The Money Pit

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How many of you have seen the movie The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long?  (Spielberg was a co-producer.)  The actual house used for the movie is located in Long Island and was put up for sale this past summer, to the tune of $12.5 million with annual property taxes of just under $66,000.

The scenes shot inside of the house were actually done on a movie set, and didn’t reflect the condition of the real house, which was only used to shoot the outside scenes.  I don’t know if the real house has since sold or not, but I do remember reading where the owners said they had remodeled it so much that they felt like they were living the movie’s sequel.  (BTW… at the time of listing, the house was in tip-top shape.)

If you’ve seen the film, you know the story.  It’s about a couple that gets an incredible bargain and buys a gorgeous looking mansion needing (supposedly) just minor repairs, only to discover they’ve been duped into buying the mother of all fixer-uppers.

The movie is hilarious.  Reality is something else altogether.

The main reason the movie is so funny – besides the great comedic acting – is because anyone who’s ever owned a house can relate to the feeling of impending doom when they realize their home is nothing more than a sink hole in disguise.

Okay – show of hands – anyone ever been there?  Still there?

Our home is the first house Hubby and I have ever owned.  (That entire sentence being an oxymoron, of course.  We don’t “own” anything except “upkeep” and the tax levied on the property.)

When we first bought our home, I remember telling a friend of mine about the lovely patio we had out back, and how I envisioned myself relaxing out there on a lounger, a cool drink in my hand.

My friend burst out laughing.

“You aren’t going to be lying around anywhere,” she said.  “You’ll be busy working your *** off just to keep it up.”

Naive as I was, I discounted my friend’s statement as mean and negative.  That night, I lay in bed and counted the ceiling tiles, running the numbers through my head.  Based on our down payment, our mortgage loan and interest, and how many ceiling tiles there were in the room, I calculated what percentage of our bedroom – and yes, the entire house – we actually owned, and how much was owned by the bank.

Guess how much of the house we own so far?”  I told Hubby.  Then, every so often I would recalculate (just for fun?) and update Hubby on our “progress”.  We would get into bed at night and point at the tiles on the ceiling that were “ours”.  In the evenings, you might find us standing out in our driveway, looking up at stars (this was when there was less light pollution and you could actually still see quite a few stars).

Hubby would wrap his arms around me and point to the sky.  “Those right there are our stars,” he would say.  “Because they are over our house.”

This is totally romantic of Hubby, (see Mr. Romantic), and the whole tile counting thing was crazy obsessive on my part, I know, but I come from a family of bean counters so we’re all a little nuts that way.  Plus, it served its purpose… we had a physical, visual representation of the monies we put into our house as the years passed.  And just like the stars that have disappeared from view, so have the monies.

Ah.  The dreams of the totally ignorant.

In the beginning, we did own some of those ceiling tiles.  Lien free.  If the bank came and took our property away I probably would’ve considered removing them before we left.  My money – my tiles!  (If only I could sell them for what they cost.)

But over the years, I’ve added up the costs of a new heating/cooling system, remodeled rooms, appliance repairs, and landscaping.  Then there’s the lawn man, snow removal, roof guy, chimney guy, dead trees removed and branches churned into oblivion by a horde of guys clambering up and down our property like monkeys.  Where do all these guys come from anyway??

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I realized the grand truth that we were never taught as kids – owning a home is not a good investment – it just means you’re the tenant responsible for all legal interests.

I’ve never included real estate taxes and utilities in my ceiling tile computations, because – let’s face it – those are the only real expenses first time homeowners actually think about before they sign that devil’s bargain they call a mortgage contract.  Most of us have no real concept of how much it costs to “own” a home until we’re already buried up to our eyeballs in debt.

Remember when the housing market blew up?  We all lost a lot of equity.  Some of us lost all our equity.

Reviewing the past year, we’ve had our septic backup into the house, water damage and re-construction.  Floors ripped up and walls knocked out and humongous industrial fans roaring 24-7 to dry everything out.  We’ve dealt with contractors, and layers upon layers of sub-contractors.  We’ve had to buy new appliances and learned about telescoping pipes (little cameras they shoot through to see the condition of underground plumbing), the cost of relying on Laundromats, how to wash your dishes in very little water… and my new, pretty little backyard garden (see My Family Intervention) is now dug to shreds, full of mud clumps and root killer.

All told, Hubby and I are now in tile-deficit.  We would need to build an extra ceiling to house the tiles we figure we owe to the house.  Or rather, the house owes us.  Maybe two ceilings.  I’m not sure, because after a certain year, I stopped figuring it all out.  It just raised my blood pressure.  Best to preserve my sanity.

In The Money Pit there is one scene where Tom Hanks “loses it”.  He goes down to the kitchen where he has been heating water on the stove, because the water heater’s broke.  He carries his heavy water bucket up the derelict stairs to the bathroom, where he pours the bucket of water into the bathtub.  The water added to the tub is too much weight for the rotting floorboards and the tub crashes through and smashes to pieces on the floor below.  Both Tom and Shelley stand there, their faces covered in dust and grime, staring through the huge hole in the floor, and Tom goes into a hysterical, maniacal laughing fit.  Shelley just stares at him as he continues to explode from pent-up stress.  It’s my favorite scene.

When I think about this, my own house problems seem funny too.  I just wish Tom Hanks was here to laugh beside me.

Oh… and for you movie trivia fans out there…

Alexander Godunov played the character of Shelley Long’s ex-husband, a drop-dead gorgeous, narcissistic symphony conductor.  He was also the rejected love interest to Kelly McGillis in Witness (sorry Harrison Ford, but if I was Rachel I would’ve chosen Daniel over you), and the angry, brooding terrorist Karl in Die Hard.

His real life was far more interesting than the characters in his movies.  Godunov was a Russian dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet who defected to the U.S. and caused an international incident involving President Carter.  He was pals with Mikhail Baryshnikov (who later fired him from the American Ballet Theatre), and eventually he became an actor.  Sadly, he died at the age of 45.


Why Are Certain Stories Timeless? What Scrooge Can Teach Us About Great Writing

A lovely commentary on redemption and Charles Dicken’s story…

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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One of my all-time favorite movies for the holidays is The Muppets Christmas Carol. I believe I’ve seen this movie a few hundred thousand times. I’ve worn out three VHS tapes and at least three DVDs. I play the movie over and over, mainly because, well, duh,  MUPPETS! I drive my husband nuts playing this movie over and over…and over.

I’m worse than a three-year-old.

Muppets aside, I also can’t get enough of the music. I love the story of A Christmas Carol no matter how many times I see it, no matter how many renditions, and I am certainly not alone. Charles Dickens’ story of a redeemed miser is a staple for holiday celebrations around the world and across the generations.

This story is virtually synonymous with “Christmas,” but why is it such a powerful story? Why has it spoken so deeply to so many? Why is it…

View original post 1,966 more words


Green Appreciation Day

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This post is about green.  Specifically, the color green.  Not money, jealousy, Irish ancestry, government issued cards, or spinach.

It has nothing to do with:

*  the heart chakra,

*  emeralds or jade,

*  Celtic myths,

*  looking nauseous,

*  ecology,

*  ghost slime,

*  the former flag of Libya,

*  stop lights,

*  greener pastures,

*  or unripe tomatoes.

 

This is about the color itself, not the meanings or associations we attach to it.

Green is a beautiful color.  Green makes me happy.  I’m thankful for green.

I once read that the purpose of good-luck pieces, amulets, or talisman’s wasn’t to cast spells on others, so much as it was to have a physical object that helped you to change your own perception from the negative to the positive.  Sort of like having a worry stone in your pocket, that you could rub to help calm you.

Whatever.

The main advice of the article was to use physical props to help you deal with stress.  Find that physical thing which helped you, and set it on your desk at work, hang it in a prominent place on your wall, or carry it with you.

As you can guess, with me it’s the color green.  I have no idea why, but just seeing green brings me joy in a way that no other color does.  And yeah, I’m a gardener, but it’s not a plant thing, it’s something about the color itself.  So sometimes I put a little something green (fabric swatch, ribbon, jelly bean?) in my pocket, so that when I’m feeling stressed I can pull it out and look at it.

I don’t think the green object has magical powers.  (Unless my blood sugar drops.  Then that jelly bean can “magically” take away my hunger!)  Perhaps mystics might say that on some level my body resonates with green’s wavelength or frequency.  Or maybe other people feel this way about their favorite color too, but they just don’t talk about it.  I have no idea.  I just know that green makes me feel good.

This is why I wore a Kelly green wedding dress and had a bright green wedding ring.

It’s why the carpet throughout my home is “seafoam”.  Why the wallpaper is “sage”, the lamps are “avocado”,  and the bath towels are “forest” green.

I have to fight through the green jungle of huge houseplants that fill my office, and if you open my drawers you will find a multitude of green clothes.  (Sadly, I don’t look that good in green, so I end up wearing the blues more often.)

My family knows this “green obsession” about me too.  For my birthday this year, my sisters spent weeks looking at green jewelry.

“Do you think she’ll like the green tourmaline or the green crystals better?”  They shopped and agonized and tried on pair after pair.  It came down to two pairs of earrings – one pair was teardrop shaped and forest green – the other pair of semi-precious peridot, a lighter shade of green.  They showed me both pair but said I could only chose one.  The whole family had bets on which green I’d choose.

So today, when I put on my forest green Swarovski crystal earrings (it was no contest really, they were the “greener” of the two), I decided that November 26th, 2014 should be declared the first annual Green Appreciation Day.  After all, if a clothes store can generate profits by declaring a day every year for families to buy and wear the same colored pajamas (not saying who, you can Google it), then I see no reason I can’t have a Green Appreciation Day.

Maybe it’ll catch on.  Hey, the throwing an orange down the street on New Year’s eve did (another story for another time).

By the way, the earth is approximately 71% water and then there’s that immense blue sky over all.  So I think it’s safe to say that God likes blue.

But he gave us the land to live on.  And it’s predominantly green.  If he wanted us to be blue lovers he’d have given us fins.  So it’s very, very possible (don’t burst my bubble here) that God’s favorite color is green!

Happy Green Appreciation Day everyone.


The Paycheck

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Most of our days we go through life so fast that we don’t even notice them passing.  Especially in light of the holidays… working, raising kids, maintaining the house, figuring out how to pay for Christmas… it’s all a blur.  Those days are the filler of our lives.  “What’s new with you?”  “Oh, you know, just carrying on.”

But there are other days too.  The days everyone hopes to avoid, yet everyone has.

Everyone knows what I’m talking about.  Unexpected tragedies.  Burdens that almost break your back.  Worries that rob you of sleep.  Family Discord.  Anger.  Pain.  Resentment.  Fear.

I woke up this morning, worrying (again) about something that I’ve worried about for so long, it’s  automatic.  My Achilles heel.  Yet for all the times I’ve given it my attention – freely smothering it with my hard-earned energy – that worry has never come to pass.

I am – literally – worrying about something non-existent.  What happened in the past, what could happen in the future, yet has no bearing on the immediate present.

I’ve cried to God about it so often that I, myself, am tired of hearing my own complaint!

I thought of everyone else.  Doing the same thing I do.  Just trying to make a living, taking care of our families, getting as many errands done in one day as possible, and attempting to hold it together one more day.  Meeting the demands of everyday life.

You know.  Scrabbling around gathering nuts.  (Yeah, the squirrels do it.  We do it.  Every bug and plant does it.  In short… every living thing is concerned with the same thing.  That constant need to push back at the struggle of survival doesn’t take a vacation for losing your job, the kid’s measles, or home repairs.)

You know what?  This is the price of life.

So.  If this is the price of life, then what is the paycheck?

Sweet kisses on my face from Hubby.  Kids.  Sisters.  The dog.  (’nuff said).  Family!  Who can describe the connection with family?  Love.

Then there’s music.  Oh, happiness – it’s that time of year when every choral/instrumental group performs the most  wondrous sounds.

Dark, cold nights spent cuddled under piles of soft blankets.  Dog snores from the bedside.

Christmas movies.  Driving around and viewing all the sparkling decorations.  Holiday scenes made out of gingerbread and candies.  Eggnog.

A warm bath.  Good books and good neighbors.  Ice sculptures of incredible beauty.  Snow.  Crystal clear night skies, sparkling white and blue days.

Green!  (There’s always green somewhere.)

The scent of sugar from the Tea Olive plant on my windowsill.  Jasmine flowers.

Yes, the price of living is high.  But the paycheck is pretty darn great.

What are some of the rewards included in your paycheck?

 

“Joy and sorrow are the light and shade of life; without light and shade no picture is clear.”  Hazrat Inayat Khan


Interstellar Heaven

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Hubby and I went to see the movie Interstellar late last night.  Interstellar Heaven!

I was so pumped to see this film, but I know how that can be… you get yourself so excited by your expectations that the actual event can’t live up to it, and you’re disappointed.

I didn’t want that to happen with Interstellar.  (Hard sci-fi films are so far and few in-between as it is nowadays.)

So before we went, I read many of the on-line comments and reviews, both professional and from the general public that had already seen it.  It seemed people were divided between two camps.  Lots of 5 star reviews from people that loved it, and a lesser amount of 1 or 2 stars from the haters.  There were very few in the middle.

You either loved it, or you hated it.

General consensus of the lovers:

  • Amazing special effects.
  • Moving emotional performances.
  • Gripping tension that kept you glued to the edge of your seat.

General consensus of the haters:

  • What exactly is happening?  Too difficult to understand.
  • Too long.

From within both camps there were comments that the sound quality was a problem.  The music, they said, was too loud to hear the dialogue.

After reading the reviews, I was still looking forward to seeing the movie but my expectations were tempered, mainly because of the sound thing.   I already have hard-of-hearing issues and those movies where I spend every other minute whispering to Hubby “What did they say?” tend to drive me nuts.  Not to mention Hubby doesn’t enjoy the constant interruptions.

So we saw it.  And here’s my take:

It was gripping enough that the 3 hour length didn’t bother me.  Nor did it bother Hubby, and he often gets antsy even in 2 hour movies.  He even wants to see it again.  (I’m not so sure I do, although I’d love to see that ending again.)

The emotional performances were just what they said.  Great.  McConaughey acted his a** off, not something you usually see from him.  Matt Damon played an irritating character, and he did it decent enough so that you really didn’t like him much.  Jessica Chastain did a good job as the adult daughter of McConaughey but the one who really stole that role was Mackenzie Foy, who played the same character as a child.  Even Anne Hathaway who – I’m sorry, I just don’t like her – did a really credible performance.

As far as the science of the film?  Quantum gravity at its finest.  Loved the strings!  Loved the Rama-like spacecraft  (just exactly when is Morgan Freeman’s production company going to film Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama anyway?  He’s been promising it for years!)  It was reminiscent of several hard sci-fi books, actually.  Using “dimensional shortcuts” (like a fifth dimension) to travel or send messages through space-time is a trick of many a science fiction plot.

And then there was all the relativity.  Can you ever have too much of Einstein’s relativity?

I think not.

The negatives I would give the movie echo the same as other reviewers… the sound quality.  The science is daunting…  I’m a bit of a physics buff but I certainly didn’t understand all of it.  You really need to be up on all the latest theories to grasp the whole thing.  But I might have understood more if I could’ve heard it!  The music, while intense and wonderful, grew so loud – right during the key points of the story, of course – that even Hubby didn’t know what they said.

Do you think they did that on purpose?  So we would miss a key physics explanation?  Maybe they were fuzzy on it themselves and so covered it up with loud music?  Ha – probably not.  But it was kind of frustrating.

The other negative just has to do with my own personal idiocies in movies.  I LOVE disaster films.  And I was really looking forward to those gigantic tidal waves, frozen clouds, and planetary fires that were promised in this film.

They were a disappointment.  The waves were pretty good, but the frozen planet was “eh” and the planetary fires were fields of corn burning on Earth.  (Oh yeah, as an aside, that plant blight and Dust Bowl rendition of Earth was pretty cool.)

Still, when you have so much of Albert’s general theory of relativity in a film – well, as far as I’m concerned, Albert rules over all, so disaster disappointments are forgiven.

Plus, it was wonderful (for a change) to actually see hard sci-fi on the big screen.  So much of what they call sci-fi nowadays is more like magic, or fantasy.  I’m not opposed to those, I enjoy those too, but I’m old enough to remember when fantasy and sci-fi were different shelves at the bookstore.  Nowadays, you go to Barnes & Noble and look in sci-fi and find mostly paranormal fantasy.  Vampires, witches, and a few alien adventures with swords.

When and why sci-fi became vampires is another subject.  Maybe I’ll explore that on another post someday.

But for now, here’s the bottom line:

If you have a working knowledge of physics, Interstellar is going to rock your world.  You’ll be discussing it with your friends for days.

If you don’t understand the science one iota, it’s still pretty cool.

I say “Go”.  At the speed of light.


Hubby’s Pumpkin Obsession

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Halloween is my husband’s favorite holiday.  It has nothing to do with ghosts and goblins, and everything to do with pumpkins.

As of last count, we have 17 pumpkins so far this year.  Luckily – this being Halloween week – I think it’s (almost) safe to say we might finish the season under 20.

What is it about pumpkins that Hubby finds so fascinating?  I mean, seriously, we spend quite a chunk of money on those orange orbs!

Whatever the fascination, shopping for pumpkins with Hubby has become more than just picking up a few at the grocery store.  It’s become a major tradition for us, and has pushed our neighbors to collect pumpkins as well.  My husband has single handedly boosted the pumpkin industry to new heights.

I go outside to get the mail and run into the neighbor lady across the street… “Uh-oh,” she says.  “I see you’ve added a sixth pumpkin to your collection.  I better get a move on, I only have four.”  She confesses to me how every night, when she drives home, she counts the number of pumpkins we have.  It gives a whole new meaning to “keeping up with the Jones’s”.  (I LOVE our neighborhood.  Entertainment central.)

Every few days Hubby comes home with a new pumpkin from one place or another.  On weekends, we go pumpkin shopping, looking for the best deals.  (When you buy in quantity, you can’t afford pricey.)

Several years ago we found a place called Bob’s.  Or maybe it’s called Dan’s.  I can never remember.  But who can blame me for forgetting the name of the place when it’s located between Frank street and Tom’s pumpkin farm?  Whatever… Bob’s is a pumpkin man’s paradise.  It’s entrance is a skinny little dirt road tucked in between tall trees.  If you’re not careful, you’ll miss it and pass right by.  (And end up at Tom’s.  Something Tom is probably happy about.)

Once you turn into Bob’s, just beyond the trees, is a wide clearing in the woods, filled to capacity with pumpkins.  HUGE pumpkins.  Bob’s pumpkins are all the same price… $6.00 each.  It doesn’t matter what size you choose, every pumpkin is $6.00, from pie size to monstrosity.  But here’s the funny thing… they’re ALL monstrosities.  There are no little pumpkins!

Plus, it’s all self-serve.  Bob is not there.  Nobody is there.  A shabby looking, beat-up wood box is set up at the far end of the clearing (surrounded by huge pumpkins, of course), with a sign that says you are on the “honor system”.  You total your number of pumpkins by 6 and feed your money into the slot on top of the box.  One glance up, and you see a number of security cameras sitting in the trees, some of them conveniently located to catch the license plates on your car.

So apparently Bob is not as trusting as his sign would leave one to believe.

Bob’s is a great place.  Hubby looks forward to our trip to Bob’s every year.  He roams around from one huge pile of pumpkins to the next, trying to decide between them.  “They’re all so beautiful!” he says.  (Obviously, orange is Hubby’s favorite color.)  Of course, we never leave with just one.  Usually we have our dog in the back seat (he needs a pumpkin outing too) so Hubby is limited to how many king-sized pumpkins he can fit in the trunk.  He thinks the dog should be able to share his seat with a pumpkin.  I put my foot down on this.  The dog is 95 pounds.  He needs the whole seat.  (I also refuse to carry a pumpkin on my lap all the way home.)

By the way – in case you’re wondering – yes, we do carve a few of them.  Our neighbor lady comes over (brings her own pumpkin) and we have a little carving party, during which Hubby reads “The Great Pumpkin” by Charles Schulz.  It’s another wacky part of our pumpkin tradition.

But mostly, all those pumpkins just adorn the outside of our house.  When they start to soften we move them under the trees or back into the compost pile, where the wild critters have come to depend upon them for winter food.  Every time the weather warms up enough for the fruits to thaw, you see squirrels sitting on top of the pumpkins, eating handfuls of orange.

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Some people may think this pumpkin obsession of Hubby’s is a bit out of control.  But it doesn’t bother me.  Pumpkins make Hubby happy.  Besides, I’m hardly a stranger to obsessive behavior myself (see My Family Intervention).  The year I ordered well over 2,000 flower bulbs, Hubby helped me plant them.  He never complained and he hauls stuff around the garden for me all the time.  I figure what comes around goes around… I don’t complain about his pumpkins.

There was, however, that one year when the neighbors did (The Great Pumpkin Patch).  But given some of the crazy things our neighbors have done, I have no worries.  Like I said, I love our neighborhood.

Isn’t this what makes life so much fun?  Happy Halloween everyone!


Dad Is Watching

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Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by ignorant people.  Sometimes being this morning, actually.

Logically, I know it’s not true.  In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever even met an ignorant person, so how could I be surrounded by them?  We all have subjects which we’re ignorant of, but that’s not the same thing as someone who is ignorant.  Plus, our definitions of intelligence are 1) subjective, and 2) frequently prejudiced.

No, being surrounded by ignorant people is only a feeling I get, born out of frustration during those times when I don’t get the co-operation I think I should, from people whose co-operation I need.  (Usually, it has to do with things like: doctors who don’t listen to what I’m saying or who don’t treat my family members with that same courtesy, contractors who take advantage of my ignorance and do a lousy job, etc.)

I’m sometimes told my own judgment could be suspect in these cases.  Or, as Hubby would so aptly put it, “You just get upset when people don’t see things your way.”  (aka: too controlling).  Leave it to Hubby to tell me the truth.  (“Ha!” she answers defiantly.)  This was the case last night (and again this morning) when I expressed frustration with the “ignorant” someone who frustrated me.

There’s just enough little girl in me to wish my dad was still here.  If Dad was here, he’d know what to do.  I’ll never forget when I was in my early twenties and I made some derogatory remarks to my Dad about one of his friends…

My parents were part of a coffee clutch that met at a local restaurant.  It was a fairly large group – probably 15 or more people – and several hours every morning the members would drift in and out of the restaurant, sit at a long table, eat breakfast and chat with each other before they had to leave for their jobs.

I was a college student at the time, and sometimes ate breakfast with the clutch before I went to classes, always finding it interesting how diverse my parents friends were.

There was the beautician who owned the beauty shop next door to the restaurant.  She’d stop in around 9 a.m., order coffee and dry toast and spread local gossip she’d hear from her customers.

There was the manager of the hardware store… a disgruntled fellow who came (and went) early, since his store was clear across town and traffic could get bad.  And the high school teacher, who ran into job trouble when the school district found out he was gay (this was back when “coming out of the closet” wasn’t fashionable).

I remember one fellow who was quite handsome.  He had exquisite Greek features, attractively styled hair just barely frosted with gray, and he was always impeccably dressed.  He was the owner of a men’s clothing store, my dad bought many of his expensive office suits from that man.  Rumor had it that he had a penchant for cheating on his wife.

As for my dad, he was an executive for –  now that I look back onto it – probably one of the largest employers in the area.  A national corporation whose headquarters were in Stamford, Connecticut.

This coffee clutch was, basically, an interesting representation of the townspeople.  They ranged in age from thirties to retired, women and men alike with varied livelihoods, interests, religion, and political opinions.  I loved being a part of the clutch whenever my schedule permitted it.

One of the clutch members, however, was someone I really looked down onHis name was Al and he was a retired farmer who lived on the outskirts of town.  To fill his time he did odd jobs for friends and family.

At the time, my dad was a controller.  (No, that is not a description of his personality… it’s the title of a top managerial financial person, responsible for all the financial/accounting related activities within an organization.)  A numbers man.

When our back yard fence needed repair, or the garage door opener jammed up, Dad would try his darndest to fix these things, but mechanic’s was definitely not his forte.  His fingers worked fine on a calculator but when it came to home repair, he was all thumbs.  Instead, he came to rely on Al.

To look at Al was to look at the stereotype of the typical “backwoods” farmer.  He wore denim bib overalls, long-sleeved shirts and dirt encrusted work boots.  He drove a small, dented pickup truck.  His thinning gray hair always looked like it needed to be trimmed.  He had a missing tooth and a rough, grizzled manner.

I thought Al was the most poor, worthless, uneducated man I’d ever met.  As I said, I was college age.  (We all remember how “smart” we were at that age, right?)  I don’t remember exactly what my disparaging remark about Al was, but I do know it included the words “dumb” and “poor”.  My dad became very angry.

“Al has more money than any of us up at that restaurant,” he said.

My eyes grew wide in surprise as Dad went on to explain.  Turns out that – in exchange for fixing things around our house – Dad did Al’s taxes and helped him with his accounting.  Something I hadn’t known.  Al had no college degree, but he was a savvy, shrewd business man who, as a result, was very wealthy.

He knew what his area of expertise was and he knew how to capitalize on it.  So much for “ignorant”!

After Dad “educated” me, I was more respectful of Al.  Money talks, I suppose, but mostly it was because I saw my dad as a smart man, so if Dad thought Al was smart, then he must be, and I had judged prematurely.

So here’s the thing about dealing with “ignorant” people… do we get upset because people disrespect us?  Or do they know something we don’t?  Certainly you need co-operation (or at the very least, explanation!) when it comes to people you receive services from.  Such as doctors.  (My source of irritancy was a doctor, of course.  I should qualify here that I have a profound distrust of doctors.  My paranoia of them is probably deserving of some serious therapy.)

Well, I can’t quite let go of my frustration yet.  But I am willing to take a step back and try not to control the situation every time I step into a doctor’s office.  To admit that I could be reacting more to how I think the doctor perceives me than I am to why we went there in the first place.  After all, it’s at least a possibility he may actually know what he’s talking about (that’s cheeky, isn’t it?).

It’s practically impossible to know what someone else thinks of you, and dangerous to base your reactions on what you think those opinions might be.  I have no idea what knowledge or experience that doctor has had that, added to my own experiences, lead to our lack of communication.  What kind of a day he had or  what his emotional, spiritual, or physical state was at that moment.  What I do know is that I doubtless could’ve gotten more co-operation if I’d handled it better.  Tried a different approach, instead of just reacting from expectation.

That’s the danger of letting others define us.  That’s the danger of defining others.

My dad’s not here to set me straight anymore, so I have to figure these things out without him.  But I like to think that God has appointed Dad to keep an eye on me.  To help me, by bringing to light memories from our past.  I think of my dad as more of a disciplinarian than I do God, so that thought may not be enough to always keep me from reacting first and thinking later…  but it is enough to give me pause.

After all, it’s not just a loving, forgiving God watching over me.  Dad might be watching too.