Monday, April 13, 2015

Bad advice or something of that nature...

Raising boys over the years has been a bit of a challenge.  I never imagined it was because they were boys though.  It was simpler than that.  Single mother and three children.  As anyone can attest to, having one is a big change, two seems like a piece of cake and for some reason adding a third can seriously change the balance.  Of course, we all know that I was raised with the concept that I could do anything a boy could do and well, that included raising responsible young men.  My oldest, as every oldest does, got a bit of the short end of the stick because every child rearing mistake was always on him.  Of course, he also got the long end of the stick too.  There are more pictures of him than my younger boys.  Lots more.  People always wanted to give me advice on how to raise them.  Some good.  Some not so good.  A lot of people always want to give you advice on this or that.  And having boys, well, I've noticed that some men give the worst advice.  Don't get me wrong, but egocentricity tends to play a big part in giving bad advice whether it's coming from a man or a woman.  But men tend to keep their opinions to themselves more than women.  So generally when one is insisting on giving advice it can be a complete disaster to listen to. 

My favorite worst advice I ever heard from a man was that idiot that used to have the dating guru show.  You might remember him from the 90s.  A goofy velvet top hat in purple who taught classes on how to pick up women, then turned it into a show on some cable network.  His famous line was something along the lines of "treat a lady like a whore and a whore like a lady".  I think quite a few men bought into this back then and a good portion of them just can't understand why they constantly end up with skeezy women.  Well, here's the real advice guys.  Treat a whore like a lady and she will still be a whore, but she'll come back over and over to suck you dry eventually of anything and everything you have.  A lady will get fed up being treated like a whore and move on, leaving you in a lurch wondering why she bothered.  Worst advice ever.  In comparison, I told my boys a simple one liner.  "I don't care who you date, white, black, purple or green or any shade in between, but you bring home any trash and I will throw it out."  No matter how hard you try, you will never turn a whore into a lady.  There's even a song to that effect.  I've seen wonderful ladies get ragged from being mistreated and not be so lady-like.  But a good woman will always revert back to being a good woman. 

My ex-husband used to have this song he liked to ramble on to.  "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, make an ugly woman your wife."  Ok.  Seriously, this probably really applies to a lot of men, but not so much to women.  Any guy will tell you, and I've observed it to be true, good looking men can get lots and lots of whores.  There are just a lot more opportunities for a good looking man and for some reason that makes being with a good looking man more risky.  But women, we are really on the opposite spectrum.  Of the women I know that are horribly whore-ish, they're all dogs and not just physically unappetizing but ugly to the bone.  Weight has nothing to do with it.  Personality is fake.  They'll run around and stalk your new girlfriend's Facebook page waiting to call you the minute your girlfriend takes your picture down.  They'll pretend to be your friend.  Can men and women be friends?  Yes, of course.  But that friendship is under a true respect for each other.  Since whores don't actually respect themselves, they are definitely not respecting you.  I've told my boys cover it up, because you'll never know what you've gotten with unless she's a stripper.  Odds are really good then that she's been way around the block. 

Besides that we kind of are ingrained by society to be with someone that is equal in appearance.  There was a fascinating study I saw about 5 years ago.  The men and women in the study couldn't see each other, but each were numbered with 1 to 10.  They were told to find the person that they thought they would be interested in dating.  The twenty wandered talking and even though they had no idea what each other actually looked like, the 10 ended up with the 10.  The 9 with the 9.  The 8 with the 8.  Yes, all the way down to 1.  We might have no clue how we look but we still end up with someone that other markers tell us who we should be with.  Yes, it's not just looks.  It's our own perception of ourselves from others and then our own perception based on that helps us choose who we would or would not prospectively be with. 

My oldest son is a chicky wicky magnet.  He's way too intelligent for a chicky wicky and over the years I've told him to find a smart girl, one smart enough that he can have conversations with.  Nothing sucks more than talking with someone day in, day out that hasn't got the same intellectual level.  Don't get me wrong.  In spurts, a date here or there.  Four hours to 12 hours a week.  Sure.  But 14 to 24 hours a day?  No one can be around someone all the time like that unless they have the ability to converse.  The trick is to find someone on the same level as you, I've told him.  It is a trick, right?  I mean I met an utterly amazing looking man that was so dumb I was pretty sure he had to get his driver's license out to spell his name.  I'd have been bored stiff with someone like that.  Don't get me wrong.  A chicky wicky shouldn't want my son either.  He'd annoy her with his over-intellect.  Heck, he annoys me sometime with it.  Smart aleck meets a high IQ that is a sponge for information who is independent enough to form his own opinion.  Really I have no idea where he gets it from...(yea, ok, bull).  I raised him to respect a woman's opinion, so a woman who is just going to agree with him all the time and not form her own opinion is going to drive him nuts.  Look for who meets your mind.

Of course, my advice over the years has been based on the fact my Granddaddy, two of my uncles and my Daddy all told me I was equal to a boy and some of my best friends have been guys.  While this has not benefited me relationship-wise over the years, I think God thought it would benefit my boys and eventually whoever they're in relationships with.  One of my less favorite aunts told me once that God didn't give me a girl because the world wasn't ready for a girl raised by me.  In hindsight, she's right that God didn't give me a girl for a reason.  She was just way off base why.  Men instill confidence in their daughters.  Women instill respect in their sons.  Men will always mimic their male role models, so it's their mothers make them into someone lovable.  Women will always instill the sugar and the spice that makes girls women.  But the confidence of a woman to stand equal, well, speaking from experience, when a man has tried to put me in my "place", it isn't my mother's or grandmothers' voices that I hear.  I hear my Granddaddy, "don't ever take that from a man or anyone for that matter.  Respect yourself enough to stand up for yourself."  So why did God give me boys?  Because we've forgotten to teach our sons to respect.  As we've taught our daughters to stand up for themselves, we forgot the boys need to learn valuable softening lessons.  My boys were raised old school--not treat a lady like a whore and a whore like a lady.  Open the door, pull out her chair, pay.  A lady doesn't go dutch and trust me when my youngest went out with his girlfriend, he paid...well, I paid.  I didn't have a girl because I couldn't teach her anything as valuable.  I could teach her to be a lady, but the world is still full of ladies.  The world is starting to fall short of gentlemen. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What do you mean I'm racist?

Oh I'm sure the title alone got your attention.  A recent poll says that 38.4% of all Americans do not have friends of other races.  But that says all.  Guess what the averages are by race?  Well, according to the study that sparked the poll, African Americans have friends of other races about 65% of the time.  Hispanic Americans hit an all-time high at over 93% of them have friends of other races.  So why's the study say only 38.4% total have friends of another race?  Sounds like that number should be much higher.  White Americans, Caucasian of European decent, guess what?  They report that they as a whole, no kidding, only 25% of them have any friends outside of their own race.  Are you one of those white people?  Do you only have other white friends?  Think about it.  You live in a community or neighborhood.  How many other races are represented?  I lived in a fantastic neighborhood, upper middle class in Kansas.  The whole neighborhood was white, except me and one other family.  The other family was Chinese.  I'm part Chinese.  Asian Americans were not reported.  We tended to be represented in every facet though with African Americans reporting an average of 3 of us as friends.  White America tended to report 1 of us if they were part of the 25% that actually have other races represented.  But yea, White America is 75% totally white.  No other influences.  

Now what's that mean?  Well, I started thinking about my friends and who they socialize with.  Most of my friends are, well, white.  I have quite a few black friends, a couple Hispanic friends, a couple of Native American decent, but mostly white.  And by white, they don't have any other non-white friends other than me.  I'm that in percentage.  I'm the Asian friend and guess what?  I'm not full on Asian.  Is that their fault?  I don't know.  I know people that give Native Americans and Asian Americans a different status than African Americans and/or Latino Americans.  Stereotypes maybe?  I mean we are still a society of stereotyping and profiling and most of us know absolutely nothing about profiling yet we love to judge a book by the cover.  Most of my "white" friends claim to not be racist.  Honestly, and if you're one of them reading this and recognize this as you, well, yes, then I am probably using you as one of the gauge here, but I'd say that half of them are sort of.  

Sort of?  What's "sort of"?  They don't have any friends outside of white other than me.  They make snipe comments when they see people of other races where they think they don't belong.  Don't get me wrong.  They don't see it as racist at all.  But, yes, to a lot of people it is.  Pretty much anyone of "color" (I hate that term) would probably find it racist or at least naive at best.  I've been called a racist before.  The statement made me confused and I really did quite a bit of "soul searching".  Am I racist?  I have a good friend, like a sister to me, who I introduce that way, who just happens to be black.  If she needed anything, if her kids needed anything, I wouldn't hesitate to help her.  She's a great woman, good job, works hard, owns her own home, taken care of her 3 kids on her own and honestly probably 10 times the mother I have ever been.  She's like family to me.  In another life she damn well might have been.  God knows that most Southerners, white or not, probably have some Native or other in the mix somewhere.  Plenty of "high yellow" blacks would relocate themselves where no one would know them and passed themselves off as white back 100 years ago.  It was the nature of the beast then.  I'd like to think it's not anymore, but well, yes, it still is...sort of.  

How do you seriously go through life, where your race is no longer even the predominant race in the country, hasn't been for the last decade, and have no friends of other races?  I'm blown away.  Then I thought about it.  I went to high school in a white community.  I think we had one black family in the whole school.   We had several Hispanic from a small town on the outskirts of the county.  I was friends with none of them.  All my friends were "white" and because of the fact that I have a Germanic last name, there was a lot of Hungarian decent families in the community, well, no one ever questioned whether I was white or not.  I had to be white.  I looked just like most of the Hungarians.  In fact, I was a little fairer skinned than most of them being Chinese which is one of the more pale of the Asians.  My first black friend was in college.  I had become a friend of a Delta who shared my enthusiasm for billiards and both being in sororities we had a kind of kindred mindset.  One of the guys we all hung out with was a black football player.  He had been one of my first sweethearts best friends.  They had gone to Catholic school together, played ball together, and the friendship extended to college.  His family bent over backwards for him to go to a predominantly white school for the "opportunities", but one time he and I had talked about why he didn't date much.  Most of his friends of course were white.  Now here's the kicker.  His grandmother told him she would disown him, heck even his parents said it, if he ever dated a "white girl".  Can you imagine?  

My grandparents were the same on my mother's side.  Black was never an option.  Not that was ever a problem.  I had a thing for blue eyes from a very young age.  Probably because my Granddaddy had the biggest blue eyes you have ever seen and he was my world when I was little.  I made him proud as a peacock.   A feeling like that, having someone who loves you so unconditionally like that, well that will ingrain certain attractions.  Yet, in their day and age, they were considered really progressive.  Grams only rented to "good black families" because she didn't want the "trash" ruining their properties.  She considered it very progressive to use the word "black" since that was what the black community wanted to be called back then when many of her generation were refusing to call them anything but "colored".  Of course, they, my grandparents were born at the turn of the last century and no matter what anyone says, yes, we've come a long way, baby.  

Perhaps not as far as we had hoped.  But who's fault is that?  I still have mostly "white" friends.  I have a lot of friends of every race though.  Perhaps that is the challenge though for those that have made no effort to ever be friends with anyone other than their immediate circles.  "All we are is all we know", and a lot of us, regardless of race or otherwise, simply refuse to expand our experiences.  Over 80% of all Americans live within 50 miles of the hospital they were born in.  Fifty miles at the turn of the last century was a day long plus ride on a good horse.  In a carriage it was an overnight trip.  Now a lot of us will drive 50 miles a day just to and from work.  A twenty to thirty minute drive to work is nothing.  Yet in ways, we still live in those sad shadows of almost a century gone by.  We live in the hovels that life laid out for us by the parents we happened to be given, and apparently if that was two white parents, it means we only have a 25% chance of expanding our views outside of that hovel.  

Not sure how I feel about it.  I don't know very many Asians that don't have other friends, that haven't mixed ourselves into American society, white, black, purple or orange.  But is it that "white" America still views the other races as some sort of lower class?  I mean I told my boys when they were growing up, "I don't care what girl you bring home, white, black, purple, green or orange, but you bring home any trash, I will throw it out."  Is a lot of "white" America still treating the certain races, even if it's only subconciously, like lower class citizens?  I don't know.  I've experienced racism.  I had a very fancy "white" woman looking me up and down once and at first in the politest tone she could muster (sarcasm) ask me if I was "Indian".  No.  Then a pause, "Are yeeeewwww Mexxxxican?"  No.  She looked me up and down.  The amount of disgust increasing with each up and down.  As she was about to open her mouth, I shot her a look.  She fumbled through her fancy Prada purse, tapping her fancy Prada shoe, after I flashed my military ID to the cashier.  This woman had more money at her disposal for her entire outfit than I made a year.  It was a rude awakening to me.  Some people are racist and don't even know it.  Even as they open their mouths, they don't realize it.  And I've had black woman tell me that I need to come back to my race after she had seen me at a party that aforementioned friend had and this woman happened to see me out with my "white" boyfriend a week later.  Later she even told my friend to "have a conversation" with me, who promptly explained that I wasn't actually "black".  I suppose being ambiguous looking has always been a positive overall, but it also has afforded me the unique opportunity to see that racism isn't exclusively "white".  

The only thing that I can say, no matter what our race opinion is, put us in the military and a comrade's life at risk, we see no color.  We might fall back into our racial pitfalls when we're home, but when those Twin Towers came down, no American, black, white, purple or orange, gave a crap what color were the dead.  We are American.  If we happen to be "white" American, then it might be a good idea to expand ourselves a little.  Not because white America is now the minority, but because it's a little weird that the rest of the races have friends of other races at rates of 65% or more and only 25% of white America does.  It's just such a stark contrast it screams something is still wrong in America.  If you happen to look around you and realize you are one of those 75% of white America, take that pilates class with the non-white instructor or say hello to that non-white co-worker.  I don't know.  Strike up a conversation with them.  You're probably going to find out that they are just like you, afterall they're hanging out doing the same things you do.  They're human, they're American most likely, and you just might expand not just who you know but who you are.  All we will ever be is only that which we allow ourselves to know.    

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Trust is not given or earned....Stop beating yourself up.

Trust...We've all heard various forms of advice on it.  That it should be earned not given.  Once broken, never repaired.  Trust only half of what you see and even less of what you hear.  There are all kinds of advice on how do we trust someone.  There's not a whole lot of advice out there on how to build trust.  Which if you think about it seems kind of lopsided.  If we all seem to want to know how to trust, why don't we all want to know how to earn trust?  Is it inherent on how to earn trust?  What are the things that we expect when we trust someone?  Trust is equated with honesty.  Truthfulness.  Maintaining one's confidence.  We expect people to keep their big mouths shut when we tell them something in confidence, particularly if we "trust" them.  Faithfulness.  We expect our partners in relationships to be faithful.  A cheating spouse is often said to be "breaking trust".  We also expect someone we trust to be able to understand our faults.  We tell someone that we "trust" more about ourselves and we expect them to respect that only some people get to know those things about us.  We expect people we trust to "have our backs".  We expect those that we trust to stand up in our defense when we cannot defend ourselves.  Trust is a very complicated word, yet we seem to be more worried about who we should trust rather than what we do to be trustworthy.

There cannot be trust without being trustworthy.  I would simply argue if you read self help books and magazine articles about how to choose better people, ones worthy of your trust, then it's time to look in a mirror.  What is the reflection in the mirror?  Victim?  Empowered?  Grossly self centered?  In spite of what some self help books would tell us, trust is about us.  We give our trust willingly and when we are surprised by someone who breaks it it is not about them.  Seriously.  It's about ourselves.  I love to bring up my ex-husband and our relationship at times in examples.  He cheated on me while I was pregnant, he rubbed my nose in it, et cetera.  Yet, those self help books have one thing correct.  It was my choice but not at the level they think.  I was a doormat.  If he said "jump", I responded with "how high, which direction and how much hangtime"?  I became the doormat because I was trying to make up for his lack of trustworthiness with my own excess trustworthiness.  I've watched it over and over.  Someone who is completely untrustworthy somehow enthrall complete devotion out of the trustworthy.  Heck in all honesty, I've watched the less than trustworthy try desperately to make grossly untrustworthy more trustworthy by trying to be some version of trustworthier.  Phew.  Yes, that's a mouthful.  So first and foremost, accept that you will always be trustworthy to some.  You may or may not be trustworthy to others.  You're not keeping everyone's secrets.  There are some people that you could care less what secrets they are hiding.  There are some people that being trustworthy for them, to them, would be a lot of work for you, because frankly you don't deem them worthy.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying if they for some reason dump one of their deepest, darkest secrets on you that you should run out and breach that trust--that would make you an *sshole.  But, I am saying that we have to acknowledge not that other people break our trust or are not as trustworthy to us as others are but that to recognize that...We have to recognize that there are some people that we could care less about earning or having their trust.  Thus, we acknowledge the opposite.  There are some people that could care less about earning or having our trust.

But then, come back to why do we not focus on what makes us trustworthy?  What makes us good people?  Women are often the ones that are much easier to see who they do or don't trust.  We tend to always have one or two other women that we trust.  We're obvious about it.   But just like the movie "Mean Girls", often those are not people that we trust either.  Men, I've been told often are more selective.  It's not so much selectivity as they tend to still sit and shoot the bull with guys that they don't trust.  One of my best friends is a guy that I grew up with.  He told me once that another guy was a good friend, but he wouldn't trust the guy with a girlfriend or wife.  Seems ridiculous?  Not if you think about it.  I have a really good friend who I trusted over the years with everything.  Then one day, a friend of hers who had said something a few weeks earlier that was inappropriate came running up to me, claiming that she had never said what she said and that I was mistaken.  The witnesses to her transgression were sitting there also and of course one of them came to my "defense" that it had been exactly what she had said.  The conversation that followed was whether my friend should have mentioned it to this other friend of hers.  Maybe, maybe not.  Since I knew I had mentioned it only to have confirmation that it wasn't meant the way it had been said, the friend of mine simply could've been trying to create reassurance by telling this other friend of hers.  Yet, since I had specified that I did not wish her to say anything, she had broken some amount of my trust.  Does that mean that I don't trust her at all?  Well, no.  Like my guy friend told me years ago, I'll trust her with some information, but regard that certain information will not have the same respect from her.  Telling her certain things will mean that the confidence invested may or may not be maintained.

Is it my fault for telling her?  Yes and no.  Once someone breaks some form of trust, then it is wasteful to assume that they will not break that trust again.  Yet, we absolutely have no way of being absolutely sure that trust is not misplaced until someone breaks it in the first place.  Yet, there's no point in cutting off one's nose in spite of one's face.  It may be that the person is trustworthy in almost every capacity excepting that one.  I used to say that my ex could be a great guy and would give the shirt off his back to a complete stranger in need.  All true.  But if you're his wife, well, good luck with that.  His trustworthiness ends as soon as certain things are in play.  That trustworthiness doesn't affect in any way, shape or form his trust worth to his male friends.  Interesting?  I think so.  When it comes to this friend that told another friend of hers what I asked her not to?  Well, it's simple.  There's some things that I can trust her with and other things that I'm better keeping to myself.

So does that mean that we should just accept that some people, or maybe even no people, are going to be as trustworthy as we would like?  No.  Absolutely not.  I have friends that I would trust with my deepest thoughts, my darkest hours and everything about me.  That's really what we are usually talking about when we talk about trust.  We want someone who will be honest with us, tell us, keep our confidence, jump up in our defense when needed, have our back through thick and thin, and be not just the last but the never say anything bad about us.  That is what we expect, what we have come to expect, when we say trust.  We ourselves must be that also though, and if we are honest, we know that we will only do that for certain people.  Some of us may or may not be quicker to run our mouths in a non-trustworthy way about another person, even people that we might call friends.  But none of us can honestly say that we are the epitome of trustworthy with every single person we know.  That would require us to tell them as much as we would tell the people that we trust most.  We would not.  They would not.  Trust is not given.  It is not earned.  Trust is part of what develops in between people at varying levels.  Some people we trust a lot.  Some we would trust with our lives.  Some we would not trust as far as we could pick them up and throw them.  But that trust level should be commiserate with the trust level, the trust worth, that they provide us.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Deflate what?

Are they kidding us?  We've been listening to the deflated balls for over a week now.  Seriously.  A damn week plus.  So what?  My bet is every team plays with this a little.  My bet is that no one has ever really given a rat's buttocks.  Regardless, a week and a half over deflating a ball.   A NFL investigation that has been going on for at least a week.  And every single day on the news and SportCenter and any media that you happen to read whether online or the old fashioned paper way.  The Patriots may have deflated balls because of weather.  This may have been done by the Colts too.  No one's looking into that because well it doesn't really matter.  Enough already.  Here's my problem with this whole thing:  Why so much attention to some deflated balls but so quickly swept under the rug actually paying off of referees?!?!  Let's be serious.  Money talks and bullsh*t walks.  The Cowboys' party bus the night before the playoff game against the Lions had referees on it.  Drunk.  Partying with the Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones.  Why haven't we heard about an investigation into a possible payoff?  Why haven't we heard about sanctions for the referees being out partying the night before a game?  Why haven't we heard about sanctions for cheating by the Cowboys?  Why?

Money baby.  Money.  Jerry Jones has more money than any of the other owners.  Detroit struggles to keep money rolling in, let alone being able to grease the NFL into doing the right thing.  Total revenue of the NFL was $9.5M in 2013.  The most popular teams include the Cowboys (of course), Patriots, Raiders, Steelers, Packers, Chiefs.  This year the Seahawks and the Colts have a money backing also.  They bring in the cash.  But hey, with the whole balls thing, the NFL seems to have completely forgot about paying off referees!!!  Who did that?  Who benefits from this ridiculous crap about balls?  I bet Jerry Jones is laughing his ass off while he tarnishes a head coach he doesn't like and one of the all time greatest quarterbacks. (And I can't stand the Pats.)  The tarnish this year belongs to Jerry Jones and his Cowboys.  We'll never know if the Lions could've won for sure.  It's definitely highly likely based on the final score.  Those calls could've had a huge impact on the outcome.  The referees make or break the game. 

All football fans, heck all sports fans, know the referees making crap calls can swing the outcome of the game.  Why isn't the NFL looking into the finances of the referees?  Why aren't they looking into Jerry Jones for making a payoff?  For that matter, why isn't the Federal Government looking into it?  This was possibly FRAUD involving a payoff to have an affect on an outcome that had financial gains for some and financial losses for others.  There's no fraud when a ball is deflated, because it could be debated all day long how much impact that could have on the outcome--as the week plus coverage proves.  But, financial gains, free party bus tickets, the sales that the Cowboys would see from their fans the week after the win, money crossing hands in any way, shape or form between Jerry Jones or his representatives or the fans on that party bus to the referees--right down to free drinks--should be looked into.  But hey America, here's how stupid people like Jerry Jones think we are.  They play the shell game and find some great debatable drama to divert our attention from financial fraud.  

Often I talk about stuff trying to get people to start opening our eyes to what a little logical thinking immediately can have us scratching our heads.  Why would the NFL not investigate and fire the referees that took bribes?  Why would they not focus on why referees were drinking excessively the night before a playoff game, heck any game for that matter?  They work half the year and make more than double what the average American does.  I seriously want them to lose their jobs.  I seriously want to see them in jail.  The average Joe that watches football every weekend that makes half in a year what those referees do in only 6 months should want to know to.  What's the point of watching those teams if our teams will always lose because the owners can pay off the refs?  

Why do we let the media and money, and not even money coming to any of us, redirect us?  It happens to us over and over and over again.  Politics.  The Brits made a huge stink about a blurb taking from an interview that Mitt Romney said about the difficulty of getting the Olympics logistics right in a large city like London.  The media in England and the States didn't ever focus on what he actually said, but a sentence taken out of context.  I immediately got on YouTube and saw the entire answer to the question he was asked.  Romney had made the comment in reference to how the London Olympics were behind schedule when they were preparing and his experience being brought in to Salt Lake City's Olympics when they were behind.  He was explaining the difficulty of the logistics and basically complimenting the London team.  Who benefited from that gaff?  The liberal media, the rich, and the Obamas.  With them in the White House for the last 6 years I know as the average middle class person I haven't benefited one bit.  Higher federal taxes.  Higher healthcare costs.  Lower wages.  Lots of friends that have been unemployed so long that they are actually no longer on the unemployment roles (the REAL reason unemployment is down).  But hey, it got the people who would benefit from it exactly what they wanted.  

What I wanted is what Detroit wanted, what Michigan needed, was what every underdog in this country could have benefited from.  The Detroit Lions in the Super Bowl.  The Detroit Lions who have never even been to a Super Bowl.  The last time they won any championship was in the 1950s.  No NFC Championship ever.  No Super Bowl.  And Detroit, the city, is the underdog of all underdogs.  The city has been the focus of the media because of how downtrodden, hell practically abandoned, defeated and left for dead it is.  Thanks to Fiat and Chrysler and GM (no Ford has still not returned to the Motor City), Detroit is trying to make a comeback.  Nothing would have been a better underdog story, nothing would have been a great "win" for the once pearl of a city--the Motor City, Motown, HockeyTown.  So what Jerry Jones and those referees did was steal, de-fraud, Detroit and every underdog in this country of a win.  One that we middle class underdogs really could have appreciated.  A comeback for the Motor City is a comeback for every average Joe in the country.  The sign that we were not losing to the rich, to the politicians, and that even the little guy comes out ahead once in a while.  That is the epitome of Detroit and the Detroit Lions.  Yet, let's focus on balls because they make easier jokes.  No one wants to admit that even the NFL doesn't really care about us over the Jerry Jones' Cowboys mega money team.  Hahaha America.  The joke is on us and even the NFL is in on it.  Money talks and we don't have any.    

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire...It's just not that easy...

A friend of mine and I were talking about being lied to.  She has always held herself in pretty decent esteem of choosing lies from truth.  So imagine her shock and dismay to have been lied to, completely missed it, and worse yet, how come I hadn't trusted the same person from the day I met him.  Well, he had given me the hee-bee-gee-bees right off the bat.  Approximately 2% of the population reportedly can pick out lies fairly well.  There are various theories about why these people are better; many of them share some common childhood events.  Neither here, nor there.  This blog isn't about how come they can and the average Joe can't.  Another study shows that people that suffered a stroke could pick out lies 73% of the time while the non-stroke people chose the lies 20% less of the time.  Basically, that's what studies discover over and over.  The average person can only pick the lies 50% of the time.  In fact, even UNC law enforcement blog states that often police detectives make mistakes because those things that we associate with lying--fidgeting, averting the eyes, playing with hair, anger, frustration, etc.--can be false tells with people being interrogated.  When under a stressful situation, often the liars seem to be the most calm and the hypothesis is that the liar's mind is so busy keeping the lies in order and filing them for future use, re-use actually, that all those other tells go out the window.

Think of it.  Anyone lying to you may or may not be fidgeting.  That's not going to be a tell.  In my friend's case, it was her spouse.  He lied for years and years.  Speaking from the same experience, my own ex could look me in the eye, never flinch, and lie right through his teeth without a single tell.  Well, maybe a single tell that I was unwilling to acknowledge.  Often, we fool ourselves simply because we would like to see the good in all people.  It's naive at best.  Not everyone is honest 100% of the time.  Even though I tend to be "overly honest" if I don't think something is someone's business and they are one of those people who won't take "none ya'" as an answer, I'll often evade the whole truth with a partially true answer.  I've debated with another friend the merits of whether this is the same thing as lying.  Perhaps it is, I have to concede.  It's all perspective and opinion.  If you perceive a half truth as a lie, an omission as a lie, then to you, it is a lie.  I don't consider it a lie unless it's pretensed with other lies and the omission is on purpose to further let a person draw incorrect conclusions and mislead their judgment.  If it's simply because it's not their business, then it's not and such omission is just to avoid an uncomfortable situation.  My ex often switched it up on me when I would ask questions about where or what he had been doing, the argument then just became about something completely unrelated.  It was exhausting.  Like my friend's husband, had he not been caught red-handed, this could've went on for years and years.  I'm so happy that I was lucky enough to have the truth delivered while in a blatant, in my face way, that I did not suffer her fate.  I love her and she's a wonderful person.  The pain she faces now in her 40s would have been much simpler, was much simpler, when it's impact wasn't 20+ years.  All I can say is she should not beat herself up, nor should anyone say to her how could she not know or some other inconsideration.  Yes, we often see only what we want to see.  Hear what we want to hear.  But sometimes, it's just the liar at fault.  It's not her fault because she wanted to believe.

There are plenty of people that want to believe.  How often do we hear of various cult style churches demanding people sign over a percentage of money directly out of their paychecks?  Sign over land?  Give any extra cash they have?  Disconnect themselves from their families and friends that are not involved in that particular "church"?  The lie that they often want to hear is that they are "saved", but nowhere in the Bible does it say you will be saved by giving everything to a church.  We all want to feel good about ourselves.  Who doesn't?  But often charlatans can use that need against us.  It's quite simple.  They find a few sheeple, especially ones that are honest that they turn into "true believers" and for those that might pick out the liars more often than 50% those true believers are able to fool them for the charlatans.  Eventually, the seemingly honest outnumber the charlatans and are preaching the word for the con-artists.  Someone will catch on...ask Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, but sometimes the catch is too late to save the sheep.  Ask the FBI investigators that wanted to save the lives of the children at Waco.  We are often amazed and appalled at the terrorists.  Who in the world would follow such crazy extremists preaching for death and destruction of any other human?  Well, it wasn't so long ago that Eric Rudolph bombed the Olympics in Atlanta because of rhetoric demanding the killing of doctors, nurses and pregnant women that would be involved in abortion.  A difference in religious opinion (yes, because not all religions believe in life at conception) that resulted in bombing living people--many of whom had no dog in the fight.  Are they liars when they preach death and destruction of others, others' ways of life, anything that opposes them?  I don't know, but at some point it all started with the desire to be better persons and defining themselves as better than someone else.  The biggest lie of them all.  None of us are better than anyone else.  Not you.  Not me.  Not anyone.  We are all human.  The liars that would have any of us believe that we are better than anyone else are simply telling us what we want to here.  We all want to be "better" in our inherent need for competition.

The inherent need to believe that we are worthy, have self worth, often is what drives our willingness to believe even the most ludicrous lies.  My friend's need to believe she was truly with someone that truly loved her the way she wanted, needed to be loved let her blindly ignore all the signs of a cheating husband.  A young teenager who's been brow beaten down or felt low in self worth finds a mentor in a gang leader who tells them that they are loved, needed, and capable can often turn the tide of where that young teenager's life ends up...or ends.  Even the terrorists' recruiting strategies tend to focus on the need that we all have to some extent to belong, to be part of something, to contribute, to have family.  While all of these things might sound so different, it is not so different.  I have a good friend that has been single for a long time just like I have been.  She is still single, so I listen intently sometimes and realize that the inherent need to be loved, feel cared for and have someone to care about it often the true driving force behind us believing lies.  It's not that the Bible says anything about killing abortion doctors.  It was the praise that Eric Rudolph thought he would receive from certain others.  It isn't about the terrorists wanting to die as martyrs.  It's about wanting to have an impact on the world, someone to notice them, and having somewhere to belong that allows devious liars to impact their minds.  This friend has had an on and off and on and off and on and off....well, you get the picture...relationship with a cad.  He's kind of a womanizer, only not that good looking or smart.  Yet, at some point, something he said connected with her on a deep level.  They were most likely lies, maybe even based on some truths when they were spoken, but truly little more than words to ensnare this ridiculous merry go round relationship--that he shares with a couple of other women also.  I don't know the other women, but I know my friend.  He's probably not worthy of her admiration by a long shot and he knows it.  She assumes that the other women on the same merry go round are horrible, because of words from him that allude to such.  Lies.  More likely the other women that are on and off and on with him are just like my friend.  Hoping desperately that the lies he tells are truths.  Eventually he will get off the merry go round with one of them and she of course, whichever one he is talking to that day, is the one he will be getting off with.  Eventually we'll all go to heaven if we give our 10 to 15% to charlatan who made his own church.  Eventually we'll get bunch of virgins in heaven because we murdered thousands in the name of a God who supposedly is speaking to us through a guy who is telling us exactly how great our cause, how great our contribution to the cause, blah, blah. blah.

We pretend not to understand liars and we often claim the people telling us the truth with proof are the liars.  I had a friend years ago who was having an affair with a married man.  I told her he's never leaving his wife.  The only way you will "get" him is if she throws him out.  She was infuriated with me and we didn't speak for a while.  Eventually, we did.  The truth was I was right.  He wasn't leaving her.  About 2 or 3 mistresses down the road, the wife had divorced him and the mistress had landed him...until he was cheating on her too.  Shocking.  I know.  (Yes, sarcasm.)  Cheaters aren't necessarily always cheaters but by humble observation over the years, if you were the mistress, you will be cheated on whether you land the man or not.  Like I stated before, I could have kept my mouth shut, but I wasn't going to lie to my friend when asked...even if it meant she would hate my guts.  Of course, that's the thing too.  Often when we hear the truth, we want to swear someone is lying because we limit ourselves.  I had a woman running around telling people I was lying about having my engineering degree.  I had to be a liar.  Of course, she claims she went to school and couldn't finish because of this or that.  I don't remember.  She was a blip in one day of my life.  I apparently was a dismal reminder of what she hadn't done, of her own failure and I was therefore the brunt of her own lies.  She desperately needed me to be a liar because otherwise she had to look in the mirror at herself for her own mistakes, errors and failures.  Instead of someone like me being a positive sign that she could always go back and try again, she decided to tear me down by claiming I had to be a liar.  Which is more pathetic?  That I have my degree even after dropping out and going back and getting my degree in spite of all odds?  Or that a woman would run around claiming I was a liar because she herself had failed and never tried again?  Or that several people began repeating the lie over and over and over until it came around full circle back to me?

Recently a guy waited until I went to the restroom and told my boyfriend immediately that I was a liar about ever being in the military.  He said that the first time he met me that I couldn't remember if I was in the Army or the Navy.  I've always tried to be nice to the guy because the first time I met him I hadn't been in a good mood and felt like I had been a bit ugly to him, but when my boyfriend told me about this, I realized that the guy was actually the *sshole from the first encounter with him.  Like the woman claiming I didn't have my degree, his lie was simply to put me down.  I'm not sure why.  He's another blip in a day or two of my life.  A shallow insecure little man who needs anything that doesn't fit into his mind to be a lie.  He might seem extremely believable to someone who didn't know me because of his "true believer" status that I couldn't be telling the truth because I didn't fit his stereotypes.  I don't know.  For all I know, he's just a sh*t stirrer who lies just for grins.  Anyway, when my boyfriend responded that he knew I had been Navy, had never ever claimed anything else and that he had rode with me the other week to the regional VA hospital the jerk scurried away immediately like the little lying rodent he is.  Sometimes, we have to remember the lies that some people tell are only to make themselves feel better about their own limitations.  Those lies are most likely the hardest of them all to tell from truths--particularly when those lies speak to our own limitations.  In that case, we are probably more likely to want to believe them even if that aching little voice is going off in our heads telling us it's probably a lie.

Obviously, I'm not a big fan of lying.  I really don't like it when it's just in jest to be honest.  It's not necessary in every day conversation.  The world would be a much simpler place if people said what they mean, told the truth even when it hurt themselves let alone others, and could easily discern lies from truth more than just 50% of the time.  Satire is supposed to be funny, haha funny not odd funny.  Yet, some people don't see it as funny at all.  It's the truth wrapped in twist.  Sarcasm is the same.  It's the intelligent mind trying to point out the lies within what someone perceives as truth.  No one should be killed because they tried to point out the lies, the sheer irony of the lies that men tell younger men and women to make them into sheep either for financial gain or for some phony cause.  We are appalled by such idiocy.  But how do we expect such young men and women to not fall for such lies when we ourselves are just  as apt to when we hear what we want to hear and take it as gospel?  I know we are all mortified by the senseless murders in Paris, but ask yourself how many times have you believed a lie, perpetuated that lie by repeating it and/or been the brunt of some lie someone has told?  We all know lies that we have heard that eventually were proven to not be the truth.  Not a single one of us is immune.  While a little children's rhyme "Liar, liar, pants on fire" makes it sound so easy to "see" someone's pants on fire.  But truth is that we are incapable as a whole more than  50% of the time.  It's not that easy and even harder when our own needs or desires are met by lies.  Just food for thought as we judge those that are lied to and those that buy into them.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hilarious or pathetic. You choose.

When I decided earlier yesterday that I would be writing a blog about friendship, I did so thinking that I would be writing about "advice" from friends that they themselves cannot seem to pick true friends.  I have a friend, been friends with for years, although honestly I can't tell you that I consider her among my closest friends.  A couple weeks back she had told me that some so-called friends of mine and hers had bad mouthed me to her, and her being the straight up redneck that she is, had attempted to make sure that I landed on the bad side of her more volatile side.  Suffice to say, she had set them straight.  I'm her friend, never done her any wrong, and most importantly, she knew what they had said about me wasn't true.  I have to tell you she earned a new level of respect and friendship from me.  I hold integrity most important of all in my life.  Not that I myself am perfect by any means, but I just find that a person that has a moral backbone is the best of us all.  That doesn't actually mean that the people that you come around that never do anything wrong or seemingly wrong are good moral people.  That moral backbone often comes in the form of what many people look down upon, like this friend of mine.  She doesn't have a degree, no pedigree, not even a high school diploma.  She can go all redneck and honestly most guys probably should be afraid of her.  She doesn't take any crap off of anyone.  Yet, for all that, she has a heart of gold and would never think of wronging someone that never wronged her.  No, this blog is not about her, but that unique trait that I hold most dear in friends--integrity.  

Integrity is not just the person that has your back.  Honestly, I've had "friends" that have no integrity, or maybe not much shall we say?  Those types of people are abounding.  It takes time to flush some of them out, not so much like birds flushed out for the hunt, more like sh*t down the toilet.  Sometimes, we are fortunate that they reveal themselves faster than others.  There was an old lady that I thought could be a friend when I first moved home.  After 3 outings with her, and three different men degrading me with the exact same words, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this old lady was about as trustworthy as Benedict Arnold.  Of course, trustworthy is often a relative term.  To the British, Benedict Arnold would have been a hero had they won the uprising that we as the victors call the American Revolution.  Yet, I've watched this particular piece of work and know that of her "friends" I personally would have no reason to trust any of them.  Even a couple of my former friends, I say former because years and years ago we were, that claim to be her friends, well, neither have the moral fiber of saplings, let alone would ever be solid oaks or sequoias.  One for example bold faced lied a couple months back to my boyfriend claiming that she had planned my graduation party and had driven me around.  The way I remembered it was that she had picked up the cake, could not stick around for my graduation because she had to work the mid-shift at the hospital, and had placed 4 red-headed sluts (a shot for those of you non-drinking types) in the "hole" for me at the sports bar my two closest friends had actually planned the party to start.  I had after moving lost track of all 3 of these friends.  One I still don't know what happened to her; she was actually the one that had driven me that night.  The other was and is one of my best friends.  That's what happens when you find someone that is truly a friend.  The minute you sit and talk again, even after years, there's nothing lost and even the time lost is minute (yes, that pun is intended).  When this friend, one of my best friends, recalled my graduation party, she recalled it to my boyfriend with certain extra details--mainly in the planning--just as I had.  Is it important?  In the grand scheme of things?   In a conversation to most, I would say "no", because many people find such details minor.  But such details are the most revealing of all.  "It is in the minor details...that the truth emerges." 

People reveal who they are without thinking twice about it, but we only see it in the minor details.  My friend, the redneck high school dropout, is a great example.  Years ago, a friend had said to me in a snubby way that my friendship with such a "type" of person was not a good thing.  The conversation that ensued was basically the same I've had over the years with several so-called friends.  I am at liberty to choose my friends and this friend was equally at liberty to choose her own friends.  Just because not all of her friends were mine and vice versa should not have any bearing on whether she and I were friends.  True friends simply don't care that you are not exclusive to them, nor do they try to manipulate you into only having the same friends as they do.  The irony in this conversation was that this woman who didn't like my redneck friend had less loyalty in her little pinky, less integrity in her pinky fingernail, and had already been systematically talking behind my back for what could only be accounted for with sheer jealousy.  Not sure exactly what she was jealous of, but the green eyed monster is always the first of the monsters people hide behind their faces that rears its ugly head.  Worse yet, quite honestly, the only reason she bad mouthed the friend that I speak of is she was jealous of her too.  Oh yes, I'm quite aware that she would deny it, but yes, she was.  She knew something I didn't.  That her heart was much darker than this redneck dropout that she wanted desperately to look down on.  No amount of education, no amount of money, no amount of phony friends surrounding her would ever change that.

Do people change?  I've seen her since, surrounded by phony friends, and for all intensive purposes looking quite happy.  But that's the other thing about people that are genuine versus people who are going through the motions.  It's always in the eyes.  The jealousy, the ugliness, the hurt, whatever it is that we hide--and we all hide something--comes out from the eyes.  She's no more happy than the friend of mine she judged as beneath her, probably even less.  Who's fault is that?  Her own.  I make no qualms that my life has not been a bed of rose petals.  The best friend I spoke of earlier, her life has not been a big cotton pillow and Tempur Pedic either.  She's going through a lot even now and taking on responsibilities because it's the right thing to do albeit definitely not the easiest.  But that's who she is and who she has always been.  We can change our education; we can change our lots in life--we truly can.  I would really like to believe that those people with no integrity can change that too, but that is who we are on the inside.  The saying says "a leopard cannot change it's spots".  Nowadays we can go to a plastic surgeon and change everything about ourselves on the outside.  Is the heart, the very soul, of a person malleable?  Can we become better people?

For the most part, no.  It's not the answer anyone wants to hear.  Changing the fiber of our being, changing who we are inside, is not even close to as easy as it is for a leopard to change its spots.  Is a criminal always a criminal?  No.  The heart of the person, the circumstances, everything that lead into any decision we make does not define us.  Whether we connect to who we truly are is what can have an effect on bad decisions, bad choices, incorrect assumptions.  As Michael Jordan said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."  We learn from our mistakes, and we adjust accordingly.  Ironically, some people don't even do that.  But changing our being, that which we have groomed ourselves, or been groomed into becoming, is far more difficult.  Towards the end of his life "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt gave what in current terms of money upwards of $30M USD to help fund a new ministry college that was going to be called Central University.  The pitch from a sort of family member about healing the wounds of the Civil War had somehow supposedly won him over.  The "Commodore" was notorious as making his millions off the backs of Chinese and Irish immigrants who built the great railroads that turned the Vanderbilts into one of America's first "royal" families.  He was not known for his philanthropy by any means.  He was by most accounts ruthless, crushing his competitors, bribing government name it, he was accused of it.  Yet, that university in Tennessee ultimately has become one of the foremost educational centers in the United States.  Does that change who he was?  Why is it towards the end of our lives so many of us all the sudden want to make up for being sh*tty people the rest of the time?  

In this day and age, we have forced laws to make people like Cornelius Vanderbilt more honest, less greedy, at least act like better people.  While I agree completely with the laws, we must somehow change stepping on people as a means of getting what someone wants.  We simply cannot force anyone to be a better person.  That amount of work has to come from within and it comes with an acknowledgment that we are not the "good" person we pretend to be.  I'll call a spade a spade.  I have literally been told on multiple occasions, good bad or indifferent, that I am honest to a fault.  Is honesty a fault?  Is integrity a fault?  Is being true to your word a fault?  We like to think that there was a softer, nicer time where men just shook hands and agreed to get stuff done, the right way, the good way, the honest way.  There wasn't.  Do you think those men of the past created binding contracts with thousands upon thousands of legalese words on paper that diminished forest after forest because of how binding a handshake was?  Do you think the Stock Market crash in 1929 was because they always did stuff the "right" way?  The "good" way?  The "honest" way?  I hate to say it, but no.  For all the rufflings and rumblings, we are better today than we were then and people like Cornelius Vanderbilt still rise up, get rich and crush the average person under their insatiable greed.  

Yet, these are the same people standing around you.  The same pool that we each get to choose our friends from.  Some of them don't have the stomach to be ruthless as Cornelius Vanderbilt was known to be, so their ruthlessness is limited to the little scope of the people that they encounter.  Or perhaps, and this even by my standard is a little too rose-colored glass, we have reached a point where they have started to know better.  Integrity.  Honor.  These are no punchlines to some military recruiting advertisements.  Honor, well, frankly it's relative.  While I have no love loss for religious extremists that would inflict acts of terror on anyone, their version of Honor versus mine, perhaps even versus the way they were raised is all relative.  Honor is defined by the people we allow into our lives, by the creeds that we choose to live by.  But Integrity.  Integrity is the "quality of being honest and having strong moral principles" but it is also "being whole and undivided".  Integrity is that little thing inside of us that we either live with or without.  I will not feign to be a "good" person.  I am neither "good" or "bad", because as a human being I make mistakes that have had both "good" and "bad" repercussions for myself and for others.  But my Integrity I would like to think rivals that fantastic person that I opened this blog with.  I would like to think that my true friends would tell you that no matter what I have earned their trust with my Integrity and I can tell you that they have earned mine with theirs.  If your friends are not "whole and undivided" in who they are, if they lack the moral fortitude to do what is right when there's little need to do right (keeping in mind we are not talking about the shallow simple picture of legal right nor the religious "right" which unfortunately sometimes are completely in opposition of moral right), then have you chosen the "right" friends?  It's a conundrum.  You look around and choosing those who will stand by you, genuinely, through better or worse, thick and thin, do right by you when all others urge them to do wrong by you, you can probably look around and see one or two.  I suppose I've been blessed moving around so much over the years that I have been lucky enough to find one or two everywhere I have ever been.  But when you think about it, really think about it, would you rather have the redneck dropout friend who can always change her education, her means with the moral fortitude of an angel or the seemingly likable, surrounded by "friends", seemingly popular backstabber who wouldn't think twice about selling you upriver for little more than their own entertainment?  

I know.  It all sounds so high school.  But that is where we developed how we deal with other people and where that "education" about others ended--all the assumptions--right or wrong, good or not--were forged there for over half of the population around us.  "All we are is all we know."  Likewise, all we know is all we are.  We choose our friends, and more importantly for most of us, those friends often choose or have far more impact on who we are, who we choose to be.  Integrity.  I see on Facebook a saying fairly often:  "You are the average of the five people that you hang around with."  Mull that over for a second.  You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with divided by 5.  That's you, that's me, that's any of us, in a nutshell.  Integrity.  Is that in one, two or all five?  If not, perhaps you are comfortable with that.  I'm not judging you if you're comfortable with that.  I personally don't like pulling knives out of my back, so if a moral backbone isn't one of those things you hold dear, we're probably not that good of friends.  I'm just saying that if you choose to overlook those things, like moral fortitude, in your friends and you're not living the Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous, why are you giving up your soul, your Integrity?  To be liked?  Hilarious or pathetic.  You choose.               

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas...and other dysfunctional stuff...

Christmas time.  I never have been a big fan.  I love the tree, the trimmings, Christmas music, the food, my boys--even their dog.  It's just that for me Christmas kind of lost it's luster after Grams died.  Not that Christmases were that great when Grams was alive.  It was just that Grams went out of her way to make it nice and tried to always focus everyone on family, which since pretty much they're almost all gone now, I can tell you was laughable.  I always assumed that everyone else had that picture perfect "normal" Norman Rockwell Christmas, and we had, well, the Christmas Circus.  Truth is though that everyone has their dysfunctional family at Christmas time.  I don't suppose that's very comforting on a day like today, but in a way, I know for some people it would be comforting to know that their families are not the only ones.  

My Grams and her sisters were a very tight family.  I suppose that's what the depression did to people.  Grams searched and searched for her brother after World War II.  She didn't find him for over 30 years.  Eventually, she sent a letter to the Social Security Administration and requested that if they had anyone using her brother's number for the SSA to forward the letter to him.  In 1976, Grams received a call from Los Angeles. Her brother was on the other end of the line.  After the war, he had not wanted to come home.  The war had changed him and in his mind not for the better.  The loss of my great uncle had taken a toll over the years on Grams.  Not that you'd ever know it.  It simply wasn't something she talked about.  Of course, it was never brought up that her and my grandfather had come to a sort of coexistence either.  I suspect that my Grams hunt for her brother was delayed in sorts by the fact my grandfather was a bit controlling.  That was pretty evident in my aunts and uncles.  My grandparents five children were always at odds with each other.  My mother was the beautiful, popular, and seemingly lucky one, which was huge angst for the eldest of her younger sisters.  The youngest uncle, the oops baby, was equally gifted and talented but suffered pretty severe rosacea.  He had won an appointment to the Air Force Academy in the1960s.  The rosacea meant he failed the physical--which was to say that back then, as I presume it still is to some degree today, he didn't look like officer material.  That meant that he was ineligible for the draft also.  Ironically, he was heartbroken.  My mother's next youngest sibling was my least favorite aunt.  She had been thrown by a horse during Olympic trials, broken her back, and ended her college, Olympic, every dream she had ever had.  The middle brother received a low draft number.  He dodged the draft by going to college.  He had figured that if he had to go he'd go after as an officer.  The end of Vietnam came first.  Unbeknownst to my cousins and myself, the whopping three of us, my grandfather had pit his children against each other and my Grams had kept gluing the pieces together.

What did all that mean?  Well, it meant Christmas Eve "dinner" started at 2 pm.  There was so much food that we literally ate all day and evening.  It meant no presents were opened before 7.  It meant listening to Elvis Christmas music until one of the uncles started to gripe about it, which turned into a pretty loud discussion between my jealous aunt and whichever uncle about the lack of merits of the music Jan & Dean or Led Zeppelin.  If it was the later uncle, the discussion eventually reamed him because of all the money he cost when he was drag racing, when he crashed, the years in traction which in turn focused on my aunt who had broken her back, the fortune that had cost, and of course, the complete failure that my aunt had become when she simply gave up on anything and everything and worked at a store the rest of her life as a clerk.  At which point my mother would clam up, Grams would try to keep the peace, and it was time to open presents.  The joy of the grandchildren was all Grams ever was shooting for.  Of course, once my mother was gone, even present opening became a chore.  My jealous aunt would get mad because Grams and my drag racing uncle would spoil me relentlessly.  Not that I actually ever got more presents than my cousins or that they were better than what they received, it was that Grams and my uncle always made sure I had the same number of presents under the tree as my cousins.  Present opening began to be a complaint session about what I got and comparing my younger cousin (I was the middle one) to me and how much more "perfect" she was which then turned into someone trying to toot my oldest cousin's horn to change the subject I presume to which my aunt would compare her two daughters, putting down the oldest, and with reckless abandon insist how much a picture of perfection the younger daughter was with her perfect blue eyes and perfect natural blonde hair.  Eventually instead of sitting next to the tree, surrounded with wrapping paper and trying to focus on the gifts we had received, the three of us, particularly my older cousin and myself, took to drinking rum--rum and coke, rum runners, rum and eggnog--opening our presents in the massive doorway to the family room in her mother's house and then slipping to the formal living room as the discussion placed both of us at the lower end of dirt particles.  As my grandfather had done onto them, they had visited his sins upon us.  We were close in those years, but after Grams passed, much like our Grams' children, we barely spoke.  

As dysfunctional as that all was, I figured that I would give my boys the Norman Rockwell version of Christmas, and I did my best.  But of course, I soon discovered once I got married that a lot of people have the most dysfunctional families ever.  Every family has skeletons and unfortunately most of them like to come out and visit during the holidays.  My ex and the oldest of his younger sisters got into it huge our first Christmas to his parents farm.  I couldn't tell you about what.  It wasn't relevant to me and I had become accustomed to tuning such noise out.  They got into the same argument pretty much every time we visited.  He was, well is, a bit of a control freak and pretty self centered--actually more self centered than most men I've ever met--so in retrospect, I think those arguments I tuned out were him telling her what to do, what she could do, et cetera.  From my perspective, it was the pot advising the kettle.  Yet, the most amazing woman in the room, his mother, wouldn't act as the glue the way Grams did.  The dysfunction was different than the dysfunction I had grown up with.  There is no family immune.  One of my best friends has a brother that has lived at home all his life mooching off their parents.  Good middle class family, she's an attorney now.  He's still a bum in his mid-40s sponging off mom and dad.  Another one of my best friends has a brother that they don't discuss any matters involving the care of their father who needs constant care now because he has the maturity level of a 2 year old.  Ok, two year old might be an exaggeration--12 to 14 perhaps?  Another friend hates spending time with one of her brothers because he's an alcoholic (a true alcoholic) who brings up the latest and greatest dirty laundry for whichever sibling is having the best year.  Makes me glad that I missed out on that type of sibling rivalry.  My boys suffer their own sibling rivalries.  My youngest trying to be the best of the best and impress my oldest.  My middle one injecting his own follies as needed.  They often remind me of too many cooks in the kitchen.  Yet, I guess that's what I sought for them.  Christmas being together, sharing and often over-sharing to the point that a disagreement might ensue.  Not Norman Rockwell, a bit more of a mix between "Home Alone", "Christmas Vacation" and "The Family Stone".

As you sit and enjoy the rest of your Christmas or reflect on Christmas gone by, all that dysfunction that may have trickled out is nothing that no one else doesn't have.  There is some version of craziness with every family and I suspect if it looks all Norman Rockwell the hidden unmentioneds are probably way worse than the phony smiles and nods at each other.  Family isn't about being perfect and neither are the holidays.  It's about appreciating what we have and all the imperfections that make each of us, each of our dysfunctional families, the functional family that somehow manage to be there for us when we really need them.  Smile as Uncle Todd debates the merits of Led Zeppelin over Elvis.  Or as Aunt Janet insists you have another slice of that burnt pie she always brings.  And as your mother re-gifts that fruit cake that has been passing from family member to family member since you were in diapers.  As sour as it might be, you'll look back and laugh eventually and forget most of the details anyway.  And, next year you'll do it all again.  Have a very merry Christmas my friends!!