Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 107 - Four Royal Weddings and a Funeral

The kiss
The Royal Wedding between William and Catherine was a wedding from which all fairy tales are told.  I remember getting up thirty years ago at 4:30 AM and watching Princess Diana taking the same path that Catherine (or Kate) has now taken to marry Diana's son.  I thought of how sad it is at the same time joyous.  The occasion is joyous for obvious reasons.  It is sad however also that Princess Diana can't be here to be a part of it.  It's sad that Prince William's mother isn't here for him and sad for us that we can't see her radiant beauty anymore.  She had such a beautiful smile.  But as I watched the new Royal Highness Duke of Cambridge come out on the balcony to kiss his bride, I saw it.  I saw Diana's smile. She lives in him and through him. I still see Diana when he smiles.

Westminster Abbey
What a bevy of emotions he must be experiencing.  The history, the tradition, the fanfare, the church.  To be married in the same church as one's mother is in itself a  rare event let alone to be married in the great Westminster Abbey.  Everyone wanted to be a part of it.  Even if it is just watching it on a jumbo tron or  the television.  I understand the world's longing to be a part of history. To be a part of something that is bigger than you.  Not only is it a reward in and of itself but also we get to tell  others about it.  We were there!  Tourist Trap stores know this so they sell as many commemorative tokens as we will buy.

Sometimes just popping off the cork of a bottle of wine and writing the date and the name of the event on it with a marker is the right thing to do.  Who needs a commemorative tea cup to show others.  you were there and  you know it. I think the best commemorative piece of history was a chunk of the rock from the Berlin Wall to commemorate it being torn down.  Many people took pieces of that wall.  When you visit the Capitol, in the rotunda there is a statue of Ronald Reagan.  In this statue is a piece of rock from that Berlin Wall.

In Daytona Beach we have a historical piece of basketball history.  Vince Carter, the now famous NBA player grew up and played at the local high school called Mainland.  I was able to be a small part of his history.  I was assigned to officiate the very last game on the Mainland High School wooden gym floor.  The same floor that Vince Carter had sweat on before he played for the Toronto Raptors and the Orlando Magic. The night was not only special for this reason, it was special for my partner who had also officiated the first basketball game on that floor over forty years prior! His emotions were high as he shared with me that this would be his last game.

He remembered it proudly as he did our pregame as the Crew chief.  "BJ, it was Ribault High School vs Mainland High School.  It was a Saturday morning as the games back then had to be played in the morning.  At that time the gym didn't have any lights or air conditioning."  How cool was that?  I was told we were both to receive a piece of this Mainland gym's hardwood floor afterward to commemorate our part in this big historical event.  They were going to cut the floor up into pieces and give one to Vince Carter and others who had donated to the new gym that was being built.  Vince had donated over $1,000,000 of his own money.  The rest of the pieces would be auctioned off to help raise more money for the state-of-the-art gym.

Vince and Duke William have two things in common.  They both picked schools built on tradition.  North Carolina and Cambridge.  And they both had great mothers.  Vince's mother was there that night as Vince couldn't be there due to his NBA schedule.  She accepted the award with Vince's Uncle on his behalf.  She had been there every night watching her son play basketball.  She has helped him remember where he came from and given back to the community of Daytona Beach by building a restaurant, a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol addicts and continued to support other philanthropic ventures to help local children. I pray that William and Kate will continue to do the same.

Vince's mother was proud that night.  I was proud too.  Proud to be a part of history.  Unfortunately Mainland lost that night and I never did receive the commemorative piece of the hardwood floor.  (I had a sneaky feeling when the AD never returned to the locker room to ask our addresses to send it to us.)  That's OK as I'm not the only one that has participated in a small part of history that nobody notices.  Chief Inspector Morley is one of the men today that rode on the horse as a police escort to the royal family.  His first day on the job he escorted Princess Diana.  Today, thirty years later, he will retire after working his last day on the job.  Four weddings and a funeral.  I don't think they will send him a piece of the carriage or the cuttings of the horses mane or any other commemorative piece of history and tradition.  But he can take pride that he has his memory. He can drink a bottle of wine to celebrate his retirement and save the cork.  As for me, I may not have the piece of wooden floor as promised, but I have the cork from the bottle of wine that I had a toast from when I got home.  A referee, a cork and her memory.  That's as good as it gets.

To live in hearts we leave behind is to not die.  ~Thomas Campbell

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 106 - Don't be Ever Afraid

Steve's Granddaughter, Peyton, is cute as pie.  She says things that sound cute too, like there really is a wise grown woman inside a tiny body of a little girl.  One night during just before Halloween, when the decorations on the streets in local small towns are made of haystacks, pumpkins, ghosts and gravestones, Peyton took her Grandfather for a walk.  They held hands and as the sundown approached and the darkness started to creep in, Peyton standing a very tall three foot looked UP at Steve and said, "Don't be EVER afraid!"  Priceless. Better than Mastercard! This has become family folklore now in our household.  When there is even an inkling of fear anywhere, we exclaim, "Don't be EVER afraid!"

I wish Peyton would have been with me one night when I was waiting for Steve to return home from officiating a high school game. I had just gotten home from officiating my games and was taking a shower.  I stepped out of the shower and seen an image looking at me though the thick coke-bottle style glass blocks that make up the bathroom window.  It was low in the bottom left corner so it appeared like someone was trying to see through this thick glass.  Naked, I ran past the window while I grabbed the towel and ran to close the garage door.  This door lead to the only unlocked door in the house.  I grabbed my cell phone dripping wet and hid in the closet.  I dialed Steve's cell phone in the dark with the light of the keypad. I whispered, "Steve, are you outside?" He answered confused, "Noooo, whhhhy?"  I told him I thought someone may be looking at me through the bathroom window on the outside of the house.  He said he was right around the corner and he'd be there in less than a minute.

I heard the garage door open with the automatic door opener from Steve's car, which puzzled me as that is the best way to scare off someone, let them know you're coming. He came inside first to get the baseball bat and when I had gotten dressed, I saw he had positioned the car so that the high beams were shining in that area of the yard near the bathroom window.  He came in and was smiling.  "Was it this?" he asked. He was holding up the sprinkler head of the garden hose!  Since the sprinkler head was red, it looked like a pink cheek through the thick block glass.  I felt like it was a face looking at me. He thought I was being ridiculous but truth was I was really scared.

The right thing to do is always have a baseball bat handy.  If he hadn't been there, I could have used it.  I had to kill a snake once that had slithered inside the house and had gotten underneath my five year old's backpack at 6 AM in the morning with a hoe.  I could surely beat the crap out of someone with a baseball bat at 9 PM at night naked if I had to!  Now that thought is really scary

The next night as I came into the bathroom I noticed something outside the window again!  I jumped back outside the darkness of the bathroom with a little scream. I reached my arm around the wall and turned on the light to see.  I remembered this technique from my childhood.  At the age of twelve I had a good friend who taught me not to be afraid of the dark, just turn on lights before you look, then see if you should be scared she would say. And you would not believe what I saw through the block glass again...another face!  A big 9x12 bright yellow piece of construction paper with a smiley face drawn on it.  I yelled, "Bastard!" really loud as I knew Steve had put this on the outside of  the window so that next time that I looked at the window I could say that there really WAS a face looking at me through the window.  I heard him laughing like Santa Claus.  Peyton, it's the Grandpas of the world we really need to be afraid of.  They all think this is EVER funny!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 105 - A Slice of Pie

When I had first moved to Jacksonville Florida I had no idea that the city had an immortal mentality.  And what I mean by that is people who were born in Jacksonville, both black and white had the same mentality as other Southerners.  We have been doing it this way for years so we don't need to change it.  We like it the way we like it.  Being a Yankee that a southerner is quick to fish out by the rate of speech patterns or pronunciation of our words, I was reminded daily that I was not welcome.  The Mason Dixon Line was up north and I should "retun to the nuthin paart from which I had been burn."

It was particularly frustrating for me as I not only was a Yankee, born in Pennsylvania and reared there but had moved to Jacksonville from the capitol of Diversity USA, San Francisco.  When I left my job in San Fran, the co-workers chided me about the abbreviation of CALIF (which was replaced eventually by CA when they implemented the two letter abbreviations for the Postal System.) CALIF, I was told stood for Come and Live in Florida as many people retired in Florida after working their entire lives in California.  Once I arrived in Northern Florida I realized there was no way this was possible as the people here were really the same as Southern Georgia and there was NO WAY that a Californian would fit in.  People from CA were much more cultured and open-minded.

The biggest part of frustration for me is not with the white folks but with the black folks.  In our High School Association of basketball referees, when I started about 65% of the referees were black men.  I'd say that the percentage now is closer to 80%.  Since I came from CA, was a volunteer diversity trainer and had raised two young men of color I quickly fit in and was all too well familiar with racism and its hardships that it presents.  But I quickly realized it was the black men who had the power as they were the majority in this association.  I heard the white men on the Board of Directors, particularly the ones with the most power to dole out money by the assignment of games, use the "N word" when they thought no blacks were in their company.  Like Stetson Kennedy, I was the one in the white skin who they thought, due to my white skin that I was one of them. This allowed them to expose who they really were. Get comfortable.  Let their guard down.

I began to educate the black men on what I had heard and distinguish who could be trusted and who couldn't of the 35% of white referees.  At the time I thought this was providing an invaluable service to the black men who would NEVER hear this with their own ears.  I suggested ideas for implementation on how we could better serve ourselves as officials in particular in the way of training.  I was taught if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem.  I knew complaining about it was part of the problem so doing the right thing I decided to be part of the solution. I would run for Vice-President. Put myself in a position to better the organization and help everybody equally. The Board position of Vice-President at the time was responsible for training.  I ran for the Vice-President position two years in a row and lost each time.  I was frustrated with the majority of voters who didn't vote for me not because I lost but because the majority of the votes by the black majority went to the same white males who called them Niggers in the first place

As a college official who at this point spent over $9000 in education over the summer in camp fees, I felt I could begin to train newer officials and the organization could quickly expand with open minds.  I recruited six officials in one year alone.  I tried to position myself to be a part of the Board in which I could provide the most solutions.  Training. It was echoed not once but twice by the majority that they didn't want me in that role.  I'm sure the Matriarch had a big part in this but the fact remains that each person has a vote.  The right thing to do is to vote from the perspective of hope and not vote from the perspective of fear.  I was told by my friends after each vote on my way home that the majority would rather have the Devil that they knew than the one that they didn't. They were afraid of the college training because they didn't know what that was.  I'm not sure exactly what that meant but I know for sure that I was no Devil and it was clear that I was able to provide invaluable training that high school officials rarely can see without the help from college training.  All the other associations in Florida hold their college officials in high esteem. They welcome the experience from their college officials.  But not in Jacksonville, it hasn't been done that way here before.

Separate is not Equal!
It was in Jacksonville, Florida the Jim Crow Laws became law in 1906.  Colored folks couldn't drink, go to the bathroom, sit on the same bus or eat in the same place as white folks. A century later, the black folks still are thinking the way the white folks of that era wanted them to think.  "Let's give them that little slice of apple pie and let them fight over the crumbs."  All the while the white folks sit back and watch with amusement as the black folks will fight and claw and sometimes kill the messenger to get that little sliver taste of pie.  The white folks are enjoying the rest of  the apple pie with their friends and families as they watch this happening. The black folks probably know this in their hearts, but what this white folk was trying to tell those black folks was that they not only have the rest of that apple pie, they've got more pies, Many more pies; Strawberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Key Lime, Rhubarb, Peanut Butter, Coconut Cream, Lemon Meringue, Pecan, etc.  The longer the majority (in this case Southern white folks) can distract the minority with the belief in their struggle to get the one slice of pie, they hope that the minority will never see the truth. There is a lot more pie where that little sliver of a piece came from and everyone is entitled to it. If they know about it.  They just have to know about it.  If only they had listened.

Having climbed certain peaks you'll descend no more, but spread your wings and fly beyond ~Richard Bach

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 104 - The Power of Three

Jula's favorite number was three.  So when Lets Make a Deal came back on TV with host Wayne Brady, she would always pick door number Three when we all watched the last grand prize door selection.  Her birthday is on the third month on the thirtieth day on the ninety-third year.  So one could see why she liked the number three.  I on the other hand would pick door number one as I love the number eleven and like to think I'm number one at something, anything of course that has a positive connotation.  Unfortunately unlike Jula, we don't like the number three.  In our culture three it is commonly said is the number to which bad things happen.

Deaths come in threes, events come in threes.  Last month the catalytic converter went out on the car ($1200-$3000 depending on the genuineness of the parts), the closet filled up with water (called the plumber to tell us for $139 that it was the air conditioning) and the air conditioner needs a new switch to moderate the temperature.  The part is actually covered on the last year of our warranty so we were told we are getting a "deal" to only pay for labor at $200/hour.  [I'm reevaluating my computer science degree, the air conditioning and heating unit division is downstairs in the same building....]

Something else happened last week that we can't explain, the owl stopped coming so we looked in his box.  There was a two and half foot long yellow rat snake that had eaten "something" small and was too big to move.  The chickadees stopped coming so we looked in their nest and there were two dead chicks that had hatched but were left for dead. Again in threes, the owl gone, the snake eating a song bird  (maybe one of the chickadees?) and the chickadees babies left for dead.

Did the owl eat a chickadee? Did the chickadees leave when it saw the owl?  Its hard to believe the owl would have eaten a chickadee because the song birds fly all over the place in front of small hawks that are standing on the fence looking at them like they want to play too.  The baby hawks are too young to be interested in birds with their own flying skills still being navigated. Frogs and lizards are more to their liking. The right thing to do is realize that the circle of life continues and this is part of nature. Death has it place and its a part of nature.  The best part of the number three here is Jesus died at thirty-three and he rose again after three days.

As for basketball officiating, there are two different systems.  One which has the traditional two-person positions Lead and Trail which we first learn and the other more advanced three-person with a Center position added. Once when I arrived to do a high school game as part of a two-person crew, the crew chief was late.  While I was waiting for him to arrive I met with the JV refs who had finished their game. I had asked one of them to stick around as my partner hadn't arrived yet for the Varsity game.  We exchanged introductions and he said that my partner, Jim was not usually late and this was unlike him.  He mentioned that he would be glad to stay for a little while as he was sure Jim was coming.  As my partner Jim arrived they exchanged handshakes and hugs like old friends.  I think the other official was just THANKFUL he didn't have to stay to do another game.  Both of these men were pushing seventy. I told the JV official, "Thanks for staying" and he left.

Jim and I did pregame for the Christian 1A Boys Varsity game. He had mentioned during our pregame that he didn't feel well and this is why he was late.  I told him he looked pale and I asked him if he had eaten?  He said he had so I suggested he go get a powerade at the concession stand.  Maybe his sugar level was low. He got a powerade and sipped at it.  I told him that if anytime during game he didn't feel well to let me know and I'd stop the game and we'd figure it out from there.  As luck would have it at 3:33 left in the second quarter my partner went down.  I stopped the game and we took Jim to the back room which was the cafeteria by day and our dressing room at night.  A woman came back shortly after and announced she was a nurse and saw Jim grabbing his chest.  She called the paramedics and I went out to my car to call my assignor as she had a better handle on the situation with Jim's immediate health in danger.  This way I could get a better handle on a lesser important situation on how to finish this game.

The assignor didn't answer his phone. The President of the Association didn't answer his phone.  The Vice-President of the Association didn't answer his phone. (I found out later they were all out officiating.)  I remembered the JV official and looked his name up in the roster I carried with me in my car.  He said, "BJ I'd love to but I just got out of the shower."  What??? I thought, ok, let me think here.  I went back into the gym.  Both coaches literally begged me to finish this game by myself.  If I was younger and less experienced I would have said yes.  But as a veteran I knew that they always "say" they will be on their best behavior and boys particularly (and men too) are so filled with testosterone that they can't help but be competitive once the whistle had blown.  [Mens Christian Leagues are the worst by the way!] It was a very physical game in the first two quarters, all above the rim and there was NO WAY I could handle this game by myself.  I also knew that if ANYTHING went wrong in the remainder of that game I was liable.  Not happening on my watch - Harvey taught me that!  I sat and waited with my cell phone in hand.

I went back to check on Jim, the ambulance was arriving and he didn't look too good.  It was clear that he was having a heart attack.  As I was at a loss for answers, the JV official that I had called who had just gotten out of the shower, came in through the back door.  I was pleasantly surprised and most of all grateful.  He said that after he hung up the phone his wife asked who that was.  When she heard the story, she said to him, "Are you crazy?  You said what?  You know the right thing to do. Now get a new uniform on and get your butt down there and help your friend Jim out!"  That day the JV's wife was the best "person" on the crew and I was grateful to have her as my "third" partner. 

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened. ~John M. Richardson, Jr.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 103 - From Scratch

How is that we have to buy cake mixes in a box to make a cake when the women that came before us managed to do it with just flour, baking soda or powder, eggs, butter and a few spices?  Some cakes taste better from scratch like pineapple pound cake but others are better from the box like angel food cake.  I guess the magic is in the water.  With water everything seems to become rehydrated and regains its natural state.  Water is the validation, the glue that makes it stick.

We have a term in officiating called scratch.  Scratch is when a school, coach or Athletic Director decides they don't want a particular official to officiate their contests anymore.  In most associations this isn't allowed, or in states like Indiana it's actually the coaches who assign their own contests.  I would say this is a huge conflict of interest and thus the saying by a coach when he travels to another school and feels he/she isn't getting any calls for the night is getting "homered."  In our high school association, coaches were allowed three scratches.  If they chose a fourth scratch, they had to decide which one of the first three wasn't so bad after all.  Each the year the scratches carried over until they changed it.  So in essence, if you were scratched from a school, unless a new coach came, or there was another official worse than you, you were banned for life.

I personally had a problem with this system because like the cake mix in a box, there was no "water" to make it stick, no validation.  I proposed at our local meeting that we write into the next year's contract that scratches must be submitted with 1) a new form in which information is provided to substantiate the scratch and 2) a video tape was supplied.  We then could select a committee of three people to review tapes as needed.  If the Review Committee felt that the coach was valid in his/her argument, then they could be allowed to scratch the official.  The suggestion was voted upon and it remains just as it started an idea still in my head.  You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. This would have protected all the other 159 officials just as it does myself and they seem to be happy allowing coaches to simply scratch an official because they don't like the official or how he/she officiates.  We are the necessary evil so a Coach is NEVER going to like us unless one of two things happen: 1) We are there for at least ten years to build a solid reputation or 2) He/She always wins at home.

I take pride in knowing that I didn't care who won or what venue we were at.  I probably was the most scratched official out of 160 officials.  I was scratched by six coaches. I didn't know this until I was asked to be on the Assignment Committee.  This is the committee that previews the assignments made by the Assignor prior to the assignments being sent out.  We had to cross check the scratches and the assignments, make sure that there were no double bookings and that all the assignments were covered.  This was a great double check for the Assignor which had a hell of a job to do.  I didn't feel too sorry for him however as were paying him $6000 for three and a half months of work.  Not bad.  It was more than we would make in ten years. 

I have a friend who also officiates college and belongs to another high school association.  He tells me he is the most scratched official as well.  He says the coaches scratch him and then request him at the post season playoffs.  One time he asked a coach, "Why do you do that?"  The coach replied, "We know you're fair and we want you to do our away games."  I also once heard a college coach speak at a local high school associations.  She said, "I really don't care who referees my game. You all come and go.  Your calls can cost me my job.  I just want to win so I can keep my job."  So where is the validation in that?  Coaches just want to win, it is the goal within the goal. Period at any cost. WIN. If you recruit, get the kids you want and are  coaching well enough to win, why do the referees have to be your final gatekeeper for a reality check?  I say it all the time, officials do not lose a game for a team.  Only if a team has made 100% of their free throws, field goals and had no fouls what so ever in the entire game, could this be true.  The coaches job is to put his/her team in such a position that an officials calls don't "appear" to have cost him/her a game.  They certainly don't complain if you blew a call that went in their favor!  Never!

In college, the scenario is similar.  Coaches actually vote on new rules each season.  They have always made the rules.  We just implement them.  If they don't like you they scratch you with a simple phone call.  But at least they fill out the post game form that is required for every game to give feedback to the assignor.  They always have a tape ready too.  We have a saying, "The tape doesn't lie."  So in college you ALWAYS wanted to make sure that if you tossed a coach, it was clear on tape what he/she had done to warrant this.  Most coaches get a little out of hand for one technical but aren't stupid enough to get a second.  I like the NCAA rule also that allows a coach to stand after one technical.  They don't have to sit there the rest of the game with an imaginary seat belt that fuels their hate for you.  Its just another call.

Good coaches realize this.  A warranted technical is because a coach mocks the call of an official, accuses an official of cheating or showing partiality, yells at an official, conducts egregious behavior such as throwing a chair or clip board or kicking a chair, and/or says something unsportsmanlike.  If a coach wants to scratch an official because he has to pay the piper or be accountable for his/her actions, then the right thing to do is look into the mirror and to blame nobody other than his/herself.  They may build their teams from scratch and bake their success or failure but they can't have their cake and eat it too.  Each of us have our "roles" to fill. Pass the butter please.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 102 - Helpful Hints from Helluva Kitchen (You thought Heloise?)

Helpful Hints for the Kitchen and home
1.       If you get burnt, immediately cut a potato in half and place the raw part of the potato on the burn.  No blisters!  I promise
2.       Sunburnt?  Cut a piece of Aloe Plant and put on the burn, soooothing.
3.       If you want your potato skins to come right off, take a knife and cut a circle on the outside of the skin before you boil the potatoes.  Rinse off and cool, the skins come right off with an easy tug. This is good for sweet potatoes as you ready them for pie!
4.       Put your Citrus Rinds in the garbage disposal and then after it runs, take them out and discard.  The garbage disposal smells great.
5.       Don’t have color for the Easter eggs this year?  Use beets for red, cumin for orange and red cabbage for blue.  Boil and then put the eggs in the cooled color juice!
6.       Use peroxide once a month to brush your teeth – don’t swallow it, whitens for pennies!
7.       Don’t throw out over ripe bananas or apples.  Make Apple Crisp and Banana Bread.
8.       Don’t throw out vegetables, throw them in a pot with chicken broth and spices.  Soup makes all leftovers last even longer!  Use the bread that’s going stale to dip in the soup.
9.       I can never seem to use cabbage quick enough, slice and sautee in sesame oil and sprinkle sesame seeds on it.  Sounds gross but it’s great!
10.   That drip tray in the ice maker inlet of the front of the refrigerator turning orangish?  Soak it in 100% vinegar for 1.5 hours, scrub with a toothbrush and good as new!
11.   Wash your lint filter from the dryer at least two times a year with soap and water.  Prevent fires they're easier to prevent than to put out or have to pay for the damage they cause.
12. Use newspapers to clean your windows.
13. Got earwigs?  Run a line of dish washing detergent on the door threshold.  Earwigs will disappear.
Now if only I knew how to get rid of the coffee stains on the top of the pot?  Suggestions?

Footnote: As I told you, send your wishes out to the universe and they will be answered, the day after I wrote this blog, the newspaper had an article that said if you use eggshells, you can wipe off the stains off the glass of the coffee pot.  It worked!  

Other footnotes:  Didn't win the photography contest but the selection of photos was a total of 29 different photographers and 73 entries!  The main winner was a photo of a child running down the path between a row of live oaks.  So while I was there I borrowed a young girl and took a photo of her smelling the roses for my entry next year!  Didn't win the scholarship given by the AAUW either.  They sent my photocopy of my license and voter registration back and when I asked them if they could also kindly return my official transcripts that I had to pay to get copies of they said sorry they had thrown them away! Unlike Charlie Sheen, I'm still WINNING!

“When making a fire people like to join you, when cleaning the ashes you are often alone” ~ African Proverb

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 101- Ichiban Posies and the Flowers Frogs

Ichiban Pottery
As relationships go, the longer they are the more we must make a vigilant effort to "work at them."  I remember telling Steve one time that I wished he would pick me some "posies" like he used to. [I just think that is the sweetest thing for a man to do for a woman.  The right thing to do is to keep the romance alive.  Its free and it is a very sweet gesture.]  Well this lead to a questioning of the word posies.  He said, "Those flowers in the yard aren't poooosies."  I emphatically said, "Oh yes they are!" just waiting for the inevitable.  "Ok, I'll bet money on it."  Good he took the bait...."You're on. Ten bucks." I said.

‘Ringel, Ringel, Reih
I went to the internet and read out loud, "Posies.... A flower or bunch of flowers; a bouquet commonly given as a gift." I exclaimed, "Ten Bucks Mister, pay up!"  He had thought that a posy was one type of flower like a rose or a blanket flower for example.  Didn't he ever sing the childhood Mother Goose Rhyme Ring around the Rosies, I wondered?  Ring around the rosies, pocket full of posies, ashes ashes, we all fall down. We joined hands and rotated in a circle while singing the rhyme and sat on the ground still holding hands when the jingle was done.

displaying wildflowers or posies is easy too.  Find an old bowl you are not using that is just lying around the house. Put a square metal lead piece in the bottom of it that allows you to put a single stem in it and place it in the exact place you want.  These are called "flower frogs" or "Kenzan" in Japanese.  Probably cost you $3 total.  This is called an Ichiban floral arrangement which comes from the Japanese word Ikebana. Ikebana means Japanese flower arranging.   Ichiban means superior or number one in Japanese.

See the flower frog in the center (spikes)?

The great thing about the Ichiban clay pots is that the wildflowers will last for a week!  They really allow you to appreciate the beauty of the flower from all angles as it just is a base and unlike a vase, the flowers stand without the support of the sides.  You can pretend to be a professional florist with combinations of roses, red clovers, blanket flowers, allysum, lillies, bachelor buttons and marigolds. 

When I was twelvish, I remember Ty, myself and the younger cousins walking across the stream from Grandpa's front porch.  We walked up the hill through the corn fields and climbed through the barbed wire fence.  This trip took us then through a huge field of wildflowers.  We followed the telephone wires by air and walked through waste high blue cornflowers, red and white clover, and queen anne's lace to name a few.  Sometimes we'd loose the younger cousins and would have to call their name and go retrieve them to hold their hands for the remainder of the trip because they were shorter than the flowers! After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at a pond at the top of the hill.  Ty would take off his clothes and swim in the pond in his underwear.  He would encourage me to do this too.  Oh nooooo. Not for me.  I enjoyed the sun and the flowers that was heaven enough for one day.  Sometimes he would bring fishing poles.  He would catch sunfish and throw them back.  I just put my line in the water and drug the hook around.  The fish knew I didn't know what I was doing and I swear I could hear them laughing at me.

Gobs or Whoopie Pies - Amish Traditional Cookies
We'd spend hours at the pond and then hike all the way back knowing that Grandma would have sandwiches cut in half with a cold glass of koolaid or milk waiting for us.  Not to be out done, she served "Gobs" or Whoopie pies for dessert. In return we gave her a bouquet of  posies which she proudly displayed in a jelly jar vase filled with water on the table while we ate.

The name Ikebana comes from the oldest school that teaches this art called Ikenobō in Kyoto, Japan where a priest lived over 500 years ago.  He was so good at creating Ichiban floral arrangements that other priests would seek him out.  The school got its name from, interestingly enough another body of water, the lake beside which it was built called Ikenobō.  The lake must have had numerous wildflowers around it like the pond that we visited as children.

Making these floral arrangements is inexpensive and fun.  The best part for me is using the flower frogs as they aren't slimy and won't jump out of my hand like a live frog.  But my hand does hold one thing really well...the ten dollars I won on the posies bet.  I bet he wished he had just picked the flowers now, it would have been cheaper for him.  LOL

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.  ~Chinese Proverb

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 100 - For Cupcakes Sake Click here
We had gotten a Groupon for a local Cupcake Bakery that delivers!  That seems to be the biggest fad right now. Bigger and better cupcakes and being delivered is even better.  For $13 (a $27.50 value) you could get a dozen cupcakes.  They had to all be one flavor as they are made to order.   As luck would have it, when I went on to the website of the company, For Cupcakes Sake, the owners were out of town due to a sickness in the family.  To make up for having to wait for our cupcakes, they would allow us to pick two flavors per dozen.  I love hummingbird cupcakes so I chose this for me and for the other half, I chose the chocolate cake with marshmallow icing Smores flavor.  I'm not a big chocolate cake eater with the exception of red velvet cake and I didn't want to eat the entire twelve cupcakes by myself, so the chocolate ones were for Steve. There was one additional hurdle and that was the company didn't deliver to my town.  I sent an e-mail to the company and Loretta, the owner answered with a solution.  We could arrange to meet on her route when she was the closest to my town.

Hilltop Restaurant - Outside
Hilltop Restaurant - Inside
I never even had red velvet cake until I moved to the south.  During the war some foods were rationed so bakers substituted beets for the sweet flavor in cakes and thus the flour turned red.  The chemical reaction between vinegar and buttermilk also produces this red coloring when mixed with the cocoa.  The first time I had red velvet cake was at an old Victorian Home that was renovated into a southern cooking restaurant called the Hilltop Restaurant.  It was an anniversary dinner and we started a tradition of going there every year for our anniversary.  The evening was topped off with the dessert.  The second year we went, they said they weren't serving it anymore.  So the next year we started a new tradition of going to the Fondue Haus for our anniversary.  At least there we could get chocolate for dessert to dip our strawberries, pound cake and bananas in for dessert. 

I don't know what it is with me and cupcakes but it is my dessert of choice.  I have a photo of my dad and I when I was around three or four and he was icing the cupcakes we had baked "together."  Well as "together" as any three year old can bake with her dad.  This has been a treasured photo of mine.  He walked out of my life shortly after that and never cared enough to look back and keep in touch.  So I guess the cupcakes just make me feel a connection that was once there and I can never regain.  Comfort food.

I've eaten a lot of comfort food and the results have been for me to gain weight at a young age.  My mother had called my dad for an unrelated issue to me when I was fourteenish and put me on the phone with him. He asked me if I wanted a book.  I said sure just glad to have ANY kind of acknowledgment from the man I was reminded of every day that I was a spitting image of.  He sent me a book about SEX, complete with four-color photographs.  Mom wasn't too happy about that one. He sent monthly "science kits" he had gotten as a subscription for me. In that same conversation he asked me what my weight was.  I told him about 120 pounds to which he replied, "You must be a fat goat."  I was devastated.  That should have been my clue then that my birth father just wasn't a very nice person let alone a loving parent.  I started crying and just handed the phone to my mother.

After college, for years I sought his attention for unknown reasons.  I moved to California to try to start our relationship over.  He ended up kicking me out.  He was mad because I had used the $300 he gave me to "live off" to pay my car payment because it was the right thing to do.  I had nothing but clothes and my car. Nothing. I had been a struggling college student for Gods Sake. After he told me to pack my things and leave, he went outside to mow the lawn.  I grabbed two garbage bags and started loading my clothes into the plastic bags.  He came in the house, slammed the door and yelled to me, "What the hell are you doing in here?" I was stunned because I was doing exactly what he told me to do.  Putting the clothes into the garbage bags to leave, thinking about where I would go so far away from Pennsylvania. Thinking about if I could make it living out of my car and trying not to cry in front of my Dad.  There would be enough of that after I left.  I was alone in California by myself with only a car and no money and no job.  He said, "I heard you throwing glasses in here."  I said, "Really?  Where are they?  I'm just putting my clothes into the bags."  First of all he couldn't have possibly heard me doing that if he was behind a lawn mower motor running but secondly there weren't any glasses of any kind in my room.

I tried for years to be the "daughter" that a father would be proud of.  I am the "daughter" that ANY father would be proud of but at some point a child grows into an adult that has to come to grips with the feeling of just simply not being wanted by a parent.  It is, in my opinion, the most hurtful pain any person can bear.  It is a cross to bear of a lifetime.  God became my father that day and hasn't let me down like my birth father. EVER.  And just as a cupcake is a small version that satisfies my craving for an entire cake, God, the Father has provided me with a slice of heaven on earth by satisfying my craving for the love of my father.

Loretta from the Cupcake Bakery met up with me and she told me that the Smores cupcake icing was melting so she suggested I put them in the refrigerator as soon as I arrived home.  One was melting so quickly on the way home that the icing was sliding off the top so I tried to lick the icing while driving. I almost ran over a few mailboxes.  I bit into the cake and threw it out the window as I tried to swallow the bit I had taken.  It was hard as brick and dry.  I e-mailed Loretta and she did the right thing as a business owner who knows an opportunity to keep a loyal customer when she sees one and offered to replace the entire dozen cupcakes.

Its too bad I couldn't request a replacement father for the same reasons as I was getting a replacement dozen cupcakes, hard as a brick and so bad I had to throw him out of my life.

A bad father never has a good son ~ Latin Proverb

Happy Easter! Our holy Father in Heaven, thank you for sending your only son so that we all shall live.  And I mean really LIVE!  Put on an Easter Bonnet today and Sing doesn't have to be pretty...just sing!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 99 - Numerology - Do the Math

My dad has his Phd from Standford University in Mathematics.  So math comes easy for me.  I'm a nut about numbers.  One of the things we do as officials is always memorize what the time on the clock is when an event occurs that we would like to discuss in post game with each other. So usually while we are lining up the players for a free throw, we do what we call a "sweep" with our eyes.  We check off the checklist: clock time, shot clock reset, lower block cleared out, defense on the first block, right shooter on the line, benches acting civilized, did the same amount of subs come in to replace the subs going out and is the foul count right?  With the foul count comes the next set of checklists, are we going into one-in-one or double bonus on the next shot for a team?  If so, we communicate this with each other.  I always talked in my pregame that during free throws were our time to make eye contact and signal each other for whatever we need to know as a crew.  When one of the crew isn't consistently making eye contact, I would address this in the locker room at halftime.

The officiating crew is a team and we have to be the best team out there without the luxury to be able to call much needed timeouts.  This is all we get...a few seconds on a free throw. So eye contact and non-verbal communication is essential.  I try not to be too hard on the newer officials who are just learning this important part of their game but I positively let them know I "need" them on my team and this is the way I'm assured they are "with us."  I remember being new too.  Basketball Officiating 101 was my first two years and I was just glad to know which end of the court I was on, the blue teams or the white teams?  I was glad to be able to remember which way to point when the ball went out of bounds.  I honestly think that high school officials mechanic of raising your hand first and then pointing is done so that the younger officials have that extra second to think which way to point.  In college, the out of bound mechanic is an immediate pointing signal without the hand raised.

This is how I can tell if an official of a game I am watching is a high school or college official, by their mechanics.  I remember having a hard time being able to use high school mechanics on Tuesday and then on Wednesday use college mechanics and would always make excuses.  "T" once said to me, "BJ, A good official can do both."  Best thing she ever said to me, I quickly made the adjustment and was able to do it since I considered myself a good official.  Basketball Officiating 201was my next three years and I was able to recognize offenses, defenses when coming up the floor, recognize when coaches had changed from zone to man-to-man and know the hot "shooter" in the game.  We are so focused on staying in our area that this takes awhile to develop as we are not watching the game like a fan because we are in it. Being a part of the game it is hard to have the view of a spectator. Sometimes the fans have the best angle, rare but it does happen on individual plays.

The next two years I developed into Basketball Officiating 301, learning what to say to coaches and what not to say.  One time a coach yelled, "Jesus Christ" so loud the entire gym stopped talking.  You could hear a pin drop. I stopped the game, blew my whistle and went over to him.  He said knowing that what he had just done was the reason for me stopping the game, "What? I was talking to my player."  (Heard that before!)  So I responded, "Coach, I'm going to look in the score book and if Jesus Christ is on your team roster, I believe you."  I went over to the scorekeeper and asked to see the book.  With the entire gym watching I slowly went to the table and asked to see the book.  I put my pointer finger on the book and scanned downward slowly with my finger from the top of the roster to the bottom. Sure enough there wasn't a name Jesus Christ on the list so I gave him a technical foul for swearing: unsportsmanlike conduct.  I said, "Coach, there is no Jesus on your roster."  The fans went crazy and laughed out loud. I could get away with this in AAU but I would never do this in high school and college. For twenty bucks a game I had to have a little fun to make it worth my while.

Most of the time high school and AAU coaches and I had a good rapport.  Particularly on the Womens side.  On the Mens side I had to earn the coaches trust, but after I showed them I knew what I was doing, they seemed to trust me too.  The ones that didn't were intimidated by my knowledge that I knew the rules better than they did.  They would try to intimidate me by calling me honey and sweetie.  They put their arm around my waist as if I was one of their players.  I quickly drew the line and they got the message when I said, Ok Sugar or returned the hug with a heavy hand on their waist line.  The element of surprise is always good for the bully coach.

One time while watching my partners at Disney I was sitting in the stands with my referee shirt on.  A man started talking to me and said he was from New Mexico and how they didn't have ANY female officials out there.  He said he had just been to the Bob Gibbons McDonalds All American Tournament in Raleigh and seen a great female official. She was good, really good. I asked him why he thought she was so good.  He said she had made this one offensive foul call that was such a slight hook that was milliseconds from a knee foul by the defender that it was hard to see but she got it. And more importantly, she got it right. I told him that he had made my day as that was me! I was the only female that had officiated in that tournament. He smiled and shook my hand. It was weird that day as walking away from that conversation back to the locker room, two more fans stopped me and said they had seen me in Raleigh and wanted to tell me what a good job I had done.  Three fans in one ten minute interval with accolades.  A miracle!

My last three years was Basketball Refereeing 401 this is when you've reached the level that you can memorize all the numbers.  A referee shouldn't count with your finger when players substitute that you have ten players on the court. The right thing to do is rely on logic.  There were ten players on the court before the substitution.  Do the math, one player from white comes in and two players from red.  Just wait to put the ball in when one white player and two red players exit the court.  You know what numbers are the star players, who your captains are, how many points each player has and how many fouls each player has and what the time was on the clock when it happened.  You know the numbers of the subs when they leave so that they don't try to sub back in before time runs off the clock. You see the court with a wide lens both vertically and horizontally.  You can prevent fouls by talking to starter players on a free throw line up.  You know exactly what to say to coaches and most of all what NOT to say.  When a player looks at you because he got caught off guard by an illegal screen, you know to say, "Don't look at me, talk to your teammates who didn't call it out for you."

The best statistic in basketball was coined by Coach K.  He said that teams who shoot 80% from the free throw line, win 90% of the time.  So even though basketball is a team sport, the winning teams are made up of individuals who can shoot free throws with an average of 80% or higher.  I used to think it was ridiculous that we ended practice with free throws.  We had to run devils drills if one teammate didn't make it. We also had to shoot and make ten free throws in a row before we could leave practice.  That's where we got good, in practice.  That is also where we get good in officiating, in practicing, which unfortunately needs two teams to practice with. We are learning at practice, real games.  Just as a player doesn't make all ten free throws in a row the first time but with time and effort he can do it, a referee needs time to develop too.  Just like a coach who coaches his first year, he sees things for the first time and learns from his/her mistakes. Sometimes the coaches and fans forget the 1,2,3's of this dilemma and yell at the officials.  We need to remember that all referees are 100% human 100% of the time.

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.  ~Henry C. Link

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 98 - Bird Instinct of Parenting

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
The first time we noticed that there were hawks that kept screaming at us every time we were out in the front yard, we knew something was up.  At first we just thought they were telling the other hawks they had gotten dinner.  Their behavior is to tell the whole world they have "status" because they can kill and can provide for their families.  But this was different.  They were staying in two trees and wouldn't move.  No circling, just standing and squealing.  Putting two and two together, we figured there must be a nest near by.  We did some research on the internet and found that these hawks were Sharp-shinned Hawks and actually stood guard on what they called a white-wash tree.

This was instinct behavior.  Instinct behavior is defined as the inherent inclination of a living organism toward a particular behavior. This was a tree that "marked" their territory by their white droppings.  The nest was in a different tree.  When we looked at the tree that the hawks were on it was clearly the white-washed perching tree.  We walked back into the woods and found the nest.  The hawks were too young to see.  This was so exciting.

Two years ago, we had found a nest of Sharp-shinned Hawks about one mile away.  We happened upon it by accident when we were riding our bikes and I didn't have a camera.  What was neat about it was the two young hawks were old enough to walk out of the nest of twigs and onto the branches.  They were jumping around branch to branch but were still too young to fly the nest entirely.  Last year, I check out the  same tree and there wasn't any nest there.  This week we rode down and found that they were indeed building another nest!

I took my camera down this week to see if I could get a photo without getting dive bombed by the parent hawk which they are known to do.  I don't know what I'd do if they did dive bomb me.  I can't carry a camera, and an umbrella while riding a bike but I thought I'd take my chances and left the umbrella at home.  As I pulled up I saw the Postman standing behind his jeep.  I'm presuming he was taking a leak but I can't be for sure as he quickly came out from behind the jeep and said he was moving one of the trays of mail from the back to the front.  OK I didn't care I wasn't looking for snakes, just looking for hawks. 

Great Crested Flycatcher
Baby titmouse
The twigs are stacked up and the hawks are preparing to lay their eggs.  Soon.  The anticipation is killing me.  I'm so excited that this year the flycatchers are back for their third year, the chickadees are back for their fourth year, the titmice are back for their third year, but we haven't seen the wrens this year.  The wrens have had two sets of eggs.  The first one hatched five new Carolina Wren chicks on our front door and the second nest yielded two eggs in the garage that overheated.  It was a sad day.

Tonight we got our first good photo of the Eastern Screech Owl.  I'm hoping that he/she finds a partner.  I think it's a male as we learned that males gain status by one of four things: color, a song, food and/or a house. Well he's moved in and has a house!  He has color too, he's an absolutely beautiful bright orange.

The whole family event of building the nest, the father feeding the mother as she lays on the eggs and both of the parents taking turns all day long catching bugs and feeding the babies is a miracle to watch. And it's just instinct.  They just know what to do.  I think sometimes that birds have more instincts of love for their offspring than humans. I've had experiences with human parents of young "offspring children" on one Easter Sunday that clearly was something other than instinct.

Carolina Wrens
Easter is approaching and it reminds me of the day I was assigned the Easter Sunday playoff game of 9 year olds at an offsite facility for Disney's AAU.   As we tipped off, the parents of the one team were yelling and telling their kids to "get" the other players of the opposing team.  They were yelling at us and telling us we sucked.  It was so disheartening because I had given up  my Easter Sunday to officiate this game and it really didn't sound like any Christians were in the stands at 9AM in the morning!  I find that parents of the younger kids turn out in bigger numbers but they are also less educated.  So they yell things that give them the label of I-D-Ten-Tee.  Say it out loud..I-D-Ten-Tee.  Spells idiot.  That's our little inside joke we tell each other what we think of that particular fan that is yelling "over-the-back" (no such thing), "three-seconds" (it resets every time the ball hits the rim - they can have a campfire out there with marshmallows as long as they keep rebounding and hitting the rim every three seconds) and "call it both ways ref" when the fouls are 5-5!

4 Baby Titmice
So at halftime I went over to the fans and said, "I appreciate all of you being here to support your children.  I understand your enthusiasm for your kids but do you all realize that today is Easter Sunday?  The things I've heard from you today are not the reason why I have given up my Easter Sunday to officiate, nor is it the way we should teach our children how to act on this holy day."  They were all silent and bowed their heads in shame and shock as I walked into the locker room.

As we came back out, an elderly man who had been sitting up in the top of the bleachers from that section of fans approached us.  He said, "I want to thank you for bringing to our attention that our behavior was not Christian at all.  I'd like to apologize to you.  I have talked to the fans and we have agreed to act in accordance with the holiday. We are very sorry."  I thanked him.  The right thing to do he realized is to model the behavior we want our kids to follow.  They watch and they listen to everything we do.  I can't tell you how many times I've been with them lined up on a free throw ready to bounce the ball and a parent will yell some obnoxious thing and a player will sag his/her shoulders and say, "That's my Dad, I'm so embarrassed."

Screech Owl
The birds instinctively know what to do not to embarrass their babies. They work hard and provide as role models.  They share the tasks of raising their offspring and encourage each baby bird until their first flight.  It is a marvel to watch them and an honor to learn from them.  If only the bird parents could teach the human parents of the young basketball players not to flip a bird or two.

15 Ways to Build Self-Esteem in Our Children
Show your love - for who they are NOT what they do
Spend time with them
Be a POSITIVE Role Model
Encourage Your Child
Listen to Your Child
Show them they are Important
Give positive and accurate feedback
Create a safe and nurturing home
Allow your child to help
Let your child try
Encourage your child to spend time with other children
Appreciate your child's uniqueness
Use language that builds self-esteem
Have REASONABLE expectations of your child
Encourage your child to be a thinker

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 97 - A Good Crazy Laugh

Yesterday I went to the Post Office to send a few pieces of mail.  As I was being waited on and the mail clerk was weighing my package a man walked up beside me, with less than an inch between us and reached IN FRONT OF ME, across the counter to grab a pen.  He asked the mail clerk if he could use the pen.  I thought to myself, obviously he is blind because I'm not a small person!  So I said, "Excuse me" in a tone that conveyed my disdain.  He said, "What, I asked if I could use the pen?" I tried to address his rudeness and tried to educate this poor soul as my mother had educated me.  I said,"You didn't even say excuse me and you reached in front of me while I'm trying to finish a business transaction involving money."  He reached across me AGAIN and put the pen back as I stepped back in disbelief. He said, "Lets do this again. Excuse me, is that your pen?" To which I replied, "No."  "May I use it please?"  I said, "Sure" and smiled.  I was satisfied that he knew the right way to intrude on a strangers personal space if there is such a "right" way. 

This happens all the time with men.  Women don't do this to me, people of color in general don't do this to me, so what is it with men who feel so superior that they don't even acknowledge a woman's existence? As I left I heard him say to the clerk as he approached the counter, "Excuse me" in a mocking tone.  To which the cashier replied, "Excuse me" in a likewise mocking tone so I went back and I said to the man, "Do you know what the real issue is here?"  He just looked at me.  I said, "My mother raised me a little better."  He answered mockingly. "GOOD,  good for you" in a mocking tone once again and gave me the thumbs up signal. He wasn't even smart enough to realize it was his mother I was insulting in a good southern way.  Pretty good for a Yankee.  He was being patronizing at this point so I kept my cool and left hoping to have made my point. The truth is the right thing to do is realize you can't shame the shameless.  But I had tried in vain.

And who do I blame this on?  Women.  Particularly Mothers.  When Jula and Felipe came they would just walk as if they were in their own little world.  I had to explain to them the customs of proper etiquette and respect.  Felipe quickly picked up Yes Maam and No Sir.  Jula never did.  Jula however did pick up on walking in front of shoppers looking at items on the shelves in aisles of stores. (Felipe, from the land who invented the word "PARTY" commented to me America has so many silent rules.  Jula was familiar with rules as Germany has many more than ours.)  My mom taught me to say, "Excuse me." when passing in front of shoppers doing just this.  I have taught my sons to be polite and say yes Mam and No sir.  I've taught them to say Yes and No instead of yeah and nah.  Quite honestly I can't hear the difference between yeah and nah when the teenagers answer in slang.

We continued on our errands and went to the Lowes Store next to pick up sunflower seeds for the birds.  I was still a little distraught over this lack of manners.  So when I approached the back entrance there was a lady in line waiting to pay for her bottled water.  I asked her if I could ask her a question and explained what had just happened to me.  "What would you do if this happened to you?"  She said, "I would say 'Excuse Me'" in the exact same tone I had said to this rude dude.  I felt validated.  I needed that.  Is it just me I think sometimes or is the world filled with people who just don't give a damn about anyone else but themselves?  I see it in  ALL ages.  This man was over sixty, the classmates who are under twenty are like this and the twenty or thirty something people I see do it too.

I hugged her and we picked up our forty pound bag of bird seed and three packets of seeds.  At the counter we were telling the cashier what had happened.  She said she has seen people who have fought over trays of flowers so badly that they pulled so hard the trays ripped in half! She said, "It doesn't surprise me as you wouldn't believe all the things I've seen here in this store.  People are just crazy!"  I try to figure out why.  Is it due to all the different cultures we have living in Florida?  Is it because parents have stopped parenting?  Is it because kids are raising kids?  I just don't understand when people are rude or mean to others due to nothing more than their own false sense of self-worth.  I felt weird when we left the store and by the time we got  to the car and put the seeds in it, I was having a laughing fit!

Steve was laughing too because laughing is contagious.  When you hear someone else laughing uncontrollably, you start to giggle, then the giggle turns into an out right roar of a laugh.  I tried to mutter the words, "Here the cashier was telling us people are crazy as I stand there paying for the seeds with a tiara on my head!"  We roared some more, then we realized steve's zipper to his shorts was down!  We imagined what she must have been thinking and we kept laughing.  I laughed so hard I bent over and my tiara fell off.  That made us laugh even harder.  We're so craaaazzzzzyy!  But here's the difference.  The people who say they are crazy really aren't.  Its the people who really don't know they are that we need to watch out for.  Like the man at the Post Office. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 96 - The Line of Entitlement - Forfeit

I have a tendency to be too nice.  This is my nature but there always comes a point when people cross the line if they are that kind of user.  Through the years, family has been the biggest  perpetrator.  While trying to cope with my divorce, I sought therapy.  This is the right thing to do when you need a perspective that is totally objective.  It also helps when emotions are riding high.  In diversity training we had been shown a balloon that had a black line drawn around it's circumference in the horizontal middle.  The top half represented Logic and the bottom half represented Emotion in the average brain. They gave us a point of reference with this balloon as they squeezed the top.  This caused all the air to go below the line into the emotion half.  This we were taught, was the way our brain reacts to situations that are highly emotional, we literally squeeze the logic out of our thinking.

So knowing that my emotions were not in balance with my logic, the therapy helped tremendously.  I had a hard time articulating why I felt the need after twenty years to get a divorce to people who knew me.  Fran, my therapist helped me.  She said it is sort of like asking your partner if you can go to Disney World for vacation this year.  The partner says, "No, we don't have the money."  The second year comes and you ask your partner again to go to Disney World and they answer, "No, I don't have enough time at work."  The third year comes and you ask your partner again and they answer, "No, there are too many things to do around the house this year.  So the fourth year, you save all your money and make plans and announce to your partner that you are going to Disney World to which they respond, "Can I come?"

That was it.  That was EXACTLY how I felt.  She has also helped me articulate other areas of emotional pain caused by my family.  I have spoiled my children by giving them opportunities to make money.  Remember when our parents told us to do it and we just had to do it because they said to do it? We always second guess ourselves but I thought I was teaching them how to "earn" their allowance. I also showed them ways to earn money on their own.  Trying to teach them to fish.  I'm certainly not Jesus and there is no Feast of Cana Bank to which I deposit my money.  My children however periodically stop talking to me (teenagers) when I tell them what they don't want to hear.  The biggest word that causes this is the word "No."  I tell Fran how hurtful this is and she as usual comes up with the right words to articulate my feelings so that they are more logical to me.  BJ, she says, "Your kindness is not a valid reason for their sense of entitlement."  That's it again. Exactly.  Because we are kind over and over again, does NOT give another human ANY reason to feel ENTITLED to our money.  The right thing to do is to draw the line, state that you want a relationship free of the money strings attached. 

I tried to warn my own Mother of this about my children and one year begged her not to send my kids money in their traditional Christmas Card.   She didn't respond.  She was silent during my request.  As Christmas approached, they called and gave her their time.  "We love you Grandma." they exclaimed. The kids told me later that she had indeed sent them money. I called my Mom and told her that this was not the way friends have relationships let alone mothers and daughters. I was drawing the line.  "Mom, in the future, if I ask you to do or not to do something as it relates to my boys, please either honor my request or tell me you are outright NOT going to do what I've requested.  You knew at the time of my request that you  were going to send them the money and did it without telling me."  And then she wondered why they haven't talked to her until Christmas time or Birthday time again. So I have been in situations where both my kids and my Mother have been dishonest with me by "omission of the truth." 

The entitlement lines have been drawn and I have stood my ground on these occasions.  Kindness and trust are now given in moderation to the new people I meet.  If there is a situation that sheds a light that someone has crossed the line now, I have the hard conversation with them.  I find it is easier than the whole "avoidance" issue and it is the right thing to do.  Most of the time they become aware immediately that I'm no push over and make the adjustment.  In other times they leave, which must mean that they weren't in my life for the right reasons to start.

I have a classmate, Robert, that has a story similar to mine with different specifics.  He was 16, living in a hotel room with his mother and brother.  His father shot himself and committed suicide.  Robert left the room and lived on the streets for two years, got his GED, joined the Army and is now married with kids and a great job. His oldest is a teenager now and giving him similar "silent treatments."  He too has drawn the line of entitlement with his oldest daughter.  Robert also won the Outstanding Achievement Award in his field at the awards ceremony last week. After the ceremony, he asked me if I would mind answering a few questions about my divorce.

I told him the Readers Digest version of my story.  I prefaced it with I believe it is a 50/50 reason as to why our marriage didn't work. He listened intently and said, "BJ, for a marriage to work, it takes 50/50.  I don't agree with your assessment that you were 50% at fault.  After hearing what you said, you gave your 50% and then some.  Then of the 50% that was not yours to give, you are beating yourself up over the 10% of ending the pain.  This is unreasonable."  This was an epiphany.  The balloon of emotional guilt had clouded my logic and there it was in numerical format.  I had drawn the line FINALLY after 90% of kindness that came with a feeling of "entitlement" from my life partner.  It just simply wasn't the life I could continue living.  I wasn't keeping score but if I had, I would have called the game a forfeit.  A referee can deem the game a forfeit when the game becomes a travesty. He had nailed it.  I had some how under extreme emotional duress, recognized this was not a true partnership anymore and was in a sense a travesty.

One of the reasons for the failure of feminism to dislodge deeply held perceptions of male and female behavior was its insistence that women were victims, and men powerful patriarchs, which made a travesty of ordinary people's experience of the mutual interdependence of men and women.  ~Rosalind Coward