Monday, January 31, 2011

The Story Behind “Paying It Forward”

When I wrote “Paying It Forward”, I did so with basically two ideas in mind:  that something that happened to me as a kid affected me as an adult, and that doing something for someone else felt really good.  What I didn’t expect were all the nice comments, and the different things that people got from the story.  It made me look at it in a whole different light.  I’m not a special or particularly generous person, I’m just an average Jane who wanted to do what I could to help out a friend in a bad situation not of her own doing.

Writing the story behind “Paying It Forward” will be difficult.  Although it has been years, I am still extremely angry about it.  However, the story conveys a powerful message and needs to be told.  In order to protect their identities (it was in the newspapers), I will change a few minor things, but remember this:  it could be anyone.  It could be your neighbor.  It could be your friend.  It could be your coworker.  I consider myself to be a pretty good judge of character, but this completely blew me away.

Once there was a typical family in a typical neighborhood:  Father, Mother and kids.  Father and Mother worked hard in their full-time jobs to provide for their kids.  Father and Mother had lots of friends and often had everyone over for barbeques.

One day, I realized that I had not heard from Father or Mother for awhile, so I gave them a call.  Mother answered and delivered some shocking news:  Father was in jail, awaiting sentencing.  I can’t even say the word, but just imagine the absolute worst thing a father could do to his children, short of killing them.  Yes, that.  Mother had no idea and was understandably in shock.  Grossly mistaking shock for complicity, the state took the kids away from Mother.  Long story short, she had to spend a lot of time and money to get the kids back.  To add insult to injury, she had to spend additional time and money to get full custody of the kids.  That’s right:  a person convicted of horrific crimes against his children does not automatically lose custody.

Father is in prison for a long time, but not long enough.  If he ever comes around again, I will not hesitate to inform everyone I can what he has done.  I don’t care if he serves his time.  What he did there is no atoning for.  This pathetic excuse for a human is evil through and through.  Any suffering he experiences is nothing compared to what he did to his children.

There’s actually a fairly good ending to the story.  Mother has remarried.  Okay, so I don’t like him because he’s pompous.  That doesn’t matter.  However, I do give him a huge amount of credit for taking on an emotionally and physically damaged family that will need therapy for years to come.  Mother and kids are happy, safe and loved.  That’s all that matters.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paying it Forward

Long, long ago, when I was a kid, my family went through a period of time when we didn’t have much.  Although my parents were pretty good about keeping that sort of thing away from us kids, I was old enough to know that Dad being sick and not having a job while Mom was in school was not a good thing.

One evening, just before the holidays, some strangers came to our house.  They brought turkey, food and little gifts for us.  I knew what this meant.  Overwhelmed with a variety of emotions, I tried my best not to cry.

Fast forward a couple of decades.  A friend of mine (“T”) and her kids were recovering from a horrific situation (so bad that it deserves a blog post of its own).  Although they had a roof over their heads, they didn’t have much else.  Another friend of mine, DH and I pooled our money and got a few things for them:  gift cards for a gas station, a clothing store and a grocery store, plus bags of gift-wrapped goodies for the kids.  We had so much fun shopping for the goodies!  There were lots of little things:  kid scissors, crayons, glue, sparkly pencils, glitter, little cars and dolls, you name it.  It took me hours to wrap them all separately, but I was smiling the entire time.

When I met up with T and gave her everything, I told her, “When I was a kid, someone helped us.  Now, it’s our turn to help you.”  Overwhelmed with a variety of emotions, we tried our best not to cry.  It didn’t work too well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The LOL Award!

I must have been behaving myself recently, because Jumble Mash just awarded this to me:

Thanks, JM! What a nice surprise on an otherwise quiet Sunday. :-)

As a condition of accepting this award, some rules must be followed:

1. Link to the person who gave you this award (in a post, or in your sidebar, wherever you have this).

2.  Pass the award along to seven other people who post about at least slightly amusing things and tell them (by emailing them or commenting on a post, etc.).

3.  Say seven things about yourself that no one knows (or at least you think no one knows).

4.  Pass these rules on.

First, in alphabetical order, seven people whose blogs I enjoy:

If you haven't visited any of these blogs (or JM's) yet, I encourage you to do so! There is always something LOL going on.

Now, for seven things you probably don't know about me. This took some thought, on a weekend, no less!

1. I surf a real estate website to see what the interiors of the neighbors' houses look like.

2. I secretly want to be artistic.

3. I am picky about tires.

4. This year, I am planning on traveling to at least two other states and one other country.

5. Our friends' teenagers actually like me.

6. I have three toolboxes.

7. Except for college, I have been owned by cats since I was about five years old.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dubble Spelling Fale

While out and about the other day, I saw the sign pictured above.  Imagine my excitement when I realized that, finally, I had found a place where I could remot my start!  Since the last time I motted was at least ten years ago, it’s definitely time to remot.  Now my seats, on the other hand, do not need to be weaved.  They are in perfectly good shape.  However, it is good to know that there is a seat weamer working at the same place my start could get remotted.  What luck!  Hmmmm, maybe they meant “seat weaner”.  Perhaps it is a new age technique to pry people from their heated seats when all other attempts have failed.  Well, they had best not try to pry me out of my comfortably (but unheated) bolstered seats.  I will poke their eyes out.

I really hope they didn’t mean “seat wiener”.  That brings up visions of things like this:

If they are running a car and bicycle shop, best of luck to them.  In this economy, people need to be creative in order to make ends meet.  Of course, “seat wiener” could mean other things as well, but I really don’t want to go there.

When I showed DH the photo of the sign and told him I might put it on this blog, he said, “Why don’t you just tell them the truth?  You are a spelling Nazi.”  Okay, I admit I am kind of retentive about spelling.  When it comes to blogs and such, I can let spelling errors go.  We’ve all typed furiously, trying to keep up with our brains.  Often, our fingers can’t move fast enough and miss words all together.  I can deal with that.  What I can’t deal with are people who make signs for a living.  If you can’t spell (or can’t copy accurately) and you make signs, you are in the wrong line of work.  Same thing if you are a book editor.  I mean, come on!  I find spelling errors in just about every book I read.  These days, with spell check, it’s inexcusable.

My descent into spelling vigilantism began early.  Two misspelling incidents in particular stick out in my mind, although my friends and family may have more that I have conveniently forgotten.  The first incident was in my early twenties.  While driving along, I noticed road workers putting up new street signs.  I pulled over, and got their attention.  Through much laughter on my part (and confusion on theirs), I let them know that the street signs were spelled incorrectly.  I was laughing so hard, I could barely get the words out.  Later that day, I also called the Dept. of Transportation and told them what I saw.  They had a difficult time understanding what I was saying.    However, they must have figured it out sufficiently, as the signs were replaced within the next month.

While my biggest spelling annoyances are signs and then books, next on the list are menus.  When you’re in Europe or anywhere that English is the second language and they have made a menu for less-than-fluent tourists like me, it’s understandable.  When you’re in Canada (except Quebec ;-) ) or the US, it’s not.  Misspelling is particularly rife in Asian restaurants.  However, I always cut them a break because I love their food so much.  This brings me to a second incident, which occurred in an American food restaurant.  A group of us from high school got together for a meal at a nice waterfront restaurant.  It wasn’t “nice” as in upscale, it was just clean and trendy with good views and a menu with lots of variety.  We had our meal, and then it was time for dessert.  What did I spy on the menu but one of my favorites, chocolate mouse!  When the waiter arrived, I inquired about the mouse, and asked him a few questions, including if it was fresh or frozen.  Fortunately, he had a good sense of humor and went along with it.  My friends, however, were mortified.  Come to think of it, I don’t think we have been out for dinner since!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Understanding Embarrassing Parental Behaviors

We’ve all been teenagers, which means we’ve all been embarrassed by something our parents did during those traumatic years.  Now that I’m, um, past that age, I understand why my parents behaved like they did.  First, though, I would like to relate a story from my high school years, during which my parents occasionally embarrassed me.

One weekend, my friend B and I went to a toga party.  Being the good kids we were (notice I said were), we told our parents where we were going and what we were doing.  B and I even giddily showed our parents how we would cleverly wear our togas, using a top sheet from the bed, with no sewing or cutting required.  So off we went to the toga party, gleeful to be included in such a crowd.  Imagine our surprise when my mother showed up along with B’s parents.  In togas.  My mother was wearing a top sheet toga, as was B’s mother.  B’s father, however, was wearing the bottom sheet (with the elastic on it) draped across his shoulders.  And he was drunk.  B and I were horrified.  I don’t remember what happened after that, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Fast forward many years.  Most of the time, I don’t feel my age.  Some people have even been so kind to say I don’t look my age.  I think it all has to do with attitude and personality.  Being positive and happy goes a long way.  Is my life great?  Far from it!  However, I have learned to make the best of any situation, and do the best I can with what I have.  There’s a lot to be said for not stressing out over things you have no control over (although that’s not always easy).  While I am no Pollyanna, I tend to find joy in fairly simple things.  It could be anything from seeing the first sign of Spring in my garden to receiving photos of my wee relatives.  If you feel and act young, people will think you are younger than you really are.

And to you teenagers out there, we act young because we feel young!  The way we look outside is not the way we feel inside.  Don’t let our ancient external features fool you.  We are not doing it to embarrass you.  Well, not usually…..  BTW, if you want to know how to tie a toga, just ask.