AFFIRMATION

I’m going to have a good day today. Today, I’m going to be an even better person.  I will not let others stand in the way of my self-actualization.  I know the difference between sympathy and empathy.  I realize the realities of others may be different from mine.  Life’s journey isn’t always a straight line.

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I am no one’s pauper or pawn, trivialities can’t get me down

I am rich in spirit, I like the uniqueness that is me

I resolve to spend more time on my knees

More time rescuing cats from trees

Spend more hours, smelling flowers

I will not mindlessly follow the crowd

I will ignore those obnoxious and loud

I will not believe everything I hear

Even when I want to cover my ears

Some people, that always do what they will

Are on the express train to Stupidville

Besides, why should I care?

It’s none of my business how they got there

Idiots with voices so shrill!

People, I’d just love to k—!

I apologize, I’ve stumbled and tripped

Please excuse my Freudian slip

My past failures will stay in the past

I will hold on to things that will last

I’m an even better person today

I won’t let words get in the way

Have a wonderful fulfilling day!

SOUTHERN LATITUDES

Wasn’t Alabama just another red state full of backward, unsophisticated people?  Most people don’t know it has a beautiful coastline.  It’s a well-kept secret.  Some natives wish it would stay that way.  If you want to confuse your friends, go on vacation to Alabama.  It’ll start tongues wagging and gossip flying.  Vacationers are familiar with Florida; it sounds more sophisticated.  I’ve yet to meet anyone that talked like the cartoon character, “Foghorn Leghorn.”  Neither have I met anyone still carrying a grudge because the south lost the war.  They will quickly point out, the Civil War was about more than slavery.  It was about states rights.  Large numbers of industries moved South because of the favorable labor climate. Over the long haul, maybe the South won the war?  If you wanted to cause a near riot, bring up the subject of labor unions.

As a transplanted Midwesterner I had a lot to learn.  There were many cultural differences.  It was customary to address a person by first name preceded by appropriate title.  …For example, “Mr. Bob,”or “Ms. Mary.” Shopping carts were called “buggies.” A light switch was not “turned off” or “turned on.” Instead it was “cut off” or “cut on.” The phrase, “I might be able to get that for you,” changed to, “I might could get that for you.”  There’s the familiar “y’all,” pronounced “yawl.” A common word I’ve picked up on, is “fixin.”  …Means getting ready to do something.  I’m fixin’ to take my car to Bubba’s Garage for an oil change.  Incidentally, the word “oil” is pronounced with one syllable, like “awl.” The expression, “Well, isn’t that nice?” is a polite insult reserved for special situations–usually northerners with “verbal diarrhea.”  Roughly translated, it meant, “You can go straight to Hell, along with the horse you rode in on!”

All carbonated soft drinks are called “Coke.” Sweet tea is the most popular beverage.  You can ask for unsweetened tea, it identifies you as a Yankee, Snow Bird, or health nut.  Grits are served with everything, like potatoes.  Slow roasted pork butt (Boston Butt) is a local favorite.  A local restaurant commercial asks the question, “What will you have with your cheese grits?” I’ve tried them–they’re quite tasty.  Other southern specialities are boiled peanuts and sweet potato, (not pumpkin), pie.  Thanksgiving turkey is prepared with cornbread stuffing.  Common green garden peas are called English peas.  They’re distinguished from black-eyed peas, crowder peas, chick peas, and pink-eyed/purple hulled peas.

After arrival, the first questions asked were: where do you go to church?  What’s your favorite (NCAA) football team?  Football is like a religion.  There is a fanaticism, the likes of which, this “Yankee” had never seen.  If your favorite team isn’t in the SEC, God have mercy on your soul.  You will hear recounted, every defeat your team suffered, in every sport, in every encounter with the SEC in its history.  Be sure to allow some extra time for this.  Another tradition is Mardi Gras.  Most people are unaware the tradition started in Mobile, Alabama, not in New Orleans.  The celebrations start in late January and continue till “Fat Tuesday,” or “Lundi Gras.” Schools and businesses close for “Fat Tuesday.” Mobile Mardi Gras celebrations are more family oriented than those of New Orleans.

All persons, not born south of the Mason-Dixon line, are called “Yankees.”  Distrust goes back to the Post Civil War Reconstruction era.  Later, “Yankees,” discovered the area, bought property and stayed.  All “Yankees,” like me, are initially treated with skepticism.  My first trip was in 1984 for vacation.  The decision based solely on camping guide information.  The white sand beaches, tall pines, turquoise waters were a wonderful surprise.  There was a state park nearby with unspoiled beachfront, a fishing pier, rental cabins, a hotel and conference center.  Northerners are still resented by some.  Property investors and speculators drove up land prices.  Developers lined the beaches with high-rise condos–blocked views of turquoise Gulf waters–created urban sprawl.  The real estate boom and subsequent bust hit hard.  Now economic recovery has a strong pulse and shows signs of life.  There are  reminders–abandoned, overgrown, unsightly tracts of land with streets and utilities.

“Snow Birds” from the northern states and Canada spend winters here.  Vacationers return every summer.  Tourism is the largest source of local revenue.  On busy holiday weekends, local roadways are clogged with traffic.  I use back roads and shortcuts.  I’m not giving away my secrets!  I moved here in ’04, just in advance of Hurricane Ivan.  It was sad to see the horrible devastation.  Nature heals itself, but it sometimes takes years.  Annoyances are fire ants, love bugs, gnats, and no-see-ums.  There are far more good things than bad.  Winters are mild.  There are two major types of weather–cool in the winter and hot in the summer.  Something I like, is having greenery in the winter.  Certain oak and acacia trees keep their leaves in winter.  There are no dazzling displays of fall color.  I miss fall and “Indian Summer.”  Tulips and lilacs won’t grow here.  This is more than made up for by azaleas in spring and crepe myrtles in summer.

When I came here on vacation, it was fun to go to the beach.  Now, I’m here permanently and rarely go. Usually, it’s when someone comes for a visit.  I’ve learned that plants suited for the Miami area don’t do well here.  It does frost on winter mornings.  People here are warm-hearted, genuine, and down to earth.  I’m honored to have been accepted–in spite of being a “Yankee.”  There’s no place I’d rather live.  “Now, I’m fixin’ to go to the mall with your Mama “n” ’em.”  “Are y’all goin’ with y’all?”

RAINY DAY THOUGHTS

Rain, it’s cleansing, life renewing.  Today I’m taking advantage by cleaning the attic of my soul.  Here goes, with some miscellaneous thoughts.  The world, through the eyes of a nine-year old, has been a recurring theme.  Maybe I need regression therapy?  At public school cafeteria little Johnny mixed mashed potatoes, plums, and grape drink together in his glass.  The girls were disgusted.  “Ewww,” That’s gross!  Little Johnny commenced to take a drink.  …More “Ewws.”  Recently a fast food chain came up with a bacon ice cream sundae.  Are nine-year old boys their new target demographic?  Bacon is good.  Everybody likes ice cream.  Let’s put the two together.  Something about bacon grease and cold ice cream disgusts me.  A leading ketchup maker unsuccessfully marketed blue and green colored versions of the condiment.  I confess to not being adventuresome in the food department.

There’s nothing more precious than a young child at play.  Peek-a-boo is a game that has been played forever.  To a child, everything disappears when they cover their eyes.  If they don’t perceive something, it doesn’t exist.  A child is the center of a family’s universe.  We, as humans, have the audacity to live as though nothing happened before we were born and nothing will happen after we’re gone.  That explains many human behaviors.  Isn’t that “tunnel vision?”  The past had to happen, for there to be a present.  Louis XV’s policies led to the French Revolution in 1789.  His statement, apres moi, le deluge applies.  Future generations will judge us harshly if we don’t act responsibly.  Life is a journey, not a destination.

Internet and social media turned the world upside down.  Dictators and Despots no longer controlled the flow of information.  It puts truth behind, “you can run, but you can’t hide.” A new type of mean spirited behavior was born.  Malcontents spread their vitriol anonymously.  Like highwaymen of old, attacking opposing viewpoints, running and hiding.  …Shouting down opposing viewpoints.  …Raising peer status by tearing others  down.  Fuel was added to the already smoldering fires of culture war.  …Old vs. young, rich vs. poor, ethnic group vs. ethnic group.  Opinions weren’t changed, only polarized.

In the “no good deed goes unpunished” department.  Since the first oil crises in ’73 we’ve been encouraged to curtail our use of non-renewable energy.  American auto manufacturers responded to customer demands and foreign competition.  We’re driving smaller, more efficient cars.  …Driving less.  Our homes are better insulated, appliances are more efficient.  As a result of people driving less, gas tax revenues have dropped as well.  Legislators in some states proposed an additional “per mile” tax.  In my opinion, that would only further serve to stifle an already struggling economy.  Couldn’t the same legislators that mandated past fuel efficiency standards have seen that one coming?  Another example of the senior Pres. Bush’s “vision thing,” in particular, “nearsightedness.”

Is sixty “the new forty?” I certainly hope so.  That would make forty the new twenty?  Pop culture and flavors of the minute I can’t keep up with.  I’ve lived long enough to no longer be anyone’s target demographic.  In some ways it’s a relief.  Advertisers send denture cream, pre-paid funeral, power chair, laxative, and age spot cream advertisements my way.  I still don’t like being “folded, spindled, and mutilated.”  Fellow baby-boomers know what that means.  It’s my decision what I like and don’t like.  I will not go away peacefully and quietly!  My opinions still matter!  Phew! that was hard work.  I have to stop letting things go.  Things are easier to find, and I feel much better!

PRISONER OF MY OWN DEVICES

I formerly worked as a technician for a major communications company.  The area was called “The Stroll” because of the prostitutes and drug traffickers that hung out there.  During a repair visit, I sought refuge from a driving rainstorm in the back of my company van.   The defective piece of equipment, having been repaired, I attempted to exit.  The door handle wouldn’t budge.  I tried everything!  … pushed the button of the remote control “clicker” repeatedly. …Turned the child safety switch both ways. …Pulled the rear door handle.  Nothing worked to free me from my “prison.”  In an ordinarily busy part of town, no one was on the street.  If only a police car would drive by, I’d set off the panic alarm, then I’d soon be free.

It didn’t happen!  Minutes ticked by.  …Then an hour.  My efficiency rating was already shot to hell.  Was this my only job that day?  Panic crept in.  I could break a window.  The ruling would be, you were at fault.  …The penalty, two days off without pay.  I could take down the partition between the front and the back?  It would take a while.  All necessary tools were there.  Linebacker blocks to both doors failed.  It always looked easier on TV.  Nothing seemed to work.  Wait! was there a faint glimmer of hope?  A young couple crossed the street in front of me.  Should I hit the panic alarm?  This was really going to look stupid.  Look stupid, be damned!  I was doing it!

The alarm went off and the guy looked right at me.  I waved my arms wildly.  Good! He looked in my direction.  PLEASE, PLEASE, don’t just walk away!  He came over.  “Help, I’m locked in!” I hoped not to sound too desperate–even though I was.  The young man and his girlfriend came to my aid.  He pulled the latch from the outside and I was free!  He bore an uncanny resemblance to Charles Manson–had the same eyes.  His girlfriend slightly resembled Squeaky Fromm.  Maybe I imagined that in my desperation.  They were probably familiar with illegal substances.  That didn’t matter!  The young man’s name was Lee, that day he was my hero!

NATTERING NABOBS of NEGATIVITY

The title was paraphrased from a speech by Spiro T. Agnew, Richard Nixon’s notorious first term Vice President.  What did the “T” stand for? …A good trivia question?   “The Three N’s,” Negativity attracts negativity–if you radiate negativity, those you come in contact with will respond negatively.  Even on a good day things can go awry.  Everything you did quickly spiraled out of control.  You know the feeling–the embarrassed look on your face could be seen from outer space.  Each day presents new challenges and opportunities.

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Where’s my keys?  I don’t know

Where’s my socks?  I don’t wear ’em

Negativity, negativity, just stay away from me!

Where’s my clubs?  I don’t know

Maybe they’re in the trunk?

Along with your other junk

Negativity, negativity, just stay away from me!

What’s come over me?  Is everybody stupid today?

Idiot, you’re driving too slow!

The light is green, just go, go, go!

Negativity, negativity, just stay away from me!

The rat race, exploring inner space

The decision’s entirely up to me

What kind of day will it be?

Negativity, negativity, You didn’t get the best of me!

NO EXPLANATION NEEDED

You realized as you walked in, this varied group is your kin

Aunt Jeanette, Cousin Jack, your sister Dawn, baby Zack

Come in, sit down, it’s been awhile, just stay calm, relax and smile

You’ve gained weight, lost your hair, It doesn’t matter, they don’t care

You’re an adult, it seems silly, why did Uncle Bob still call you Willie?

Calmness that wouldn’t last, too much embarrassment from your past

Misspent youth, crazy friends, the same things, again and again

You’re wondering will your Uncle Lou, bring up about the cat and the glue?

It didn’t matter that you were only eight, no explaining ever set him straight

The time you were going to be a Moonie, and you drove both your parents loony

Past goofy ideas to get rich quick, nicknames, thank God, that didn’t stick

It doesn’t matter where you live, what you make, whether you have what it takes

Of you we’re still quite fond, because we have a common bond

We’re your family and will be forever, through thick and thin, we’ll stick together

From the time you were greeted, whatever you’ve done, no explanation was needed!