Are Humans the Alien Species on Earth?

The idea that Humans are an Alien Species on Earth came to me in a dream last night. In it, I saw a Superior Species somewhere Out There that perceives Humans as a predatory, invasive species, like Asian Carp in the Great Lakes.  To deal with the growing problem, the Superior Species traveled space to find a planet suitable to sustain Humans and proceeded to banish the Humans to this new planet, Earth — like sending prisoners and bad guys to Australia and America in the 1800s.

Humans have proven themselves to be self-centered, self-sustaining invaders.  We are taking over the Earth at an astonishing rate, destroying our environment and every other living thing in the process.  We gobble up resources like Pac Man, leaving death and destruction in our wake.  We are technically “eating our own” as the people with the most money take out those of us who don’t all over the world.  There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but they are in such a minority as to be unable to make much of a difference.

This would easily explain the origins of man — some invasive Humans were simply dropped here. It would also explain the disappearance of ancient cultures — as they progressed to a system where there were more Mankind Munchers than Munchees, they just killed themselves off.  We appear to be in the process of doing it again.

Published in: on May 10, 2015 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Consumerism

Today is “Cyber Monday.”  We are being barraged with specials, sales, offers, and other ways to save money.  The ads everywhere we see them are immediate and urgent.  We have just survived “Black Friday,” the day where so many sacrificed Thanksgiving with their families, the hands-on version of the retailer’s dream.  Supposedly, we are tired enough to want to stay home and shop online, or have been forced to return to work after a respite.  Now that the workers are back, they are shopping on the office computers on company time.  What could be better?

Nobody is more frugal than I am.  I very rarely purchase anything at full price.  Now that I’m living poor on social security, I’m not buying much.  I have seen nothing that I need, nothing that I want.  I’ve seen lots of flashy things, lots of bling; lots of solutions for problems that I don’t have.

An old friend who did missionary work in Brazil once told me that the people with whom she worked didn’t realize they were “poor” until they got American television.  This simple statement took me aback and made me think about how consumerism affects our lives.  There are legions of people whose jobs are to analyze us and market to us.  Sight, sound, touch, scent, taste are all wrapped into a psychological profile.

When I was growing up, my dad worked and my mom stayed home, though she did tailoring to supplement the family income.  My folks raised five kids, sending them to Catholic school on dad’s salary from the post office.  We had one car and lived close to the post office so dad walked to work.  We rarely used the car anyway.  We lived in town where we could walk to the grocery store, the movies, and to school.  The high school did not have a parking lot.  There was no cable TV and there were no cell phones or internet.  The hardware store in our town had a toy section on the third floor (no elevator) and mom put things on lay-a-way in the weeks before Christmas.  No interest.  The local stores were glad to have her business.  In our stockings, we received, as had generations before us even back to the “old country,” a huge orange, a huge apple, and some nuts and candy.  photo (23)

Agreed, the times have changed and in many ways for the better.  We have luxuries we never had before available to everyone except the poor.  Even the poor can have a basic cell phone through services such as Safe Link, which is a great thing.  Cable companies (e.g., Comcast) will help families with children obtain computers and basic connections.

I’m not saying we should go back to the 1950s or the 1960s, but I think we should put more thought into what we buy.  So often, we buy meaningless things that waste our precious resources.  It’s not necessary to buy gifts for everyone we can think of.  Often, people feel the need to reciprocate when it is difficult for them to do so.  I have learned that if I receive something unexpectedly, a simple heartfelt “thank you”  and a smile is really all that’s necessary.  I love to pick little things up throughout the year that I know someone will love and save them for the holidays:  little Lalaloopsy dolls for my granddaughters, a baking set for my chef-to-be grandson.  Sometimes, I knit them sweaters or scarves and remind them that these are “hugs” from grandma each time they put them on.

When my own kids were small, they’d get new socks and underwear every year so there would be extra boxes to open.  In their 30s now, they expect it and would be disappointed if I forgot.  After all, what feels better than a brand-new pair of socks?

I won’t be shopping this Cyber Monday, but I’ll start looking for some great underwear sales soon.

(The photograph in this post is the Thursday – Thanksgiving Day – Chicago Tribune.  We only get the paper on Sunday so this one was a surprise “gift” paper.  The small 1/2″ section in the front is the actual news part and the larger 4″ section in the back is the Black Friday ads.)

Finished

The time has come for us to part.

Did you really think you’d break my heart?

We’ve run our course.

There’s no remorse.

We’re done.

You son

of a gun.

Published in: on November 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Food for Thought

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479A generation ago, when you’d visit a friend’s house, the first-generation American mom would feed you.  There was always food available in the house and it was homemade.  It was an insult to the family to refuse to eat something.  Many cultures are food-based, though here in America we are becoming food freaks.  Although I’m getting old now, it hasn’t been that long ago that I can remember a culture where nothing was wasted.  I remember pie crust made with lard and a can on the stove with the morning’s bacon grease to be spread on bread at lunch at my grandfather’s house.  My dad ate pickled pigs’ feet and really smelly cheese.

We’ve evolved to be somewhat healthier human beings but we certainly aren’t healthier in proportion to the “healthier” foods we’re eating.  Fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free…we should be extremely thin and living forever!  Paleo diet worked for paleo man who had an average lifespan of – what – 40 years?

The crazy stuff we eat is trendy but definitely not sustainable.

We were born to enjoy food and enjoy the act of eating.  We like to have dinner together because it’s a social activity for which we are pre-programmed as humans.  Food is a pleasure, and one that we like to share.

This is why, at my house on Thanksgiving this coming Thursday, I will be sharing a huge feast with people whom I love dearly.  We will be eating family recipes that have been on the table for three generations that I can verify and suspect have been on tables I’ve never seen.  We will have just as much dessert (pies) available as we have dinner.  We’ll have a large loaf of plain ol’ white bread and Miracle Whip for late night sandwiches even though we’re stuffed from dinner.  We will feel like a family.

There will be no kale, no fat-free or sugar-free, or counting calories.  We will absolutely enjoy the day and the meal and will look forward to it fondly for next year too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Strange Dreams: Body Work

Do people wear clothes?  Or do clothes wear people?  I had another wacky dream last night and got some answers to these questions.  I’ve kinda always thought that real people wear real clothes (like off-the-rack type clothes) and that the haute couture type clothes wear people.  My dream explored anorexic models, clothes as art, and runways.

Clothes as art are designed by true artists, but not necessarily to complement bodies.  Our perception of what humans should look like is so out of kilter that models have restructured their bodies to unreal proportions so these clothes can wear them:  young women with the bodies of young boys, women with butts so large they can balance champagne glasses atop them, women with breasts so large they look like they’ll topple over, both men and women with so much plastic surgery they’re not recognizable except by DNA testing.  Hairstyles from which real birds fly, helmet hair, colors that don’t occur in nature anywhere.  Makeup that magnifies, geometricizes, and creates skin color unknown to man.

The dream provided me with a viable solution to some of these problems.  I propose society approves the use of robot models for designer clothing.  These robots could be the women’s size zero or two, or whatever ridiculous negative the clothes are designed for.  They could be made of the same materials as those real-life-like baby dolls with soft skin and angelic,but angry-looking, faces.  They could wear various wigs to accent the designer clothes and could wear whatever makeup the artist chooses.  They would be scrubbable and pose-able.  They’d be seven feet tall with a twenty-inch waist, and legs the length of three-quarters of their total body height.  They’d float down the runway, one foot exactly in front of the other, and wouldn’t trip or fall in footwear that isn’t shoes.  They could be remotely controlled from the audience to perform at any moment to highlight the designer’s vision.  Best of all, they wouldn’t ever have the need to eat.

The rest of us could then be free to be human, to have cellulite, and to eat pie without any guilt whatsoever.  We could happily continue to shop for clothes at Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Ross, and all the other wonderful places where we can buy clothes in which we can sit, run, drive, and enjoy ourselves.

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sometimes Family Sucks

1422356_665641110122635_595403514_nMy birth family sucks.  There are five siblings in my family.  Three of them live within a 30-minute drive from me and the other one visits the area frequently, but I haven’t seen any of them in over two years.  For my birthday this year, three of the four sent me a two-word greeting via text message.  I hear nothing from them at Christmas, not even a tweet much less a phone call.

I have un-friended them all on facebook because their posts were making me sick.  Last Christmas, one sister posted about all the holiday greetings she was sending, including several care boxes to service people overseas (which, by the way, I do support and admire).  All her “friends” liked and commented on her posts, raving about what a loving, warm person she is.  Loving to everyone except her sister apparently.  She posts all the time and has this posse of friends who tell her constantly what a beautiful person she is.  Yet, when she comes to town, I don’t get a phone call much less a visit.  Not exactly warm and fuzzy to the person who probably knows her best.

I have never received a thank you note from my nephew for a wedding gift I could not afford.  That part of the family has done better than well when it comes to money and they seem to thumb their noses at those less fortunate.  Throughout their lives, I’d send birthday cards to these children and include a little ($5 or so) gift with it.  I know they didn’t need it, but thought the kids would enjoy opening a card with a little treat inside.  This thought was never reciprocated for my children, nor was I ever thanked.

I used to work hard at trying to be a family.  I’d remember their birthdays.  I’d send little gifts when I found something I thought they’d like.  Sometimes I would call and invite them to lunch on their birthdays.  Yet, my birthdays came and went without acknowledgement other than the occasional text message.  I broke my ankle a year ago January and spent three days in the hospital after surgery, and six weeks non-weight-bearing, pretty much in bed.  Not even a single phone call.

Okay…this situation used to depress the hell out of me.  I thought I wanted a close family, one that was always there when I needed them.  I was repeatedly disappointed and hurt.  I’d dream about Christmases with my adult sibling-friends by the fireside.  You know… those people who love you unconditionally even though they know you inside and out.  The people with whom you could just be yourself. Additionally, I felt that as I got older, these siblings should and would be a comforting part of the aging process.  After all, we were getting old together.  We’d raised our children.  It was time to get back to the basics.  We had a common denominator.

Then I changed my mindset and it changed my life.  I can’t control people.  I cannot make this group of people loosely chained together by a soft chain of DNA into the idea of a perfectly tight-knit family.  Once I realized this, I could feel the tension seep from my body concerning them.  I wanted them to be something they didn’t want to be, not to me or to each other. I am the oldest surviving person in my family on my dad’s side now.  When mom passed away four years ago, I suspected we’d drift apart, but I wasn’t prepared for the rays of bumpy wake that would separate us as we all moved on without each other.

I have stopped wanting them in my life.  I’ve realized that their priorities are not my priorities.  When I objectively sit back and look at them, we are too different to be friends.  We don’t really know much about each other any more.  We are simply a small group of people with the same parentage who shared the same last name for a few years.  Other than that, we are complete strangers.

There may not be a perfect Norman Rockwell-esque family.  This idealization is perpetuated by images we see on TV, in magazines, and in other people’s lives, but it is not my reality and I suspect it may be the exception rather than the rule.  These images only foster and perpetuate sadness and depression in those inclined to experience it.

What’s important is that I’ve now given them permission to not live up to my expectations and I’ve stopped being angry.  With the holidays approaching, I am concentrating on my own children and the perfectly imperfect family we have created that loves and respects each other and joyfully comes together in warmth and love.

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479

Published in: on October 30, 2014 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Have You Started Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

In two days, Halloween 2014 will be a memory and CHRISTMAS SEASON WILL BE IN FULL SWING!  Forget Thanksgiving, that’s a holiday without gifts or decorations to speak of (yet).  Well, not to give anyone any ideas, but I haven’t seen a blow-up turkey on anyone’s lawn yet.

Time to get going on that holiday SHOPPING!  Buy, buy, buy and buy some more.  I’ve heard tales of people paying for their holiday purchases for months into the New Year?  Huh?

As I think back about all the Christmases I’ve experienced (a lot), what stands out in my mind are the experiences.  I grew up in a family of five kids and we got stuff but I don’t remember anything specifically unless it’s in a photograph somewhere.  I had four kids of my own and now have five grandkids.  I remember them having fabulous holidays with lots and lots of decorations and lots and lots of presents for everyone.  I don’t recall much of what I got for them and I know they don’t much remember what was in any of those brightly papered boxes either.

What we all remember are the experiences we had together.  Every year, we’d give them tickets to an event post-holiday.  For example, the ice shows came to Chicago in January and we’d give them tickets for Christmas.  It made the holidays last so much longer as they anticipated the event.  We’d still be celebrating long after the tree came down.  IMG_0108We started doing that for birthdays, too.  One year, we rented a fishing charter and all went salmon fishing on Lake Michigan to celebrate the summer birthdays.

Now, when we sit around reminiscing at the Thanksgiving table, the stories that always appear are, “Remember the time we had that whipped cream fight – when was that, two years ago?”  “Remember when we all went to Stomp and stomped our feet til they were numb?”  “Remember the salmon we had smoked and ate for an entire year?”

I’m already thinking about what’s coming to town after the holidays so my grandkids and I can have a memory to re-live on future Thanksgivings, even when I’m not there to reminisce with them anymore.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Trick or TREAT!

When I was a kid, it took forever to finish trick-or-treating. The grandma two doors down had homemade donuts and hot cider and you had to go in and visit awhile. Some families passed out apples. You sure couldn’t do that today because, you know, it’s just too darned easy to get a razor blade into one (huh?); also, they are so expensive now the cost of giving them out would be prohibitive – more than a candy bar, for sure. Sometimes we got a few pennies and could buy our own candy at the Penny Candy store, where it actually cost a cent or two. Remember those wax bottles with the colored sugar liquid in them? We would be gone for hours. Mom was probably glad we were out of the house. We walked all the way to the “better neighborhoods” to get full-sized candy bars. It was all about the candy.

It still is. I will be giving out Snickers bars this Halloween. Maybe some fruit snacks for the nut-challenged. But it will be a TREAT, not some lame pencil or sticker. If this does not fit in with your beliefs, please just skip my house and don’t force your food politics on me. Thank you.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Halloween!

Girl in Halloween costume, 1955 (credit:  Mashable)Halloween Mask

Halloween is next week already.  More and more neighbors are running to the store for decorations.  Our neighborhood is decked out to the nines with orange and purple lights and gigantic spiders made of black garbage bags and enormous, house-sized rope spiderwebs.  Yards have been turned into Styrofoam cemeteries and there are coffins on every corner.  Costumes have become elaborate, so much more than when I was a kid.  Our costumes were certainly not store-bought; we’d pull out our rattiest clothes and oldest shoes (think Dad’s old work pants cut down to child length) with a flannel shirt and suspenders.  Sometimes we’d stuff leaves in them so we’d look “lumpy.”  We’d burn cork and rub the ash on our faces to look like unshaven bums, and into our hair so it would look dirty.  We all went as “a hobo.”  Do kids today even know what a hobo is?  Remember the vagrants who used to ride the rails and hang out in the yards?  They weren’t homeless or beggars.  They were just transient.  Long before spray-painted graffiti on the train cars.  A hobo would never deface his chosen method of transportation.  Those were the last days of the Iron Horse (the black steam engine) and boxcars chugging along with open doors, inviting the hobos to hop in and take a ride.

Other than the candy, I hate Halloween.  I do not like to be scared.  There is a definite difference between being afraid and being scared.  There’s nothing of which I’m afraid, but I scare easily.  I despise haunted houses and horror movies.  My children and grandchildren love these things and love to scare me.

I do enjoy the little Trick-or-Treaters, but three barking dogs for four straight hours frays my nerves. It took years of coaxing by my family to let my four children go trick-or-treating back in the day.  I felt that I’d spent all year drilling the “don’t talk to strangers” thing into them; I certainly didn’t want to send them out begging candy from strangers one night a year.  I could afford to buy them all the candy they needed and they didn’t need to beg for it.  I was finally overruled and after hours of walking them up and down streets in my town, they’d empty pillowcases of crap, the cheapest of which we’d still find hidden alongside their beds in April.  The teachers at our school would make math games for the kids during the first week of November.  Graph your chocolate, non-chocolate, fruit, gum, non-food items.  Ugh.

What I do miss is “Injun Summer.”  This was published every year by the Chicago Tribune until everyone got up in arms about the “Injun” implication and they discontinued it.  I’d wait for it every year.  When my dad would pull out the wire garbage can and burn leaves in our driveway, I was sure I could see those indians dancing around the fire in their buckskin and silent moccasins.  They were real to me and I respected them and admired them as indigenous Americans.  I loved the ritual of the burning leaves: the dry leaves crackling in the blue-orange fire and the wonderful smell.  I miss roasting marshmallows on the fire and throwing foil-wrapped potatoes into it, only to be rewarded with the most delicious baked potatoes as the fire died.  Most of all, I miss my dad.

InjunSummer

Ya’know how all the non-Christians get up in arms over nativity sets at Christmastime?  I’m thinking about making a fuss about Halloween.

Who’s with me?

Published in: on October 24, 2014 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Stamping

Everyone with whom we come in contact makes an impression on us. Imagine this as an invisible rubber stamp. These stamps form layers on us, not unlike an onion, but some cover others and go deeper and deeper into us. Others remain superficial, but they’re still there. The stamps remain with us whether we wish them to or not.

Stamps are made from birth. Our parents stamp us first with love, experiences, and didactics. These stamps are deep and lasting. We’re stamped by teachers, friends, bosses, and coworkers. Stamps also come from those we meet only briefly and sometimes not even in person. We are stamped by books and letters, email and blogs like this. We don’t feel the stamps, but they are there.

I’ve been stamped by travel and those with whom I’ve come in contact while traveling. Many of them, of course, don’t even speak English but have stamped me with a look or a gesture. Something as simple as eye contact can produce a stamp.

I had a fun job not too long ago at a concert venue in a western state. I remember one evening when I was alone in a hallway with a huge country star backstage and, although we didn’t speak, I watched him walk, we made eye contact, and I instantly formed a lasting opinion of this person that remains with me to this day. I was stamped. Had he smiled a simple smile, my entire stamp would have changed. In that single second, I decided that his music (which I previously loved) wasn’t so great and that he wasn’t nearly the star I thought he was. He didn’t do anything to me or make me feel anything at all. It wasn’t a situation where he should have spoken with me and didn’t, nor was it the other way around. It was just a moment. Sometimes I wonder what kind of stamp I exchanged with him. He doesn’t remember me, I’m sure… I’m not anybody he should know or remember, but it’s true that somehow I stamped him too.

When work is available, I work as a background extra for television here in Chicago. Being an extra means a lot of standing around being human wallpaper. It also gives me the opportunity to observe a lot of people go about their work. Some days I get a barrage of stamps and the experience is exhausting. I wonder what stamps I return to them as I quietly watch. It is impossible to be invisible in any situation. Although we feel invisible, we’re still stamping others. My opinion of a number of people, without even speaking with them, has changed for the better or the worse depending on how they stamp me.

I’m stamped by stories, movies, television, magazines, facebook, twitter, causal encounters, and lasting friendships. I’d like to believe that most of these stamps are in italic with pretty floral borders. I know many of them are not and I try to keep them hidden away in a separate layer from the rest. Sometimes they surface and temporarily obliterate the pretty ones. I’d like to think that we are like that onion that grows another layer.

I want to send you a pretty floral stamp. Please enjoy.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment