Uncategorized

Being Indignant Online – Our New Holiday Tradition

 

Over three years ago it was the “controversial” Starbuck’s cup (the virtual espresso-shot heard ’round the world!) and other social media related musings that I documented in this blog https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/half-full-half-empty-or-red-social-media-with-whip. This year it is the resurgence (as this is not a new conversation) over whether we should be offended by the lyrics to Baby It’s Cold Outside, a song written when my father was in junior high school. I’ll acknowledge that I felt the lyrics were a little creepy while watching a high school duet of it about a decade ago. In reality it’s not so much about the words, it’s the innuendo that some performers give to the line “what’s in this drink?” that felt a little awkward and might I say “dated”. Imagine that, a song written in 1944 that doesn’t reflect our evolved social norms.

It seems that with our ability to communicate with the masses (at 2 am while alone) we somehow have become emotionally lazy. We can jump off and on a social media bandwagon pretty quickly and with little thought. For many it appears this is their only form of exercise. This most recent created controversy has had radio stations polling listeners as to whether or not this song should be played, increased the number of downloads of the song and resulted in massive Google searches of the lyrics. There is a sort of self righteous superiority in the Me Too era to feel like you’ve really made a difference in the lives of others by removing a specific song from your holiday playlist. All of this energy keeping people distracted from real topics of the day. It’s generated numerous hilarious memes and made for what some believe are “meaningful conversations”. Nothing says Christmas like a polarizing topic!

This hypersensitivity has bled over into critical analysis of annual holiday televised  events such as Rudolph and Frosty. Lets be honest if this is the first year you realized that Rudolph’s flying coach was a complete dick than you should make sensitivity training part of your 2019 New Year’s resolution. A generation of school PE teachers fashioned themselves after this character.

This morning as I woke up to early morning news (but thought I was still dreaming) the anchor was reviewing the results of a poll indicating that people favor Santa being presented as gender neutral (no interview with Mrs. Claus in the broadcast on this topic) and others thinking he needs a trimmer physique. That’s what we do to the guy who is arguably the world’s greatest philanthropist! We generate polls that encourage fat shaming and we accept it as part of the “news”. Surely this is why Walter Cronkite was cremated, so he would not constantly be rolling over in his grave. Though we spend a fortune ensuring kids have an abundance of antibullying curriculum lets attack the fictional guy about his weight issues. Next year lets get in his business over having fur on his coat or how his milk and cookie habit is dismissive to the vegans, the lactose intolerant and the gluten-free among us. Lets pledge to take all of the magic and fun out of the season! After all, we’re adults now and some guy in a sleigh (the poll indicated that was an outdated transportation mode) simultaneously delivering gifts to children worldwide in one night seems childish. My own adult children will tell you that the one message they received repeatedly from me as kids was “don’t lose your imagination”. However there seems to be some idea that being a grownup is all about being serious and why not make children into little adults and spoil any fun or magic that previous generations had by just saying “spoiler alert” in the Delivery Room when they are born and fast-track them onto cynical adult thinking immediately?

I want to feel the power of being the catalyst of a conversation that launches a thousand memes or is the temporary water cooler topic. With each song I hear or holiday tradition that occurs I listen with great sensitivity and poke it with all of the journalistic acumen I can muster from my unused Mass Communications degree.

My easy mark came as a post yesterday on Facebook, footage of Do They Know it’s Christmas? I was immediately struck by the youthful appearance of the musical artists who provided the soundtrack to my college years. It was the 1985 closing to the Wembley Stadium Live Aid concert performed by the supergroup Band Aid. While even in the days before social media people questioned the wisdom of the lyric “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas” that’s simply too easy. Yes, there is snow in Africa but their winter is June-August, making the lyrics as obvious as “There won’t be snow in Malibu this Independence Day.”  While there are large pockets of Christianity throughout Africa, there are many locations where there is little Christian influence. So to answer the musical question “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” I would say “No. Absolutely clueless.”. That being said, I would not consider making the receipt of charitable aid such as food and clean water contingent on whether or not they know about Christmas. That’s simply my opinion and not what I consider worthy of long diatribes.

Maybe just chalk it up to the self-absorption of the eighties but the line I find hard to believe goes unchallenged in a “Christmas song” and even more ironically one that was arguably the largest charitable music effort ever, is Bono’s line “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you!” Even in a non-Christmas song that seems like one of the most callous remarks ever. Perhaps I am simply ahead of my time, the song was written in 1984 (40 years after Baby It’s Cold Outside) so perhaps in 2058 we can get around to rectifying this atrocity. After that I can expand on how ungrateful it sounds to act like “only” getting the gift of life is somehow being shortchanged.

Better yet, we can all relax a little and not hold the artistic efforts of the past to our standards of today. Perhaps we can commit to not taking ourselves or others too seriously or song lyrics too literally. Maybe we would be best served by not feeling compelled to convince others that they need to feel the same way about everything that we do. Enjoy the season, whatever it means to you and celebrate every day for the gift that it is. May the music of the season remind you of your past and my sincere good wishes that you can enjoy many more years of merry making with a song in your heart.

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childhood, Uncategorized

Odd Jobs

People who know me are aware that in December of 2012, after nineteen and a half years at a position I loved (heading a program I had developed and grown) my work world changed dramatically on a Monday morning. The company had been operating somewhat in limbo for a few years after the death of the company’s owner, being run by a trio of trustees who opted to dissolve the trust and pass along ownership to a designated Foundation. I had been scheduled to have my first meeting with my new supervisor who I was anxious to share ideas with regarding changes that might be implemented to improve the operations of the student housing complex and the residential life program it housed.

Working in a college community, this had traditionally been among my favorite times of year, third only to staff selection and staff training week. I enjoyed it because of the traditions of purchasing Christmas trees for the building’s lobbies and decorating them with lights and candy canes that residents and guests were encouraged to take. The night prior to this meeting I had hosted my staff of live-in employees for a holiday meal and gift exchange. A favorite activity of mine was purchasing a book and writing a personal inscription in it for each of my employees. Over the years I had purchased hundreds of books that reflected the hobbies, interests, majors, career aspirations, or simply the humor of those I worked with. Each a memento with a message as unique as they were as individuals, intended to show my appreciation for their work. During this annual ritual I would verbally thank the group for their commitment and acknowledge that working for a company that operates 365 days a year requires sacrifice and hopefully a shared holiday meal with coworkers would not only prepare them for impending finals but also soften the disappointment of missing out on some of their own annual traditions. Somewhere among my things I have cards of appreciation from over the years that reflect that this gesture was as important to many of my workers as it was to me. Six years ago last Sunday, the event wrapped up about 9:30 pm.

The next morning at 9:30 am was my first meeting with my new supervisor and I was surprised by the presence of another person who was employed by the Foundation. It quickly became evident that they was not interested in maintaining the program that the Foundation had been gifted, viewing it only as a real estate asset and I was told to turn my keys in that Friday. It was then that I realized that even the wishes of a multi-billionaire don’t need to be honored once they are deceased. Not only did I have less than a week to pack up an office of nearly twenty years but I needed to step down from the  business association I was serving my sixth term as president of and leave behind numerous associations, boards and committees in the community I had been an integral part of as well.

My eldest was a sophomore in college, preparing for a semester in Europe and my youngest was a high school senior who had already been accepted to college. This new reality was not only a shock to me but to them as well. I had started my employment as a live-in Resident Director when my daughter was just nine months old and we lived on-site during the birth of my son who came home from the hospital less than 24-hours after he was born. My work had not simply been a job but a lifestyle and the only one my kids had known. While our health insurance ended, the household income was slashed in half and the tradition of summer cookouts and holiday celebrations with my team abruptly ended there was also concern for how my staff members would fare in my absence. Hiring, training and developing University of Minnesota students for work opportunities beyond college had always been a top priority of my role.

Now that the history of how my un(der)employment has been covered I can share some of the amusing tales of what has been the most challenging six years of my life. Last year I had six W2 forms to earn about 10% of my previous salary. While financially this has been a devastating period for me and my family, it has also been an opportunity to appreciate what we have. Having both integrity and a sense of humor has perhaps made this easier for me but it has been a truly wild ride that can best be summed up with “you can’t make this stuff up!’. So fasten your seatbelts and prepare to be entertained by what opportunities have come and gone over the past six years.

I’d be remiss if I did not acknowledge the many people who have reached out with potential contacts, suggested employers and supportive suggestions. At an age where I am keenly aware of what my skills and assets are, I am also aware of what is not a good fit for me. While nothing has lead to what I refer to as “my next big girl job” I truly have appreciated every idea and offer that has been passed my way. The following are but a sampling of “Odd Jobs” not in the sense of occasional work (which some have been) but as in truly peculiar!

I’m going to dive in by starting with what is surely one of the most whirlwind bizarre opportunities I was given about five years ago. A friend put me in touch with a consultant that the large corporation she worked for frequently used. I was to meet her at 1:00 pm at a coffee shop in St. Paul. I met with a high school friend that morning for breakfast as the weather began to deteriorate into the first significant snowfall of the season. Rather than return home between breakfast and my meeting, I ran some errands and gave myself an adequate amount of time to get to the designated location and order myself some coffee. Once seated I texted the contact to let her know I had arrived and where I was seated. I immediately got a response “I left a message on your home phone regarding a change of location.”. So I transferred my beverage to a to-go cup and headed to the new meeting place where she introduced me to two college interns in suits. She explained that they were preparing a bid for hosting the World’s Fair and was hoping to use me for some communications work. She was taking calls, responding to texts and emails and instructed me to meet them at a building adjacent to the State Capital. The road conditions were now beyond horrendous, I basically slid over to the meeting place and found metered parking, climbed a snow bank and met up with the interns in a hallway. The woman explained that they would be filming a Russian delegation and I was to have them sign waivers permitting use of photographs and film from the event. As equipment was being set up I was shown to a table where I was given a pad of paper to take notes of the meeting. We were all instructed to silence our phones. In what seems like an almost dreamlike scenario, I was introduced to the Secretary of State and then a number of Russian visitors were introduced and seated at an adjacent table. I furiously documented the entire meeting from their review of their trip earlier in the day to the Mayo Clinic to the Secretary of State sharing the horrific story of the death of his daughter due to an accident with a drunk driver. Midway through the nearly two-hour event a cell phone (belonging to the consultant I was “working” for) rang on the table I was seated at, I silenced it while getting a dirty look from the Secretary of State. As the meeting ended, we regrouped in the hallway and I was instructed to send the meeting minutes and my hours to the consultant. It was the last exchange I had with her. I sensed that perhaps the Secretary of State instructed her to have nothing to do with the woman who left her phone on during the meeting and she never owned up to it being her own phone. I am the only person I know who has had a an uncompensated gig documenting Russians in a meeting with the Secretary of State. My only regret was not at least getting reimbursed for my parking.

From the moment my job ended I made it very public that I was looking for work and eventually a high school classmate reached out with what he described as an opportunity “beneath my skill set and pay scale” that I could do remotely for his Washington-based company. For two years I checked my email nightly and reformatted resumes to a specific company criteria and had them back to them by opening the following day. While the work was exacting, it was not difficult and I appreciated not only the income but additional insights regarding resume formatting which I have used in helping friends and family in their job searches as well. Eventually he sold the company which ended the opportunity.

A few years ago another high school friend suggested that a temporary gig working for a local business run by another graduate from our high school might be a good fit for me. That is how I began selling dog bandanas at a Minnesota State Fair booth (a position my husband affectionately refers to as “barking for the Yak woman!” a nod to the career trajectory of Cousin Eddie’s son in the movie Christmas Vacation). As an extrovert, I enjoy talking to customers and as a dog lover I never grow tired of hearing about the recipients of the amusing and clever bandanas or legendary Dog Biscuits on a Stick. As a Minnesotan I appreciate the tradition of the Fair and it’s been a great place to annually meet up with people from all areas of my life; with visits from a high school friend who resides in Hawaii, a college friend visiting from California, old neighbors who now live in North Dakota and many others. The accompanying photograph is from this year when the parents of two of my former staff members stopped by the booth for a visit. Not only available at The Great Minnesota Get Together, treat your canine friends and family members with gifts available at http://www.fundogbandanas.com

Currently I am overlapping a couple of seasonal positions. Wrapping up a season at a local garden center that closes when Christmas tree season ends and starting out a season at the local ski hill where I work in the retail shop and food court. There is an irony that I neither garden (beyond containers, hanging baskets and window boxes) or ski (I can fall pretty well on my own driveway which is flat) but I do enjoy talking to people and welcome the chance to work alongside high school and college students, as well as retirees. Both locations offer ample room for a favorite pastime which is simply the observation of people. While the State Fair is the epicenter of people watching, the ski hill allows for me to watch the awkwardness of budding middle school romances and the garden center has its own supply of amusing regulars. It’s certainly not the kind of work you take home with you and if I were to put a notch in my belt every time a customer said “Well it must be free!” when an item doesn’t register on the till or is missing a tag, my pants would be at my ankles. Every position leaves me with some sort of insight, be it profound or mundane. My most recent epiphany being that pine needles are merely “nature’s glitter”, equal parts beautiful to look at and annoying to deal with.

While nothing I have done over the past six years has truly utilized my skill set or provided me with any real challenges or growth opportunity, there is one job that I am literally reminded of daily that I found to be particularly soul-sucking. A temp agency hooked me up with a “Brand Ambassador” position which is a glorified name for “Consumer Harasser”. As someone who dislikes being approached while shopping, I found myself in the unseemly position of being the perpetrator of that very activity. After many hours of online training provided me with more information about a dog food brand than I ever cared to know, I worked shifts at various pet store chains, wandering the aisles and suggesting reasons that pet owners should try “my brand”. My shift ended with the completion of “call reports”, including all interactions and documentation of the “conversions” I’d made during my shift. While I enjoyed interacting with people and their pets I often found that the most rewarding part of my days were cleaning up the occasional accident of a puppy or senior dog, as it seemed to provide me with the greatest sense of accomplishment. The most awkward part of the role was the training with a ten-year veteran, which took place in the back storage area of one of the stores. The location had a motion sensor for the lights which meant every ten minutes my trainer and I were plunged into darkness, which caused him to spontaneously rise from his chair and flail his arms to trigger the lights. My company shirt and name tag never came, despite the reminder I submitted with each time sheet. The promised lap top for company use also did not materialize. It was work I did not look forward to, often scheduled over Viking’s games. This meant not only was I missing the game but that few people were in the stores. The upside to the job was I got a lot of steps in, occasionally ran into people I knew and interacting with the representatives from other brands, who were easily identifiable by their company shirts or lab coats (I needed to report which ones were present on my end of shift paperwork). I eventually found out why my own insignia wardrobe never was sent, the brand was changing temp agencies. I can think of only one previous job I was happier to have end. It’s been over a year now and I still get a DAILY reminder to submit “late call reports” and the automated request can’t be responded to, so I have that to look forward to for the rest of my life. While the temp agency was quick to find another dog food brand for me to rep, I simply could not justify using any more of my memory-capacity to retain ingredients, kibble sizes or other pet food jargon! A career move that went to the dogs.

I’ve often mentioned to people that one of the hardest parts of being out of work is that unlike when you are employed, there is no “time off”. You go to bed unemployed, you sleep unemployed and you wake up unemployed. It’s all-consuming and not quite the “extended vacation” that those working imagine it would be. The world keeps turning, the bills keep coming, people are born, while others die. There are weddings, there are graduations and anniversaries. The milestones continue but you remain somewhat frozen in a state of the unknown. In no way am I implying that I have been living in an endless sea of misery, in fact events and occasions to look forward to have been highlights of this period of my life.

Girls weekends and cabin getaways have provided me some “normalcy”. During one such occasion, a trip to my best friends cabin (a year ago this fall) we sat fireside while she scrolled through neighborhood websites where she had often found used furnishings for her lake place. She came upon a listing for a person near her community who was looking for what can best be described as personal assistant. She contacted the person with my information and the following week after a phone conversation I went to meet with her. I located the somewhat remote home and pulled up to the three car garage. I sat at the island in the beautiful kitchen while she went over the contents of a file folder which listed some of the things she needed assistance with. She then toured me through the lovely home where I was fascinated by the idea of having enough space in a Master closet for a washing machine and dryer. In the lower level were the bedrooms of her two teenaged daughters and across the hall their own laundry room. As she showed me the indoor swimming pool we exited through the adjacent bathroom which had an additional washer and dryer. The palatial home had a complete downstairs kitchen as well. Her husband owned a company and she homeschooled their youngest daughter and managed the books for the family business. They spent their winters in Florida and she suggested that perhaps I could collect their mail, check on the pool and perform other tasks in their absence over the winter months.

After reviewing her needs I set about tackling the tasks at hand; contracting a dumpster, booking a plumber to install a garbage disposal, arranging to have the carpets cleaned, contacting the pool company for cleaning and maintenance. I then moved on to organization of the pantry, cleaning of the refrigerator (it’s the third week of October, so I got rid of the meat that had expired in July). She asked if I could move my car so she could get out and asked that I park in front of her husband’s garage door in the future as he left for work by six a.m. daily and was rarely home before 10 p.m. I then watched as she headed out for lunch in her Maserati. Her homeschooled daughter took off on a four-wheeler to take care of her horses. I then moved on to breaking down boxes from Amazon, not simply a few but perhaps thirty. After that I went down to the piano room where she suggested some things be pulled out to go in the dumpster that I had ordered. All of the boxes and wrapping paper from Christmas the previous year were there and some gift bags with items still in them and a beautiful two piece dress which I hauled upstairs and placed on a table. The daughter returned and said she needed cash for gas and then called her mother. So I gave the 13-year-old a twenty-dollar bill from my wallet and wondered to myself if it was even legal for her to pump gas or be on the road. I was starting to experience the same dreamlike weirdness I had experienced while chronicling Russians meeting with the Secretary of State.

Eventually the daughter returned, a brother inlaw dropped off some neices for piano lessens, a piano teacher arrived and the oldest daughter returned home from school. None of them seemed to find it unusual at all that a stranger was in the kitchen, as though it were totally normal for an unknown person to be present in the home.

By the end of the day the mother had returned and wondered where I had found her daughter’s Homecoming dress that was lying on the table. “In the piano room armoire with the discarded Christmas wrapping paper”. I had also created a menu for dinner the following day and suggested to her that I grocery shop on my way over the next morning, which she agreed was a good idea.

The following morning I headed to the store and texted her at 8:45 that I was on my way. I let myself in and she shouted from the master bedroom “I’ll be out in a few minutes!’. I cleared the breakfast dishes, met the plumber and got him the “spare” garbage disposal from their Florida home that was in the hallway closet and set about prepping the white chili to go in the crockpot. I then met the dumpster delivery driver and made several trips from the garage with the boxes from the previous day. The youngest daughter and a cousin came into the kitchen and began making slime with glue, food coloring and glitter. By noon, with still no sign of the mother emerging from the Master the girls asked if I would make them pizza, which I did. Midway through day two and I’d seen no sign of “homeschooling”. By 1:00 the mother emerged and I updated her on the status of the day and she promptly left for lunch with the eldest niece. I was uncertain if I should feel flattered or concerned that she so nonchalantly left her daughter and niece with a virtual stranger or that they were seemingly so comfortable with the situation as well. I set about prepping side dishes for the evening meal. Upon the mother’s late afternoon return she grabbed her checkbook and wrote me a check for the groceries, the gas money and my sixteen hours of work and said “I’m meeting with a couple of other people who responded to the ad.” Somewhat perplexed, I left and the only contact I’ve had since was twice when I texted her to let her know “Your pool service is on their way” and remind her that all furnishings needed to be moved in the basement because the carpet cleaners were scheduled.

Nice work if you can get it. Albeit brief as it was!

So the search continues and as I often told my employment counselor “every day when I wake up brings me one day closer to my next job!”. Perhaps my next blog will be about the things I have applied for and the interviews I have had, the jobs I was excited about and didn’t land.

In the meantime don’t hesitate to send me job opportunities suitable for a creative, good-humored extrovert!

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Blogging, childhood, Uncategorized

Ramblin Rose – musings from a full mind

jukebox

 

I have not made a blog post in a few months. I have started several but life and the accompanying distractions get in the way of completing them. However, my mind is a pinball machine of thoughts and ideas, each of which I could flesh-out into a full blog if time and focus permitted.

As I turned 55, I decided to do for myself what I had done for others at milestone birthdays or events. I created a list. The following are 55 things I have either learned, observed, believe or have been amused (or frustrated) by over the past 55 years. You may agree, disagree, or simply not understand them. That’s okay, you can make your own list!

  1. I’ve learned more by engaging with people I don’t agree with than from those I do. Don’t surround yourself with only like-minded people.
  2. You get to choose your attitude every day, not always your circumstances.
  3. A Jukebox holds memories in the same way a photo album does. The songs are the pictures and capture the essence of your memories or perhaps take you to a place or time you’ve never actually experienced.
  4. My kids learned more from our providing food and shelter to a homeless veteran than they ever would have by us writing a check to a Veteran’s organization or carrying a sign at a rally. Thoughtfully modeling your opinions creates more impact than shouting your opinion ever will.
  5. Sarcasm is a gift that allows you to convey a message to the amusement of others and the confusion of those who would never “get it” if you were direct with them.
  6. Children are not intended to fulfill your dreams they are to be supported and encouraged to pursue their own.
  7. The most important investments in life aren’t financial at all. While fortunes may turn, your experiences and memories can never be repossessed!
  8. You don’t attend a funeral to honor the person who died, you attend as a show of support to the living.
  9. If someone is truly sorry, accept their apology. Forgive but don’t forget.
  10. Talk to strangers. You likely know someone they do or have something in common with them or can learn something from each other.
  11. I told my children from a young age “The worst thing you can lose is your imagination.” I further explained that while there are correct answers to some things that creativity and thinking differently than others, seeing things from a new perspective is where literally every innovation, invention and cure has come from.
  12. Not teaching cursive is a horrible idea. Connections in the brain will go unstimulated that create necessary pathways. Someday people will pay tuition to learn cursive at the college level so they can read historical documents or even the handwritten letters of their loved ones. How sad to think of future generations unable to read the founding documents of our nation. When you are unable to read something, you can be told it says anything.
  13. While politics create organized infrastructure for how things are done, they aren’t intended to be the dividing line between who we like and don’t like.
  14. ACT and SAT scores are only indicators of how well people take tests. They do not measure intelligence, a person’s aptitude or how well a person will do in life or succeed in college.
  15. The Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament is the greatest annual sporting event! Epic rivalries, youth playing with the kids they grew up with, a rich history and damn good hockey!
  16. Ugly is on the inside. When a person shows you their ugly, believe what you observe and recognize their damage is not your issue, they own it.
  17. Traditions are wonderful but so is changing them as situations change, people change and when maintaining them becomes more of a burden than a celebration.
  18. It’s okay for your opinions, views and sentiments to change as your life experience teaches you things.
  19. You are not the axis. The world does not revolve around you. Be cognizant of how your actions and choices impact others.
  20. You don’t have to choose a candidate for every office on a ballot. I have no issue letting others decide about a race in an area I don’t feel strongly about.
  21. It’s perfectly appropriate to advocate for things that don’t personally impact you.
  22. There is an abundance and someone else having something doesn’t necessarily mean you have any less.
  23. Sometimes a line from a movie is a better response than any statement you could craft yourself.
  24. An inside joke isn’t intended to be exclusionary, it is intended to acknowledge a bond forged in a shared history.
  25. While it might be annoying, it really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of you. What matters is what you know to be true about yourself.
  26. Always acknowledge the kid who boldly wears a costume to a store or other public venue. That Disney princess or super hero may be your president some day.
  27. Invite people new to your community or visiting from abroad to share your Thanksgiving dinner, your July 4th celebration or simply a weekend cookout. It’s the best way to learn (for you and them) about another culture.
  28. Learn to graciously accept a compliment without pointing out some fault you have to counterbalance it.
  29. Friendships are like recipes in a cookbook; some are good, some are bad, old favorites you know by heart, ones that you regularly used to rely on may no longer suit your palate, ones you forgot about resurface and are exactly as you remember them. Ones on pages that have been lost cannot be replaced. Sometimes it’s fun to have several of your favorites together! Some of them are ones that people always associate you with. There are ones you think you might not enjoy but end up loving. A new one is always worth trying. It doesn’t matter if everyone else likes them, only if you enjoy them.
  30. While having a direction to move in is good, life is a trip you don’t get to plan in its entirety. Just like with travel there are unexpected detours, reroutes and pit stops that add to the adventure. There may be places you never planned on going that end up being beautiful destinations and other times the very place you wanted to be is not as charming as you thought it would be.
  31. Who somebody else loves has no real impact on you. Unless someone is in an abusive relationship you don’t need to approve or disapprove, simply accept.
  32. I love bargains, thrifting and repurposing! I find it all gratifying.
  33. It’s never the wrong time to express gratitude or give thanks to someone who has made a positive impact on you or others. As my son completed graduate school by writing the mission statement and vision (for a startup in Barcelona) I reached out to the woman who helped him learn to read and let her know that despite being retired, her work was still making an impact on a global level.
  34. When your order is wrong in a restaurant or the service is slow is not the time to tip your server poorly. Perhaps they have a sick child at home they’ve been up with, maybe they are dealing with an aging parent or are stressed about making rent or a car payment. It could be the result of the kitchen being short-handed. The only time I think it’s appropriate to tip poorly is if the server is rude or dismissive.
  35. Yelling the loudest doesn’t make someone more “right” than the person who simply stated the opposing opinion.
  36. Don’t think a single thing is your life purpose. You will have many purposes, some of your choosing, others you will never even realize, though others will.
  37. Prospective parents think parenting is about having and caring for a baby. It’s actually about having a person to champion throughout the remainder of your life.
  38. Don’t let people tell you that you’re going through “a phase”. It might be true, it might not be. I love the Betsy Tacy books more now than I did in 1968 when my mother began reading the series (from her childhood) to me. They are part of why my daughter was named Betsy.
  39. Yelling at your TV apparently doesn’t change anything about an athletes performance. Yet, I do it anyway and my family is amused by it!
  40. The phrase “Dance like nobody is watching!” was clearly meant for introverts! I say “Dance like everybody is watching” (even when alone) is what the extroverts are thinking. Come on extroverts, admit it, you know it’s what you want!
  41. Ladies only: Can we talk about public restrooms? I don’t imagine at home you squat and firehose urine all over the seat! Please don’t do it in public, you’re the reason others need to squat!
  42. When you have a full cart, let the person with two items go ahead of you. Same goes for the parent with a kid whose cart is fuller than yours.
  43. Don’t assume you understand what someone else is going through, since you never know. Being compassionate is never wrong!
  44. At a Pot-Luck, always take a serving of the untouched offering. You aren’t required to eat it.
  45. Offer your old couch to a college student, your extra dishes to a person leaving a relationship, your old towels to an animal shelter. If you can’t find a recipient, donate to an organization that funds their charity through resale of used items.
  46. Stop and look, watch kids play at a park or pool. When you are shopping, look at the babies and kids. When you’re in a restaurant observe the awkward couple on their first date and the older couple who assist each other with reading the menu or cutting food. Observing strangers in their natural habitat is more entertaining than anything on TV.
  47. Many small and anonymous gestures have a greater impact than a single grand gesture broadcast to the world.
  48. If you’re ever tempted to post a mysterious comment on social media like “Here we go again!’ in hopes of having a bunch of “What happened?” responses…just don’t!
  49. It’s never wrong to defend your opinion. It’s never necessary to apologize for it. Extend that same courtesy to others.
  50. If you are ever given the opportunity to prepare a eulogy, here are some guidelines: Share insights regarding the character of the deceased and anecdotes relatable to those in attendance. Seek out feedback from others close to the departed for recognition of aspects of their character that you may not have personally experienced. Include acknowledgement of meaningful relationships (work, church, organizations, family, friends and neighbors) sharing what they meant to them and acknowledging those in attendance.  One should walk away having gleaned additional insights to the life of the departed. A eulogy is intended to be a time of inclusiveness, a tapestry woven of all of the various threads from a person’s life.
  51. Laughter is like sneezing to me; sometimes it comes out of nowhere, arises at inopportune times such as a wedding, funeral or during an important speech. It feels pretty good, is only worse if you fight it, can be a hazard when driving and might make you pee!
  52. Share what you have with others and happily accept the generosity of others. An umbrella from a parking lot to a store offered by a stranger costs nothing but is valuable.
  53. Age and maturity are not the same thing and people only have control over one of one of them. My kids were likely born more mature than I’ll ever be, perhaps we don’t have control over either of them.
  54. Use what you have to inspire others, whether you write, build, sew, sing, act or pray, know you are a pebble being tossed into the clear surface of a lake. Those ripples are going somewhere.
  55. Don’t rely on your government to take care of you. Don’t expect teachers to provide children with values. Don’t give your responsibilities over to organizations or others. Learn self-reliance and choose to contribute to the good of your household and community locally and at large. Appreciate and support those in professions that help others; educators, caretakers, the military, police, fire and first responders but don’t live under the assumption that they are able to meet your needs in all situations.
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Looking Back for Answers in Moving Forward Regarding Youth Violence

It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation.  https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has

The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”.  Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.

While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.

What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”.  Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.

Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.

While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others.  They are not familiar with:

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.

Additionally the NRA  are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.

Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.

With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?

Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks.  We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.

Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and  laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.

 

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Uncategorized

Looking Back for Answers in Moving Forward Regarding Youth Violence

It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation.  https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has

The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”.  Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.

While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.

What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”.  Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.

Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.

While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others.  They are not familiar with:

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.

Additionally the NRA  are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.

Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.

With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?

Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks.  We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.

Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and  laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.

 

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What Makes a Best Friend the Best Friend

Mel

When it comes to best friends I like to think I’m old school. We were best friends decades before BFF became a thing. I know lots of women who have a best friend that was a college roommate or sorority sister, another mother from ECFE class or from the next cubical at their first real job. No matter where they were acquired, I am happy for anyone who has one.

Mine moved in across the street the year before I started kindergarten. She had four older sisters, I had two older brothers. She got a baby sister before that first year was over and I remained the youngest in my family. The nice thing about having a best friend for basically your whole life is that you never have to fill them in, give them the back story. They know your cousins and you know their list of old boyfriends.

I watched girls in high school, college and even beyond fight with their friends and be mean, sometimes severing their relationships entirely. My best friend and I never went through that. We may have been lucky that she went to the Catholic school on the next block from our houses from first through eighth grade and I was always at the public school. Ninth grade through senior year we were both at Southwest in Minneapolis (where I had been since seventh grade) so we never experienced that petty junior high drama that can impact relationships at a young age. We also pursued different interests; she played basketball, was a cheerleader and played tennis and I did dance line and played badminton. So we were never in direct competition with each other. Though our after school activities would have us departing at different times we had a mile long walk to school together for four years through all kinds of weather. There were times the two of us would ride together on one bike to school which occasionally had comical results.

Over the years we have each made friends through school, work or  our neighbors that have been added to our circle and this has only broadened our friendship and multiplied both the wisdom and the laughter. Laughter has been with us throughout. We have stories that would perhaps not be funny to someone else but can leave us in tears. Stories from bus trips down town, hockey tournaments in Grand Rapids and the parking lot at the old Met. As adults we got “in trouble” in a restaurant after watching  a half of a bag of croutons (purchased from the manager) be presented as a birthday gift and we could not stop laughing. That Christmas I gave a full bag as a gift. That’s what best friends do!

A favorite destination for us over the years was my family cabin, a log building on a lake with no running water. We loved being in the water, laying out on the raft or rowing a boat down to the public landing. We went with my folks, as we got older they would leave us for a week, later still we would go on our own and bring friends. We knew the woods, met folks from the other end of the lake and as we got older we knew most of the bars in the surrounding towns. It was a place to go to before someone got married and eventually it was a place to go with the girls when a marriage was ending. When you are best friends you stand up for each other at weddings, more than once if necessary.

We met each others kids at the hospital, shared parenting advice and hand-me-down clothes. We rented side by side cabins as families one summer and during those awkward elementary/middle school years took all the kids to a Mexican resort for spring break. Our kids are all more mature now than we will ever be but for the most part they admire our everlasting relationship.

We rely on each other for what the other is strongest at. I did the eulogies at her parents funerals, she came over and rehung every fixture on my main floor after my husband’s business trip to Italy was extended by a week.  We had completed a home improvement project just prior to hosting my mother in-laws birthday.  She and I were able to laugh with her squatted on a vanity, holding a medicine cabinet in place with her shoulder and drilling in a way that my husband and I never would have been able to. Instead of bickering about how high to hang a towel rack we would just do it then take a break for a beer outside.

We have stayed best friends despite both of us having moved out of state at times. Through the raising of our children there were long stretches when it was hard to find time for each other unless it was stolen moments during a rummage sale or home improvement project.  Now we have reached that point in life where our parents are gone and our own children are fairly independent. We have had the good fortune of our oldest children attending school at Bemidji State University just a year apart, resulting in the opportunity for a couple of road trips.

Today is my best friends fifty-fifth birthday, we have lived through portions of six decades together. I originally wrote this for her 51st birthday. Since then we’ve rented a cabin in Bemidji together with our husbands and watched our oldest kids graduate from Bemidji State University together. She and her husband have bought a beautiful cabin of their own, a place where we have made even more memories and we have even returned to the site of my families cabin for the annual Cubs/O’s game, a tradition that began the summer that we graduated from high school but had not been to together since the 1980’s when we were both still single. Our relationship is cumulative, when we laugh it is not simply at what is provoking the laughter at that moment, it is multiplied by all of the funny times and situations we have endured together.  Happy Birthday  and in the immortal words of the St. Thomas the Apostle 8th grade boys “Thanks for the memories, the good times with Mel, gee weren’t they swell!”.

 

 

 

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Oh Canada!

Have you ever opened an old cedar chest or come across a forgotten photo album? Such events can open a floodgate of memories, forgotten treasures, the experiences can actually mentally transport you to another place in time that was forgotten, tucked away like an old baptismal gown or wool sweater created on the needles of a deceased relative. A couple of nights ago, after a sushi dinner, an early birthday outing for my husband (before my son returns to grad school) such a thing occurred. I have been quite literally flooded with memories of places and people that were a huge part of my formative years. These people had never been forgotten, the memories not repressed but simply saved on an old hard-drive, buried somewhat by newer memories and experiences.

It began with looking at  Facebook on my phone and seeing a friend request from a name I did not recognize. When I opened the profile, there was the relatively unchanged face of a woman who I had not seen in perhaps thirty-five years. The adult woman who had sat beside me as a teenager at my parent’s dining room table, in a home I haven’t been in for nearly a quarter century. It was the face of a girl (who along with many of her friends) that I had searched for periodically on Facebook over the years. to no avail, as we had married our names had changed.

Initiation

When I was thirteen I was “initiated” into the International Order of Jobs Daughters, a girl’s organization for young women who are related to men who are Free Masons. For those not familiar with what can best be described as a “youth sorority” it might appear that the girls in white satin robes were cult members. I count the young women that I encountered through this affiliation among my closest friends to this day. Instead of typical high school rivalries, this organization resulted in friendships for a girl attending Minneapolis Southwest High School with girls from Minneapolis South, West, Washburn, Edina East, Edina West and Bloomington Jefferson. While much of the function of the organization was social, it’s where my lifelong passion for volunteerism began. We served as candy-stripers at the Masonic home, raised money through paper drives (before recycling collection became the norm at homes) and car washes for philanthropic causes such as cancer research. Jobies dinner.JPG

We worked the phones for the Jerry Lewis MD telethon and sought sponsors for rock-a-thons, a somewhat bizarre event featuring highly caffeinated teenagers sitting in rocking chairs for 24-hours to raise funds for some cause of their choosing. Our “Bethel” (think club house) had the Squirrel cabin at Camp Lake Hubert annually and prepared for the highly competitive skit competition with weekly rehearsals during the summer. We had dances with the boy’s organization “Demolay” that shared in equally mysterious rituals and whose youth leadership pinnacle was the Master Counselor, a counterpart to our Honored Queen. Beyond our local chapters, we often attended the “Installation” (best described as “coronation” to those not familiar) of other Bethels (events that occurred in June and January each year) around the state. We went on “mystery trips”, had midnight breakfasts and even attended state-wide and national events for the organization. While the objective of the order was a wholesome youth outlet, many of my best memories were the unsanctioned activities of 1970’s girls with a burning desire to behave like grown-ups.

Jobs Skit

Though purged from my “permanent record” , this month it’s been  thirty-nine years since I was arrested in St. Louis Park (at fifteen years of age) for “Possession of Alcohol by a Minor” after an Installation. Though that time, it was beer and I hadn’t consumed any of it, my earliest Job’s Daughter’s/alcohol adventure involved Tickled Pink, a fine product of the Boones Farm vineyard that never got the same measure of popularity as Strawberry Hill but appealed to the more youthful palate than Country Quencher which I was exposed to by a cucumber farmer/insurance salesman while at college…but I digress and will save that musing for a future blog.

Judy's Installation

As so often does, while writing this “life happened” . In the midst of writing this two weeks ago I discovered my nearly 13 year old beagle had suffered a stroke overnight which resulted in us putting her down, my son returned to grad school, a severe cold snap resulted in a bizarre attic freezing situation followed by a “January thaw” and water damage and insurance claim in our master bedroom. My son had car issues that ultimately required a new battery and alternator. Not crisis, just “stuff”, the distractions of life that allows you to unexpectedly lose touch with people. Now I shall resume my tale of youth and reconnection.

Molly's

A short time after my initiation I attended my first installation and at a reception for the newly crowned Honored Queen encountered a beautiful Honored Queen visiting from Canada, she was friendly, funny and had THE accent, all qualities that had me liking her immediately. Her name was Kelly. During a subsequent installation the Canadian Bethel brought a busload down and it was then that I hosted two “Jobies” at my parent’s home, one of them being Cathy, the Facebook “friend request”.

During the years that followed I made several trips to Winnipeg, some via Greyhound bus and others with tickets purchased by Kelly’s older sister Lori, a grownup with a real job, who for whatever reason was willing to finance my travels. She was a quieter version of her sister, with stunning eyes, a quiet observer who often had an amused expression at the antics of all of us more animated girls.

I think my first visit was to Cathy’s and I arrived during her exams.  In Canada high school finals are more like college finals here. She arranged for her boyfriend Gary to come hang out at her parent’s apartment while she went to school. Gary was hilarious, seemed to love all things American and preferred to be called “Burt” because he thought Burt Reynolds was perhaps the sexiest man alive. We hit if off and by the time Cathy returned home I had pierced Gary’s ear for him.

Though I have a great memory, after all of these years my recollection of specific trips run together with overall details of my various travels being somewhat blended. I do recall that Winnipeg winters are brutal, the air so cold that ones nostrils freeze shut simply by inhaling. I remember that the summers were similar to ours and cherish many great memories of time spent by the backyard pool of Kelly’s parent’s home on Roselawn Bay (?), either drinking Lonesome Charlie wine (the Canadian version of a Boones Farm) or vodka slushes (made by Kelly’s mother) that were kept in an ice cream pail and mixed with 7-Up before serving.

I remember that on one of my Greyhound bus rides I was near the rear of the bus and got seated in by a handsome former member of the Canadian military. At Customs at the border the agents broke my suitcase after going through every photograph in my luggage (chronicling the adventures of my previous trip). When I returned to the bus which had been delayed because of the search my seatmate commented that he couldn’t believe they gave me such a thorough search as he had a rucksack full of porn in the overhead bin and a stiletto in his boot. The next trip I opted to sit nearer the front of the bus, thinking that would be safer. At a stop to pickup packages at a station in North Dakota, as soon as the driver disembarked a man entered and knelt beside my seat and with a screwdriver removed the side panel and began removing baggies of powder from the seat and tucking them into his shirt via the neck hole. He then rose and hastily exited, leaving the panel in the aisle and the screwdriver as well. When the driver returned he looked at me like “What the Hell did you do to your seat?”. I flew in one time with a horrid ear infection and the pressure brought tears to my eyes. That was the trip that I ran into Duran Duran at MSP airport and asked to take their picture. During the flight two of the band members came up to me and offered me several tickets to their Winnipeg show and an invitation to an after party. It conflicted with the wedding social (a hybrid of a shower/Go Fund Me event for an engaged couple) for my friend Nancy that Lori had sent me the ticket to attend (as a surprise to Nancy). Oh to be seventeen again. The band had played a gig at First Avenue the night before that I had opted out of attending due to my earache. That flight took particularly long to deplane and my waiting entourage was certain it was because Monty Hall (Lets Make a Deal) a native son of Canada was also on my flight.

Though getting to and from Winnipeg was always memorable, the adventures while there were beyond fantastic. Everything seemed exciting to a girl from Minneapolis; 5 Pin Bowling, some of their parents were in Curling leagues, their potato chips had vinegar, their fries were served with a side of gravy and a Rye & Ginger came with the shot at the bottom of a larger glass and a juice glass of ginger ale for you to mix yourself. The liquor stores were called “LC” for Liquor Commission and “vendors” were semi-trailers in what seemed like random locations where one walked up temporary stairs and purchased beer. When you took beer to a party, it was customary to leave your empties behind as a courtesy to the host who could return them for the deposit.

It seemed like a veritable font of culture with teenagers drinking hot tea and where Jobs Daughters had registries just like a bride for a Royal Albert China pattern. I believe Cathy had Memory Lane and Kelly selected Old Country Rose. Near Kelly’s house was a takeout burger place that was owned by perhaps Greek immigrants who sold Fat Boy burgers that were smothered in chili and raw onion. I loved it all.

Music was another area that brings back a flood of memories. We attended a Streetheart concert during one of my visits and Kelly was smitten with singer Kenny Shields the lead vocalist. Martha and the Muffins singing Echo Beach was the soundtrack to my visit the summer of 1980 when I went up to visit for my friend Karen’s installation. The first time I laid eyes on her brother Cory I was serving as the American Flag Bearer and there was nothing between us but an altar with an open Bible on it. It was infatuation at first sight! Kelly and a group of friends came to Minnesota to see Bob Marley and the Wailers and I met up with her for what was perhaps the last time when a group came down to tube the Apple River and go camping in Somerset, Wisconsin.

We went to a Winnipeg Jets hockey game during one brutally cold winter visit and I sang the American National Anthem louder than the soloist on the ice. I rang in the New Year 1981 in Winnipeg. I recall Karen and Cory’s mother calling in favors at dawn one morning when a crowd that had remained up all night had drank the liquor cabinet dry but didn’t want the party to end. The alcohol was replenished and the dancing, singing and laughter continued.

Upon reconnecting I learned that much like our own Bethel members, some had drifted apart for awhile. Sadly I found out that what had gotten their group back together was the passing of Lori from cancer a few years ago. It seems Nancy now makes her home in Georgia but returns near the end of January each year for a visit. During a past visit Kelly dug out old letters from me and they read them and shared some laughs. I look forward someday to seeing what was going on in that teenage head of mine.

Just like the items in a cedar chest, those that survive continue to get older and the memories they evoke grow more precious. Like the lyrics of this nearly forgotten song say, I can’t help but think I’ll be back someday!

Echo Beach
Martha and the Muffins
I know it’s out of fashion
And a trifle uncool
But I can’t help it
I’m a romantic fool
It’s a habit of mine
To watch the sun go down
On Echo beach, I watch the sun go down
From nine till five I have to spend my time at work
The job is very boring, I’m an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day
On a silent summer evening
The sky’s alive with light
A building in the distance
Surrealistic sight
On Echo Beach
Waves make the only sound
On Echo Beach
There’s not a soul around
From nine till five I have to spend my time at work
The job is very boring, I’m an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time

 

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