Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Is It Me, Or Is It SkyMall: Part 2

Two years ago – interestingly (to me, at least) almost two years ago to the day – I wrote a post called Is It Me, Or Is It SkyMall?  In this little old post of mine, I noted a few SkyMall listings that had me giggling during a pretty irritating flight to Phoenix. 

Are you familiar with SkyMall?  If not, I’m gathering you don’t travel a lot, because these fancy catalogs grace the seatback pocket of pretty much every passenger jet in these United States of America. (Sidebar: Why do some people refer to our country as “these” United States of America? Are there other United States of America someplace else? I’ve never seen other United States of America on a map. Are they underwater? Is it Atlantis? Inquiring minds want to know.)

As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, there must be something about flying in late June that makes SkyMall suddenly seem more attractive, because a few days ago, I found myself yet again perusing the paper luxury mall of the sky, and yet again I had to suppress giggles so as not to disturb my very austere-looking neighbor. She did not seem like the amused-by-SkyMall type. She did not seem like the amused-by-even-very-obviously-amusing-things type. In fact, she was so intimidating that I tolerated her air vent blowing air on me (yes, on me) throughout the flight that seriously could have stopped global warming in its tracks. I couldn't even find the nerve to reach up and nudge the vent back her way.

Anyway, without further ado, yet again here are some prime examples of the joys that one can consider purchasing in SkyMall these days. Enjoy.

Okay, so I have nothing against "party cups" that are rimmed with salt and lime for margaritas. Even ones that scream "flies in the face of sustainability" and "oh my goodness how lazy can you be." My issue is that the package - peeking out behind the cup - calls these "restaurant-style" cups. To exactly what restaurant are they referring? Because yeah... no.
You know why I buy fine leather furniture? So I can completely and totally cover it up with a light brown quilted thing.
Maggie thought her mouse infestation problem was bad, with the little holes she found behind her cabinets and the torn edges of cardboard cereal boxes. She had no idea just how bad it was about to get...
I still think this looks like a cat peeking out of a giant webcam.
No. No no. Never. No. The critical thing about this item of torture isn't that it's cheesy and floats around your pool and sings Italian songs at you. It's that it sings a grand total of 3 Italian songs at you. Three. Over and over. If you have ever been around small children for any length of time, perhaps you have a concept of what that's like, to hear the same song  played or sung over and over and over. And over. 
There's this large spot in my backyard that just looks so empty and lonely. What could I put there to bring together the aesthetic of the green space? I know! A 5-foot dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur with three strong, curved claws, including one that's characterized as a slashing weapon used to disembowel prey! Totally what that space needs.
And, of course, I couldn't follow up the original post without this. Because a 6-foot-tall Easter Island "Ahu Akivi Moai" Monolith Statue demands to be included. Curbside Delivery Available.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kindness, Honesty and Father’s Day

As I sit typing this, it’s very late at night the evening before Father’s Day. As with any Father’s Day, I can’t help but think about the amazing fathers in my life – my Daddy, my stepfather, my father-in-law, my grandfathers (including my stepmother’s father) and my husband.

If you know me even a little bit, you know how much I value both honesty and kindness. I hold these two values above just about any others. Both of my children are whip smart and funny and personable, which I think is wonderful beyond words, but I tell them that what makes me the most proud of them is their kindness and compassion. And from friends and family and colleagues and random strangers and trusting forest creatures, I always ask for honesty, even if what someone needs or wants to (or simply should) tell me isn’t pleasant, and I offer the same in return.

I learned these values from the fathers in my life. Every one of these fine, brilliant men epitomizes (or epitomized) these traits. Any one of them could have been just as successful in some aspects of their lives – or possibly more successful – if they had been less kind, less honest. But every one of them chose this path, and for that I’m forever grateful. They not only insisted that my sisters and I behave with compassion and truthfulness, but they demonstrated these values every day.

These dads all know (or knew) the value of telling the truth, no matter how difficult that truth is to share. And for that, they were and are trusted. They have credibility. And to a man, they knew that compassion and a welcoming, caring soul aren’t signs of weakness but rather of great strength, and that such kindness, when shared, helps create strength in others. Taken together, kindness and honesty become even more powerful than either trait alone. And each of these men hold, or held, power beyond measure, because they are and were the kind of men in whom people – including my sisters and me – entrust their hearts.

So on this Father’s Day, I want to thank these men for exemplifying the kind of person I want my children to be… the kind of person I hope I am and that I strive to be.

Thank you, Dad, and thank you, Mike.
Thank you, Papa Jack and Grandpa Herbie and Papi.
Thank you, Bill.
Thank you, Shawn.

I love you all. Happy Father’s Day.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Feeling Invisible and Being Enough

Do you ever have that moment when someone says something and it resonates to your core? It’s almost a palpable punch to the gut, and you feel like you’ve just been taught something about your soul that you should have recognized before but never quite understood until that very moment?

This morning, I was at church (yes, I periodically attend a church even though I’m not religious… I am an enigma; deal with it) and the young man giving the sermon was discussing how he felt growing up. And despite one key difference – that he was teased for being tall, while I was noted for being short – a good part of his story sounded like my own. I felt a strong connection to his story when he talked about being an academic achiever, about how he always made As in school and how this was part of his identity as a youth.

But what hit me was what he said a little later about this drive to achieve. It hit me hard. What he realized about himself, later in life, was that while he was growing up, he didn’t really like himself all that much, and that his pursuit of achievement wasn’t really an effort to achieve success or knowledge. Not down deep. It turns out that he was trying to achieve “enoughness.” He was trying to be “enough” – good enough for someone else to like him, fun enough for others to want to be friends with him, cute enough for girls to notice him… or simply enough for him to like himself.

Trying to achieve enoughness. That’s a pretty powerful concept, isn’t it? This idea that a person might be motivated not purely by an interest in the achievement itself – be it academic or sports-related or familial or health or some other such goal – but by the need to prove to yourself that you are somehow enough. Enough to be liked. Enough to be loved. Enough not to be replaceable.

The statement – “trying to achieve enoughness” – hit me like a telephone pole to the forehead when you’re walking down the street and texting at the same time.

I’d never really put that “trying to achieve enoughness” feeling into words before. It’s something I’ve recognized about myself, somewhere inside, for a long time. When this man said what he said, he could have been talking about me.

Am I still insecure about myself these days? No. I’ve learned to like myself. I’m going to live with myself for the rest of my life, so I might as well be happy with who I am – intellectually, physically and emotionally. And I am. I’m pretty damn fond of me. You should be, too. I’ll introduce you to me sometime so you can see for yourself.

But when I was young, I felt… well, if I’m being completely honest, I felt small. I felt insignificant. It was as if my short stature reflected on the outside how I felt on the inside. And the way I coped with that was to focus my efforts hard on my academics. I was too clumsy to excel in sports and too shy to try to be a class clown or some sort of clique or class leader. But I could learn and test with speed and ease. And I did. And I leaned on that and cherished that and tried to be proud of that… and I always felt good about what I’d done but could not manage to feel good about me. I felt like the effort was enough, but that I wasn’t.

Before my mother calls me out as a liar (hi, Mom), I feel I need to clarify that I also was very headstrong and confident in my beliefs. It's easy to confuse a child who is solidly assured in his or her convictions with one who is confident in himself or herself. But there's a difference. I always have been clear and certain about what I know or what I feel in my heart. However, that confidence didn't extend to my feelings about myself as a person.

Now, because I was shy, my shortness played another role in this saga in that it allowed me to become invisible when I wanted to be. If you’re small in stature and relatively slim in build, it’s amazing how much you can make yourself blend into the crowd… into the walls… into the corner. To become invisible. It was both a blessing and a curse for me when I was young. When I wanted not to be noticed, I would make myself unseen, and I would feel safe. But the flip side of that is that if you can go unnoticed so easily, it’s easy to feel unremarkable. It’s easy to feel not noticeable enough. Not interesting enough. Invisible. Don’t get me wrong; around my good friends, I could laugh and banter and act crazy and feel at ease. I could let loose and have fun. But it was all too easy for me to disappear among the masses.

These days, as I stated, I’m at ease with myself. I’m happy and confident with who I am and with the life I lead, and I don’t need to hide from or apologize to the world. I’m no longer shy or reserved (as far as you know), and I quite enjoy doing activities that require me to be noticed, such as participating in conferences or giving presentations or public speaking. You can’t try to fade into the background or have doubts about your enoughness to do those things effectively! And I don’t want to try to fade into the background any longer. I do what I do because I enjoy it, not because I’m trying to prove something to anyone. Not even to myself.

Still, once in a while, when life or work runs a little off-kilter and things aren’t going as I want or expect, I admit that I feel that old nagging tug on my heart, hear that whisper in my ear that suggests that maybe, just maybe, I’m still not enough. Maybe I should fade quietly into the background while I buckle down and try to work harder or do more or somehow be better…  to get back to achieving enoughness. It’s tempting sometimes, because it feels so secure to have that focus and that invisibility.

The feeling is real, for certain, but fortunately it’s fleeting. No matter how much I can relate to that girl that I used to be, no matter how much I can still feel that pain in my heart and that ache in my belly that she felt all those years ago, I’m no longer the same person. Because I know who I am, and I’m happy with who I am, and I refuse to feel “less than” – for anything or anyone. I’m happy now. I am… enough.

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