Reaching Out to Help

The first thing my husband mentioned this morning to me was the fact that Haiti had been hit by a massive earthquake.  Port-au-Prince was particularly hard hit with massive casualties expected.  I don’t know how familiar you are with the country of Haiti but it is one of the poorest countries in the world.   The Commander spent time there courtesy of the Navy and he tells me that the  living conditions of the people were terrible under the best of circumstances.  Add in the earthquake devastation and you now have people who are really suffering.

The CIA World Factbook says that almost 80% of the country’s population are living below the poverty line and over 50% are living in abject poverty.  As I look around me at my modest but comfortable home filled with my yarn and books and other things that I love, I’m struck yet again by the amount of “stuff” that I have and by comparison, how little so many others in the world have.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, of “Yarn Harlot” fame, has put out a call for all knitters to please consider donating to the organization “Doctors Without Borders” (DOB).    You can read her post about it here.  This organization has doctors, medical staff, and field hospitals ready to go to Haiti to help those who have been injured by the quake.  Some of their staff were already in that country and working in a hospital there which is now completely destroyed.  Awhile back, Stephanie set up an informal group called “Knitters Without Borders” and she’s been keeping a tally of how much knitters have donated to the Doctors Without Borders group.  We’re a generous group.  But she’s run up the “Knit Signal” and put out the call.  We need to rally again and donate to Doctors Without Borders so that they’ll have the funds to send staff and supplies to help.  She’s provided information about Doctors Without Borders, along with links to their home page and donation page here.  Goodness, you don’t even have to be a knitter to donate to this worthy group.    I’ve also included a link straight to the Doctors Without Borders site to the right on this blog page.

So if you find yourself looking around your home tonight and being thankful that you are protected from the cold, consider popping over to donate, even if it’s just a few dollars, to some real heroes and heroines who will be heading out to help folks who have no roof at all over their heads.

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Five Things to Remember When Dealing With Your Elders

FFF fall leaves 2It’s Friday and I was all set to come up with a Fave Five in honor of the occasion but I had a little epiphany this morning and so I decided to come up with a different set of five.  It all started when I headed out this morning to run some errands.  I needed to drop off some packages at the post office and then head over to the local office supply store to make some copies.  Since I had an empty toner cartridge, I figured I’d take that with me and drop it off at the store because they have a recycle program for ink cartridges.  Now my mood was rather sunny despite the atrocious weather here but storm clouds were on the horizon.  Yes, all that changed when I got up to the check-out counter at the office supply store.

Here’s what happened.  I started to ask the clerk if they still accepted empty ink cartridges for recycling but before I could even finish my question the clerk abruptly cut me off.  He said something like, “Huh?  What?  Slow down.  What are you saying?”  So I loudly, slowly, and deliberately repeated my question, using the same voice that I used to use on my kids when they were toddlers and were reaching for something they knew they weren’t supposed to have all the while looking at me defiantly.  You know the voice…the one that says…..”I’m going to count to ten now and if you don’t move away from that cooky jar by the time I reach ten, Mommy is going to spank you.”

“Oh, sure!”  the guy blithely says.  “Do you have a Rewards card?”  I did and I gave it to him.  Then it was time to pay.  I held up my debit card and told him that I wanted to use this as a credit card (my hubby INSISTS we go through this charade so that we get back a few cents from the bank each month, although the funds come out of our checking account either way).

“Slide your card through the card reader,” the guy said (I knew that but I ALSO knew that clerks tend to want to know ahead of time if you are wanting to use your card as a debit or a credit card).  Then, before I had even finished swiping my card, he said in a loud, annoyed voice, “You have to press Credit.”

“I WILL when it appears,” I retorted. ( Sheesh.  I’m not an imbecile.  You can’t press something before it has even showed up on the screen.)

“Now, do you want your receipt with you or in the bag?” he asked, staring at me.  “I’ll take it, thank you,” I answered, being careful to speak slowly and enunciate clearly.

Suddenly, he was all smiles.  “Have a great day!” he cheerily responded as he shoved the bag into my hands.

I walked out of there feeling humiliated.  And then, to top it all off, as I tried to make my way out of the parking lot, I was cut off by several cars which cut in front of me and made me miss the green light  so that I ended up sitting through another whole light cycle with nothing to do but stew.  By the time I got home, I was crying.  Yup, it was one of those days.  I thought, as I drove home, that I wouldn’t have been treated like that when I was cute and in my 20’s.  But suddenly, when you reach midlife (and now 60 – yikes!), it’s like I’ve become invisible.  Clerks act like I’ve taken leave of my senses, people cut in front of me at counters with no apology, cars cut me off, waiters flirt with the young things in the next booth while my soup rapidly cools on the counter, waiting to be delivered to my booth.  And most of the time, I let it pass because I don’t want to make a scene.  I was brought up to be “nice.”  Sometimes I think it’s the curse of my generation.  On happier days, I think it’s one of our saving graces.  Well, all of this rambling prelude to say that what happened today, a minor thing to be sure, gave me a little glimpse of what it must feel like for MY elders, many who are now dealing with major issues like turning over the keys of the car, or moving to a nursing home, or losing the ability to even bathe or bathroom without help.  Imagine how they must feel.  So, here are five things I think we can all remember when dealing with folks older than us:

Mom and Daughter1.  Treat each person with respect. Unless a person is particularly odious, it is a simple thing to do.  I think we all respond better when treated as though we count for something.

2.  Don’t assume that just because someone is older that they are a complete idiot when it comes to technical things. Believe it or not, I DO know how to open an attachment  in email and I know how to use a debit card reader.  In fact, a good approach is often as simple as saying something like, “You’ll need to send that as an attachment to the rest of the group.  If you need any help, just let me know.”  Then….if they DO need help, don’t take over and do it all for them.  Help them learn how to do it themselves.

3.  If you are having problems understanding someone, phrase it in such a way that the elder saves face and you share the problem. For example, how could that clerk at the store have better handled my initial question, if he didn’t understand me?  If I had been him, I would have said something like, “You know, I just didn’t get enough coffee this morning and my ears are still asleep.  I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to repeat that.”  Now you’ve used a little humor AND you’ve raised the possibility that the problem was on your end.  That would have let the customer save face while still letting him know in a gentle way that perhaps he or she was speaking too quickly or too softly.

4.  Be a champion for those who tend to get lost in the shuffle. If you notice an older person who has been waiting patiently at a counter and then observe someone cutting in front of them, you might say to the clerk, “You know, I believe that this lady was next in line.”  If you see someone struggling to pull a cart out of the row of shopping carts while others hurry by, take the time to stop and offer your help.  There are so many ways we each can be mindful of those around us who are quietly going through life, coping as best they can but who could use an encouraging word or friendly gesture here and there.

5.  Remember that you, too, will one day be old. If that doesn’t help temper your attitude toward the elderly, I don’t know what will.  I know that it is a foreign thought to most when they are in their teens and 20’s and even 30’s and I suspect this is because we are so good at isolating our elderly.  Many of our young people are growing up without seeing the daily challenges that are part of growing old.  They don’t have a clue.  But sooner or later, we’ll begin to realize that “someday that could be me!”  When that happens, it could cause a major attitude adjustment.  After all, doesn’t it really boil down to treating others the way we’d like to be treated?

To see what others are posting for their Friday Fave Fives, visit Susanne’s blog at Living to Tell the Story.

Bumper Messages

Bumper Stickers LeftI was watching NCIS Los Angeles last evening  and got a chuckle out of one bit where the unit’s pyschological profiler is analyzing the bumper stickers on one of the character’s cars.  He indicated that if the owner was a younger person, the bumper stickers could indicate a sense of humor or playfulness, among other things and a sense of non-conformity.  Then he went on to say that, if the owner was middle-aged or older, bumper stickers could indicate a tendency to challenge authority.  Oh boy, what does that say about me?  I like to think that I have a pretty well-defined sense of humor.  Some would call it more of a sense of the absurd.  As to challenging authority….well, let’s just say that since I spent so many years in the military, I became quite adept at conforming outwardly while challenging the heck out of the authority figures around me IN MY MIND.   And I do tend to question almost all attempts to “make” me do anything these days.  So maybe that fellow wasn’t so far off.

Bumper Stickers RightBut what do my bumper stickers say about me?  Well, for one thing, I do have a fondness for Texas and Texans.  Maybe it’s the fact that Minnesota and Michigan winters were COLD and I appreciate the allure of Texas winters a lot.  Maybe I just like the way Texans kind of do their own thing with no apologies.  There’s that non-conformist, authority challenging thing going on.  Maybe I just like the fact that there is still so much of Texas that isn’t wall-to-wall over-developed.

Looking at my other car stickers, you can guess that I like knitting…..A LOT!  You probably can tell that I wear glasses.  I like to blog…no surprises there.  And I don’t really consider myself to be “one of the cool gals.”  Never have, probably never will.  No, I wear the label of ‘geek” proudly.

Bumper Stickers BottomThe rest of my bumper stickers give you the clue that I’m a pacifist, or at least try to be.  I’ll admit that it makes me a little unusual…being a military veteran and a pacifist and I get some strange looks when I go on the local military post but hey, I don’t know many military folks who love war.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t pray for and send care packages to those who are currently over in the hot spots we are stuck in.  They are brave men and women.  And I wish every one of them were home safe and sound.

So what do your bumper stickers say about you?  Or are you one of those who wouldn’t dream of slapping anything on your car?  I’ll bet your house is pristine, too, right?  Not mine!  It’s pretty quirky, as well.

Victoria in BagI’ll leave you with a peek at my new Louet Victoria spinning wheel, still in its carrying bag.  It arrived yesterday and the first thing I did, after opening up the bag to make sure everything looked ok, was pull out the backback straps and walk around the house with the wheel on my back.  How cool is that?  I simply can’t believe that I can carry a spinning wheel so easily on my back.  This opens up all sorts of spinning opportunities with the portability of this little wheel.  Watch for future blog posts as I get her unpacked and try her out.

Am I From An Alien Universe?

Alien DeeI swear some days I think I’ve dropped in from some alien planet.  Usually I get this feeling after I’ve read the paper or listened to the news because I hear or read things that just don’t make sense.  Maybe they do in your universe but they sure don’t in mine.

Case in point…..yesterday I picked up the paper and in the front section was a story about a movie rehearsal in the middle of the night that was broken up by police.  Seems a young film student decided to conduct a rehearsal of a fight scene in the early morning hours in a vacant parking lot near his house.  But they never bothered to notify the police that they were going to be conducting a “wee-hours” outdoor rehearsal.  So let me set the scene for you.  There is a girl straddling a guy on the ground and the girl appears to be beating the daylights out of this guy while another guy is trying to pull her off of the fellow on the ground.  Apparently there were three other young folk standing around this little scene of violence….the movie director and other assorted cast and crew.

So along come the police —-real police, not pretend ones, and they do what we would hope real police would do.  They think they are witnessing a real altercation and they go to break it up, apparently pulling a Taser gun in the process and threatening to issue citations along the way.  Now, the paper reports, the students are so traumatized that one ended up at a local hospital with a panic attack, all of the six cast and crew have filed complaints with the police department and they are “considering” filing complaints with the county DA’s office.

Like I said, I really wonder sometimes if I’m not from some other planet because friends, this sure doesn’t compute in my world.   In my little corner of the universe, I would WANT police to stop and break up a fight in the middle of the night.  I would EXPECT movie directors, be they film students or big-name directors, to have the common sense to notify the proper authorities before filming or rehearsing scenes out in public that could be misinterpreted.  And I would certainly HOPE that silly complaints like these would get thrown out faster than you can say “Duh!” before any more taxpayer money gets wasted following up on them.

Have a Smoke, Mr. President

Cookie CloseupI was listening to a radio commentator the other day bemoaning the fact that our president seemed to be a hypocrite when it comes to smoking.  Seems that President Obama has just signed into law some very strict anti-smoking legislature and yet he’s a “closet smoker” who has been caught sneaking a smoke now and then on the grounds of the White House.  Apparently it became illegal to smoke out on the White House lawn during the Clinton presidency.  Guess that’s why Clinton was fiddling around with cigars in the Oval Office.  But I digress.

The commentator’s angst was directed at the fact that President Obama wasn’t coming clean about his ongoing struggle with quitting his smoking habit.  That got me to thinking.  Don’t we all have bad habits that we struggle with?  Yet most of us recognize the inherent dangers in those bad habits and I would hope we wouldn’t try to enourage our children to fall into the same bad habits that weigh us down.  If you smoke or drink, you sure wouldn’t try to get your kids to smoke or drink, would you?  Would you be angry if someone tried to make it more difficult for your children to become addicted to cigarettes or alcohol?  I sure wouldn’t.   In my own case, I have struggled with my weight most of my adult life.  I have pretty bad eating habits.  But I never tried to make my kids overweight.  Of course, I’ll be the first person to tell you that I struggle with food issues so maybe this isn’t such a great example.  And I will admit that President Obama would probably find his approval rating skyrocketing if he opened up more about his ongoing struggles to quit smoking.

However, let’s take a moment to think about this a little more.  We’re talking about the President of the United States here.  He’s got a high-stress job……a REALLY high-stress job.  I know what I get like when I’m trying to diet and don’t have any sugar in my system.  It’s not pleasant.  Don’t give me any attitude or you’re likely to be served your head on a platter.  Do we REALLY want our president to be going through nicotine withdrawal when he’s running our country?  No donuts?  I might get a little lippy.  No nicotine?  President Obama might go a little ballistic….as in missiles.  Really, I’m all for President Obama giving up smoking but I think he’d better do it after his term of office ends.  For now, let’s give the man his smokes behind the rose bushes if it helps him keep his cool and his focus.

A Voice From Battle Remembered

On this Memorial Day, as I think about those who have fallen in battles past and those who will fall in battles yet to be fought, I thought I’d let the words of my great-grandfather, Emil Graf, speak to the realities of war.  Emil Graf enlisted in the First Minnesota Regiment during the Civil War.  He was wounded at Gettysburg and mustered out in Philadelphia.  It was while he was in hospital there that he met my great-grandmother.  They married and returned to Minnesota where they farmed and raised a family.  He helped found the town of Lismore, Minnesota, Click here to read Emil’s firsthand account of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Why I Like Twitter More Than Email or Phones

I’ve decided that people can be broken down into two groups:  those who love to talk on the phone and those who hate talking on the phone.  I happen to be in the latter group.  I’m always amazed when I see people with a cellphone glued to their ear just chatting up a storm.  What in the world do they find to talk about for hours on end?  Personally, I see a phone as a useful tool.  You can use it to get directions when you’re lost or to ask your spouse to pick up something you forgot at the grocery store.  If you’re running late to something, you can call ahead to let folks know you are coming.  So why do I prefer Twitter? Read on.