Because You Gotta Have Faith

I didn’t get a job that I interviewed (twice) for last week.  I’m really disappointed.  I really wanted that job and I was really optimistic about it after my interviews.  I texted my mother to tell her I didn’t get it, because I knew she was wondering.  She called me back to tell me, “don’t despair over it, honey. God has a job for you.”  She proceeded to tell me how I just have to be faithful and trust that God has the job for me.  Oh and that I should be going to church (like there’s a comfortable church that would have me) and that I should be giving 10% of the money I can’t afford to spare to that church, because apparently, even though I was taught growing up, that God wants to bless me financially and that He can do anything, the only limit to that awesome, unlimited power is His ability to bless me financially without provocation.  Apparently, that’s just not possible.

For the record, I do not believe that.  I believe wholeheartedly that God can and will bless me.  I believe wholeheartedly that God does have a job for me.  And I believe He will provide for me.  I’m just not 100% convinced He will provide for me in a way that I feel good about.  I don’t believe for a minute that I will be homeless.  I know that I have friends and family who will take me in if push comes to shove.  I know that I will not have to be the troll under the bridge (and by the way, BayAarea?  Count them…  The bridges, not the trolls.)  I’m even relatively confident that I will find a job that will prevent my utter financial collapse, before I have to move out of my apartment.

It’s just that, well, I’ve been through a lot.  I’ve made considerable efforts toward that job.  I’ve applied for things that I didn’t want to do, knowing that I was surely qualified.  I’ve applied for jobs as file clerks.  I’ve applied for jobs as grocery store Cashiers.  I’ve applied to staffing agencies which, in the past, were completely reliable to get me working, even if it wasn’t for enough money.  I’ve applied to COUNTLESS jobs that are exactly in my wheel house, right up my alley, catered to my unique set of qualifications.  I’ve been ignored and turned down at nearly every turn.  I’ve had a handful of telephone interviews, each of which went wonderfully and ended with assurances that I would be called in for face to face interviews, only to have the person never contact me again.  I’ve had an even smaller handful of face to face interviews, each of which ended with me feeling utterly confident about my chances, even if I wasn’t 100% sure it was the best fit for me.

And then last week happened.  I had two interviews, first with the hiring manager, then with his manager, for a job that was perfect for me.  Possibly a little beneath my abilities, but something I could build on, with a company at which I could confidently build a reliable career, lots of opportunities for advancement.  I was told repeatedly that there was no doubt I was qualified for the job.  No question that I would be able to fulfill the responsibilities of the role with ease.  I was told that I was excellently qualified…  and that, in truth, that was the only thing that might work against me.  I’m “overqualified”.  I’ve heard it more times than I can count.  I’m too qualified for a Facilities Coordinator position.  And you know what?  That’s true.  I am.  The problem is, I’m not quite qualified for the next step up.  I’m ready to take that next step, but nobody wants to hire me for that step, because I’m missing a few key components that I ought to have.  I get that.  I understand it, and that’s why I’m willing to start in a Coordinator position, so I can get my foot in a door, and work my way up to what I’m really ready for.  But if everybody thinks I’m “overqualified” and doesn’t want to hire me for that reason, what the hell am I supposed to do?

My mother went on and on about how God has a plan and there’s a job out there just for me, and I shouldn’t worry because it’ll happen.  The fact is, I’ve been hearing those messages my whole life.  I’ve been taught not to speak negatively because “words have power”.  So I don’t.  I don’t tell my friends how I’m running out of money, and I’m scared that I can’t afford to continue to live in my apartment and how if I don’t find a job soon, I might  have to move out of state and live with one family member or another, who doesn’t accept my sexual orientation and who doesn’t want to (or can’t afford to) support me, not that they should have to, and that I can’t even make any assurances to anyone that I will work and pay my own expenses while living with them, because if I can’t even get a fucking grocery store cashier job, what can I possibly hope to expect?

I get it.  You don’t walk around moping and spilling your guts to anyone and everyone who will listen about how horrible your situation is and how dire things are and how scared you are because there is NO livable solution that involves moving away, because you don’t want to be spewing all that negativity into the ether, or the universe, or whatever you believe in, because again, apparently, God can only bless you and provide for your needs, if you’re speaking positively about it, because God’s will and power is inhibited by negativity…  apparently.  (Except it’s not.)  The problem is, if you never tell anyone the truth of your situation, then no one knows you need help.  No one, who might be inclined to offer assistance if they know you need it, can do so, because they don’t know you need it.

Thinking strictly about my current financial obligations I have about a month and a half to two months worth of money left, assuming I’m very careful and don’t spend any more than I must.  That does not account for giving my fabulous landlady 30 days notice if I have to move out, and it does not account for moving expenses if I have to move away and it does not account for having money in the bank when I get wherever I’m going, because I can’t face the idea of moving and I’m holding out hope for something to come together at the last minute and save me from that devastation of having to move.  (Honestly, I’d rather die.)

But at some point, you have to speak the truth.  You have to tell someone what your circumstances are so that people understand what you’re dealing with.  Is it really necessary to give the person a sermon about faith and positivity in that moment?  Can’t we just let the person vent their frustrations and understand, sympathize, without making them feel guilty for “not being faithful”?

One Non-Parent’s Opinion on Child Rearing

“Why do you have to act like that?” the woman asked her young child, anger and disdain dripping from her tongue.

This was the latest in a long stream of spewed venomous words that had me checking the transit app for a different route home just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it.

“Stop pushing her!” the woman had yelled so loudly, as soon as she and her three kinds were on the bus, that it startled me from my reading and made me jump.

“Stop whining,”  She snapped moments later, “I don’t want to hear all that!”

I don’t want to hear all the yelling, I thought to myself as I turned the volume on my phone up to what I had hoped would be deafening enough levels to drown it out. It didn’t work.

Finally she said it, “Why do you have to act like that?”

And I thought the only answer that made any sense: “Because you don’t love her!”

——

I have a friend with a six-year-old son.  I hear her yelling at him all the time.  The boy is just being a boy.  More importantly, he’s being a boy in a room full of adults.  He’s being a boy, in a room full of adults, who is trying to get noticed.  Because isn’t that what little kids want?  To be noticed?  Paid attention to?  Acknowledged and validated?  Isn’t that what everyone wants?  This little boy, isn’t trying to be bad.  He isn’t trying to be destructive.  He isn’t trying to be a brat.  He’s trying to fit in, to belong, to be part of the group, even though he can’t fully assimilate with the adult crowd.  But instead of trying to understand those things, instead of trying to acknowledge his needs, she yells at him to stop whatever it is he is doing, and when he looks at her with puzzled and hurt eyes, she gets indignant that he “just keeps behaving this way”.

——

My whole life I’ve been amazed when I’ve been out in public and kids have been asking for their parents’ attention and the parents ignore them.

“Mama!”

No answer.

“Mama!”

No answer.

“Mama!”

No answer.

“MAMA!”

No answer, but the objective observer can see the parent’s patience wearing thin.

“MAMA!!  MAMA!!”

“WHAT!?!?” the angry parent yells at the child.

By now, whatever the child wanted seems trivial and unimportant to the parent, compared to the annoyance she feels at the child’s persistent demand for her attention.  Because I generally observe these behaviors out and about, the child is usually asking the parent “Can I have this?” or something like it, to which the parent angrily answers “No!  Put that down!  Stop touching things!”

——

I want to be clear here.  Dad’s are just as guilty of these behaviors.  I’m not deliberately singling out mothers.  It’s just that my friend is a woman.  The parent on the bus today was a woman.  And misogynistic as it may be, it’s usually mother’s that are out doing the shopping with their children.  These are the examples I’ve observed.

—–

I understand.  I know it’s hard being a parent, especially if you’re doing it alone (though my friend isn’t).  I know it’s a thankless and never-ending job with no breaks and no vacations.  I know it can be tiresome.  But being a parent is also a job with no excuses.  You can’t take a day and just slack off.  You can’t put off being a parent until later while you relax and surf the internet and ignore the job.  Children are alive 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that means that parents are parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Every interaction a parent has with a child is a moment in that child’s personal development.  Every one!  Each experience builds on the last.  While a parent might say, “He’s just working my last nerve, today.  He just needs to shut up!”  The child is thinkingall she does is yell at me.  I just want her to pay attention to me and love me.  Maybe this will get her to pay attention.

In my experience, children are far more capable of reason, than we give them credit for.  No, they’re not as advanced as we are.  We can’t explain every dynamic of a situation to a child and expect them to understand, agree and comply, but we can tell them what is expected of them in simple terms, for finite periods of time, and expect them to comply fairly closely.  We can, in small bursts, give them specific information about what we want from them in a situation and expect them to do as they’re told, even if they don’t understand why.  (And by the way, we can tell them why, even when we know it won’t make sense to them, because again, every interaction is a moment in that child’s human development.  Over time, it will come together.  They will begin to understand.)

—–

It’s raining buckets today.  When this woman and her three children boarded the bus at the train station, they had gone a long way out from under cover to get to the door of the bus.  Of course the offending child wanted to get on the bus and out of the rain, as quickly as possible.  Maybe the child shouldn’t have been pushing and maybe the mother should have addressed that, but there was no need to use the tone she used with the child and make the child feel unloved and humiliated.  There was no reason to attract the attention of everyone on the bus while she “reprimanded” her child.

My friend’s young son does not desire to misbehave, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it.  And while some of his behaviors are inappropriate and need to be brought to his attention and corrected, it’s not necessary to shout his name, in a room full of adults he loves, and yell at him to stop doing something.  It would be just as easy to say his name in a stern but loving tone and direct him to come to her before telling him why what he was doing was not okay and that he needs to stop.  Even if it happens again, the same tactic can be used before informing the child of the consequences of his actions if he persists.

And that parent and child in the store?  Gosh, wouldn’t everyone involved, including the innocent bystander, have been happier and better served if the parent was paying enough attention to the child to respond the first time he called out (and really, in a public place, shouldn’t a parent have one eye and one ear on their young child at all times?)

So often, I’ve observed parents getting angry at their children for behaviors that have persisted for too long, when the parent did not say a word to the child when the behavior began.  If the child wasn’t told from the start that the behavior was unacceptable, how was he to know?  At that point, really, isn’t the bad behavior the parent’s fault and not the child’s?  I think so.

—–

What’s the point of all this?

I know from first hand experience the damage that can come from a parent that is too self involved to give their children the time and attention they need, and the fact is, children need a lot of time and attention.  But you see, when a person makes a decision to be a parent, whether it’s by planning to have children, adoption, or choosing not to give up the child that was “an accident”, they are also making a commitment to that child to help the child become the best human being they can be and in order to do that, the parent must be the best parent they can be.  And that will never include ignoring a child when they need the parent’s attention, or yelling at the child for no good reason (and by my estimation, the only good reason is when their safety is in imminent danger and the parent needs to get the child’s immediate attention, or when the child has belligerently disregarded the parent’s direct orders and no other means of communication will get through.)

Children often need discipline, but that discipline can and should be administered with love and compassion, not anger and impatience.

There.  I think I’ve finished with the soap box if someone else would like to use it…

Probably Not So Popular Opinion

I usually look forward to Fridays here on ye old blog.  Well let’s not kid ourselves.  I look forward to Fridays in general and I know I’m not alone in that.  Fridays are meant to be wind down days.  If you can work from home you probably do (I, sadly, do not have that luxury).  Certainly you work with less vim and vigor than you probably do the rest of the week.

I have been looking forward to Fridays here on the blog lately though, because that’s when Write on Edge posts the link-up for the Red Writing Hood prompts that I’ve been participating in lately.  It is not my intention to be bragging (so if it sounds that way, I’m sorry) when I say that I usually bust those short fiction pieces out in the course of an hour or so.  The hard part with those prompts isn’t writing the pieces, it’s deciding what I’m going to write about.  Sometimes the prompts seem so vague and indecipherable.  I usually figure out something eventually though.  Most of the time I just have to kick my literal thinking mind out of the way and let it be a little more – well, vague.

This week though, that just didn’t work out.  This week’s prompt goes something like this:

This week we’d like you to stir up some conflict, using the following quote as inspiration.

“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

Well…  Not “something like” that.  That’s a cut and paste, so it goes exactly like that.  Only the problem is I’m not sure if I truly understand the quote, and what I think I understand of it, I do not agree with.

Honestly, the quote seems to be self-contradictory.

I do not believe in violence, period.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  I do not believe in violence.

I also do not really see a connection between “be violent, if there is violence in your heart” and a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”  How these two things even relate to each other, I do not know.

When I read the quote though, the first thing that comes to mind is some of the recent political protest activity that has happened around this here country of ours.  Thinking specifically of the “occupy” protests or, going back a little further, the Oscar Grant riots that happened here in Oakland a while back.  Things that were supposed to be “peaceful” but turn violent without much provocation.  Things that I heard lots of people argue in favor of, under the guise that “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”  Sounds like a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence” to me.

Only we aren’t impotent.  We can do something.  There are steps we can take that don’t involve breaking laws and destroying public or private property.  There are ways we can get our point across without belligerently disobeying the police.

Angry does not have to mean violent.  It does not have to mean disruptive.  It does not have to be destructive.

Impotence is laziness.

Impotence is an excuse.

If anything we tend to use violence, not nonviolence, as the cover for impotence.

Your Gay Friend Doesn’t Speak For Me

A few months ago, a friend of mine, whom I know not to be racist or homophobic or otherwise filled with hate posted a comment on Facebook to which I took offense:

The cars with the reindeer decorations are gay. I have seen 2 today

I replied by saying that I didn’t realize cars could be gay, to which she said this one was.  I said, “Dislike” since Facebook hasn’t been kind enough to provide an “I don’t approve of this” button – yet.

A friend of her’s, someone she knows face to face (I’ve only known her through on-line interactions) responded and said that there’s nothing wrong with saying “gay”.  I agree, and I said so before adding, “it’s not OK to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory statement.”  He provided a nasty, spiteful comment that doesn’t bear repeating and that really demonstrated to me that there’s still a long way to go, even in the realm of gay’s bashing each other.  And I opted to see my way out of that conversation.  The last thing I saw before “hiding” that “story” from my timeline was a statement from my friend who said that she meant no harm by it, that she would never want to hurt me and that there was no “cause for ‘ugliness'” as a result of her comment.  She said that her gay friends have “given me permission” to make gay jokes.

The other day, after a much too long absence from her blog, she talked about “Me and my bestest queer* are going to…”  The asterisk pointed to a footnote that read, “*He allows me to call him the queer so it’s fine.”  One has to question:  Why was it necessary to point out his permission, if “it’s fine.”  Clearly my friend is aware of the potential for offense at the comment.

First, let me say that I am not calling this friend out, personally.  This is a commentary on society, which uses these two relatively recent events as examples of the issue I’m discussiong.  I’ve made a point of not naming her and I’m pretty sure she’ll be the only one who knows who I’m talking about, so let me also say that she is the only one who could out herself if she chooses to comment on this post in a way that will make it clear that she’s the one I mean…

Second, let me say that I know my friend is not a homophobe and that she does not personally harbor any ill will or negative feelings about me, or the gay community as a whole.  On the contrary, she loves us.

Third, let me say that I don’t, personally, take particular offense at the use of the word “queer”.  Webster’s dictionary defines the word queer as:  Different from the normal or expected : strange.  So, maybe I should take offense at the word, but I don’t.  Just like I don’t take offense at the word gay.  Personally, I am gay, and that’s not a bad thing.  I am not queer, because there’s nothing different or strange about me.  However, when those words are used to describe anything or anyone with a derogatory connotation involved, then those words are offensive to me.  And they ought to be offensive to you, too!

So here’s the thing.  In discussing this friend of mine and her “bestest queer” (whom she revealed to me, in a separate communication, that she refers to as “the queer”) she can call him whatever she wants in private conversation between the two of them.  If he has no problem with her referring to him as “the queer”, than more power to them.  If he doesn’t feel that saying something which she clearly doesn’t like “is gay” is a derogatory use of the word, and she wants to say it to him; more power to them.  But just because the two of them don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, doesn’t mean the whole world agrees with them.  It doesn’t even mean most of the world agrees with them.  And I’ve got news for the two of them:  It doesn’t even mean that the majority of that particular community agrees with them.

So, okay.  The two of them are having a private conversation and she wants to tell her friend that cars with reindeer decorations on them are gay, and he thinks it’s funny, but they happen to be having this conversation in the middle of a restaurant and other people hear them.  That is not a private conversation and instead of making a funny joke, they’ve just utilized hate speech.  To the people in that restaurant, they’re not two people having a joke, they’re a couple of homophobes (or at the very least, very insensitive people), using a perfectly valid word that describes a perfectly valid portion of our society and comparing them to something that is unwanted and negative.  You can make the argument that “it’s a private conversation between the two of them” if you want, but it’s not.  It’s just not.  (Certainly Facebook isn’t.)    And just like that (*snaps fingers*) It’s not “okay, because my gay friend gave me his permission.”  Your gay friend doesn’t speak for me.

But let’s take this just a little bit further.  Let’s say my friend and her “bestest queer” agree that it’s not okay to use this language in public, but they are sitting around in the “bestest queer’s” living room using gay slurs (in a “humorous way”) and making jokes in which the term gay is used in a derogatory manner and they both think it’s funny and they’re completely at ease with it.  How long is it going to be before one of them slips in public and makes one of those jokes where other people can hear (or read) them?  When you allow yourself to think of something as being okay in private, before long you start thinking it’s okay in public, too.  Before long you lose your perspective and you stop censoring yourself when it’s appropriate to do so.

Even worse!  Suppose my friend and her “bestest queer” think I’m crazy and there’s just no way they would slip up in public and so it’s okay to make there jokes in private, just between the two of them.  This friend of mine has a young son; a toddler.  If she and her “bestest queer” sit around her house behaving this way, not only are they losing their own perspective of what’s appropriate, but they’re setting the example for her son that it’s the proper way to behave, or even worse teaching him that there really is something wrong with being gay, teaching him to judge, hate or otherwise criticize homosexuality, and if he happens to be gay, there’s a good chance that he could feel shame and fear of telling his parents because it’s been portrayed as something to be made fun of.

Outsiders do not get “inside jokes”.  The people around you can not read your mind.  The only thing people can go by, in understanding your beliefs and developing a sense of who you are, is your words.  It is necessary, therefore, that you use a sense of good judgement in determining how you use certain terms in modern society.

A person can make the argument until he is blue in the face that he doesn’t mean any harm with the use of certain words, but the bottom line is, when you use a term, like say, “gay”, in a context in which that term does not fit by definition, like say, “cars with reindeer decorations are gay”, one can only go by what they hear (or read).  Webster’s dictionary defines “gay” as:  1. Merry.  2. Bright and lively, especially in color.  3.  Inclined toward social pleasures.  4.  Homosexual.  — n. A homosexual.  I don’t think cars are capable of either emotion or sexual identity/behavior, therefore, I can only assume the statement is a derogatory statement which should not be made.

The bottom line is this:  No matter what is in your heart, when you make a statement that has a negative context and you use a term that describes a particular section of society (particularly one that is already persecuted) to convey that negative context, you are, in fact making a statement of hate.

And it should. not. be. done.

Rides and Monkey Poop

“I’m in the process of getting over myself,” I told the small band of do-gooders sitting around me.

It was my weekly meeting of advisors for my Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) program and we were discussing deployment of our website.  This website isn’t a new idea, nor is it a new product; it’s just something that hasn’t been in our control and hasn’t been properly maintained

Years ago, I asked for access to the site so I could make sure the data relevant to my buildings was kept current.  I was told I would have it and then the matter died there with no fulfillment or follow through.  The site remained out of date and the person whose job it was to maintain it, the person who, coincidentally enough holds the title of “systems administrator”, couldn’t be bothered to keep up with it and wouldn’t post the updated information in a timely manner.  No one seemed to care about this, besides me… and my 230 “clients” who utilize the information that was chronically out of date.

My little band of helpers and I started looking for another way to make this information available.  My company has its own “Facebook” type site on the intranet and we set up a group for the BERT program, but the information we were discussing, that needed to be readily available and easy to find, would get lost on that site as newer items were added and pushed that information further down the page.  Not everyone on my council is as jaded as I am.  Some of them still hold the mistaken belief that things can be done properly around here.  They wanted me to ask for access again.  I explained to them that I had done so more than once and that the end result is always run-around and disappointment and it’s reached a point where no one wants to listen to me about it any longer.  The perception is that I’m the rabble-rouser, troublemaker and that the Systems Administrator is doing nothing wrong.  So some of the more optimistic participants of the group took it upon themselves to contact my boss’s boss on my behalf and request the access for me.

Somewhat to my surprise, no one got upset that it was requested.  No one came down on me for stirring things up, or for sicking my “underlings” on them.  A week or so later, I got a simple e-mail with a user name and password and a link to the administrative portion of the site, ironically hosted on WordPress.

On closer examination, however, I discovered that the site I had been given access to was an entirely new site.  The old site had not been on WordPress and the decision had been made to move everything over for easy of use.  As I perused the information that was available, I discovered that none of the properties that I work with were included in the site.  No pages even existed for my properties.  Nearly a week later, I got an e-mail from the Systems Administrator asking me to let him know when I had time to talk (on the phone) so he could show me how I could create the pages.

I discussed this with my manager and the conclusion that we agreed on (shocking, I know) was that it is the Systems Administrator’s job to build the site; the only thing I had ever wanted was the ability to keep the downloadable documents up to date.  My manager sent an e-mail to the Systems Administrator and CC’d me asking him to create the pages for our buildings so that I could update the documentation.  His response?  “The pages are created, Kevin just needs to copy and paste them from the other buildings.”  My manager didn’t respond and no additional action was taken until a couple of days ago when I sent him my own e-mail and copied my boss saying, “Can you tell me when the pages for my buildings will be created so that I can add the documents to them?”  His response, once again, was to tell me to let him know when I was available so he could tell me how I could create them.

Now, rationally speaking, I realize that it’s not going to be all that difficult for me create the pages and customize them to my buildings.  I realize that it will get the job done more quickly and my cohorts and I can get on with our project.  Ultimately, I understand that it’s the thing to do.  It makes more sense, I suppose, at least to most people, and it would be a lot easier on me, just to go ahead and do the work and get on with my life.  I get that… Really.

But the problem is, I can’t bring myself to do it, at least not yet.  I have such an egalitarian perspective on life that it stops me being able to shrug my shoulders and go on with the work.  I believe so strongly in right and wrong, fair play, that it hurts me to do something that I feel violates that sense.  I see it as a much bigger picture than just me getting my website built.  Here is a person who doesn’t do his job and pushes it off on other people.  A person whose customer service (and we are his customers) sucks.  He makes no effort to understand his customers’ problems, he doesn’t communicate his answers clearly and he doesn’t do what’s asked of him, by the customers he serves, in anything like a timely manner. 

And no one does anything about it!!!

Something needs to be done, and of course I realize, I’m not the one to do it.  No one will listen to me; I’m only one man.  Only then the thought comes to mind, “Martin Luther King, Jr. was only one man.”  Except, I guess he wasn’t only one man once he actually accomplished something.  He was a leader of many men and women who believed in his cause and followed his example.  Something I’m not going to be able to do here and in this situation.

I have yet to convince myself that my creating these web pages isn’t an endorsement of this persons behavior, and while this is a simple and small thing for me to do and only a small part of his job, it literally makes me ill and angry to consider doing it for him.  I mean, literally, I can feel tears burning behind my eyes just thinking about it.

How do I make this rational knowledge of simplifying my own existence translate into a psychological peace with performing the act?  I do not know!  Because it’s not fair!

K’s father has a saying, “A fair is a place you go to ride the rides and step in monkey poop.”  (Actually most of his dad-isms involved poop in one way or another.)

I wish I could figure out how to reconcile the knowledge of what has to be with my reality of its wrongness…

I’m still in the process of getting over myself.

Sopapillas and Pita Bread

I was going to write a riveting, brilliant, startling revelation of a post, today, about my improved emotional well-being and something that I’ve been giving a lot of though to recently.  It was going to be a amazing and you were going to love it.

But now I’m just pissed off and it’s all your fault.  Yours and yours and…  well, not yours.  You didn’t do it.

It’s all this bullshit I’m seeing everywhere I turn about the bills before the house and congress about censorship of the internet.  I’m just sick of it.

No!  You know what I’m sick of?  I’m sick of vigilante activism.  That’s what I’m sick of.  Occupy this.  Black out that.  Come on!  You want to educate people, then educate people, but this is ridiculous.

Last night I watched a really weird LGBT movie called “The Lost Coast”.  The movie was strange, but it had some really good moments in it.  Early on one of the characters picks up a photograph in another characters apartment and says, “Is this the lost coast?”  I didn’t even know the lost coast was a real place.  (Turns out it’s somewhere north of where I live, here in California.)  I did what I always do when I don’t know something.  I Googled it.  This was last night; about 9:00.  The first result, as is so often the case, was Wikipedia.  So I clicked on the link and the page loaded, and then just as I was starting to read about the lost coast, the screen went black and an annoying message popped up, whining at me about internet censorship and “Imagine a World
Without Free Knowledge”.  There was no way to acknowledge the message and move on.  Just, “nah-neh-nah-neh-nah-nah.  You can’t read my pages.”  Last night.  It annoyed me, but I found what I wanted to know elsewhere.

Today, as I’m reading through the blogs in my reader, I find post after post about these bills and how wretched and horrible and awful the bills are.  Now, I usually open the blogs and read them on people’s sites.  I’m not at all sure that reading in Google Reader counts toward people’s page views on their blog stats and while we like to pretend we’re cool and don’t care about such things, we’re lying.  We all care.  So I like to make sure it counts.  (This, by the way, is the reason you have to come to my blog to read the entire post… just in case you were wondering.)  Anyway, half of these posts have come through just fine in my reader and I could read the entire thing if I wanted, but when I clicked on the blogs themselves the blogs are blacked out “in protest”.  So, I can read teh whole damn post on Google Reader, but I can’t read it on your blogs and show you I’ve been there.  Vigilante Activism Fail!!!

It’s not that you wrote blog posts about it.  They’re your blogs.  You can write what you want.  Personally, I’m annoyed by the glut of posts on the subject, but at least by writing about the bills you’re making an effort to educate me.  It’s the “blacking out” of the pages “in protest” that’s got me pissed.  By the way, I haven’t read any of your anti-sopapilla bill blog posts.  I’ve even dropped a couple anti-pita bread bloggers from my line up.  Enough is enough!

I sent a link to a particularly funny lolcat to K this afternoon.  The lolcats did it right.  There’s a screen that pops up in front of the page and tells you to beware the bogey monster and then at the bottom it asks you  if you’d like to learn more.  You can click a “learn more” button and, imagine that, learn more.  Or you can click on the “no thanks” button and get on with your life.  K wouldn’t look at the lolcat because she wasn’t willing to click the “no thanks” button.  Her loss.

Look.  I get it.  Censorship is bad.  We don’t want these bills to pass and if someone presents me with an unoffensive petition to sign, I’ll sign it.  I sent the e-mails to my representatives.  I’ve done my part.  And the truth is, I don’t really understand what these bills are about.  What is internet piracy?  How are these bills supposed to make things better?  I. Don’t. Know.  What I do know is, blacking out or otherwise inconveniencing half of the internet, isn’t serving any purpose.  I guarantee you the talking heads in Washington, do not care that I couldn’t look up the lost coast last night.  The vast majority of them have not looked for a single website that happened to be part of this ridiculous protest.

IT.  DOES.  NOT.  WORK.

Counting Thoughts

Some people say that Holiday’s like Christmas are all about giving.  “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” and all that hooey.  I have very mixed feelings about the gift giving holidays.  I want to get presents.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all?  I think anyone who says, “I don’t care about receiving presents.  I just like giving things to people and watching their faces light up when they open the package,” is lying through their artificially whitened teeth.  (I don’t know why the teeth are artificially whitened, that’s just the first thing that came to mind and we’re going to go with it.)

I like to GET presents, but I HATE to give them.  I do.  It’s not because I’m stingy or selfish.  I’m not.  I do like to give people presents that they genuinely enjoy and appreciate.  There is a commercial that keeps playing on the radio right now: I think it’s for Roku (Obviously not a very good commercial because I had to try six different spellings, “Orocu, Orokoo, Arocu, arocoo, etc.” before I actually found ROKU with no O or A in front of it.)  The commercial says something about knowing the different between genuine appreciation and fake appreciation when you give a gift.  I?  I get the fake appreciation most of the time.

I don’t usually try to give people gifts that will blow them away.  I don’t make any sort of effort to surprise people, because I suck at it.  I ask people “What do you want?” and then if I can afford it, I give it to them.  If I can’t afford it, I ask, “What else?”  I hate it when they tell me, “I don’t know.”

I’m just not very good at gift giving.  I suck at gift giving and I come by it naturally.  Observe:

One year, when I was about fifteen, my mother decided, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that she was going to give us something for Christmas.  She ran out on Christmas Eve, in search of some kind of gifts for her children.  The next morning, after we had our traditional Pillsbury cinnamon roll breakfast, we each opened a small package with our name on it.  Each package contained one embroidered dish towel and one pot holder…  with Santa Claus on them.  Again…  I WAS FIFTEEN.

Last year my mother sent me a green t-shirt with a giant Grinch face screen printed on it.  She couldn’t have known by looking at the shirt that the dastardly smiling mouth on the shirt only serves to highlight my much maligned and despised gut.   I also don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Grinch”, which is what she calls me when she’s not calling me Scrooge.  I never have and never will wear the shirt out of the house.

Last week I received a text from my mother:

“I’ve ordered you some Christmas goodies from Harry & David.  Don’t know when they’ll arrive but be on the lookout.”

By chance I came home that night to a box on my front steps.  I opened it up and found a metal tin inside with three different flavors of Moose Munch.  If you don’t already know, this is Muse Munch:

And these are my teeth:

Give or take a few months and a different color rubber band.

I texted her, “This is some awfully mean stuff to send a guy with braces.  😉  Good thing they’re coming off soon.  :-)”

“I completely forgot about the braces!” she told me.

I answered, “It’s OK.  They’ll be off in a few weeks.  That stuff will certainly keep.  Thanks for sending it.  Should be tasty.”

She asked, “Did you get both boxes?”  I told her I only got one.  “The other one will be a little more braces-friendly, I think.”

The next day a second box appeared on my steps.  “This box has air holes…” I texted to her.  “Did you send me a puppy?”  This box had six pears, a small bag of mixed nuts and a block of cheese.  (See the picture of my mouth above.)  I’m not particularly fond of fresh pears, though I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that she ought to have known that.

It’s clear my mother doesn’t know how to give good gifts, though certainly she means well.  I wrote yesterday about all the pressure, expectations,  and demands on holidays and this is just part of it.

I’ve been thinking, these last several days, about gifts and how I feel about them.  There was a time when I bought into the addage, “It’s the thought that counts” only, I don’t think I believe it anymore.

I’m fully prepared for the one person who actually comments on my blog with any regularity (and the one person who just has to talk to me in person about it because she’ll explode if she puts her thoughts down on the blog instead of – or maybe in addition to – talking to me about it in person) to give me all kinds of grief over this, and that’s okay, but just hear me out.

I have so much stuff.  Way too much stuff really.  I don’t need more stuff.  And I’m beginning to feel like gifts for the sake of gifts? are just stuff.  It’s stuff I can’t throw away, or give away or return, because if the giver catches wind that I got rid of his gift so that it won’t be just stuff, the giver will get his feelings hurt.  The thing is, if the giver gave me a good gift, then it wouldn’t be just stuff it would be something of value, something I might treasure and therefore, would not get rid of it.  I’m coming to a point where I feel like, if  I don’t need, or didn’t already really want, the item the giver is giving me, it’s actually a burdon.  And because I feel this way, I feel very ambivilant about giving gifts because I don’t want my gifts to be seen that way, and so I’m just adding to the pressure on myself to give good  gifts so that they won’t be just stuff and I’m no good at it.

If you’re like me, though, you buy yourself all the affordable things that you need or really want and it’s the things that you can’t afford that you really want someone to give you, only they can’t really afford it either and so there’s nothing for them to give you because you’ve already bought all the things that people can afford that you want.  It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sure, now, where this post was going to go, though I’m certain it was a very different direction.  What I do know, now, though, is…

Give money!

I think that’s what I’m going to do from now on.

If everyone who was going to give me a gift, just gave me money instead, maybe I could pool all that money together and spend it on something I really wanted, like an iPad or a new television instead of a box of pears and a —  Well, I don’t know what else, because I really only expect to get one other gift and I have no idea what it will be…  probably Glee DVDs.

Apparently, Michelle was going to buy me a new printer since the one I had doens’t work with my new-ish computer…  But I bought myself one on Saturday so now she has to come up with something else.  Way to go, me!  But in “me’s” defense, Michelle stood right there and watched it happen and didn’t say anything until we got back to her house with it.  She could have stopped me.

OH!  I know where I was going with all that!

I’ve been struggling for the last several days with the idea of gratitude and appreciation vs. expectations and dissappointment.

When I opened the box of Moose Munch, I was dissapointed that my mother sent me what amounts to caramel corn and chocolate chips.  (You Moose Munch enthusiast can just back-off.  I’ve never had it and I can’t eat it for at least another two weeks and probably six.)  It’s food.  She sent me food for Christmas.  I can afford to buy my own food so this didn’t fill a need.  A quick glance at the Harry & David website tells me she probably spent close to $30.00 on this caramel corn and chocolate chips.  Plus she sent the pears and cheese.  Another $40.00? At least it is food and will go away.  It’s not just stuff.

On the other hand, there were lots of years when she didn’t give me anything.

So I can’t help but wonder…  Am I making too much out of this?  Is it really “the thought that counts”?  Am I just ungrateful?  Is it my own fault for having too high expectations when I find out someone sent me anything at all?

Then again, it occurs to me that since I can’t remember any of the gifts I did get when I was a kid, and more often than not, I can’t remember a few months later what I gave anyone or what anyone gave to me…  Maybe it is the thought that counts…

The truth is, I’m feeling simultaneously grateful and dissapointed, I just would like to open a package and just be delighted by what I find.  But the fact that I feel grateful and dissapointed at the same time is soemthing in itself.  I’m certainly not accustomed to the ability to acknowledge two contradictory feelings at the same time.

By the way, the pears are awesome, much to my surprise.