why it's like this. Because everyone just turns off their feelings, and ignore the wars, the child abuse, the hunger, the loneliness, the natural resources that are so rapidly disappearing. They just decide that if they don't like something, or it bothers them, they'll just turn off their emotions and pretend it doesn't exist, and I guess that's just supposed to make everything better.

I find it very difficult to believe in much of anything anymore. You can't believe in other people, because except for the very rare few, they will only let you down. You can't believe in a higher power, because you can't see anything to indicate they exist. Plenty of us pray in desperation, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. And most of the ones who do that, do it for exactly the reason I said: desperation. They don't pray to try to solve the world's problems, they pray when their personal problem grows so great, and they are so desperate for relief or a solution, that they'll do anything, and why not pray? It's as good as anything else, right?

I'm just disgusted with the world tonight. It's not a good place to be right now. And no one cares enough to try to change it.