Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanks and Grace

Initially I had another blog to post this week, but, life being the fickle mistress she is, decided I should do something completely different. Enjoy.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the gentleman who slashed my wife’s Jeep tire on Friday night. No, I’m not being sarcastic and I’m going to let you know that it’s no big deal. Not to me at least. It was at first, when my wife called me upset, crying and scarred at 11:15 PM. That’s when I was upset. I was upset because I was in bed asleep and so was my daughter.

But, I got up, got dressed, woke my daughter up and got her dressed. Then, we both went out to my car. The crisp fall weather making its presence known with the fog of every breath we expelled from our bodies. We drove to the parking lot where my wife was stranded in silence. No radio, no real discussion, just the silence of our thoughts to keep us company. Our bleary eyed solace interrupted by the lights of the late night traffic sending rainbow hues of colors through our windshield and making the night shadows inside the car dance across our hands as they clasped each other in worry and concern for the safety of my wife and her mother.

Once we arrived and made sure that everything was ok with the Jeep and the Jeep’s primary driver, I commenced to changing the deflated, sad looking, steel belted radial. Now, let me take a moment and say that I COULD go on and on in a descriptive manner of all the antics, shenanigans and emotions that played out during the next 30 minutes, but I’m not going to do that. Nope, instead, like the good sailor I was taught to be, I’m going to take a different tack.

As I said before, Thank You Mr. Tire Slasher. Your anger and uncontrollable emotions afforded me a chance to teach my daughter a valuable lesson. I took those 30 minutes and showed her how to change a tire, how to go into a problem that someone else caused and categorize the steps that one needs to take to not just solve the problem but also ensure it gets done in a timely manner. I took that opportunity to teach her “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey.” On lug nuts. I taught her how to use a scissors jack. I taught her the proper way to be more self sufficient and that no matter how bad the problem may seem it can be overcome with logic, knowledge, assistance and I hope, forgiveness. I also took your anger and used it to make myself a hero in not just her 11 year old mind but also my wife’s mind.

Yes, I was tired and a little grumpy but I did not take it out on her or my wife. Instead I granted you forgiveness and grace. Grace. Funny that little word. I truly learned the definition of it a few years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. I hope I never do, either.

Grace [greys] noun, verb

1. Mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace

2. Favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity

3. Theology

a. The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

b. The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

c. A virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian Graces.

d. Also called “State of Grace”. The condition of being in God’s favor.

Now, I know there are many more definitions to the word grace but these are the examples I am referring to. And you know what, Mr. Tire Slasher Man? I really don’t think I am talking to you right now. I think that right now, there is someone, somewhere reading this that needs to read it. Needs to understand. Needs to feel forgiven but knows they don’t deserve it. But they desire it anyway. And I hope that person is granted the forgiveness and grace they need.

Look, we’re all on this mud-ball together, and I fully understand the frustration that can come with the daily living, driving and bill paying. I UNDERSTAND. I know how it feels. The overwhelming, almost insurmountable pressure that comes with trying to be a responsible human. And how just one small act or perceived act of selfishness can make a person so angry that they resort to a short and violent act. The act or event that you believe will make you feel better but in the end only makes you feel ashamed of yourself and embarrassed of who you are. Makes you start to doubt that there is a decent person living inside you with the ability to love and care for someone else. Or that YOU deserve to be loved by someone else. Someone decent and caring. You doubt you are worthy of anything. Listen to me. YOU ARE! Really, you are worthy and you do deserve it. But, being callous and acting out like a child who has just had their favorite toy taken away is not the way to get what you want.

Now, I hope that if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone has hurt you or done you wrong that you feel you will be able to resolve the conflict without becoming a screaming maniac and that you will be able to grant someone Grace. It’s amazing the feeling of freedom you get when you do give Grace to someone.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get all preachy on you, now back to the story.

In the end, I was able to change the tire, hopefully teach a lesson or two to my child and endear myself to my wife. And it only cost me an hour of sleep. I was able to take your violence and not let it ruin my night or my day or my weekend. I was able to forgive you and not let your juvenile antics affect me. I hope you, my dear reader, will also be able to take a negative influence in your life one day and create a positive memory for you and your family.

Have a great week everyone and Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just Keep...

November is upon us. Where did the year go? This is typically the month that we all give thanks to someone or something. And, it’s quite common for people across America to start acting a bit nicer to one another. (Well with the exception of when you’re trying to find a parking spot at the mall close to the door so your don’t freeze your ass off that is.)This brings me to this week’s blog.

The other day, I don’t remember if it was a Tuesday or Thursday, I saw a homeless man pushing a shopping cart along the sidewalk. His prize possessions spilling out of the purloined metal cage faster than he could bend over and pick them up. This is the trigger for today’s blog.

A few weeks ago I saw a homeless man and woman fighting in the middle of the street. She was screaming at him and he was screaming at her. Each of them oblivious as to what the other was saying. They then started to slap each other around, that is until a police drove by. Then the woman headed East and the man headed west. This is one reason for today’s blog.

A man was standing on the corner preaching what he thought were Bible verses. They weren’t, how do I know? Simply put, I don’t think it says anywhere in the Bible that Jesus took a flame thrower to the car that was blocking this man’s alley/home. Then again, if Jesus had a flame thrower in the Bible he may have had a lot easier time of convincing the Sagesies and Pharisees that he meant business. This is another reason for today’s blog.

Recently, a skate park was opened up in the City of Portsmouth. I and a few of my co-workers had the opportunity to drive past the place several times. We saw kids on skate boards and riding their bikes on the ramps and having fun. There were also some homeless people sitting on park benches watching the kids. Another reason.

People, we are not in 1982 anymore.

I remember not too long ago, in another life it seems, I was living in Wisconsin, be-bopping my way through my high school years in a daze caused by both legal and illegal substances. Days spent fighting with my sisters, Mother, Father and even some friends. Which followed by nights spent sleeping in abandoned cars, tree forts, houses of soon to be ex-girlfriends and on occasion at the Jesuit Brothers dormitory or the Nuns Dormitory of a local Catholic High School.

In those long and lonely hours I would reflect on my current plight and the causality of how it is I came to be homeless for a few short hours, days and sometimes weeks. Back then, in my juvenile mind, my situation was never my fault. I was always the victim. Never mind the fact that I failed to mow the grass or take out the trash. Never mind that I skipped not just one class in school but several days. How could it be my fault if I cussed out a teacher, a cop, a neighbor? I was innocent. I was just a kid who didn’t know any better. I was a victim of my circumstances, no one was around to love me, care for me, and teach me right from wrong.

What a pathetic loser I was.

Sometimes, Ok, most of the time, I’m amazed that I ever even made it not just to the age of 43 but that I made it past my 20th birthday. Why? Simple, that teenage kid is still living inside of me and he still has a whole lot of that angst left in him. Yeah, occasionally he rears his ugly, pimply faced head and screams “OH! PITY ME!” And when he does, I just want to take a gun and blow his brains all over the interior walls of my skull. (Hm, can one commit mental homicide on ones younger self?)

Honestly, I don’t know how it happened or why it happened but I didn’t succumb to the numbskull that ruled my life in the late 1970’s, through the 1980’s and even an early part of the 1990’s. I made it out of the predicament that I’d brought on myself pretty much unscathed and with a determination and will that keeps me going to this very day. When everyone in my life tells me to give up, that I’m not going to amount to anything, or I’m destined for failure, I dig down inside of me and continue doing what I’m doing, what I know is right. And more times than not I succeeded.

I wish I could say I knew where I got this drive from, but I can’t. I know there are people in my family who are the same as me and some in my family that are on the complete opposite compass point as me. Maybe I learned it from them. Maybe… But I don’t know.

I see people in bad situations, like living out of a stolen grocery cart, or fighting with their homeless, alcoholic street husband, or a person so separated from reality they make up their interpretation of the Bible. And it makes me NOT want to end up like them. It makes me want to work harder, do better, be someone that doesn’t give up.

Maybe it’s a combination of both, but whatever it is, wherever I learned it from, however it got ingrained in my thick headed Polish skull and absorbed into my DNA, for that I am thankful.

Because it’s what keeps me going, keeps me focused even when I don’t think I can go on anymore. When I just want to stop working, fighting, moving, and struggling, The drive and determination of my youth make me go back for more and try harder when everyone says to stop, lie down and just take it. I DON’T. Well, that and a healthy dose of fear of failure.

Have a great week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Geology 101

Rocks have been used as a term to describe many things over the years and recently I was compared to one. Which, got me wondering about them, in my own sort of way that is. And, it pretty much goes like this:

Paul was the Rock that Christianity was built on.

Charlie Brown got a rock for Halloween.

Rock and Roll can soothe the soul, a lyric from a song.

Rock and Roll aint noise pollution, is a great song.

Rocky was a movie about a fighter.

Rock of ages, another great song.

Rocky Mountains.

Marble is a type of rock and Michalangelo carved David out of marble.

Stick and Stones can break bones but words can kill a soul.

Solid as a Rock, another song.

Rock and Roll Damnation, yet another song.

Rocky Mountain High, again, another song.

Geology is the study of Rocks.

There are three types of Rocks, Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamophic.

Some rocks are over 250 million years old. (THAT IS WICKED!)

When a man gives a woman a Rock she usually says “Yes”.

When a woman gives a man a Rock it usually means he has to buy a new windsheild.

Some of the first tools man ever used were made out of rocks.

Rocks have been used as building tools for man ever since he came to be here on Earth. Some of the most ancient structres known to the modern world, Stonehenge, the Pyramids, were built solidly out of rock.

I just realized, I could go on and on with facts about rocks and their many uses to civilization and man. So in the intrest on not boring you kind folks to tears, I shall try and refrain from sticking anymore facts in here. Now, I’ll just go on and write about my own particular views of rocks.

Most rocks are jagged, hard and dense. They are also older than we realize and some even come from outer space. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. Also, if you take a rock that’s a bit rough around the edges and stick it in a cool mountain stream, over the course of the next 10,000 years you will have a very nice smooth, rounded pebble. Or, if you put that rock in the ocean near a beach it will eventually be pounded into fine sand. And we all know that millions of people all over the world enjoy going to the beach and digging through the sand. Lying on the sand. Burying themselves in the sand. Absorbing the cast off heat of the sun through the sand. Letting that heat, warm the cold confines of ones soul.

Another thing you could do is take that rock and stick it in the desert and watch over time as the wind, rain and sunlight bleach and erode away all the cold roughness of it. Eventually making it into an even handed, smooth, almost blazing white piece of granite. Then again maybe the rock has been kept under earth, experiencing massive pressure and heat, only to be transformed into a rare and precious gem stone.

So? Exactly how do I stack up to one of these examples? I have no clue. I’m taking the comment as a compliment and moving on with my life. I do know that I am a bit rough around the edges, and that age has smoothed some of my sharper points. I know that I can be cold and heartless at times but then again I can be just as charitable and warm at other times. I am built solid and rarely do I break. If you ask my coworkers, I don’t really have feelings and almost every insult or joke made at my expense is ignored or laughed at. They are not allowed to penetrate the thickend skin of granite I have accumulated over my life. Then, there are times when I’m as dense and senseless as a slab of concrete and other times where I sparkle with brilliance. (This being one of the former and not the latter times. Yes, I make a joke at my own expense. So laugh.)

In conclusion…

We are all rocks of varying degrees. We have a tendency to crumble like sandstone and stand tall like a mesa. We can be as dull and uncharacteristic as a pebble on the interstate in the desert or as shiny and faceted as a diamond in the jewlery store. We are who we are. Each and everyone of us as different as the gravel on the road and just as jagged. We are as smooth as the stones in the mountain streams and as warm as the sand on the beaches of the Carribean. We are all as alien to the new people we meet as the meterorites that fall from the sky. But, know that inside each of us there is a gem, a statue, a masterpiece, just waiting to come out. It just takes time and paitence.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crunchy Goodness

I like my job. No, let me rephrase that, I love my job. (Nope, I am not trying to convince myself or you. It’s a simple fact.) But, like with all jobs there are some duties about it that are certainly more pleasurable than others. For instance, I am terrible at paperwork, especially my time-sheet. I seem to goof that thing up every which way a person can. (See, contrary to popular belief, I am not perfect.) Now, this weeks addition is not about the things I don’t like or am not good at or even things I goof up on, daily. Nope, this is about Autumn. Oh, and my job too.

You see, about three times a year I have the distinct pleasure of getting paid to take a walk. That’s right. I get to take a nice stroll through Old Town Portsmouth and check on historical markers, graveyards and monuments. Make sure they haven’t been defamed, damaged or misplaced. Yes, occasionally they do get misplaced, usually into someones back yard or garage but we find them and persecute the evil-doers who’ve committed such heinous crimes against such a wonderful and historical thing. (<= Big time run on sentence)

I usually try to schedule these walks Ocober, January and May. Why? Simple, cool weather. Care to guess as to which one of these three walks is my favorite?

If you said October, then you’re correct. But, I have no prize for you. Just my blog…

Walking through Old Town is an amazing experience for me. The history that leaks out of the bricks of the buildings is absorbed into my pores like sunshine. The Autumnal weather makes that joy even more spectacular.

What always strikes me first though are the sounds. The crunchy, crisp breaking of the dried leaves under my shoes, the rustling of the wind through the skeletons of the trees, the Geese honking on they semi-annual trek South, the caw of the crows looking for food mingled with the wrens sweet chirpin the bushes assualt my brain like a symphony. I could go on decribing the sounds of the neighhorhood that resides on one of the largest working ports in the world but I would be here for hours.

The smells are the second wave of mental intrusion, well, the smells that invade the wonderful aroma of my cigar I usually smoke on these strolls of solace. Wood burning stoves blowing smoke up into the sky with an aroma that just screams of headiness and home. Even the scent of gas furnaces being fired up for the first time with their noxsious poison is welcome, like a long lost friend you’ve just run into at the store. In the air I can sense the deteriorating foilage under foot all damp and musty, which brings a smile to my face. The sweet smell of the last cutting of the grass for the season has a different feel to it. It feels heavy and sorrowful it knows a long slumber awaits.

The sights are next, the beautiful colors of Mother Natures last gasp of life is truly a spectacle to behold. Orange, red, brown and green all blended together makes a person feel as if they are walking inside a fireworks display. The trees desparetly try to maintain their diginity while the seaons change only to fail in the attempt and become just skeletons of their former beauty. A beauty that realy does not fade, it transforms into a new, minimalistic beauty of itself. Brown, gray and black fading into each other, waiting in hopes of some white to come from the sky. Another line forms on my face.

These walks, if taken by a tourist or casual citizen should take no more than an hour or two. For me? About 90 minutes is all I can stretch out of it before my cell phone starts ringing. Usually it’s my supervisor asking me how much longer I will be and have I noticed any damage or missing markers. My answer is usually in the negative and I am always unhappy on my walk back to my office to fill out the reports.

But I always have my memories.