Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Packing for Trips

We'd put the suitcases up on the guest bed, open and ready, a week, or maybe more, before the day of departure. We'd count out our days of outfits and swap things in and out as we changed our minds. We'd add jackets or swap long sleeves for short as we watched the temperatures on the weather maps. I'd run though my day, adding things with each new task to make sure what we needed was in there: Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, medicines, and so on. Jammies, blankies, bedtime books. When the kids were little, it mattered so much more that all the right props were there and that planning for various circumstances was covered. I was of the opinion that I could never be one of those people who took last minute trips or did spontaneous travel because I needed at least that week to pack.
My dad was sick: Sick with some intestinal bug due to his system being weakened by his last chemo treatment. Just as soon as he got well and got his blood counts up, he and my mother were loading up the RV and heading to Arizona, where the boys and I were going to join them. We already had tickets, but had not yet begun to pack.
I called my dad around noon, and was very encouraged. He sounded so much better, he was sitting up and he'd eaten a little solid food at lunchtime. He was looking forward to the trip and to seeing the boys. We had a nice chat before he went off to give a nurse some sample or submit to some test and I went back to whatever mundane January off-season putzing I was doing.

Then mid afternoon, the call that you all your life dread came in. It was my mother: "They are moving him to ICU. They are putting him on dialysis, something about the infection shutting down his kidneys. You better come."
"You better come."

Yes, you can find a flight and arrange for limo pick-up and tell your kids the scary news and pack for 4 people in 45 minutes. And yes, you will forget some things when you pack that fast, but missing those things will not matter in the overall scheme of the far far greater loss that you are about to endure.

January Cold

Some people leave a really big hole in the world when they go.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Birthday Memories

When I was very little and my grandmother still lived in town, she would come out to the farm and we would go out to dinner at the Riverside Supper Club and we would get to order dessert.
One year when I was fairly young, I had a birthday party at my house with cousins and second cousins. The house was built when I was three years old, so it was maybe my 4th birthday. My cousin, born the May before me, was my greatest hero, after my dad. I remember informing him that now that I had my birthday, I was the same age as him. He insisted he was still older by a half year. I said there were not half years, that I was the same number of years old as he was, and we fought and I screamed at him and cried and I remember being so upset that my dad had to come pick me up and hold me above the fray to try to comfort me and tell me that, yes, we said our ages in full numbers, but that Lee was indeed born in the summer before me and would ALWAYS be truly a half year older.
On my twenty first birthday, I lived in a house with three other girls and there were goings on that I didn't put together and several times, they needed to borrow my car and once I found a cake pan under the bed when I was looking for laundry but still did not put things together. My boyfriend took me to dinner and then wanted to 'stop by the house' that I shared with the girls and STILL I was clueless and there they were to surprise me with a party. They brought out the cake and there were looks exchanged. Finally the story came out that they had made an elaborate layer cake with frosting decorations and had stored it in the oven but then one of them had turned the oven on and ruined it, so they had to secretly repair it before the party.
On my thirtieth birthday, I was traveling for business to Columnbus, Ohio, where a favorite cousin lived and learned that her son and I shared a birthday. So on his sixth birthday and my thirtieth, I went to a party with little kids and his mom and I drank too much wine and played pin the tail on the donkey.
One year after 30 and before 40, my friend Dorothy had us all over for dinner. I had talked of a white layer cake with lemon filling and white frosting with lemon zest that my mother had made for me when I was too old for angel food with confetti baked in, so Dorothy called my mother for the recipe. Apparently having repressed my teen years, mother had no recollection of that sort of cake and poor Dorothy was embarrassed to have called and bothered her. But she looked up recipes in books and made her approximation of the lemon concoction and it was grand. But mostly, I was touched at all the effort she went to!
On my fiftieth birthday, I was in South Dakota at a nursing home with my mother trying to rally the forces and get her motivated to be more mobile so that she would eventually get out of there. A giant box arrived, which I assumed was get well flowers for her, but was actually three dozen alstromeria for my birthday! They lasted the entire 2 weeks I was there and I rearranged the last stragglers to leave for her in a smaller vase just before I left: It was one last little thing I could do for her before I left her to her caregivers.
This year, I am at the lake house with 11 Boy Scouts and 5 of their dads. We chatted and they played games until past midnight last night and this morning, got up around 6, when I had to open my gift which was a griddle so that we could make pancakes for them all for breakfast. They are ice fishing and I am making chili for their dinner. The views are lovely of the snow covered ground and the bare trees against the snowy lake and all is well at 52.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Real Reasons

Surveys can ask people why they do a thing or feel a certain way, but how accurate is that really? If a person is asked why they think a certain thing, their true answer would be something that, if proven wrong, would change their mind. If they give a reason and you prove that reason to be invalid, yet they still believe, their answer was not their real reason.
If I tell you that I am not going to the store today, even tho we very much need milk for the cereal, you can ask me why. I can say because it is cold out. However, if there is a huge thaw this afternoon, and you ask me if I will go to the store now, and I refuse, then cold was not the reason. If you tell me that they fixed the bridge between here and the store, and I suddenly change my mind about going for milk, then you could conclude that the real reason I would not go was not the cold but my fear of failure of the damaged bridge. Or if you told me it was now warm out and I say I cannot because there is no gas in the car, the lack of gasoline is not really the answer. The real answer is either that I lack the ambition to get gas AND milk or possibly that I lack money for gas and milk. But the lack of gas in the gas tank of the car is not the reason, no matter if I say it is.
Somewhere one time I read that to find the true answer you should ask why seven times. That would lead to more accurate truths in come cases, such as the gasoline situation, where the conversation would go like this:
You: Why won't you go for milk?
Me: There is no gas in the car.
You: Why can't you get gas?
Me: I don't feel like it.
You: Why don't you feel like it?
Me: I am just not interested in going.
You: Why aren't you interested in going?
Me: I just feel . . . like I have no energy.
You: Why?
Me: I don't know. I feel that way a lot this time of year.
You: Why?
Me: I don't know. Maybe it is that seasonal thing you get from not enough sunlight.
You: So you don't feel this lack of ambition as much in other seasons?
Me: No, I guess I don't.

Because the answer first given went in a direction toward the true reason, the successive questioning can lead to a better answer that might be nearer the truth. Getting nearer the truth could lead to solutions, such as getting outdoors more to get more sunshine or taking Vitamin D!
But in the case of using cold as an answer when fear of the bridge was the real answer, the conversation might go like this:
You: Why don't you want to get milk?
Me: It's too cold.
You: It's not nearly as cold as it was.
Me: Now it's wet out.
You: Why don't you like to be out when it is wet out?
Me: Feels icky and uncomfortable.

You can see that no matter how many times we ask why here, we are never going to get to the real reason that is fear of the safety of the damaged bridge. No amount of detailed questioning will lead to the right answer, since the first answer lacked the insight of being even close to the truth.
So unless the person giving the reasons is self-aware enough to know at least a little bit of why they feel a certain way or think a certain thing or do a certain thing, no amount of asking is ever going to get to the real reasons. How can a survey ever get to real truths when we think like we do?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Persistance of Mean

It took only two days into the new year to get one of those emails that has a title like "Help from you I need!" where I am supposed to help someone get their money by giving them access to my bank account where huge amounts of it will be transferred and in manifold gratefulness, they will leave me a generous portion when they take theirs out. Who could be stupid enough to fall for these things? Yet someone must, or it would not be worth their effort to keep trolling for fresh victims.
Why do these things persist? They appeal to two strong universal desires: We as humans instinctively want to help each other and we want to get somethin' for nothin'. An opportunity to do both these things at once combined with our eternal human optimism leads us to think that yes, there MUST be something to this one. Ah, but rest assured there is not. There is not, never has been, and never will be, an actual situation where such a money transfer to a personal account could or would be a good way to get funds unstuck from somewhere. There would be other ways not involving a stranger, official ways, ways to do it through friends or relatives or hired services or government services or aid services. Don't we all know that?
Yet, back before we all had cell phones in our pockets and the way we learned about what was going on in town was a tiny weekly newspaper instead of email and facebook, I knew a woman who was scammed. Nice lady, took walks around the neighborhood and we'd talk if I was out and about and met her, or if I saw her down the street when I was getting my mail, I'd wait for her and we'd chat a bit. She never admitted it to me, but a friend who knew her daughter told me. One day when she was walking, a car with a pretty younger woman pulled over and asked her if she could help. She claimed to have been paid several hundred dollars by someone in town for doing work for them. She had tried to cash their check but the bank didn't know her and would not cash it for her. The people had left for vacation, so she wanted the woman to go with her to her bank and deposit the check in her account and then withdraw it and give it to her, and in exchange, she could keep $100 of it. Now I am sure you can all see where this is going. The check was bad but that didn't show up right away and the scammers got away with their cash and her account information and cleaned more out of the account later and she was left with an emptied account and bad check fees in the end. And she was too embarrassed to admit to it for many weeks after, until she came up short paying some bills at the end of the month and had to ask family for help. They went to the police and the local paper ran an article that didn't name her but sought to warn others against such a scam in the future. Which led a couple other victims to come forward and talk to the police and the newspaper.
It all made me sad and angry. When I get these stupid emails, I have to read through the subject lines to make sure no good emails got filtered into my spam folder before I can hit "Delete all", but mostly they remind me of the scum who scammed my neighborhood friend and that makes me a little sad and angry all over again.