Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ten Rules for Being Human

I received this in my email the other day and found it fairly profound. Ms Carter-Scott says very articulately many things that I have often thought about. Seems fitting for an end-of-the-year post. Against my natural inclinations, I have left in the quote marks around various words so it is as I received it. I hate quote marks and ordinarily in all my writing or editing, especially for pay, they are summarily stricken "every time."

Ten Rules for Being Human
by Cherie Carter-Scott

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it's yours to keep for the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, "life."

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately "work."

4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There's no part of life that doesn't contain its lessons. If you're alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6. "There" is no better a place than "here." When your "there" has become a "here," you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."

7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life's questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bus driving for fun and profit

Johnnie is a school bus driver and has been for the past couple years. He retired three years ago from a big corporation after 30 years of cubbie farm enjoyment. After about a year of hanging out (and distracting me from my scheduled, ordered existence), I told him I needed more structure in my life so he should find a job. He interviewed at a local school district, got his commercial driver's license and began driving a school bus.

Johnnie never had children of his own but rather inherited my two girls when the youngest was in her teens so he is a relative newbie to children's behavior and has been rapidly learning kids antics on the bus and now with our granddaughters. So it's been interesting. However, he has a very even keel and the patience of Job that works in his favor when dealing with the little darlings every day. I couldn't do it. I'd have been tried for murder or mayhem by now.

Besides being a lot of responsibility in carrying over 100 children to and from school each day, the job was about what he (and I) expected. We established a new daily schedule of arising at o-dark-thirty each morning, him off to work, me up to the office to work and so on. Nice. Funny and frustrating instances of kids not behaving or one kid telling another, "I'm not a pest, I'm just annoying." The stuff that makes the world go around.

What we didn't expect was the unbelievable largesse he would receive at Christmas and the end of school as thank you presents from happy parents whose children were picked up promptly and delivered to their expected destinations -- either home, school or latch key daycare -- every day. Whoa. Last year at Christmas time he received about 12 Starbucks gift cards, several to Dunkin Donuts, Bruegger's Coffee, Home Depot, Wegmans (groceries), Hess, Barnes & Noble plus plates or bowls of cookies, about $40 in cash, a pound of Starbucks coffee, candy, hot chocolate mix -- you name it. Who knew bus driving could be so lucrative?

Same thing at the end of the year last June.

He began bringing gifts and gift cards home for the Christmas holidays a week or so ago - starting with a tower of goodies from Harry & David. We've been snacking on the cookies and candy for days. I never made any cookies at all this year but in some ways that's good because we have so many things from his kids. He's received a $25 gift certificate to Home Depot, several cards to Wegmans (always popular), many to Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Bruegger's, Wendy's, another pound of coffee, two pounds of Dove chocolates and lots more.

Since we don't frequent most of those places much, we often give the cards to our kids or sometimes as gifts to other people -- I guess it's really re-gifting but otherwise they will go completely to waste if we keep them to ourselves. We think of it more as sharing than re-gifting. I carry them around with me in a big rubber band in my purse so if we get someplace and want to use them, we're all set and not forgetting them at home.

He drives in a relatively affluent district but we're still amazed at the plenitude of gifts. Interestingly this year there have been fewer gift cards but many more homemade treats. Probably a sign of the uncertain economy.

When our kids were growing up and taking the school bus, I literally never even knew their bus drivers' names much less think to give them something for Christmas and the end of the school year. It has tuned my awareness to make sure we thank our service providers such as our postal carrier and our paper delivery person which I never would have thought to do before.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The holiday rush

The holidays are stressful enough so why do we purposely increase the stress and give ourselves MORE tasks and projects to get done? (obviously rhetorical) Just before Thanksgiving I decided to finally paint the upstairs guest bathroom. That led to a gradual project expansion that was ultimately of avalanche proportions when it was done. Gee, if the bathroom looks so nice, wouldn't it be great if the guest bedroom was finally done too? Heck, it's only four more walls and a ceiling. Much larger room. And a closet. So off to the paint store we went.

While the room was emptied, we started discussing how this smallish guest room had a king sized bed in it and way more furniture than it could accommodate. The furniture fit but the feng shui was nowhere to be felt. So we decided to swap two rooms around -- the smallish guest room and the larger bedroom once occupied by our daughter Erin that is now mostly used for naps and overnights for her daughter Emily. And the convenient flat surfaces catch a lot of junk that migrates there from time to time.

So now we had two rooms to paint and then exchange all the furniture. At the same time, since the birds are now gone, I decided to pull up the area rug in the dining room plus three others and take them to ServPro to get cleaned. And to arrange for carpet cleaners to come in and clean the wall-to-wall carpet in the house. All.at.the.same.time.

We began several years ago to switch the interior doors in the house from the standard luaun ones to six panel doors. The ones on the first level were done; none on the second floor had been done. Johnnie decided it was a good time to do the doors too, at least on the rooms we were repainting.

About this time, Johnnie started urging me to contact a wonderful painter we know and see if she had any available time. Of all miracles, she did. So Annie arrived in the nick of time to paint the larger bedroom. (I also have developed basal joint arthritis in both hands which makes it very painful to grasp the paint roller. More about this another time) Annie is calm and patient and paints without drop cloths or taping mouldings or anything. And she doesn't have gobs of paint on her clothing (a sure tip off -- I wear more paint on my clothes and hands than I ever get on the walls!).

So in a period of about two weeks we: switched two rooms, painted both of them (including trim and closets), got the carpets cleaned, got the rugs cleaned and returned, put the rooms together, put up six panel doors (and closet doors) and new hardware -- hinges and lever handles rather than knobs. Whew!

Our California daughter, Holly and her husband Mike arrived last night from San Francisco and all the projects were finished in just the nick of time. Johnnie hung the closet doors in the"new" guest room yesterday afternoon.

So that's why there have been no posts. Mea culpa. I'll work to do better once the holiday rush is over!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bogart and Coconut

We inherited Bogart, then a five year-old red-lored Amazon, in 1992 when my ex-husband moved from Long Island to California and didn't want to drive cross country with the bird (understanding rightly the stress it would put on the bird). He ultimately gave Bogart to us. Despite the bird's name, we found out a year or so ago that Bogart is a female which explains his/her often randy (and funny) antics in the springtime, hoping to do her part to propagate the species.

We purchased Coconut, at the time a six month-old blue and gold Macaw, in Maui when we were there on a company reward trip in 1995. It was our (very expensive) living souvenir from a wonderful all-expenses-paid trip. We loved these birds and have cared for them daily for the past 17 and 13 years, respectively.

Did you know that Amazons live about 70 to 80 years and Macaws live to the ripe age of 40-45? Bogart is now 21 and Coconut is 14. We knew their life spans and their intelligence levels when we adopted both birds. They have the behavior of two year old children and the intelligence of seven year olds. Easily bored. Very bright. Need lots of stimulation, socialization and interaction.

We began to wonder about our future (as in we're not getting any younger) and the birds' futures a couple years ago. Neither daughter and son-in-law couple wants either of them. They may both outlive us (Bogart certainly will, given the right diet and living conditions). So we have been wrestling for many months about what to do with the birds.

Through personal inquiries, we found a young girl who wanted to adopt Bogart and breed her. So we parted with Bogart in August, cage, food and everything. We were hoping to find someone who wanted to buy Coconut so we could recoup a bit of our investment but it's hard to sell a bird. We didn't want him/her (only way to tell the gender is through a blood draw and DNA test) to go to someone we didn't know or weren't sure we could trust to treat him/her well. (There are people out there who deal in birds just as there are puppy farms - and we didn't want to subject Coconut to that kind of inhumane treatment.)

We turned to Paul Lewis of
Birds Unlimited, from whom we have been getting our bird supplies for these past 17 years, and have been talking with him about our birds for several months. Today Coconut moved to Paul's store. We're hoping that someone either decides to take Coconut as their pet or that Coconut gets along well with the store's resident Macaw, Simon, and has a long and happy life living in the store.

The house will be strangely quiet without Coconut's friendly greetings (Have a good day, What's up with that, What are you doing. Merry Christmas, I love you, and so on) and more frequent screeching. We feel sad and relieved all at the same time. And have a nagging feeling of guilt for taking on a pet and then not being up to the task of honoring our commitment to it (them). Still, we are certain that it's the best thing for Coconut, Bogart and for the two of us. Yet they have been part of the family for such a long time. We will miss them greatly.