pawspauseprose

Life as it arrives and dreams as they happen


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Shh…it isn’t news, it is just bad….

Life has evolved into a spectator sport, featuring Team Terrorist and Team Celebrity, and we have only our sick need for information and gratification to blame, and don’t get me started on the actions of the announcer that represents our country. In the tragically accurate words of Don Henley, “get the widow on the setis the head dead yet…”

This past Sunday, a major news affiliate reported that people have become desensitized to violence and death…ya think??? Social media and an overused state of political correctness now afford everyone the chance to be an armchair quarterback, judge, CSI investigator, televangelist preacher or half naked superstar, posed, poised and polished for success. The result of this voyeuristic saturation has made brutality and suffering on people and animals commonplace, actually the norm, as we check the Internet before facing the day. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?

Growing up in a law enforcement environment, there were moments of silence and covertly exchanged looks, which always remained between the walls of our home. However on occasion, my father, who was the Police Chief, did mention when something profoundly affected him, but only to explain his demeanor, or to possibly make his family aware of a potentially serious matter. Regardless of anything he would speak about, it was a given that it was not for public knowledge, and with a deep sadness in his eyes, he would call it a tragedy. This exact scenario continued into my married years, with my own Police Officer spouse, and like before, any knowledge of the personal pain that someone experienced, or caused, remained in confidence.

I am not saying it was ever easy to keep shocking details, stories and events secret, they were no different from what The Enquirer pays big money for today, however, it wasn’t newsit was tragedy. Those things had happened to real people, with real lives and real emotions, and they were the ones left with the aftermath…not me.  Luckily, the only social media available was over the phone or across the yard, but even with that, we still expressed compassion and concern, along with the understanding that it could have been our family, and we were always respectful.

Unable to do the work, create the dream or face the struggle, people now find it easier to live life through social media, while watching horror unfold for some, and fame and fortune for others. Daily doses of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all that color generic lives, which once had personal goals, family achievements and memories intended to be passed down. Why make a life, or take a chance, when the same results will appear on the news? Imagine the pain, suffer without consequence, and above all resent your failures – all without leaving the house.

When Pandora opened the box, and a fruit stand opened in the Garden of Eden, innocence became lost, and the world has forever paid the price, on knowledge never meant to be shared. Ignorance isn’t always bliss, but there are times when it is still for the best. Likewise, entertainment that was once uplifting, is now uploaded on a grand scale, the majority of which is horrifying, and has nothing to do with laughter…unless you like cat videos, and if so, that is a whole different box of drama.

The earliest days of movies and entertainment featured pratfalls, self-deprecating humor, and a few pies in the face. We laughed, because it exposed our hidden fears of being publicly humiliated, and/or embarrassed. When it progressed to drama, we faced relationship pain on an undesired streetcar, lost dolls in a valley, and saw a simple man, that innocently pulled a Charly Gordon, again facing what we didn’t want in our own life. The difference is, back then we also examined our values, morals and attitude, and made a choice to do better. Now however, we don’t face anything, and what is there, is in full color, hour after hour…someone else’s life, watched vicious and vicariously, in complete abandonment, always demanding they give an emotional reaction… for our satisfaction.

Many years ago, as I recovered from a physical assault, horrific stalking and the loss of my employment as a single parent, I found myself sitting across from a therapist, thinking it would help. The one thing I remember, almost as much as the attack I lived through, was this complete stranger asking me to detail the event, so he could say, how did that make you feel? Seriously…how the fuck do you think it felt? Needless to say, my anger and rejection from that emotional care left me with a hairpin trigger whenever I hear those same, intruding six words.

Verbally rehashing trauma may be beneficial to some,  however I am not one of those people, and even if I was, it needs to be done in private, and not in public, on diamond vision or across a bandwidth.  That being said, those same damned words are now the prying calling card of social media, entertainment and the news.  People facing the darkest moments of their lives,  have to also expect a camera focused squarely on their pain…and face, from a reporter writing a lead if it bleeds breaking news spot.

It is long overdue for humanity to rediscover common decency, and the knowledge that nobody has the right to ask such questions.  The time has come to again offer a hand, and confirm someone is not alone, and they have a friend if they need it…what a novel concept, just like the books used to prop up a laptop, and not feed a brain.

My grandfather used to say that it always seemed our destination took forever to get to, but coming home was ten times shorter. I still cherish his wisdom, especially since  the way our world and commitment to one another has disintegrated, the trip back home is going to take a very long time…if we ever get there at all.

 


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A brief life

brief

1990 was the year that put me on the map. I may not have had a lot of direction, and made more than a few wrong turns, but I was on my way! The Internet was also coming of age, no more than a telex jumble of Nexus bulletin boards and elementary codes, which like me, would in time, end up on the right page. I had a laptop, a 286 pony brick, about 2” thick, that had less memory than a $.99 thumb drive does today, but it was still a status symbol, along with my matching cell phone,  weighing about a pound, with a monthly bill of close to $1,000.  All in all, I was at the top of my game, and it was confirmed the day I laid down several hundred dollar bills to buy a leather Atlas briefcase, one that could carry everything.

Growing up, my father also had a briefcase, but it was old, and only stored papers he needed to work on the Police Department budget.  I remember that time of year vividly, since he would set up an additional TV Tray next to his chair. There was also a huge, antiquated adding machine balanced precariously in the center, and like the briefcase, only used for this purpose…returned to his office as soon as possible.

It was best to avoid the living room during those days, because between broken pencils,  groans and looks over his Walter Cronkite style glasses, the mood was a ring of gray frustration, and needed no verbal explanation as to the power he possessed. Be that as it may, it was still business, because even as a Police Chief, my Dad was powerful and in control, and it fascinated me.  You see, I grew up in a world where woman didn’t work outside the home and corporations had yet to expand into the New World Order.

However, much to my chagrin I wasn’t cop material, I was a girl after all, and only men were cops. But, as I neared graduation, I still had thoughts of traveling to Boston and becoming a lawyer. The law will forever be in my blood, so along with Perry Mason, Ironside and Hawaii 5-O, that was a possible port in my future storm of adulthood. Nevertheless, before such dreams could happen, life gave me my first turn, and instead of becoming a cop, I married one.  The year after graduation I became a professional wife, and mother, with diaper bag in lieu of  briefcase.

Many years later, after a few jobs, several marital separations and a divorce, I was like the Internet, on the verge of a new frontier, unsure where life was pointing me. Looking back, I still see my three young daughters, reflecting the woman I was becoming. They dressed up and walked in my high heels, used plastic cell phones and sticky note pads, and carried pink briefcases with their names in the corner. I may not have given them pretend stoves and kitchen sets like I loved at their age, but I taught them the same values, along with a reality check, which adulthood could deposit at any bank.

My Atlas briefcase was a treasure chest to me. It held my secrets and my work, and holding onto the handle when I walked into the office, it held the future. I was a professional, I was taken seriously, and even if it was only in my little world, I was in control and knew what I was doing. There is no greater feeling, and it beamed from my face, reflected in my daughters and took me to places I never saw coming. If you ask me, a case will forever be made for self-esteem and appreciation, because regardless what you do, they are the only tools needed for true potential.

The world has since settled around me, like confetti from a party I once attended, and instead of a sleek black sports car, it is memories that drive me. Still, along with a desire to do my best, that is what colors the writing I offer into the world, upwards of four hundred pages a book, sprinkled with characters I’ve created, encountered or might have been. Now, the Atlas holds my notes and manuscripts, as they wait to develop into something bigger, and more professional, bound for the future… a far cry from business briefs, budgets or spreadsheets. In many ways though, it still has a lock on my daily life, keeping together who I am, and all that might be.

In the back of comic books I read as a child, there was an ad for Charles Atlas, showing strength and power, similar to the statue balancing the world. I think it was also a subliminal message, causing me to reach for the stars as an adult…a lot like a hotdog you crave at the drive-in, once the cartoon condiments dance across the coming attractions screen. Life may be called a buffet, but it is actually the snack bar that ultimately drives us into who we will be.  Simply put, we’ll all experience small bite employment positions, only later developing an acquired taste for a profession, and if we’re lucky, we’ll be allowed to sit at the big corporate table, breaking and making bread.

As with my own life,  briefcases evolved, and became a Filofax, Date Runner, Palm Pilot or Blackberry. However, their contents never changed, because authority and knowledge are aphrodisiacs of power, and once tasted are forever craved, regardless how brief we experienced the moment, or how many notes we forgot to take.


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Touch me in the Morning…just don’t do it to my life!

picture thisI have had the honor of raising three daughters through school, and now watch as grandchildren climb the same step stool and ladder towards knowledge and success. The highlight for their efforts is seeing a class photo each year. Albeit way over priced monetarily, they are priceless in the hearts of those who posed, and those who receive.

We’ve all been there. It is the morning of school pictures, and you either have crappy hair, a zit, totally forgot and have nothing to wear, or you’ve been up for hours as if it was a Vogue cover shoot along the canals of Venice. Regardless what your take is, or was, on that memorable day, what developed after the film was processed would follow or haunt you forever, and become an icon to your youth on Ancestry.com. That being said, it also is a moneymaker of epic proportions, and in most states a well-held account by a company called Lifetouch.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a small business that has grown over the years, and hired only a few reported and/or investigated criminals, such as those noted by the FBI in Rochester, NY. However, when anyone in business has such an untouchable hold on something, things always fall through the cracks. In case you don’t believe me, see what happens when you try to hold sand too tight in your fist….get the picture? These may be the days of our lives, but they are dictated by a precious few, and if you take a look at the recurring complaints they rack up, their pictures speak more than a thousand ill words.

In our family, one  particular noteworthy shot is my older sister with her bangs held back in pin curls (consult Google or Betty Boop). In her haste to get her daughters to school, Mom overlooked the embarrassing and the obvious. There are also a couple I personally shudder at in junior high, with white yarn bows I knew looked great, stuck in at the last minute, and another, with the indentation from a leather cord, since I wanted to be a flower child, and needed to hide my accented attire outside the home. However, regardless of the toothless, hair flying crazy, those photos were who we were, and how we lived, and forever have a place in life….touched as they may have been.

So that being said, why does a single company hold the inspiration, imagination and decision for such moments? Over the years there have been many times when a photo was taken poorly, due only to the judgment of the photographer, and we were left without what we paid for, and usually no recourse, or occasionally the option for a retake. Regardless of the fix, the moment in time was gone, and when the pictures were eventually brought out, inevitably someone would say, that was the retake…OMG you should have seen the first one. Negative as they may be, dark comments forever remain in a family room.

This brings me to a granddaughter, anxious for her first school photo. Frozen was still all the rage (will it ever end?) and so, her short hair was put into a side braid, and in her heart she was Elsa the Winter Queen. However, did the Lifetouch photographer let it go? Oh Hell to the no! Instead, they positioned this sweet child with her hair pushed to the back, so it appeared she had been the victim of Edward Scissorhands on a good day, and not the beloved Princess of snow. They also decided on a background different that we had selected and paid for.

When pictures arrived, this little girl burst into tears, and said, I look like a BOY! Her spirit, memory and excitement were crushed. Lifetouch also refused to refund the ridiculous price that was paid, so we took a new photo ourselves, and placed it in her school memory book. You would think that was enough…but it wasn’t.

Today, this little girl was an official elementary delight, anxious to be with her friends and take their photos, which would also be in a yearbook (yes, don’t ask….again, Lifetouch$$$.) Bouncing down the stairs in all her creative and imaginary delight, trust me when I say she is a true original, she presented herself in a full piece panda suit, hood and ears outlining a face with missing teeth and bright eyes. Certain that was how she wanted to look; she left for school and pictures. Arriving home however, that delight was long gone.

It appears the photographer not only removed her from the panda suit, but according to very fine print on the offer all children were put in a cap and gown, which we had not asked for…it, is KINDERGARTEN NOT HIGH SCHOOL! There was also no reason to assume this would be done after they collected our money. Therefore, all the bows and headbands, special hair styles or memorable outfits were removed, hidden and lost forever, along with the memory of “Mom…that was my first school picture!”

There are only a few days in life that can never be recaptured, and that is why photography, from the days of tin type, to Kodacolor, and now digital remains a lifeblood for families. Who doesn’t want to remember catching her bouquet, or seeing a bouquet of blessings in a nursery, the first lost tooth or a football bruise worn in pride? Life touches us all, good and bad, and when it is saved for future generations, it is a gift, triggering memories and emotions, that die away with the person, leaving only a photo behind.

There is time enough, with individuality frowned upon, school uniforms issued and peer pressure demanding identical looks. However, when the cookies are still fresh from the oven, don’t we own them a chance to be sprinkled and sugared with the innocence and happiness that fades too fast? Companies that overstep their bounds in the arena of education, or a photographer, coach or teacher, need to be slapped with the nearest ruler, and read their rights, because they do not have the right to ruin a child’s laughter or dream! Just because they aren’t sexual, some touches are every bit as bad, and we trust these people to see our children to the end of their rainbows, where unicorns and pandas wait patiently for their day in the sun, where they will leave a lasting impression on our future adults.