When skin gets thin

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I cannot change the moods or the behavior of others.  I can only control how I let those moods and behaviors affect me.   Today, however, was a glowing example of how that ideal can radically fail.

If I were superstitious, today would have been my Friday the 13th.  My black cat was the neighbors dog, who, first thing this morning, managed to soil, not one but, two pairs of my shorts on my way to work.  The ladder I walked under was the exit door from my house.  And the broken mirror was the negativity that continued to rain throughout the day like the shards of glass falling from that broken mirror.

I am usually very thick-skinned.   Most of the time I can deflect negativity and remain blissfully unaware of the antagonism that tends to eddy in the normally calm waters of my life.  But the vortex of that disapproval became too much.  I, without my life-preserver, was pulled under and was out of breath.

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A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.  As an adult with a great deal of life experience under my belt, I know life is unfair and the wheels can fall off the bus at any given second.   But to focus solely on the loose lug nut that made the wheel come off is negating the safe driving before that wheel fell off and the work that the bus driver had to do after its liberation to safely get that bus to the shoulder of the road.

Thick skin can actually be quite tenuous and a little praise goes a long way.   If criticism is deserved, than criticism should be administered.  But if praise is deserved, it should be just as easily passed from the lips of the people who need to say it to the ears of the people who need to hear it.

The Church of The Fish

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Times have certainly changed.   When I began my career in the hospitality industry, food allergies were not even a blip on the culinary radar.  The kitchen was, for Chefs, a playground with no rules.   But all of that has changed.

These days, I make a point of asking each person making a reservation at the lodge if anyone in the family has any food allergies or food restrictions that we should be made aware of before their arrival.  The answers always weigh more heavily on the ‘yes’ than the ‘no’.  And although some of the guidelines we are made to adhere to are more preference than necessity, the kitchen now has to deal with a list of these instructions for each week of our summer season.

Now, while I completely comprehend the severity of an ingested or inhaled allergic reaction to a food, it does not negate the fact that I am more than moderately amused by the inability of our Sous Chef to pronounce one of the more prevalent choices in the current realm of dietary options.  A Pescatarian is a person who does not eat meat but will eat fish.  And each time I have the opportunity to add that choice to our “allergy” list for the week, my smile cannot be missed.   As I walk into the kitchen with that list, I calmly await the moment that she will read the list aloud and say the word “Pescabyterian”.

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According to Karina, somewhere there is a church for vegetarians who occasionally eat fish.  And this latest hotel guest, this most recent addition to our list of dietary anomalies, is a member of its congregation.  Each time she reads the list aloud, the words Pescatarian and Presbyterian become intertwined and I am reduced to a public school version of myself, unintentionally (not really) laughing at the combination of the two expressions.

Pescabyterian – a member of the religion of vegetarians who consciously choose to eat fish.

It may be juvenile, but this marriage of words helps alleviate some of the stress of our summer.  It gives us the freedom to laugh at the increased amount of tension in an already volatile environment.  And it allows a break for laughter in a scene that is meant more for drama, creating an oasis of calm in a sea of chaos.

One simple word, whether Webster chooses to recognize it or not, has the power to change the trajectory of our day.   Let’s hear it for the Pescabyterians!

 

 

 

 

Remembering the things I forgot

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Earlier today, a friend inadvertently reminded me of one of the greatest things about writing.  It’s not just for the melodic overture that silently plays as words form sentences and transport themselves from my brain to my fingertips and onto the screen.  It’s not the myriad number of ways I am able to express myself.  It is simply the fact that I am allowed to engage with people in a way that brings me joy.

When I post a blog, I certainly look at my stats to see how many people have stopped by to read what I have written.  But somewhere along the way, I have disconnected from the truth behind those statistics.  Those numbers represent people who have taken the time to ingest my words, who have possibly connected to what I had to say and who may share the same thoughts that I have shared.

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I was reminded today that my words have an impact on people.  It’s not just looking at statistics on a blog.  It’s realizing that I am able, through my writing, to make a connection with people on a level far greater than I imagined.   I can reach people who I cannot see.  I can engage with people I know or even people I may never meet.  I can speak to people without uttering a word out loud.

Writing this blog has not only allowed me to connect with the hidden parts of myself, it has enabled me to become a part of so many other lives.  This morning, this friend told me she spent an entire day thinking about a post of mine that she had read in the winter.  Her words gave so much worth to my words and this blog post is my way of thanking her for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to get back to writing more frequently.   Thanks Erin!

 

Good for the economy but bad for my temperment

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I am going to do my utmost not to turn this post into a rant, but I make no promises.

The population in our tiny town explodes from May to October.  Cottagers and tourists alike flock to our little oasis to drink from our serene waters, to sip from the fountain of relaxation and to let every ounce of their city stress slowly dissipate until they resemble nothing of their former city-dwelling selves.  This is what we are selling and this is what they are buying.

This year seems to have hit an all-time high for human traffic.   Stores are reaping the benefits of the excess numbers of shoppers, our local Foodland check-outs are all lined up six shoppers deep but I have learned to adjust my shopping schedule accordingly.

We get it.  We are not new to this phenomenon and we learn to adapt to our new routines to keep our sanity.   But there are moments that we cannot control – moments when we have to shop during the peak times and it is during these times I lose my sense of humor.

Blatant rudeness and uncaring attitudes run rampant.  You may think I am simply frustrated from working long hours and dealing with unbearably hot temperatures, but I have first-hand experience of the uncaring attitude of some of our summer guests.  My latest encounter today prompted me to vent write this post.

I pulled into the liquor store and was shocked to get a parking spot without having to wait.   I noticed three carts left on the sidewalk in front of the store, collected them and returned them to their rightful place inside the store.  Wine in hand, I moved to the tills and the line moved quickly.  I was lucky to get in and out without incident.   The woman who was parked beside me had just loaded her box of goodies into her BMW SUV and lifted her cart up over the curb, leaving it on the sidewalk.  I got into my car, made eye contact with BMW lady and then she and I both watched as her cart slowly rolled backwards, tipped over the curb and landed on my front bumper.  Not missing a beat, she slid her vehicle into reverse, no apology, not a shred of remorse, backed out of her spot to head back to her restful vacation spot.

Shopping Cart Walk

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I could feel my blood pressure rising before the color of my cheeks betrayed me.  I got out of my car, checked my bumper and wheeled her cart back in to the store to avoid having this happen to another car.

These are the people who frustrate me.  These are the people who make me believe that, to them, other people just don’t matter.  I may have ranted in an earlier blog and received many varying comments, perhaps rightfully so, but my rants are justified.  Ask yourself how you would have reacted in that situation.  For me, I would never have left the cart in the first place but, I would certainly  have jumped out of my car to make sure the other vehicle had not sustained any damage.

Rant over.   What would you have done?

 

 

 

 

Because that’s how he held me

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holding-hands

His grip was strong,

but tender,

and that’s how he held me,

firm in his grasp, but tender in his emotion.

But it wasn’t just how he held me,

it’s how he saw me.

His look was beyond flesh,

it looked past imperfections.

He just saw me,

for who I was,

under the shroud of my physical form.

He looked into me and,

as his hand held mine,

in that frozen moment,

I became lost in him.

His grip was strong, but tender,

and in that grasp,

now lies my heart.

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The red pen

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My writing has become the focal point in my life.   So much so that I have been consciously willing to share a few of the chapters of the novel I have so carefully crafted with a select few who will unabashedly share their opinion of my writing.  It is a big leap of faith and one I needed to make to get over my fear of rejection.  Turns out, it was (thankfully) much less painful than I anticipated.

A very endearing couple recently checked into the lodge for their third visit.  We were making small talk about how they would spend their week and she gushed about the trilogy she had brought with her to read.  We talked books and authors and I blurted out that I was writing a book.  After giving her a brief outline of the plot, she seemed intrigued.  I took the first step off my cliff of fears when I asked her if she wanted to read some of it.  My second foot followed off the cliff when I actually printed a few pages and timidly handed them to her.

Her excitement completely contrasted my feeling of nausea.  She left with my soul on a few pieces of paper as I sat in my office, slowing curling into the fetal position, wondering what I had just done.

Hours later she came back to the office with a smile on her face that I have yet to define with words.  But what really grabbed and held my attention was the red pen in her hand.  For those who embarked on their scholastic careers before technology took over, the red pen was a symbol of doom and I began a staring contest with the inanimate object.

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Her voice circled around my head as I tried to pull my gaze from that red pen.  A few of her words burrowed into my brain, slowly connecting with the tissue, and my heart almost stopped when I heard “Mel is a retired English teacher”.  It was over.

But then it wasn’t.

After going over a few corrections which made complete sense to me, the red pen no longer felt like a threat and became something else entirely.  They were entertained by the plot.  They enjoyed the phrasing of my sentences and they were captivated enough to want to keep reading.  That red pen was the prophet that delivered the word “love” beside two of the lines that they enjoyed the most.

Somewhere during our conversation, that red pen became the pump that reinflated my confidence.  It didn’t say ‘you failed’.   It screamed ‘keep going’.  Thank you Jean and Mel for the kick in the pants I needed to climb back up the cliff and get ready to take that leap over and over again.

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Embracing the sum of my parts

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I’ve learned a few invaluable truths over the last four (plus) decades of my life.  Each stage our lives requires a different version of ourselves.   We grow, we adapt and we transform.  Slowly and steadily we become the person we need to be for the next phase of our lives and, perhaps without knowing it, we evolve into the person we need to be to acquaint ourselves with the person we shall finally become.

I can look back at my life and recognize the divisible parts of myself, the bits that have led to the present sum of who I am today.  I may still resemble a modicum of those versions of myself but the me now compared to the me then are vastly different people.

Through each chapter of the syllabus of me, I have gained a confidence that I only once professed to have.  I have finally gotten to the point in my life where my opinion matters, if to nobody else than, to myself.  I have reaped the rewards of struggle and adversity.  I have calmly assumed a new sense of who I really am and I am very selective with the friends allowed behind my strategically built walls.

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At this stage in my life, I have truly become the sum of my parts.   I have taken the best bits of myself, learned from and discarded my errors in judgment and created the person I am now.

Would I change anything from my past?  Perhaps.  But if all of those equations – the fractions of time, the roots of my problems, the addition or subtraction of friends and family – meant that I would not be who I am today, I would probably answer all of the test questions the same way so I could calculate the same remainder.