Archive for the 'Musings on Life' Category

An Unexpected Gift

They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, meaning it happens long after the fact. What do they say about gifts that appear long after the gifting? There must be some equally apt phrase. Maybe it’s “good things come to those who wait”.

fricker1I have finally decided to upgrade my blog from a free account to a paid account. I have no good reason. Or rather, I suspect the final straw is NOT something that will be handled by a paid account. The last week or so I’ve been getting trackbacks from spam sites. It was annoying. I’ve also used over 75% of my media storage. I thought I’d investigate and see what I’d learn.

I had a wonderful, informative, upbeat chat with the online chat support. Do you know that they are called “Happiness Engineers”? I think that is a GREAT title. The person with whom I was chatting was a fantastic representative of that concept. She gave me a discount code to give me 2 months free. I noticed something odd when I went to pay. The screen was showing me a $15 credit, bringing the bill to $33. When I put in the discount code, the amount was just over $39. ???? I asked my happiness engineer where the $15 credit originated. She said “The $15 credit is applying the value you have left in your current plan to the upgraded one.” Well that was odd. fricker 3My current plan was a FREE plan, I had never paid any money to WordPress. The HE agreed my plan was a free one and she investigated further. “I show $15 in gift credit from a user named “Fricker Fraker” back in 2009. Dear reader, I kid you not – tears came to my eyes.

Fricker – I don’t know where you are, or how you are, but thank you, thank you, thank you. What a sweet, generous gesture on your part. Which is exactly how I remember you.

Ahuva ❤ Fricker

Why Me?

I’ve been very busy lately but I have NOT forgotten about you all out there. I have a half-written post about how MUCH I LOVE LOVE LOVE the kitchen. Unfortunately there are several other people, cats and issues that seem to think they have priority over my posts. But this was in my spam folder today and I couldn’t help but think “Why me?” I really hate to think that something, someone, somewhere thinks these topics are relevant to me.
why me

The Love Swans has appeared in my spam folder every day for more than a week now……

Conditioned Behavior

I spent a lot of time in therapy, not a big secret. I went to a behavioral psychologist. We didn’t focus on WHY I had issues, we focused on what behaviors I exhibited that I wanted to change because they didn’t bring about positive results. He told me repeatedly that behavior is very difficult to change, we have to consciously work at it. Given my own experience and time with him, I’d have agreed 100% with that, until this renovation.

IMG_9014There is a doorway between our dining room and our kitchen. You’ve seen it in the pictures – it’s always covered in plastic sheeting. Our only access to the kitchen area (and, therefore, to the basement and deck) is through the front hall into the kitchen. We’ve turned the dining room into our ersatz kitchen. For weeks we would start to walk through the dining room door only to find the plastic sheet blocking the way. We learned to walk out through the living room, into the front hall, into the kitchen, and then to the bathroom, in order to get water from the sink.

This past week the men putting in the floor opened the plastic in the doorway so they could lay the floor. The door is open. WHAT A RELIEF!!!! Except…. I find myself walking the long way around all the time. If I am not actually looking at the dining room doorway when I head to the basement or deck, I will be walking the long way around to the front hall. 🙂

Why isn’t it this simple to change behavior we DON’T like????? 🙂

Satisfaction

I did not know how satisfying it would be to smash something with a hammer.

In my defense, it seemed to be the only solution.

My husband THANKED me for taking a hammer to it.

I promised him that if it happened again, I’d let HIM use the hammer.

You may remember that we have torn apart a good piece of our house for the kitchen renovation. One small bit of that is the smoke detector that used to be in the front hall. I’m not sure WHY we still have it, as the contractor put up a new one when the knob & tube wiring was replaced there. The old one has been sitting peacefully in the dining room, doing nothing. Until this evening.

I was sitting here reading, and my husband was on his computer, and the smoke detector decided that there was a fire. The blaring alarm sounded, and her concerned voice chanted “warning! fire!” Except there was no fire.

I kept pressing the button to make it stop. Oh please dear heavens STOP!!!! Every time I thought I had stopped it, the alarm went off again. I took it outside and tried to find the right spot for stop. My husband came down and brought it back into the light and tried to find the right spot for stop.

I went for the hammer. I said to him “take it outside and put it on the front walk”. He did. I took the hammer and began smashing at the alarm. It stopped. I hit it a few more times anyway. It felt very good to hit it. 🙂

We brought it back in and tossed it on the table. My husband is secretly hoping that it goes off again so that HE can smash something with the hammer. 🙂

Smashing things with a hammer is very satisfying. This may be my new hobby.

IMG_8996

Headlines I’d Have Preferred NOT to See

11+ Brutally Honest Tweets About Using A Menstrual Cup
Seriously – there is nothing I can add to that headline other than the fact I’d never heard of that particular approach. I was living a very full, productive life having never heard of that particular item.

Tourists In Utah Throw Dinosaur Tracks Into Lake Thinking That They’re Regular Rocks
It was a kid. Maybe we need to start vetting folks before we let them into our national parks. I’m not sure who is more culpable with these stories – the parents or the children. Disgusting.

Bounce house flies onto California highway with child inside
Yes – the child was safe.

He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.
Sigh. I can’t even…….

Ukraine says military dolphins captured by Russia went on hunger strike
Again – I can’t add to this. You needed to read the article, which was even more unbelievable than the headline.

Bear breaks into SUV, eats 24 cupcakes
Okay, the bear one made me smile. And then I read the article where it says this particular family has had the bear visit before and eat food, THAT THEY HAVE LEFT ACCESSIBLE. They want the bear killed. As one commentator said – why not STOP leaving food OUT???

A small personal history

May 13 is Mothers’ Day this year. May 13 also happens to be my mother’s yahrzeit. *rueful smile* My mother, may her memory be blessed, always understood the importance of timing. As an actress she knew that timing, delivery and performance were key to making a lasting impact. She always wanted everything to be “all about her”. With remarkable timing, she has ‘captured’ Mothers’ Day. I will never reach this date without thinking of her and reflecting on our lives together. (To be fair, my father also made sure I’d never forget his yahrzeit either – I turned 50 sitting shiva, instead of throwing the big birthday blow-out I’d started planning.)

I used to have such fun with my mother. When I was a toddler I wanted to grow up and be just like her. I wiggled my way into her newspaper interview (what an adorable photo we made). I cried at a play when she, in character, cried. My father had to carry me out. 🙂 I cued her for her plays, I went to every show she was in, I envied the times she and my big sister would go out shopping without me.

Even through grade school and high school we were best buddies. I could tell her any and every thing. My friends all thought she was incredibly cool and would confide in her. When I went off to college she wrote me letters every week, and sent me zillions of clippings from the newspaper. *laughing* My beloved advisor once said that my mother was the only mother he knew who could be replaced by a subscription to the NY Times. 🙂 She came out to visit me at college and I was so proud to introduce her to everyone.

I graduated, moved back home for grad school, got married, stayed home until my husband also graduated. All that time my mother and I played together, had fun, had key jokes (Mickey’s Donut Land was one), traditional shopping trips (Black Friday after Thanksgiving – a day we loved to go out because we didn’t NEED anything so we could be relaxed while everyone around us went crazy).

My husband and I bought a house in the same town where I was born, grew up, where my parents lived, where my sister and her husband lived. We were a very close family. We did a lot with my parents – my husband and father were close, both engineers, liking sports, politics, conversation. My son was born and Grandma and PopPop took care of him regularly.

But somewhere along the line things began to change. The seeds were always there. I have an ugly story about my graduation present from college. There were some other harsh memories of things said, selfish behavior, controlling emotions. Beginning after college I went into therapy. Years and years of therapy. What I learned there was to be NOT my mother. What I learned and began to see was how unhappy she was, how emotionally damaged she was from her childhood experiences. I had absorbed ALL of that myself, modeled myself that way, being just like her. But I wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to be happy more than I didn’t want to have to change myself. I spent years and years and years learning how to undo the self-destructive patterns.

As I changed, I saw my mother differently. I saw her unhappiness, and she always admitted that she was not happy. But she refused to look at herself for the source. She always felt that happiness is derived externally. I think too that she became more and more her negative qualities – selfish, emotionally controlling, putting down others to feel as if she were better, hurtful comments trying to be funny. The more time I spent with her, the worse I would feel. A lot of negativity and anger radiated from her. It was draining and dispiriting.

But it was tolerable. My father was there, my sister, her husband, her daughter, my husband, my son – we were family and we saw each other regularly and happily. Okay, sometimes annoyingly too. 🙂 After all, we were family.

You need to understand. My father adored my mother. He thought she was wonderful. One time my sister and I were talking and laughing with him and we both mentioned how we heard our mother “talking out of our mouths” and he didn’t understand why we thought that was NOT a good thing. I love you so much, Daddy. He would do anything for her. He was her security. He was her rock. She was the glamorous butterfly, flitting and flirting and exciting but she would always come home to him – her safe haven.

And then my father became ill, unable to travel a lot. My mother was cruel. Comments like “well we can’t do this now because of you”. It got worse. He was in the hospital, ill. She didn’t visit him because she didn’t feel up to it. My sister and I were sitting shifts at his bed, dropping in exhaustion so that he would not be alone but she couldn’t be troubled. Had the roles been reversed, he’d have been there every day, dragging a lung machine and any other apparatus just to be with her. When he finally came home, she wouldn’t let him back into their room. He lived downstairs on a hospital bed. She did cruel things like move his toaster to a storage area because it was “in her way”. Every morning he’d have to struggle with his walker to get the toaster, bring it out to the counter, and then struggle to bring it back. She raged when we added safety bars to the bathroom for him. It was ugly. Very very ugly.

She was so angry. So afraid. She couldn’t forgive him for being human and not being her rock. She was terrified. He was her safe haven. He was her security. Her life, as she saw it, was evaporating rapidly.

Then he died.

I’d like to say that things improved but that is not what happened. She turned her fear-fueled anger on my sister and me. There were more cruel words and selfish selfish behavior. It was very hard for several years, but she was our mother, and we loved her, and you do what you have to do. She was still active, going into the city for theater and art and friends.

Suddenly she was ill, in the hospital, emergency surgery – a perforated ulcer. Who even knew she had an ulcer? Recovery was slow, her spirits were poor. We tried to keep her home, but we had to keep upping her in-home care. Finally we moved her to a nursing home. The odd thing is, in hindsight, we think maybe she’d have wanted that immediately. We moved her to a second, better nursing home when it was available. And it was there, finally, that for me, things began to heal.

I could visit her, chat with her, talk to her as we had in the past. There were flashes of my mother there, her sense of humor, her intelligence. We’d have cheese and crackers, drink coffee, eat chocolate. I could even classify some visits as enjoyable. My own anger at her for her treatment of my father began to ease. My anger at her for her lack of commitment to trying to recover from her surgery began to ease. My compassion became dominant, as I saw her living the very life I knew she had dreaded forever.

She died last year, suddenly, the day before Mothers’ Day. On Sunday she’d been okay. On Saturday she was dead.

I miss her. When I think of her now, I don’t think of those last 12 years or so. I think of the fun things we did. Our little jokes. That she’d like this weather. She’d like knowing this event. When the rabbi came to talk to us about her in preparation for the funeral, he asked me if I had forgiven her. I thought about it for a moment and told him no, I had not. I will probably NEVER forgive her for how she treated my father. But that was not the whole of my relationship with her, even if it did poison so much of our time together. I am grateful for that last year in the nursing home. We had time to sit together. Smile. It was quiet then and peaceful and there was room for love and warmth. Time and space for the positive interactions to flourish and bloom. When they say time is the great healer, I think this might be what they mean.

I miss you, Mom. Happy mothers’ day.

Mind Your Manners

Something happened yesterday that I don’t think has ever happened to me before in my working career. Or if it HAS, it was so long ago I don’t remember it.

One of the many tasks I do for my team is to handle quarterly emails to executives about upcoming meetings. Yeah, that sounds amazingly simple and straightforward but there’s a reason why I do it and not the administrative assistant. There are a myriad of decisions that need to be made about these particular meetings: if the meeting is happening, who MUST be there, who is invited, who are other interested parties that must be informed and so on. These particular meetings can be very stressful for the participants as they are reporting back on their success/failure.

I inherited a standard email for these meetings and over the years I’ve modified it, and the process for sending them and acting upon responses. Timing is important because the administrative assistant needs the information to schedule these meetings. I start MY bit long before the meetings actually begin. I don’t make the decisions about who has to have a meeting – that information is conveyed to me by my team.

I have a moderate “success” rate over the years for getting responses from the executives. *grin* If I get 50% of them responding to me with changes or to say no changes, I consider that a smashing success. 🙂 Anything between 33%-50% is a good response. In other words, many of the people simply ignore the email. Even when the execs DO respond, we receive emails all the way up to and after the meeting with people asking to be invited or telling us they are no longer interested/needed on the call. It’s all fine – people are people and we can add and delete invitations.

I sent out my emails about a week ago. I asked the recipients to respond to me by the end of that week, giving them 4 days to review the proposed list of invitees. If this was a group that had already been in this process, it’s fairly simple to scan the list, and see who is no longer needed or who might be missing. This week I was told to add a few more executives to the meetings. Accordingly I tailored up my form letter and sent it to each of them, asking them to respond at the end of 2 days. These were all teams that had been through this process several times before.

Well. Last night (a little over 24 hours after I sent the email), I received a reply from one of the executives.

Ahuva, “to be honest – anything that is given only 2 days notice can’t be too important – so I won’t attempt to work through this.. ”

Well take my breath away. Isn’t it nice to be a VP and be snarky to someone you’ve never met on a topic about which you know very little? What if I were the CEO writing to him asking for a response within 2 days (or less)? Would he REALLY tell the CEO that anything that has only 2 days notice can’t be important? In his defense I will say that he is semi-new to the role, in that this is his first time receiving the email, but he HAS been an attendee at prior calls. So the concept of the meeting and the fact that there are a LOT of people on these calls, and the fact that they happen – none of that should be a surprise.

What a total ‘supply the derogatory term of your choice’.

I wrote a polite letter back within the hour (yes, doing all this after 9pm my time) finishing with take all the time you like to review. We’re going to schedule the meeting and we’ll update after the fact. I hope that he could read between the lines and hear things like “aren’t you a rude brat” and “we’re going to invite whoever and you can live with it” and “maybe as a newbie you should learn a little more about your responsibilities before you try to kick someone you think it’s safe to kick”. My coworker, who has to work with this character directly, seemed to think my response was very good.

I’m reminded of all those sayings along the lines of “be careful who you kick on the way up”. If this is how he treated me, imagine what he does to people with whom he’s really annoyed? If he was unhappy, hey, his peers simply ignore the email. That would have been a more mature response, odd as that sounds.

As a footnote, my administrative assistant gets this kind of nonsense every single quarter as she tries to schedule these meetings. Other admins give her grief because THEIR execs are soooooo important. People refuse to give time slots. They accept a time, the meeting is set, they come back and say no, that won’t work.

It’s not the need for changes. It’s the whole “I am so important and entitled.” It is so simple to be polite. Aim to be gracious, calm. Understand that there are live human beings with their own issues. Don’t pull the wings off of flies.


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