Posted by: bullyforme | October 19, 2009

Run, Forrest, Run!

I had my younger son and my nephew out at a restaurant the other night, one of those family style, chain restaurants with crap all over the walls that kids love so much, and I love because they’ve always got some kind of cheap deal. (Two entrees for $20, and an appetizer for free? Where do I sign?) We were sitting in the movie poster/celebrity photo wall section and my son spied a photo of Forrest Gump just beginning his big run. He looked at it and said, “That guy looks so retarded.” (Okay, so he’s not very politically correct, but he’s only 11). I said, “Well, actually, that guy really was what they called retarded.” Then I went on to briefly tell him about the movie and Hanks’ character. He was intrigued and asked me questions all the way home.

ForrestGumpRunning

Who in this world hasn’t seen the movie “Forrest Gump?” Or, as it really was known on VHS boxes and movie posters everywhere, “Tom Hanks IS Forrest Gump.” I’m sure you’ve seen it, but when was the last time?

I remember the first time I viewed it, after catching just snippets of it here and there when my family would watch it on the VCR. I finally gave in and watched the whole damn thing, and of course, it was a wonderful movie…everything everyone ever said.

It was odd to think my boy didn’t know who Forrest Gump was. So the next night, I suggested we watch it together. It’d been years since I’d last seen it. My son jumped on the chance and was absolutely riveted to the movie, but had to stop and ask questions just about every 5 minutes. He is young and not that far ahead in history class nor old enough to have had experience with baby-boomer pop culture. I spent a great deal of the movie pausing it, and explaining things.

I pointed out or explained Elvis’ dance moves, JFK & RFK, Governor Wallace, Vietnam, the Black Panthers, Abbie Hoffman, Richard Nixon & Watergate and all the other historical references. I explained why Jenny got so messed up, the 70s, the advent of AIDS. The movie was truly a fantastic history lesson for my son.

He was so moved by the movie that he nearly cried a few times, but never did spill an actual tear. At the end he said to me in a husky, emotional voice, “Mom that was such a great and sad movie. I almost cried a few times!” I told him that when I first saw the movie, I cried about 20 times – and counted them off. I cried when Forrest outran the bullies and bonded with Jenny in the tree. I cried when Jenny prayed in the cornfield to be a bird and fly away from her father. I cried when Jenny left – the first, the second, and the third time. I cried when Bubba died. I cried when Mama died. I cried when Jenny died. I cried all through the damn movie, and yet it still gave me a happy feeling.

So I revisited the great movie “Forrest Gump” but it took on a whole new dimension for me by sharing it with my young son. He got a new hero (“I wish Forrest Gump was a real story!”) And he got the best history lesson of his life (so far).

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Posted by: bullyforme | October 1, 2009

People really do that!

I got a text message. It was a “wrong number,” but it caught me off guard and started me thinking upon my somewhat boring existence. The message read something like, “Hey Alex! A bunch of us r going white water rafting up north this wknd, let me know if u want 2 go!” This was received by me on a Friday afternoon, so one has to assume that “Alex” is the type to not only go white water rafting up north, but would do so with a bunch of like-minded rafters, and on wicked short notice.

I’ll admit I was jealous of Alex. I was jealous that Alex has an exciting, spontaneous and active life (assumedly). I texted back to the person, “wrong number,” and I wanted to add, “but I’ll go rafting with the bunch of you!” although I know I would never have the guts to go. I’m the type of person who holds on to stairway railings and is afraid to walk across an icy parking lot – not exactly white water rafting material.

This little episode left me feeling a little glum. I often see kayaks perched on top of Subarus and think to myself, people really do that. People do exciting things all the time, they windsail, kayak, hike mountains, skydive, travel, have exciting jobs. I have friends who do such things. April hikes mountains in Colorado, Amber skydives and dirtbikes, Sharon moved to Australia, Heather studies medicine, Anne is a linguist, Shannen is a photographer, Brian plays music for a living. Here I am, boring mom, boring suburban homeowner, boring office manager. I go to little league games, I walk my dog. I run an office. I clean my house and mow my lawn (okay, not so much). My idea of exercise is a long walk through Prescott Park or a swim. I don’t even have what it takes to live in a big city.

So, today at lunch, I was stuck on the bridge. For those two readers I may have that don’t live near me, that means I was waiting for a drawbridge to do its thing and let a boat pass through in Portsmouth/Kittery. I saw that it was a big ship, the mother of all ships, being nudged along slowly by two tiny tugboats. This would take awhile. I started imagining the people who were aboard that boat, doing exciting things, having exciting careers, sailing the world. Here I was, stuck on a drawbridge waiting to get to the other side. I pouted at this literal metaphor of my life. Though I tried to continue pouting and feeling sorry for myself, I couldn’t help but feel awed by the beauty and immense presence of the ship. I sat on the bridge, over the bay, next to beautiful yachts, watching the boat slowly make its way under the bridge. I heard the seagulls, the wind, the waves lap at the sides of the bridge. I smelled the salty air. I could see the seaweed clinging to the structure and a loon grabbing some sushi.

It occurred to me that there is probably someone out in Kansas milking a cow or whatnot and feeling sorry for themselves that they never got to the ocean or see a drawbridge or watch a humongous Coast Guard ship being bullied along by two tiny tugs. I was reminded by these sights and sounds that there are reasons I am here where I am, doing what I do and living how I live.

I had a childhood and an early adulthood full of adventure and risk taking. I traveled the country and the world before I turned 18. I snorkeled in Guam among the reefs, I was chased to shore by an angry eel and swam alongside a friend as he photographed a shark. I was thrown by a wild paint pony. I was bitten by boonie dogs whose pathetic lives I tried to save. I had a wild adolescence. I ran away from home. I walked alone, with a backpack, through sketchy neighborhoods at 2 AM. I was lucky to escape with my life many times during these years. I lived in Italy, I visited Rome, Florence, Sienna, Pompeii, Pisa. I learned the language, I dated hot Italian guys. I wonder if Alex ever climbed the leaning tower of Pisa, wandered through the rubble of Pompeii, or stood in front of the Pieta or the David. (snort!)

When I was 19 I set foot in New England and, after an entire childhood of moving from state to state to territory to foreign country I swore I would never again relocate, though I continued to hop from apartment to apartment. In my 20s, I played in bands, all over New England; I wrote a hundred songs. I had a thousand adventures with the love of my life. We would sneak into the amusement park and ride the ferris wheel overlooking the ocean at twilight. We would wait for low tide at midnight and cross the divide to the Nubble lighthouse and back again.

My adventures have gradually tapered off to haunting Fenway Park with my mom, rolling in the waves at York Beach with my kids, romps with the pups at the dogpark and such. I eventually became the comfort zone hugger that I am today. I much prefer to live vicariously through Bear Grylls and the adventures of my two sons.

Looking back on my life, I can see that contrary to current appearances, I have done all that. Without further regret, I give myself permission to be a boring, suburban home-owning, little league mom. I don’t have to be Bear Grylls or conquer (the rest of) the world, at least not until the final kid is grown. In the meanwhile I’ll enjoy watching boats while stuck on the bridge.

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Posted by: bullyforme | August 25, 2009

This is why I do it for me

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After spending a week doing no housework because of a sprained thumb (don’t ask), I was getting a bit disgusted.

My boys are 24 and nearly 11. They know how to do basic chores. They keep their rooms clean. My oldest does his own laundry. They take out the trash (when I ask them). They pick up their messes (when I ask them). They’ll do pretty much anything I ask them (except clean the toilet – what the!? as if I’m the one responsible for that mess!). However, I do have to ask them. Neither are very good at volunteering their services for anything other than sport or leisure. (One could call it self preservation). I think my older son doesn’t really see the house as his since his stay here is reportedly temporary and he splits his time between here, his grandparents, and his girlfriend’s apartment. My youngest is just plain spoiled, I’ll admit it.

Frankly, I’m usually content to do nearly all the house cleaning by myself. This may not seem fair, but I not only don’t mind cleaning but actually like it; it clears the mind. Cleaning my house gives me an immediate sense of accomplishment, and instant gratification can be hard to come by when your wallet is a portal to Narnia. Plus I’m just so bossy – I like things done my own way.

So I like to clean the house. My kids lucked out that way. Of course I like to have the house clean for my children’s health & welfare, but that’s just fallout from the real reason I do it – I do it for me.

After the Thumb Incident of last weekend (don’t ask), I got an idea. I was just curious, mind you, not trying to set a trap, or a guilt trip, or anything devious, just…curious. If I just stopped cleaning up, and didn’t ask for help, would the boys do anything of their own accord? Further, would they even notice?

Here is an account of the week. Note: My older son was home for about four of the seven days off and on, my younger boy for all but one, and my nephew was with us for two of them. I was pleased to have my nephew participate (unwittingly) in this experiment. This child is of scientific interest in that gum wrappers, soda bottles and dirty clothing literally fall off his person with no conscious effort.

Day 1: Thumb hurts so bad (don’t ask), I can’t even cook, let alone wash dishes, so it’s pizza night again. I decide to buy my coffee and buy take out for every meal today.

Day 2: How the fuck did all those dishes get in the sink overnight?

Day 3: Sink officially full. There are a few random eating utensils left in the container and quite a few dishes left clean but no bowls whatsoever. I think someone’s eating cereal out of the box again. All glasses are in the sink, they’re starting to use my Santa mug collection. There is popcorn and shredded cheddar cheese (?) on the floor by the couch, but the dog just spotted it. I get the feeling the floor would be a lot messier if we didn’t have a dog. The carpet is otherwise layering on the pet hair at an alarming rate. Unfortunately the dog doesn’t eat that.

Day 4: I come home to find a ziplock container with a salad “spork” in it – the remains of a desperate cereal adventure – on the coffee table along with three Santa mugs and a divided baby dish. All dishes officially dirty and in the sink. To add insult to injury, my oldest has carefully balanced his travel mugs on top of the pile. With no clean dishes at all, wha t will they use tomorrow, the measuring cup from the Dimetapp bottle? The odor from the bathroom is starting to invade the hall – although I can empty the catbox, I can’t change the litter. The toilet is absolutely disgusting and I can’t stop myself from wiping it with a bleach rag. The sink is gross too, mostly toothpaste gunk and a little cat fur (she likes sleeping in the sink). I decide to brush my teeth at work. Both boys’ rooms are still well tended.

Day 5: I stay away from home until dark to avoid the mess. I can’t believe no one has even said anything, let alone picked anything up or cleaned anything. The kitchen floor is so disgusting, I have to wear my garden shoes when I’m in there. It gets really bad as it’s the most used room in the house. Three people and three pets are in the kitchen always, and it leads to the back door, where people and dog go in and out of the back yard, only to track mud/grass/dirt back into the kitchen. It’s the first time I’ve seen a dirt bunny, an odd mating of dirt and pet hair. I could swear I saw it move.

Day 6: More of the same. No one has said a word, no one has lifted a finger. I don’t even ask what they’re eating off of. I bought paper plates on Day 2, for when I serve meals, but I’ve hidden them away in support of my experiment. No one ever volunteered to take trash or recyclables out to the curb either, even though they both know when trash day is – so the room where we keep both absolutely stinks, and the recycle bin is overflowing. My younger son’s room is starting to show the strain of providing two days’ shelter for my messy nephew. My son must think he only needs to clean his room if he made the mess.

Day 7: I can no longer stand it, and my thumb (don’t ask) is finally healing. With the boys at the G.I. Joe movie, I dig in. It takes me about 3 or 4 hours total to clean up – dishes, counters, rugs, bathroom, etc. Even though there’s plenty left to do, the house looks 100% better.

Later that day, I said to my oldest, “What do you think? I can’t believe you never noticed how filthy the house was.” He replied, “Yeah, what the heck, I did notice it this morning*. I was going to tell you I saw a mouse…just kidding!”

My youngest was listening. I said to him, “Don’t you notice how much cleaner the house is? Didn’t you see how dirty it was?” He replied, “Not really…okay, I guess I can tell you moved some stuff off the coffee table.” I pointed to the staircase, “Can’t you see how I vacuumed all the pet hair from the stairs? They were covered in pet hair, I can’t believe you didn’t notice that.” He squinted his eyes at the stairs, looking carefully, and said, “Well, you missed some on the bottom stair.”

And this is why I do it for me!

After this past week, I’ve come to the conclusion that although I do enjoy keeping house, I’ve been enabling my sons to become lazy and dependent on me. Why should they notice a mess when they aren’t responsible for cleaning it? Do I want them to either be content to live in squalor or to marry doormats?

So, as of Day 8, some new rules are in place. They will take turns with the garbage. They will put away anything that belongs to them personally at the end of the day. Everyone will wash their own dishes outside of family meals. My oldest is only home a few days a week, and my youngest’s chores usually need retouching, but the free ride is officially over! This too, I do for me, but also for them.

*I’m still trying to figure out what specific thing made him notice it only on Day #7. Was it the absolute lack of any watertight container to pour his cereal in?

Posted by: bullyforme | August 13, 2009

Cash for the Auto Industry…I mean, Clunkers, Program

(note: the following entry was created from thread responses I made in the “cash for clunkers” thread in the Secoast Lounge forum, members of the forum have already seen much of this)

The government’s “cash for clunkers” program seems at first glance to be beneficial, but from the get-go I was bothered by it.  The more I discover about it the more I find it’s stinkin’ up the joint.  In reality, this program contributes to the “all about me” way of thinking and living that has depleted this country’s finances and resources. It rewards people for turning in the gas guzzling land-yachts they shouldn’t have bought in the first place for fuel efficient models. As usual, the government continues to reward/bail out/encourage teh stoopid. (All of a sudden, the mortgage crisis comes to mind.)

The auto industry has been the “backbone” of this country for way too long and shouldn’t be any longer. The only reason the “cash for clunkers” program is in effect is because of auto industry lobbying. You don’t hold on to a vestige of manufacturing just for the sake of it. When something becomes obsolete there is a reason, and something even better is in line behind it to replace it. It’s evolution, progress, survival of the fittest! Get rid of the auto industry’s political pull and more useful industries will prosper.

Focus should be on local agriculture and technology. If more technology/agricultural jobs were created there would be no bleeding of jobs overseas. There should be a revolution in this country’s priorities; the auto industry needs to rescale. It shouldn’t be such a major player in Washington. It’s just a business. The government needs to stop treating it as a government entity.

When one thinks about the petroleum saved by going “hybrid,” one must also think of the uncountable, unthinkable proportions of petroleum it takes to produce new cars and to dispose of the old ones. Don’t forget how much fuel is involved getting these gas behemoths off the road, and new cars on the road. Wrap your mind around the process from start to finish, and include all consumption and waste generated by employees, factories, and distributors.

If auto production were to slow down remarkably (because people aren’t buying new cars until their old ones wear out) it would more than balance out the current guzzlers’ consumption. Then as this generation of cars gradually fades, hybrids/fuel conscious cars & alternate means of transportation will fill the void at a better pace.

It’s not really helping the middle class or the planet anyway. It’s only helping the auto industry. You think you’re getting $4500 for your ‘clunker’? First of all, it’s your tax dollars. Wouldn’t you rather use them another way? And I’ll bet dealers will jack their prices somehow to make an extra buck (color me jade). Is the program creating a better environment, helping to save the planet? I don’t think so. Did you know they are required to destroy your “clunker’s” engine, leaving nothing recyclable? Woooow.

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Maybe the government should offer a $4500 tax benefit to hold on to the cars we currently own until they completely shit the bed for good. Screw the auto workers union, cut free the union chains. Auto workers can change their jobs from auto manufacturing to auto remanufacturing & repair. Or maybe they can take up farming. (Please try and refrain from sentimental images of All-American Auto Worker Joe smiling at you from behind his protective goggles at his assembly line job, an image conjured for you by the auto industry and Madison Avenue. Auto Worker Joe will get to keep his goggles for his new and improved remanufacturing/recycling job.)

The following link was provided by clanp in Traci’s forum.  It reiterates much of my opinion but also provides stats for just how little it’s really helping the economy and questions its ecological soundness as well. Plus, the author is way more qualified than I am. Snort!

The Godzilla Solution

Posted by: bullyforme | August 11, 2009

Mann, oh Mann

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Do you know how some things seem like exquisite delicacies to some and ho-hum or even unbearable to others? Kind of like pate’ or sushi. You know, some people might say, “Oh, sushi/pate’, I’ve died and gone to heaven,” while others think, “Raw fish/goose livers, don’t seagulls eat that?”

Well, I believe that singer/songwriter Aimee Mann is in the same category. She’s sushi, pate’, tattoos, Manny Ramirez…she’s wonderful, but not universal. She’s absolutely exquisite in her own way and yet many people just don’t get her.

I’ve long held that Aimee is the foremost talented songwriter in the world today. She’s got the rhythm, she’s got the rhyme, she’s got the hook, the deep thoughts, the humor. She is heavily influenced by the Beatles (you can deny it Aimee, but if you were any more so, you’d have to change your name to Aimee Mann-Lennon-McCartney). Her Beatles-y (I refuse to say “Beatlesque” so shoot me) sound is what drew me to her. Listen to any track on Magnolia especially, but any track on any album – you’ll hear it. The way Aimee does it, it’s magical. She should have been the sixth Beatle!

But I digress. Aimee is non-stop, hardcore, quite scarily talented in her own right. She can rhyme every third word and it still not only makes sense, but is the most clever thing you’ve heard to date. Her voice is lovely, velvety, but unusual and stylistic, which is perhaps why she’s not the superstar she should be. I’m on an Aimee kick currently and have a whole playlist developed on my iPod.

My songwriting partner, Heather, introduced me to Aimee’s solo work. I hadn’t thought much about Aimee Mann at all since the early 80’s; I was blown away. Heather and I went to the Lilith Fair – quiet, now! – with our friends Sharon, April, and Tina. I was on the other side of the grounds, far away from them when I found out that Aimee was on the second stage (to this DAY I can’t believe they regulated her to SECOND stage, but that’s neither here nor there). We hadn’t even known she’d be there! I flipped OUT and flew helter-skelter back to our little picnic patch, out of breath, panting…”Huh-huh-heather…huh huh… Aimee huh huh Mann is ONTHESECONDSTAGEOMYGODWEGOTTAGETTHERENOW!” Terrified that we’d miss her set Heather and I took off leaving our girlfriends to stumble along behind us in their not-quite-broken-in Tevas. We made it with about 5 songs to spare. Our friends didn’t let us forget about their blisters for months afterward, but hey! Aimee Mann!

Heather recently tried to get us tickets to Aimee’s show at the Lowell Memorial, but I’m not the only one out there that appreciates pate’…there is a very strong Aimee Mann fan base, and it’s almost impossible to get tickets as she typically plays to small venues.

If you haven’t ever checked her out, you really should. I recommend “Magnolia” to begin with – I really do think it’s one of her best albums ever. “Bachelor #2” is a close second, and “I’m With Stupid” coming in third. She has many albums though so if you’re feeling adventurous, just close your eyes and click the mouse.

Exquisite rhymes await you.

Following are the lyrics to one of my all-time favorites. I love it on so many levels, but if you know me at all, you’ll see straight away why it holds a spot in my heart. Enjoy!

Momentum, Aimee Mann

Oh, for the sake of momentum
I’ve allowed my fears to get larger than life
And it’s brought me to my current agendum
Whereupon I deny fulfillment has yet to arrive

And I know life is getting shorter
I can’t bring myself to set the scene
Even when it’s approaching torture
I’ve got my routine

Oh, for the sake of momentum
Even though I agree with that stuff about seizing the day
But I hate to think of effort expended
All those minutes and days and hours
I have frittered away.

And I know life is getting shorter
I can’t bring myself to set the scene
Even when it’s approaching torture
I’ve got my routine

But I can’t confront the doubts I have
I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad
And so, for the sake of momentum
I’m condemning the future to death
So it can match the past.

when I can’t confront the doubts I have
I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad
And so, for the sake of momentum
I’m condemning the future to death
So it can match the past.

Who Died and Made You King of the Universe?

I’m not sure if anyone finds it very newsworthy, but Pluto has just become the “former” ninth planet of our solar system.

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I’ve always liked astronomy. I had a thing for planets as a preteen, and most kids do at some point. My youngest son’s room is decorated with a space theme, some of the items culled from my oldest son’s former decor. My father and brother are die-hard Star Trek fans. I fell in love with Ed Harris when I first saw “the Right Stuff.” He’s cute and an ASTRONAUT TOO? What is there NOT to love?

Anyway, most kids are drawn to Saturn, for its rings…or Uranus, for its humorous possibilities (“Why is the Starship Enterprise like toilet paper? Because it’s always circling around Uranus looking for Klingons”)…or Jupiter for its big red eye. I on the other hand chose Pluto as my favorite planet. I loved dogs as a kid, and Mickey’s dog Pluto was of course the ideal pet. Floppy hound dog, good nature, big bump on top of head… I couldn’t help associate the adorable cartoon dog Pluto with the planet Pluto. The fact that it was the farthest out there and didn’t orbit in a traditional circle had an almost human attraction for me – have I not always been the farthest out there, circling in my own peculiar orbit? That it was the smallest planet held an appeal to me too. I’ve always loved things wee in nature. Mercury too hot, Mars too overplayed, Earth too familiar, Venus too boring, Neptune – isn’t that some cranky guy from the Little Mermaid?…Pluto was a natural as my planet of choice.

Now “they” have decided that Pluto can no longer be a planet. They’ve kicked the little underdog right out of the clique. I was shocked! I don’t pretend to follow modern astronomy. I love looking at the constellations on clear nights, staying up for meteor showers, and knowing that our little planet is circling with all our brothers and sisters right around our communal sun, every day, every year, and all is well in…well…the universe. I don’t know much more than that if it’s not broadcast in the news – which this little tidbit about Pluto happened to be.

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I started thinking to myself. Now, who on Earth could “they” be…”those” so powerful that “they” could decide to kick out a planet that has been with us for centuries? Did God Himself come down two days ago and deliver the message? I decided to do a bit o’ googling today. Here is what I discovered.

Pluto’s planet status has been “hotly” debated for decades. Apparently the tension over the subject grew to unbearable proportions. (Who knew?) This quote is taken from the New York Times:
“Two years ago, the International Astronomical Union appointed a working group of astronomers to come up with a definition that would resolve this tension. The group, led by Iwan Williams of Queen Mary University in London, deadlocked. This year a new group with broader roots, led by Owen Gingerich of Harvard, took up the problem.

According to the new rules a planet meet three criteria: it must orbit the Sun, it must be big enough for gravity to squash it into a round ball, and it must have cleared other things out of the way in its orbital neighborhood. The latter measure knocks out Pluto and Xena, which orbit among the icy wrecks of the Kuiper Belt, and Ceres, which is in the asteroid belt.”

Okay, that made me feel a little better. Some random telescope enthusiast didn’t just ring up the news stations and declare that Pluto wasn’t after all a planet. And better – the decision wasn’t arbitrarily made by the President because he could push around such a tiny planet so far away from him. There is an official International Astronomical Union, with appointed leaders, made up of members from around the globe. Out of respect or science or possibly fear of world uprising, poor li’l Pluto wasn’t abolished completely, but simply demoted to “dwarf planet,” along with two other little ones previously ignored in bed-in-a-bag sets and school space dioramas.

I guess I’ll just have to trust their judgment. After all, I routinely get my Dippers confused and can’t really tell Aries from Aquarius (don’t tell my kids). I have no real formal education on the subject save an astronomy class I signed up for and then dropped when I realized math was involved (what the flim-flam?).

So I can rest easy, and not worry too much about my son’s Planet Map being a bit off kilter. I can Sharpie over little Pluto, or Sharpie in the new guys. Pluto’s decal will remain on the wall. Pluto’s 3-dimensional ball will remain on the mobile (taking him off would cause it to tilt). Pluto will continue to hunt Chipmunks with Mickey. Pluto will actually gain a little power in the process, forcing taxpayers everywhere to pay for new school textbooks…

Hey…do you think the IAU is in cahoots with the Teacher’s Union?

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Posted by: bullyforme | August 5, 2009

One more time, with feeling

I’ve been contemplating a few re-runs from my old Bullyland blog, to fill in time gaps between new blog entries and also to just revisit the old days. The way my songs feel like my children to me, so on a lower level are my other writings – poems, essays, blog entries.

I was going through old blog entries, trying to find one or two or three of my favorites that I would consider posting here. My qualification was that they be on the lighter side. I’m not always Little Miss Sunshine (although I am always Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong), and some of my literary wanderings have taken me down a somber road. I didn’t want any preachy ones either; even I get tired of my own blah blah blah; you know.

As all my old blog entries are archived by month I randomly clicked on June 2006 and lo and behold, one of my very favorites appeared in front of me.

“Pluto” didn’t seem to generate a lot of interest when I wrote it, there were 0 comments and I couldn’t see the page views (thanks, seacoastconnects!). But, it was one of my favorite little kids when I wrote it. I loved that I’d found the perfect Pluto pics to illustrate the entry. It was one of the few that I liked to revisit time and again and one that I had a hard time believing I wrote. Yet I never got the usual comments or emails, so I guess it wasn’t as clever and cute as I believe.

I wasn’t alone in the room when I found “Pluto” and relayed the above musings. “I love this little “Pluto” entry, I really think it’s one of my best,” I said aloud.

“Pluto?”

“Yes, Pluto, you know, the blog entry I wrote when Pluto was taken out of our solar system. I love it but no one ever seemed to care for it.”

“That’s because no one cared about Pluto!”

The person I was conversing with will remain unnamed for failing to recognize or appreciate the irony here.

Oh well, literary genius is relative, I suppose.

Read: “Who Died and Made You King of the Universe?”

Posted by: bullyforme | August 3, 2009

Bully’s Karma Cure

Suffering from bad karma lately? Bad luck? Nagging small health issues? Poor sleep? Allow me to share what works for me.

Karma%20Class

I suffered some seriously low points in my late teens and early twenties. What I now know to have been bad karma, I thought of then as bad luck. I was always getting traffic tickets, late fees, flat tires, sleeping poorly, and always felt weighed down with a bad feeling. One day, I got a flat tire on the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge in Kittery. The very next day I was pulled over for speeding on the very same bridge, and busted for having an unpaid ticket. While being hauled into the Kittery police station on a bench warrant for said unpaid ticket, I started really feeling sorry for myself. What the flim flam was up with my luck lately? Everything was going wrong. As I sat in the KPD mulling over all my bad luck of late (these things were only a few of many), something seemed to hit me upside the head. A revelation of sorts dawned on me like a brand new day. All this bad luck was of my own doing. My head was so far down in my shoulders feeling sorry for myself that I hadn’t realized that I continued to generate my own fortune – neither bad nor good, but results of my own actions. I was the one who spent my money on frivolous things instead of new tires. I was the one who sped over the bridge, and I was the one who had blown off my other ticket. I was solely responsible for *all* the “bad luck” that had pretty much ever come my way.

This moment of enlightenment changed my life, forever. From there, I continued to learn (because you do have to learn it) to take responsibility for all my actions. This led of course to making better choices. As this became a normal way of life for me, I also learned to take responsibility for all my feelings. There is no use in wallowing in self pity. There is no benefit to complaining about things you either can or cannot change (either change it, or let it be! What else is there?). There is no crying over spilt milk, especially if I was the one who set the milk up to be spilled in the first place.

Although there are many things I dream about being different in my life – a better/more fulfilling job, for one – I don’t dwell on it. After all, even this is in my own hands. I’ve accepted that I’m not willing to make the sacrifices and changes at this point in my life in order to achieve such a goal. I may never. So be it.

I certainly don’t claim to have reached the final stage of enlightenment a la the Supreme Buddha or the holy serenity of Jesus Christ. I still make poor choices occasionally; I still have moments of melancholy. But these techniques work for me for the most part. My life has changed, maybe not dramatically, but I find more peace, more happiness, and a little more “good luck” than I used to, that’s for sure.

Bully’s Advice for Calming Your Life, Achieving Serenity and Boosting your Karma:

1. Stop complaining. Really. Even when you don’t think you are complaining, you probably are. I know this from personal experience. The other day, I thought I was merely commenting on traffic and the fact that if we’d left a little earlier, we wouldn’t be stuck in it. After a few minutes of this, my 10 year old sighed heavily, looked up from his Pokemon cards, and said dramatically, “OH, will you just STOP COMPLAINING MOM?” I hadn’t realized I was indeed complaining, because I wasn’t using a whining tone or anything. A simple twist of the words I was using would have turned my negative complaint into a simple and positive fact. Instead of “This traffic is awful! If we’d have left earlier, we wouldn’t be dealing with this,” I could have said, “Tomorrow we’re going to leave a little earlier and beat the traffic!” Small change, big difference, don’t you agree?

2. Be Thankful. Be thankful about anything you can think of. If you’re in a hard place at the moment, it’ll be tough. You may have to reach a bit. (“I’m so thankful I don’t have any painful hangnails?” Well, it’s a start.) Be thankful for the sun on your child’s hair, be thankful your toilet didn’t overflow. Be thankful your car started. Be thankful of the smells of your home cooking. Be thankful you have ingredients to cook with. Cheesy it may sound, but it really will become a way of thinking that automatically brightens even the most dreary of days.

3. Be kind. My mother taught me this. She went through so much shit at her old job. Her old boss actually told her “Well, we all have to die sometime” when my mom told her my brother was dying. Bitch! I swear, if I were in my mother’s place then, I probably would have set that hag’s hair on fire a thousand times. But my mother was always kind, and in the end, her karma won. She retired and is enjoying every minute of it. She even refuses to gloat over this old boss’s bad karma. She lives the Golden Rule, and really, it’s one of the best, wouldn’t you agree? A smile for a stranger, a generous tip, even letting a car in front of you during traffic will improve your karma. What goes around comes around. Believe it!

4. Be responsible. Take the time to get your maintenance done. Get to work on time. Pay cash. Don’t make excuses. These things I learned from my father. If he was EVER late to work, it was when we were all commuting together. The guy was up an hour before he ever had to leave for work – even when he commuted over an hour to work! My dad has a huge store of plain old common sense that I hope I inherited at least some of – even if at a later age than I would have liked.

5. Don’t doubt your instincts. You could spend all day wondering if you should have bought that thing while it was on sale. You could stay awake nights worrying if you’re doing right by your kids. Don’t. Trust yourself as your kids trust you (believe it or not). Personally I tend to have bad first impulses (I need a kitten!). I try to follow the secondary impulse which tells me the first one was a bad idea (I already have two cats!). Look inside yourself, do what works for you, but trust yourself to make the right decisions!

6. Don’t place blame. This is hard advice to follow, I know. It seems human instinct to find a culprit when things go wrong. Unless you’re on a jury, blame placing really has no positive outcome. Do you want to teach your children to place blame? I don’t! Knowing I’m setting the right example makes achieving this goal that much easier.

7. Go with the flow. Don’t struggle so much for control. Respond, don’t react. I realized a long time ago that I can’t control others, and man has it changed my life for the better. I realize that others will be the way they are, and I can’t change them. Sometimes I can’t change a situation, but I surely can control how I deal with it. Learning to control my own actions actually releases the need to control the world. When my brother was diagnosed with brain cancer, his response was to say, “It is what it is.” If he can take that attitude in the face of such an unfair twist of fate, so, surely, can I over much smaller things.

Well that’s what keeps me sane, in a nutshell. Sure there are other things – eat well, exercise, meditate, get chickens… My point is to dig in deep, find yourself, find what works for you; these things work for me.

This weekend kind of drove it home in a gentle sort of way. Nothing big happened, no dramatic life affirming events came my way. I had an unexpected Saturday and Sunday all to myself, and I decided to allow my hours to go wherever they may. I got my toilet clean. I ignored the laundry. I changed some sheets. I baked some bread. I listened to the Sox game on the radio by my fire pit with a glass of wine. I actually rose before 9:30 AM and sat in my garden sipping coffee with my dog at my feet. I picked flowers from my garden. I went to the farmer’s market and bought a vegetable from nearly every vendor, and then cooked some Chinese food from scratch. I gave the Aroma Joe’s girl a big tip; her smile was my reward. I spent some time with my oldest son and his girlfriend. When my youngest son came home we went to a ball game. We bought raffle tickets to support the team’s scholarship fund, and ended up winning two tickets to an amusement & water park. Karma? I’d like to think so. The game was fogged out in the fifth inning, and we were ahead 5 to 3. But so what? We had a good time.

As I headed for bed Sunday evening I can honestly say, nothing about my weekend was planned (except for, ironically, the interrupted ballgame), but I felt like I’d accomplished something big. I guess I did. I followed all my own rules!

Posted by: bullyforme | July 22, 2009

Urban Farmer

I want chickens.

This may be a problem, since although I’ve created the perfect cottage garden (read: blousy, free growing and basically messy), a small vegetable patch, and a menagerie of domestic pets, the fact remains that I live smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

My yard is one of the biggest on my street, and two sides are surrounded by wooded areas, so I have a bit of privacy. I’m partially fencing my yard this summer although it won’t be totally enclosed. Although I’m doing it for “neighborly” reasons, I know this will add to the cottage feel of my property.

My garden is as stated, free and a bit messy. What started as an inherited, neat little patch of peony, daylily and iris has turned into a huge island of those plants plus spider grass, climbing miniature rose, coneflower, aster, coreopsis, globe thistle, sedum, bee balm, mint, baby’s breath, and the requisite clover, creeping charlie and wild strawberry that I have long ago given up on trying to keep out. It’s bordered by huge chunks of granite I found half buried and bordering my property, but there’s no fancy mulch or staking, fencing or whatnot. I also don’t weed it, but introduced some stonecrop which is a beast, and keeps most of the weeds out. I think the effect is gorgeous, but I swore I saw my mom cringe when she saw it a few days ago and said, “Yes, it’s definitely cottage.”

My veggie patch is very small this year, but I have plans for a large one next year. I’m only growing tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onion and corn as well as rosemary and a few other herbs. This year it’s about 4 X 5 feet with a few huge tomato planters, next year I have a 12 X 12 spot mapped out. I have a big compost bin on the side yard too.

So far I haven’t heard any complaints by the neighbors as to the rural effect of my yard. I do get the odd, questioning glance when the grass gets over 6 inches tall, but I try and stay on top of that. I think they don’t really care. I also think that most of us harbor a hidden desire to dabble in farming, to have a rural setting to work, to have a little more wilderness, agriculture and earth in our life. I noticed many of my facebook friends are hooked on “Farm Town” or “Farmville,” both are virtual farming games where one can plant gardens, tend to animals, etc. This is all adorable, but I want the real thing. Selling my house and buying a small farm isn’t very practical for me right now. I’m pretty much stuck in suburbia. But I refuse to conform! I refuse to “Chem Green” my lawn, mulch every plant with chemically treated, bagged wood chips from the big box stores. I work my cottage garden with cottage techniques. I mulch with soy-ink based newspaper and homemade compost. I spray for bugs with soap & water. I ignore the slugs & grubs – that’s what I have robins & bluejays for.

So…lately I’ve been eyeing my son’s play fort. His father started building it a few years ago and never finished the roof. It’s adorable; he made it out of unfinished pine logs (with the bark still on) and cut a little window into it as well. It looks like a little log cabin (minus a roof). And it’s empty save for a few unruly vines, an unused tiny trampoline and a few anthills. My son never used it. I can’t help but think how it’s just the right size for a few chickens… if I surrounded it with chain link and put a roof on it I could easily house a few egglayers in there.

I started doing some research on the internet, and found a great site, backyardchickens.com which encourages my dream. I visit this site often; I love it. The more I do, the more convinced I am that I can keep chickens.

I mean, why shouldn’t I have chickens? In this economy and chemically-altered-food world, personal farming is making more and more sense. I know where my vegetables are coming from. Why not my eggs? Chickens keep the grass groomed and provide excellent bug control. Home-raised chicken eggs have more omega fats and vitamins and less fat and cholesterol. Plus chickens are just so cute!

I mentioned this in the car the other day to my mother. She said something along the lines of, “I think you’re losing it.” My 10 year old in the back seat was only half paying attention but when he asked what she was talking about, and I said, “I want chickens,” he replied, “Okay mom, you are crazy.”

Maybe so. Maybe this would never work. Maybe there’s a town ordinance against back yard chickens. Maybe my neighbors will think this is the last straw. Or maybe I can buy them off with some fresh eggs.

But I want chickens.

Where would you rather get your eggs from?
These hens:

chickens1

Or these?

chickens2

Posted by: bullyforme | July 8, 2009

Spoon Fed

I don’t have cable TV. I haven’t had it for over 8 years. I did hook it up for post season baseball in 2007. I had it disconnected when I found myself in November (after the championship) lolling about at 11 PM watching my third straight episode of “Animal Cops” and also having to physically position myself between my 10 year old and “iCarly” in order to get his attention.

It’s not cable television in general that I don’t like. In fact I wish I could cherry pick my channels; if I could, I’d be a customer. However there are no plans available in my town that allow me to do anything even close. In order to get ESPN, A&E, Discovery and Nickelodeon, we must also have to pay for 7 church channels, 5 country music channels, 3 foreign language channels that play nothing but game shows & soap operas, … well you get the point.

In fact I’m not too embarrassed to admit I haven’t even gotten my “digital converter box.” So at this point I’m not getting network TV or even PBS.

I’ll admit I miss watching the Red Sox. I do love listening to the games on the radio with Joe Castiglione. But I hate having the program cut out or go static right before a 2 out, 3-2 count pitch to Big Papi. I may hook up the cable for post season again this year, who knows.

What I don’t miss is the barrage of advertising that accompanies the television programs. I don’t miss the pressure to watch even more television by flashy ads for other television shows. I don’t miss my kid bugging me for every new brand of craptastic processed snack food or cereal. I don’t miss half hour long infomercials trying to convince me someone has invented something that makes my life lacking without said thing. I don’t miss having my eyes glaze over to protect themselves from the latest fast food ads.

I saw one of the latter at my folks’ house the other day. I think it was for McDonald’s and it was advertising breakfast. It showed several somnambulant, harried people completely screwing up their breakfast. One lady flipped a pancake onto the floor, another guy late for work, burned his toast and so on. Then it showed the same people wide awake, smiling as they whizzed through the drivethrough with their perfectly circular-formed egg mcmuffins. I was incensed at the message of this commercial – home cooked meals are stupid, disgusting and not worth the effort. Buy a fast food breakfast and you will be happier and healthier, and on time to work! You don’t even have to get out of your car!

This is the crap our kids are watching. This is the crap America is watching. And if you think we aren’t buying into it, witness the mass mourning of Billy Hayes, a pitchman. Witness how many meals America eats at various fast-food and chain restaurants.

No one is immune to the powers of advertising, myself included. There is no way to avoid it altogether and live in society. Billboards, internet banners, magazines, junk mail, boxes of food in the grocery store, labels on clothing… you get the picture.

I think television advertising is the most insidious however. Writers have a full 30 seconds or more to work their magic on you. Attention spans today are programmed at a very early age to be short and absorb as much info as possible in as little time as possible. It doesn’t seem to matter how we process that information, just get it & retain it. The ad execs know this and also know if they employ some clever writing, bright colors, and a little humor – without a conscious plan to do otherwise, the mind will process it in their favor.

This is not to say that we think to ourselves – “Oh, I’m such a dork at making pancakes. I think I’ll go and get one of those perfectly circular egg mcmuffins instead, just like the ad says!” What I’m saying is we process it unconsciously. It becomes more and more “Okay” to hit the drivethrough for breakfast and feed our kids Happy Meals vs. cook our own meals. What should be out of the norm is becoming the norm and the new norm is not very good for us.

I wish the country could, and would want to, get back to a more normal norm. I wish it felt normal to cook every day of the week. I wish it felt normal for people to go all day & night without even turning on the television.

Plying our kids with cheap merchandise and cable tv vs. spending time playing with them, eating gargantuan meals at chainstore resteaurants instead of making the time in our schedules to eat at home, watching more and more television instead of reading books… it all adds up to a somewhat flabby culture devoid of renaissance and independent thinking. Which is so not cool.

I’m just sayin.’

funny_1512

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