Verbal Ticks

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DAILY PROMPT:  Friday, June 13, 2014

Verbal Ticks:  Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it?

There is one word that I overuse.  Say it ALL the time.  I truly did not realize how much I used it until I went skydiving with my brother last year to celebrate his birthday.  As part of our package, we purchased videos of our jump.  For every question I was asked, I answered using the same word.  When I watched the video, by the third/fourth use of the word, I was cringing.  It’s not that it’s a BAD word.  And how I started using the word is an interesting story.  Which goes like this:

How many times have you been asked, “How are you today?” or, even asked the question without really wanting to hear the answer?  I noticed a few years ago that whenever I asked someone, they would give the usual “I’m fine” that is expected in our society today, but sometimes body language or other things would give away that the answer was a lie.  With a little press, you could get the full story of what was going on in that person’s life.  Now, of course, you have to be careful that when you press you really want to know the answer to the question, ’cause some people are truly going through some things in their lives and once they get to talking, you might not be able to get them to stop.  Well, I decided that I was not going to answer that question generically anymore – just to see who was paying attention, and who was really listening.  And thus began my overuse of my word.

So, that’s how it started, but it evolved over time.  I found that by using my word, sometimes I could change my attitude – or the attitude of those around me – just by saying it.  It is one of those words that when you say it, the physicality of saying it changes your mouth, your mood, your attitude.  And when people hear the word, it tickles whatever it is in the ear that can get tickled by a word and makes them smile – unless they are really grouches at heart and then they just kinda snarl at you when you say it.

Another thing about my word:  it sparks conversations, no matter where I am or who I am talking to.  Whenever I say it, especially in response to the societal polite “how are you?” greeting, people stop, look at me and say, “Really? Why?” – which can spark a conversation, and maybe even a new friendship.  On the flip side, since that has become my standard response, when I don’t use it, people are concerned and want to make sure that I am ok and if not, what they can do to help me get back to using my word.

Ok, I know, by now, the suspense is killing you.  You wanna know what this mood-altering, conversation-striking, overused word is, don’t you?  The word is:

FABULOUS!!!

Now, go back to the top.  Read this post again, filling in my word for each scenario I’ve written, and I am sure you will see what I mean about the power of this word.  But I think I need to come up with another one.  Just so I can spark different kinds of conversations…

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The Loss of Innocence

Writing 101 Challenge:  Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to write in response to this challenge.  There are several people who I have lost – to death, to misunderstandings, to whatever – but that seemed like it would be hard and cliche.  I thought about writing about losing my virginity because it TRULY is a funny story, but this is a PG blog and that might be waaaay too much information to share on the blogsphere.  And there are probably lots of stories to be told about lost dreams, lost keys, losing my way.  But then the “perfect” story came to mind.  The loss of my innocence when it came to political matters.

We all remember the hype around the 2008 Presidential election.  When I think back to that November night when it was announced that Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States – a Black man with that lovely family and those two cute little girls – I am still (almost) moved to tears.  As the cameras panned the crowds gathered at Grant Park in Chicago, IL, I was struck by the diversity of the gathering:  young, old, Black, White, male, female, straight, gay, Native American, Asian – the list goes on and on – I naively believed in the hope of a “new, post-racial America”.  And even though I’d had some serious, emotionally bloody conversations with friends who didn’t believe as I believed politically about his ability to pull this country together and help move us through the problems that were facing our country at that time, I HONESTLY believed that we were starting a new chapter in the history of America when it came to race relations and I believed that we were going to put our political differences behind, roll our sleeves up, and work together for the common good of ALL Americans.  I mean, Hillary and Bill came around, surely the rest of the country would follow their lead and we could all move forward, right?  WRONG WRONG WRONG.

It took a minute.  It wasn’t an immediate, overnight, whiplash kind of turn of events, but slowly and surely, it became more and more apparent that, while President Obama won in a LANDSLIDE victory, a lot of people who voted for him (Black and White alike) expected him to walk on water, perform miracles and convince people across the political aisle to work with him hand in hand as we all sat around the campfires singing Kumbaya.  Even some of my more politically savvy friends who, initially agreed that it was going to “take some time” to “turn things around” – and who told me shortly after the election that they would give him two years to make a change – six months later were complaining that things were not turning around quickly enough.  Speaker of the House John Bonehead, I mean Boehner, came out and publicly stated that the #1 agenda of the Republican party was to stop the President and his agenda NO MATTER WHAT.  It didn’t matter if his ideas would benefit millions of disenfranchised Americans or not.  It didn’t matter if the idea made sense.  And, in some cases, it didn’t matter if the Republicans themselves thought up the idea, wrote the bill, and presented it as their own – if President Obama said, “Oh, that sounds like a great idea, let’s run with it.” – all of a sudden, the idea was taboo and stalled in the House.  And I sat in my room in Atlanta, GA and watched the shenanigans and thought, “Wow, I never expected this.”

But my political innocence was stripped away more by my personal interactions with my friends who believed differently than I did politically.  It wasn’t a blatant, shocking, bandage ripped off of an open wound, kind of stripping.  (Which in some ways, would have been easier to deal with.)  It was more subtle.  It was the “Look at what YOUR President has done now” kind of comments.  It was the unavailability to meet for lunch or dinner or even over the water cooler at work.  (Granted, my change in work schedule may have helped that along the way, but that doesn’t account for every slight and dig and rescheduling of get togethers).  It was the comment of “Why are you even watching that? Aren’t you a Democrat?” when I commented on watching the Republican National Convention when it was time for Mitt Romney to be dubbed the Republican candidate against President Obama’s re-election bid.  This comment was soon followed with the comment “Mia Love. Mia Love.  Did you see her speech?”, as if my SOLE and ONLY interest in what the Republicans were saying was embodied in the one speaker they had who looked like me.  (Young, gifted, female and Black).  Seriously?  Do you think I am that dumb and easily persuaded?

My political blinders have been stripped away at the less than subtle, outrageous statements and actions of the citizenry since President Obama was elected, and then re-elected.  From Joe Wilson’s infamous “you lie” disruption of a speech by President Obama, to the visions of his likeness being hung in effigy, to the years-long debate about his birth certificate and true citizenship, and just the blatant disrespect of the man and the office – my political innocence is gone.  And while most people would want you to believe that their opposition has nothing to do with his race, heritage and color – explain to me the people who support the Affordable Care Act as being something good for the country, but are opposed to Obamacare.  (Uh, they are one and the same, people.)  It baffles the mind.  I have friends who have benefited from Obamacare – will admit that their premiums are lower, the coverage is better, and they are pleased with their new coverages – but in the next breath, will rail against how Obamacare is going to be the worst thing ever to happen to America.

I wanted to believe in a “post-racial” America. I wanted to believe that we could be better than the history of this country has shown us to be.  I wanted to believe, especially after the President’s re-election in 2012, that things would get better and we would eventually, as a nation, gather around the campfire to sing.  But that hasn’t happened, and at this point, with only 2 years left in office, my hopes are pretty much dashed against the shores of disappointment.

Maybe this country will treat Hillary better when she takes office in January 2017.  One can only hope.

Letter from my Grandfather

Writing 101 – Day 6:  Be brief.  You find a letter on a path.  Write about how it makes you feel – and be brief.

One day, while going through some files, I came across a file labeled “JUNQUE WORTH SAVING”.  In this file was an old, tattered, worn envelope.  Upon opening it, I discovered a letter to me from my paternal grandfather, who died in January 2001.  To understand the significance of this, you have to know my grandfather NEVER wrote me anything.  Even my birthday cards were signed for him by my grandmother.  As I read it, I was flooded with emotion and burst into tears.  It is not important what he said – but I felt the love, support and encouragement in that letter.  After I read it, I folded it up, and put it back.  I have not read it again since that day, but there is a peace that comes from knowing that it is there if I ever want to be reaffirmed of his love for me.

Patron Saint of …

Writing Challenge: June 2, 2014: In 300 years, if  you were to be named the patron saint of X, what would you like X to be?

Off the top of my head, I could think of a lot of things, I’d like to be the “patron saint” of:  friendship, creativity, food, photography, travel – all things that I love and adore and spend a lot of time doing / nurturing / contemplating … but one thing kept sticking out in my mind as the “ultimate” thing.  I think I should be the patron saint of “new beginnings”.

We have all heard the saying, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade” – and it is a good adage.  The prompt to “make the best out of any situation” is good advice and a positive way to live your life.  But the reality is, sometimes the lemons pile up faster than you can squeeze them and the acid burns your fingers and eyes and the scent of the lemons becomes cloying and nauseating.  And who wants to drink that much lemonade anyway?

Life has handed me my fair share of “lemons” – frayed relationships, disappointments and failures in my professional and personal life, unrealized expectations and a variety of other things that still need resolution and closure.  BUT life has also taught me that you can wallow in the mire of those things and let them overwhelm and consume you – OR you can use those challenges as stepping stones to a new and brighter future and reality.  I have learned to embrace the challenges, look for the lessons and strive to move forward with new purpose and dedication to make THIS life the BEST life I can make it.  On a day to day basis, I may occasionally lose sight of that goal and stumble, but when I look back at the tapestry of experiences that make up my life and who I am – I count the blessings and keep it moving.

Yep, I would like to be the patron saint of new beginnings, because I would like people to look at my life, what I do with it, and instead of focusing on what could be perceived as the “bad things” – see the good, and see how each new start made my life better.