Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Making it count

I’m not sure when exactly the adventure began, but it came to an end last night. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, perhaps because, in my mind, it simply became an undertaking I was not going to give up on. I had started it two previous times, and this time, I was determined to finish.  After 1,243 pages and 117 chapters, I can check the unabridged classic The Count of Monte Cristo off my bucket list.

Quite possibly I began reading it sometime in June because a journal entry on August 14, 2015 at 11:25pm reads “Still reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m on page 586 – only 657 pages to go. Maybe I’ll have it finished by the end of the year.”  And that became my goal. Check.

As I was reading, I kept thinking about all of the other books I could be holding in my hands while I was drudging through this one, and sadly, now that I am done, I wish I would have enjoyed it more. Isn’t that how life is sometimes? We have moments and opportunities to savor, and so often, we are caught looking ahead, making a list of what we don’t have, and not appreciating what we do.

Along with the reminder to enjoy the present, here is a list of some insights from reading this book:

Sometimes watching the movie only confuses one when reading the book of the same title.
The premise is mostly the same, but the subtle differences had me rereading some parts of the book because I thought I had missed something. As in the movie, Fernand does betray Edmond in order to marry Mercedes, and Albert is born to this union, but in the book, Fernand is not Edmond’s best friend, Mercedes waits many years before marrying Fernand, and Albert is not Edmond’s son. The happy ending of the movie is sweet. But just don’t expect the book to end the same.

I know L stands for 50 and C equals 100.
When confronted with Roman Numerals – with an apology to my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Dugmore – I must admit I often forget what comes after X. But after reading CXVII chapters labelled with a V, C, or L, or a combination of those letters, this numeric system has sunk into my brain.

Reading 1,243 pages is worth it when you find a quote you love.
“Maternal love is such a great virtue and powerful impulse that it can excuse many things.”

I understand the pleasure one might find in retribution, but I believe true happiness is found when one seeks to forgive.
Edmond Dantes uses his fortune and freedom to punish those responsible for his incarceration, and his vengeance consumes him. I thought it sad, just sad. And maybe that is what one should learn. When we seek revenge, we give more of our life to one who does not deserve any of our thoughts, our energy, or our time. For me, Alexandre Dumas epic tale of suffering is not about the pleasure of retribution, but about the need to forgive. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

If laughter really is the best medicine . . .

Lately, for so many reasons, my heart has been heavy. Maybe you feel like I do, and you need a reason to smile. If you're tired of all the things on social media and your news feed that bring you down, here is a little piece of something light for today.

A Confusing Sestina

He said he would send the flower, its homophone
Flour is what we requested. I hoped his confusion
was a simple misunderstanding.
A blossom is not what I wanted, the synonym
Of grain is what I kneaded. Language!
Oops! Needed is the write word.

To write is done with a pencil. The word
Right is concerned with proper selection. A homophone
Can cause frustration with language.
Two, too, and to also cause confusion,
Two is a number, to is towards, and too is the synonym
Of many. I hope they’re is no misunderstanding.

If one simply separates they’re into they are. No misunderstanding
With their or there wood be made. Wood is a word
That refers to an oak or a maple. Would is the synonym
Of will do. Do is the homophone
Of dew. And dew should not be confused
With due. It means payable in are language.

Are and our are interchanged too frequently in language.
Each mite cause some misunderstanding.
Shoot! Mite is a creature. Confusion
Comes when one does knot use the word
Might. Yikes! Knot is a homophone
Of not. And to tie is it’s synonym.

It’s would not be its synonym,
Another frequent blunder in language.
Because it’s and its sound the same, a homophone
Is what they are. To avoid misunderstanding
It’s is a contraction of it is, and its is a word
That implies possession. Sew much confusion!

Sew is to stitch. So means therefore. More and moor confusion!
Moor is a swampy grassland, while a synonym
Of more is extra. One must bee careful what word
Is used. Be means to exist in the English language.
Bee is an insect oar a bug. Another misunderstanding!
Oar is a paddle. Ore is a metal. And or is not their synonym.

A synonym is a word that has a similar meaning. A homophone
Is a word with a different definition but sounds the same. Language
Not clear can cause confusion. I hope this will dismiss all misunderstanding.

And if you have never heard of a sestina before, here is a little background on this poetry style. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Just a smile

I believe I was called an idiot yesterday. Well, the words were never verbalized, but I’m sure that was the intent. Idiot! It rang loud in my head. She thought she needed to explain to me how to use a doorstop. A doorstop. Yes, that little triangular piece of wood that one puts in a door to hold the door open. “I NEED you to take the doorstop OUT of the door before you close the door.” Idiot! I believe the name itself details the reason it would need to be removed. Doesn’t the stop part of doorstop infer the door cannot be moved or closed with it still in the door? Idiot! She was a customer, so I just smiled. The idiotic part of this interaction is that I let it ruin my day. I gave her a good 24 hours of stewing about it.  When I could have been conquering “The Count of Monte Cristo” (and that’s a whole other story for another day), my evening was spent mulling over witty retorts to her insinuation of my idiocy. And why? I will see her again; she will be gruff, irritable, and condescending, and I will be stunned by her remarks, and having no clever comeback, I will likely just smile. I don’t know. Perhaps, she needs a smile.

Maybe, her husband is dying of cancer.  Or he recently left her for another woman. Possibly her son is a drug addict and stealing from her, and she doesn’t know how to stop either. Her snippy words could be caused by pain, of the emotional or physical type. I’d like to think she is simply not mean for the sake of being mean. Yet, the alternative is she is dealing with heartache. Neither option makes me feel better. So, I guess I’ll not let her unkind words steal anymore of my happy moments, and I’ll be grateful I have them. Next time she calls me an idiot, I’ll forgo the idea of adding to her unhappiness, and I’ll gladly offer just a smile. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A little inconvenience?

Upon noticing my change of mood last Saturday evening, my husband asked what had happened. “I hate grocery shopping! And I am not a fan of doing it late at night either.” It had been a while since I wandered around my neighborhood Harmon’s. Bananas – a staple in my home – had not been seen on my counter for days. The last apple and yogurt had been consumed the day before. The few slices of bread in my cupboard were moldy. And that morning my son had drained the last bit of our milk. We had powdered milk available, but now that we were down to one child in the home and drinking the real stuff, I just couldn’t stomach that again. I love whole milk. I had to go to the store.

As I fought the fellow shoppers on each isle, couldn’t find all the items I wanted, and waited in line at the checkout stand, my disdain for this process grew. After lugging it all into the house and putting it away, I was convinced I would be happy if I never went grocery shopping again.

Yet, before I was even done ranting to my husband about the inconveniences of grocery shopping, I realized how ridiculous I must sound. I was whining because I despised battling my cart around other shoppers at the store. Waa waaa waaah!

I couldn’t believe how quickly I had forgotten the lessons of the previous day. Just a mere thirty hours before my "aggravating" grocery shopping experience, I was sitting – rather comfortably and with a completely full stomach – in an air-conditioned classroom listening to an international aid worker’s devastating story of a Mozambican grandmother.  Because of civil wars and the AIDS epidemic in her country, all of her children had died, and she was raising her fifteen grandchildren. Along with many in her country, they were starving. (And not the “I haven’t eaten in six hours” kind of starving that we experience.)That grandmother would have been ecstatic to feed her grandchildren the moldy bread in my cupboard or the powdered milk I found distasteful. She would have gratefully been inconvenienced, irritated, and annoyed just to have the opportunity to walk around a store and put food in a cart. She probably would have even welcomed her fellow countrymen to block her in the isles and cause her to wait at the checkout stand.

I am out of milk . . . 

Thankfully, I have the opportunity to be inconvenienced at the grocery store again today. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy Birthday?

“Tomorrow is your special day. I can’t believe you’ll be 28.” I say it a little giddy, possibly to annoy him. I know he is indifferent to birthdays. He’s like his dad.

“Whoa Mom! I’m only going to be 27.” I guess he cares about the number, but not the day.

“Really? Hmm . . . I guess you’re right.” I reply, admitting that one of us is getting old.

Yes, today is my son’s 27th birthday, but don’t bother texting him. He won’t respond. And writing on his wall is not possible. He’s not on Facebook. And even if he was, his birthday would be purposely omitted from his profile. He doesn’t want 250 of his closest friends acknowledging his birthday simply because Facebook reminded them to do it. I must admit I’m with him on that. “Alison has a birthday today” is not a message my Facebook friends will receive on a certain day in March.

I imagine “Happy Birthday” will be said to him numerous times today, even if he prefers otherwise. (Well, I’m guessing my husband will forgo the greeting.) It’s not that he’s against having a happy day. He just doesn’t see the big deal. It could possibly be the attention he dislikes, or more likely, he hates being treated differently simply because the calendar tells one to do it. He doesn’t think Hallmark should dictate how we live our lives.

Sometimes, I believe my son has it right. He is never disappointed on his birthday. He has no expectations. And for those of us who assume bliss, gifts, and scrumptious chocolate cake – without calories – will be part of our special day, we will most likely be frustrated and discouraged.

So, who creates the “happy” in our birthdays? And who is responsible for our expectations? Is that funny looking Chuck E. Cheese the culprit?

After a depressing forty-something birthday, when my husband was in meetings all night and two of my children asked if I was making dinner, I decided no one would have the ability to make my birthday happy or sad. I would determine its outcome. Yes, I love it when a friend remembers, or a loved one calls, but those are bonuses.

Happiness. It is the wish of birthdays, and really, it’s the desire for every day. Happiness. Sometimes it is hard to find, but it can happen. Mostly it depends on where we are seeking it. I just know it won’t be found in a Hallmark card. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013



    1.  strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.
    synonyms: durable, strong, resilient, sturdy, rugged, solid, stout, long-lasting, heavy-duty, industrial-strength, well-built, made to last.
    2. involving considerable difficulty or hardship; requiring great determination or effort.
    synonyms:  arduous, onerous, strenuous, grueling, exacting, difficult, demanding, hard, taxing, tiring, exhausting, punishing, laborious, stressful, back-breaking.

    1. a tough person, esp. a gangster or criminal.
    synonyms: ruffian, thug, goon, hoodlum, hooligan
    1. endure a period of hardship or difficulty.

My son was cut from his high school basketball team this week. I had mixed feelings about him even making the team again. His experiences last year – to say it nicely – were character building. Along with a stimulating education on the many uses of the f-word, he whole-heartedly learned the meaning of the word tough. Tough – not like I can kick anyone’s trash, but tough – as in able to handle incredibly difficult situations. He found out what he was made of. It’s a skill that should be valued more than the ability to dunk a ball through a silly hoop. Funny thing, his coaches would probably say he was cut because he wasn’t tough enough. Yes, while other teammates were bossing the underclassmen and taking advantage of every situation to exploit another, my son was helping carry the equipment.

Toughness is remembering how it felt when you were degraded and choosing not to do that to others. 

Toughness is being concerned about each individual and helping them to feel included.

Toughness is knowing your chances of making the team might be slim, but sticking with it, and taking advantage of every opportunity to improve your skills while others who feel comfortable with their spot on the team do not even show up. 

Toughness is following the rules even when others – the privileged few who don’t need to – are not. 

Toughness is being completely knocked down and showing up the next day.   

His coach said he wished there was room on the team to keep him. It was a nice sentiment, but sadly, there will never be room on the team for kids like my son. And quite frankly, it is their loss. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Then End of March Madness?

Chucking the ball at another player, trash talking, holding jerseys, and shoving may not always be considered sportsmanlike conduct; however, each is still accepted as tolerable actions among players on the basketball court. Some would say it is all just part of the game. It seems that someone forgot to tell Rutger’s Mike Rice that he was definitely not in the game or even listed  among the names on the players’ roster. It actually might have been helpful during his team’s practice, when he began his derogatory tirades and childish kicking, if someone would have reminded him that there was a “Coach” in front of his name.
It is common knowledge that college basketball coaches desire and compete all year for an invite to participate in the NCAA tournament each spring, Yet, this coach was not just enticed by the lure of March Madness, but seemed to aspire to February Fits, April Aggression, and May Meltdowns.

            If these videos had not been released by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, one must wonder how long this “coach” would have been allowed by Rutger’s University to berate, belittle, and accost “his” players. After all, the Athletic Director Tim Pernetti has had a copy of these videos in his possession for several months. So, it’s not surprising that Pernetti now admits that he probably should have done more concerning these allegations. Oh, really? Pernetti has discovered, unfortunately, a little too late for him – and these ball players – that when one makes excuses for someone who merits absolutely no job security, you usually end up losing your job too. Perhaps he will learn something during his deserved unemployment and will have a desire to look out for – and protect – the right people in the future.
            The sports’ headlines and news programs are all abuzz with their take on Mike Rice. On April 6, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson asked the question many have wondered after viewing these abusive videos, “How many Mike Rices are out there coaching our kids?” On the following day, USA Today answered the question with their headline, “Mike Rice not alone in abuse, just caught.” Sadly, I agree. 

             The larger question is why, oh why, do we tolerate this behavior among adults who are given the responsibility to guide, teach, direct, and instruct our children. We would never allow a teacher in a classroom setting to drop the f-bomb at will, but very few adults bat an eye when it is yelled in the face of a player on the sidelines of a game. That type of behavior has become commonplace among coaches and widely accepted as part of the game. My son’s high school basketball coach was heard using that word during a game, and no one questioned him.
            In fact, that coach was quite fluent in colorful language and freely shared his skills. The line my son heard most often was”&*#% Bryson! Catch the #@% - &$#% ball!” I should probably be grateful that my son did not find that blankity-blank ball making a point-blank bee line for his head – courtesy of his irritated coach. 
            Often parents – and I am one of them – have feared it will hurt their child’s chances on the field if they speak up, or perhaps, we might worry that our actions will cause more abuse for the kids during practice. We definitely have given too much authority and power to the coaches, and in turn, we have left our children defenseless.    
            Just viewing the complete submissiveness of each player as Rice shoved, grabbed, kicked, threw balls, and verbally attacked them made my stomach queasy. And then when some of the players publically defended him, I thought my head my actually explode.  I wondered how and why they thought any of this behavior was okay.
On the one hand, we desire compassion for our children and have national campaigns to prevent bullying in schools and on the playground, but when there is a coach in front of an individual’s name, we condone their intimidation methods all in the name of motivation, toughness, and winning. It is hard to have it both ways.
I say that we have enough self-centered, name calling, jerks in the world. Let us not raise another generation of Mike Rices because we believe it is more important for our children to be tough, aggressive athletes than kind human beings.
            Coach is a title we automatically respect, but those who warrant that admiration are the ones who teach discipline and resilience by example. After all, how can we expect young athletes to show self-control if their coach cannot. Thankfully, not every coach is a Mike Rice. There are many who understand that when they are called coach, a young athlete regards them as a wise and trusted mentor.
            Next year, let’s hope the Madness in March simply refers to Cinderella stories, buzzer beaters, and that one glorious shining moment, and if any frustration is involved, it is towards your mate and his or her bracket and not a misguided, potty-mouthed, fit-throwing, angry-eyed, little man.