Monday, July 23, 2012

Internet Etiquette

Although I love email, the Internet, and Face Book, it is probably worth revisiting Internet etiquette. Chatting on Face Book or responding to the status of a friend is not the same as sitting across the table chatting with them. You lose the visual cues that impart more information than their actual words. Sometimes what seems like snappy repartee in your mind becomes obnoxious or inappropriate to another person—especially if you are responding to something a friend of a friend said.

I have been guilty of this myself and goodness knows who I may have offended, but I try very hard to edit myself and make sure that my comments are pertinent to what is being discussed and use no innuendo, particularly with friends of the opposite sex.

There is a little story making its way around the Internet about how Southern women impart their disdain for someone else by saying, Bless her\his heart—instead of using some pejorative.

My mother had two books of etiquette when I was growing up, but she always said that these tomes boiled down to doing the nicest possible thing in the nicest possible way. Life if hard enough—especially right now—and we ought to contribute to the conversation in a positive, inoffensive way, not display our ignorance to one and all. Bless their heart.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Surviving Hard Times

You do not have to go far to find the desperation of those impacted by these hard times.

I saw the neat little motor home come slowly down our hill past our barn. A sign my father lettered twenty years ago when we bought our place says The Bath House, Circa 1880. The bath house refers to our cottage which sits at the back of the barn. Actually it was the barn that was built in 1880 and the bath house added during the 1930s, but we did not know that at the time my father made the sign. What we did know was that before it was a cottage that part of the building had been a Finnish bath house and thought the name was appropriate and never bothered to change the sign, especially since you cannot actually see the cottage from the road. Our pink barn does get attention so I assumed the driver of the motor home was having a gander and went about my yard work while a friend installed new gates.

When I looked up a bit later I saw an elderly gentleman coming toward me and realized that the motor home was parked by the hedge that borders our backyard. He was dressed in clean khaki pants and polo shirt, smiled and handed me a card that announced that he is a detectorist. I believe that is a made up name for a treasure hunter. In his thick Boston accent he explained that he is living on Social Security and making ends meet by looking for old coins around old buildings. He had had a stroke in 1996, but this was something he did to supplement his income and would I mind if he attempted to detect coins around our barn and bath house. He showed me his identification and except for his missing lower front teeth and his physical limitations due to the stroke, he appeared like a gentleman who my father might have run into on the golf course. Because of our own struggles with the economy and because he seemed nice, I let him look.

That same day I mentioned to my gate-installing friend that Dave had left before getting rid of a broken dryer in our barn that was definitely in the way and asked if he knew of someone I could hire to take it to the dump. He said not only did he know someone, but this man would do it for nothing because he, too, was struggling with the economy although employed and recycled metal to supplement his income. Two days later a youngish man knocked on our front door as my daughter and I were finishing up our dinner. He apologized for calling so late, but said that he had heard that we had a dryer that we did not want. I was delighted to tell him to back his truck up in front of the barn. He thanked me profusely for the dryer and said that it would help his family during these hard times. I told him that Dave is working in Arizona because we, too, have been affected by the bad economic times and are we not on this earth to help each other. Besides, I was thrilled to have the room in the barn. We both ended a long day happy for our good fortune and for having helped each other.

Certainly 98% of us have been affected in some way by the 2008 stock market crash and accompanying real estate crash. Our situation with Dave having to work 1,500 miles from our family, making us part of 3.5 million Americans, and the very real possibility that we will have to eventually walk away from our Gig Harbor house (another group I would rather not join) demonstrates the depth of this recession. Now with the draught in so much of the country, the price of food will undoubtedly go up since King Corn rules the food industry.

My father was born in 1922 and grew up during the Great Depression which he called Hard Times, the days of soup lines, the Dust Bowl, and the Joads. For nearly four years we have been living through a twenty-first century version of hard times. The poor are perhaps not as visible as they were during the Great Depression or maybe even during the Regan (who for some reason has reached sainthood in the Republican sphere) Era when I found people sleeping in their car in our carport in San Jose, CA, but you do not have to go far to find the desperation of those impacted by these hard times.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summers with Grandma

I grew up in Bellevue, Washington. My grandparents all lived in Vancouver, Washington so when I was elementary age my parents would take me to Vancouver to stay with my Frieze grandparents for a week in the summer time. I could visit my Mills grandparents for an evening, but because my Grandma Mills had an addiction to alcohol I actually stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Frieze.

Sometimes my cousin Janice, who is not quite eight months younger than I, would come from Whidbey Island at the same time and for a week I would have a beloved sister to play with, a treat for an only child. We made our own fun, playing in the yard or enjoying the treat of going to the dime store with our grandparents to pick out a toy. One year we got little baby dolls that came with plastic bath tubs. My grandfather had an English Ford and I found the little lighted sticks that popped out and blinked when Grandpa made a turn fascinating. My parents had to roll down the window on our American Ford and stick out their hand to signal.

Grandpa went-to-bed-with-the-chickens. Eva, fix the bed he would say not long after dinner. Grandma would let me stay up and watch Johnny Carson and eat Cheerios. This is something my parents would NEVER have allowed. Grandparents get to spoil their grandchildren more freely than parents do although I believe I may have spoiled my own children too much.

Grandma Frieze was a tiny woman with a backbone of steel. Because my grandfather was never quite happy wherever he was she had to learn to travel light and make a home in more than forty houses in two states and moved back and forth across the country between the Missouri Ozarks and the Pacific Northwest three times. Whenever adversity as come into my life, instead of asking myself what-would-Jesus-do, I look to a woman to whose experiences I can relate and ask myself what-would-Grandma-do.

Recently I got to have my Granddaughter Linda for a week at our home by the sea. I, too, spoiled her. We watched too many movies, ate too much popcorn and she got to have chicken nuggets as often as she liked. Instead of staying up watching one of the late shows at night we snuggled in bed and watched a movie past her usual bedtime and in the morning I made whatever breakfast she wanted. We got to visit with one of her favorite people, author Sydney Stevens, twice and sit next to her at vespers in Oysterville, which Linda thought was very special. Although Linda may never see me as a role model, I hope she looks back fondly on summers hanging out with me..One of these years she can bring her little sister Lydia and just think of the fun we will have with that little spitfire!