If you don’t judge a book by it’s cover, you may be lucky and find an artist.

It is human nature to judge others.  Usually, I don’t like to resist nature and how it works, but this is once instance when I do.  I have had numerous events in my life, more than I can count, when I have learned to either not judge others, or in the very least, make my own judgements and never base my feelings on what others say.  I am still learning, I’m not perfect, even though I don’t believe in judging others, I still slip from time to time.

Living in a small town, we don’t have the luxury of curb-side recycle pick-up like I had come so accustomed to when I lived in the city.  The small town citizens have to collect the objects in our own recycle containers, then drive them to the designated site to dump them.  In our house, they accumulate so quickly, so when I do get around to delivering them, they fill the entire trunk of our vehicle. 

I have a small window in each day with a bit of free time when I rush around and get things done around the house before school is out.  One ordinary day, I used that  time and decided it was high time to take back my laundry room to get rid of the accumulated recycles.  I had better wait to drop them off, I concluded, until the youngest got out of school (he gets out slightly earlier than the others) because helping with recycling is his chore.  I have no idea how it happened, and parents out there, I have no tips other than magic about how I achieved this, but if anyone does one of the kids’ chores, they are in BIG trouble.  I can’t vacuum without getting a chew-out by the child who was assigned that chore!  So, if I were to do the recycles on my own, I would have had to hear about it until the day I died.

After picking the kiddo up from school, we headed over to the recycle drop off site.  As we drove up, I noticed a motor scooter bike with an old milk crate on the back filled with what looked like a bunch of junk and then several full plastic grocery bags lay at the floor where the feet usually rest.  A little chihuahua dog was running around, but there wasn’t a visible person around at all. 

I am painfully shy at times, and find it difficult to meet new people, so it was easy to make yet another of those dumb human-nature kind of judgements and I just didn’t want to deal with finding an unsavory person at the recycle bins… especially when I had my kid with me.  I just about continued on, but a voice in my head convinced me that I was being silly, making those dumb judgements again.  Besides, I already told my kiddo that we were going to do his very favorite chore… what was worse?  Listening to him whine and complain, or meeting someone new?  I parked the vehicle.

As I climbed out of the van, I noticed a head pop up in the great big, metal recycle bin that looks like one of those giant garbage bins, but with windows to throw the various articles to be recycled.  Then out climbed someone.  First came a leg, followed by two more arms and the other leg.  Now there was an owner to that bike and dog.  Still, not really knowing what to think, I pretended to be unphased by all the weirdness and by what had just happened and continued to the rear end of our van to quickly get the recycles out and get our job done as soon as possible. 

The woman who had just crawled out of the bin, metal in one hand, pop bottles in the other joyfully announced that she was going to use the metal square forms to create a hanging lamp shade, and the bottles as a form of shrinky-dink art.  She went on to explain that the beautiful blue glass alcohol bottle in her milk crate could be a modern style hanging light shade as well.  I am sure she felt compelled to share that information because she had some concern about how I felt about stumbling upon a person climbing out of a recycle bin.

We ended up talking for a full half hour!  The delightful woman was a quirky artist (the best kind) who had deserted her college degree for a life of art made out of re-claimed objects.  With her very successful blog she writes about her art and the pieces she creates, she is able to make a pretty good living!

So I just passed yet another lesson in the grand old school of life.  Never judge those who dumpster dive… there may be an awesome artist in there!

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Perceptions

I’m one of those people who enjoys the study of human nature wherever I go.  Not to make fun of people, just to understand how we all work.  One category from my personal human nature studies quest is perception, and how some can have such diverse perceptions of the same event.  I took a psychology class years ago that introduced me to the theory that nobody can ever have the same perception as anyone else.  Our perceptions can be similar, but they are unique to each and every person.  My mission from then on has been to try to understand what other’s perceptions may be like.  My favorite thing to do is watch young children make sense of this crazy world they were born into.  I enjoy it mostly because their perceptions are usually pretty humorous as they sort it all out.

This summer, the kids and I have enjoyed time at the pool during what they call there, family swim.  Family swim comes at dinner time and at times, swimmers have been sparse.  One day, when things were slow, a teenage lifeguard took some of her free time to teach our oldest a little about being a lifeguard.  The lifeguards at the pool have an eye on her, so that sometime in the future, she can be a lifeguard herself. 

The young lifeguard had our oldest jump from the tall look-out chair with a float, while the lifeguard acted as if she was drowning.  I must say, the lifeguard was quite an actress; it looked like she was drowning for real.  Our oldest then swam out to the drowning actress and “saved” her, just as she was taught. 

The whole time our two other children and I were watching, me beaming with pride.  The youngest however, had a whole different perception of the event.  After all was done, he pointed to the lifeguard and said, “That girl isn’t a very good swimmer”.

Oldness

I heard a theory years ago that one way to age faster is to believe that you can’t do things because you are too old.  Just the belief that you are old is a factor.  Thanks to my knees (which I am sure is a genetic gift) I have been forced to think of myself as being old.  I make those grunts when I squat, and bend at the waist because after all those years of trying to save my back by bending with my knees, I screwed them up. 

It’s not the only thing that has been making me feel old, encouraging me to age faster than ever before.  Things have been floating around Facebook such as pictures of things like cassette tapes laying next to a ballpoint pen, with a caption about whether you are old enough to understand the correlation.  Of course I am old enough to know the correlation.  I spent many wasted hours of my life re-winding those cassette tapes with whatever worked… pens, pencils, dimes… anything.

I did have a good time recently with my middle child, however.  Our family was blessed to be able to ride in our small town’s fire truck in our prided 4th of July parade this year.  As we were waiting in the truck before the parade started, I suggested to the kids who were sitting in the back with me, next to the windows, to roll them down so that we could throw candy out to the young spectators.  Our middle child sat there, dumbfounded, trying to figure out where the heck the window button was.  The window was one of those old crank windows.  I sat there in silence, laughing hard inside.

What topped off my pity party about being so old, was one day, exhausted, I sat down in front of the TV thinking that I would treat myself with a vege-out time.  I noticed that a channel was playing a re-run of the 80’s, early 90’s show, “Designing Women”.  I used to love that show.  After watching it recently, I’m not sure why I loved it, but anyway…  Those women in that show would always be dressed to the hilt.  Always the nicest dresses, and the beautiful big hair with about a gallon of hairspray that was so popular those days.  I was enjoying my walk down memory lane when my oldest walked in and said, “What’s up with their hair???”.  I am sure she was disappointed to hear that’s the way they wore their hair those days, that no, it wasn’t an episode where all the women got electrocuted.  The thing is, there was a day when I was brainwashed into thinking that big hair was cool, proudly sporting a puffy doo for a school photo.

I have to tell myself, so that I can slow down things a little, that I have actually been lucky that I have had the chance to experience life, and how far and fast our society has moved.  I remember writing in a college paper about being in awe of how for we had come, and how exciting it was to imagine what is to come.  Back then there were no iPads, smart phones, not even mp3 players.  Word processors, the new (chunky)wireless phones, and CD’s were the top of technology.  Now, I am in awe with our current technology and wonder what’s it going to be like when we see images of iPods, and say, “are you old enough to remember what these are?”.  I’m just going to have to accept it.  I’ll still be old… but hopefully with better knees.

Phone-omenal

Our family travels a lot.  You have to when you live quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  We travel mostly to the same place which is where we are originally from.  That’s where the big grocery store is, the one-stop store to pick up stuff that the grocery store doesn’t have, and of course the other stores that support our “hobbies” like crafting or thrifting.  People keep asking why I travel the 3.5 hours instead of the 2.5 hours it takes to get to an out-of-state town that has the same stuff, but that place doesn’t have our friends and family to visit with.  So we suck up the extra hour and make a weekend out of the trip.

During our drive, we begin to make a mental inventory of what we brought and what we may have forgotten.  If by chance we forget something pretty important before the 10 mile mark out-of-town, then we may turn around to get it.  After that mile marker we are plain out of luck unless it’s a very important medication and even then, it’s a toss-up if we turn around.  If it’s okay to skip a few days of the meds. then there is no turning around.  The drive is too long to mess with turning around.

So the last time we went to town (that’s what we call it… it sounds so archaic, but that’s the way it is) it was well past the 20 mile marker, and we were in an entirely different county when Roger discovered that he had forgotten his phone.  Those of you who don’t know him, his phone is his life.  He is always on his phone.  Those who do know him accuse him of being like a teenage girl, talking and texting and talking some more.  We both secretly thought that this trip was going to be doomed without that phone.  We did agree out loud that there was no chance of going back home just to get it.  He was just going to have to suck it in and live without it for a couple of days.

After 70 miles, we arrived to the first fairly big city and we stopped at the Safeway for a potty break and some lunch.  Then we were off again to the next stop which was again the Safeway at our destination city for a potty break and a get-well flower arrangement. 

As I walked up to the vehicle after the last stop, I noticed something amazing.  There, sitting on the outside vents at the base of the windshield and wipers was Roger’s phone!  It had traveled the entire 190 miles there and two stops in busy parking lots.  It also survived an abrupt, sharp turn at a garage sale sign, which I never found by the way.

I can’t even explain how relieved we felt that we found it, and can only explain the whole situation as being phenomenal.

Stinky mess

Our middle child came rushing into the house one day and announced that there was a skunk by our house.  I, very afraid of getting sprayed, decided to suck it in and venture out to see what she was talking about.  Sure enough, there was a skunk between our house and our neighbor’s.  I had brought my camera with me to document the creature being there in broad daylight and took a couple of pictures, with my zoom of course.  That’s when I discovered that the skunk was awfully still.  Maybe it was playing opossum saving its spray defense for the last resort.  Oh, no.  The poor thing was deceased.  It got stuck in the chicken wire fence that separates our properties, and perished.

This was not something I was going to take care of.   Never, ever, EVER!  It’s gross, but that thing was left for a couple of weeks sitting in the fence with both us and the neighbor hoping the other would cave and take care of it.  Finally, the weather got quite hot and we couldn’t stand the stench any longer.  It was getting kind of embarrassing since I am sure the whole neighborhood was starting to smell it too.

Have you ever had a time when you have thought to yourself, “This is not what I signed up for!”? Well, guess who had to remove that thing?  Yes, the resident volunteer fire fighter who had extrication training under his belt.  Granted, the training was for humans caught in mangled cars and not dead, stinky skunks stuck in wire fences, but hey, he was that more qualified than the neighbor was. 

After gagging and puking a few times, he got that thing out and to the garbage dump.  The poor old skunk got the last laugh though.  It’s been at least a month, if not more, and it still smells like skunk outside.  When it gets breezy, the smell reaches several blocks away even.  We have dumped bleach out there, but the smell doesn’t go away.  I am tempted to dump a few gallons of tomato juice out there, or maybe even some hydrogen peroxide.  I am sure that as time goes by, however, that the smell will naturally go away, and we will be well onto the next crazy adventure.

Whispers are just not enough for me sometimes.

I’m one of those woo-woo people who believe that there are no coincidents, that things happen for a reason.  I also believe that sometimes those coincidences are messages meant to guide one through life.  I remember Oprah Winfrey has said that she believes those messages come as whispers at first, and when they are ignored, they become shouts until the messages are paid attention to.  That’s one of those things that I thought was interesting, but eventually stored in those cluttered files in the back of my mind.

Also back in my mind was that little voice that was always saying… “You really need to exercise!”.  Although I didn’t really pay attention until I had a chance to look back in retrospect, the voice in the back of my mind was the whisper.  Then it started to get weird.  When I would think about how I should exercise instead of turning the TV on, a commercial, or even a show would be on regarding exercise or diet.  The first time wasn’t so weird… but when it kept happening, that’s when I simply would say, “huh, this is strange.”

The whisper became a raised voice when my friends and family and I went out to dinner.  The restaurant was far from healthy.  It was one of those really bad-for-you, smorgasbord restaurants.  As if it wasn’t enough of a message when a woman at the next table over was taken to the hospital by the paramedics with a suspected heart attack, when we left we noticed a heart-rate monitor machine placed at the exit doors, right next to the bubble gum machines!

Still, that was not enough.  The whispers became raised voices, then a yell.  The kids spent the day with Grandma, and to end the fun day, she took them to McDonald’s for a treat and to play on the playground there.  Roger and I were to meet them there to take them home.  I swear that we had nothing to eat there except a few left over fries that the kids and Grandma didn’t want anymore.  Oh, okay… a teeny tiny apple turnover too.  After gathering them all  together and saying our goodbyes, I got the kids loaded into the van, then slid into the driver’s seat.  That’s when it happened.  Quick and swift, with a big old ripping sound.  Shocked, I blurted, “oh my gosh!!!”  and jumped back out wondering what had just happened. 

OH HONEY!” gasped Roger as he couldn’t believe his eyes.  Our 13-year-old started snickering.  I had ripped my jeans… yes, JEANS, from the yolk (top of the rear pocket), clear down to the mid area of my thigh… I had a WHOLE cheek enjoying quite a bit of freedom!

Okay, I’ve got it now.  I need to pay attention and consider that  dirty “D” word… a diet.  Some exercise couldn’t hurt either.  I have to do it.  I have to listen.  I don’t want to know what or how loud the next message will be.

All good parenting tips always backfire at some point

Autonomy.  That was the big buzzword when I was studying Early Childhood Education in college.  The theory was to develop self-governed, independent thinkers who were then able to take on the world and help themselves as expert problem solvers.  Sounds good, but what it really meant was that if you had independent children in a large group, the more they could do for themselves, the less energy and work a teacher had to put out.

I believe the autonomy theory to be a good parenting tip as well.  The more independent my kids are, the less I have to do, taking some of life’s burdens off my tired shoulders.  What it means is, when they are hungry, they find a healthy snack on their own and so on.  While I have a little more time to do other things, I have wonderful, independent children.

Somehow, however, my youngest has been informed of my crafty trick and insists on being helped when he could very well figure out on his own how to help himself.  I have been plagued a lot lately with, “Moooom, I need help!”.

Of course, due to the natural law of our universe, good parenting always backfires at some point.  I found myself one day, on the opposite side of our house from him.  I was minding my own business, and I thought he was on the computer playing his educational games.  I heard him call, yet again, so casually, “Moooom, I need help”.  I ignored him for a while, hoping he would figure that problem he had on his game.  “Mooooom, I need help”, he called again.  With a big sigh, I wondered what trivial thing I had to help him with this time, and moseyed on through the house, ever so slowly.   

I noticed that he wasn’t at the computer, so I ventured into the kitchen when I heard him again, “Mom, I need help”.  Poor kid, I found him hanging for dear life from the kitchen cabinets!  All I could think of as I rescued him, was how long he had been hanging there, his little body draped over the counter and with a vice grip on middle part of the cabinetry.  I felt so guilty about at first ignoring him, then walking through the house so slowly.  I was then impressed with his stamina. 

What had happened was, he was hungry and took a break from his game to look for some fruit leather that we had in the cupboard.  To get into the cupboard, he had to get up on a stool, and as he reached, the stool slipped out from under him.  As he fell, just like in the movies, he managed to grab the middle and bottom of the cabinets to hang on.

I couldn’t reprimand him, since I am the one who enforced the autonomy theory around the household.  He simply was doing what I expected him to do.  All I could do was laugh (which he didn’t find very funny).  I know now, however, that the next time he wants a snack, I won’t be laughing, because I will be the one who will be hearing, “Moooom, I need a snack!”.  Stupid backfires.