Teach Me, Yoda

If you like Star Wars, you know Yoda, the tiny green Jedi master who was the mentor for multiple Jedi warriors, including his most famous pupil, Luke Skywalker. I believe most of us experience hardship in our lives at one time or another, and likely we all have had at least one mentor who  gave us guidance. If you are like me, however, you may not have heeded all the advice given, like young Luke, who wanted to follow his own path and was reluctant to follow all the instructions of his greatest teacher.

A mentor is a gift we typically don’t recognize until after their input has benefitted us somehow. Many times people neglect to thank their mentors properly for the skills they help us develop and refine. I wish to use my next few posts to pay tribute to some of my mentors over the years, though to be honest, I don’t quite know where to begin since I have been blessed to have several people who have helped me in various aspects of my life. I guess the easiest way would be to start at the beginning.

I have learned how fortunate I am to have 2 loving parents who raised me and who, despite some hard times of their own, did whatever it took to stick it out and try to set a good example for me and my brother. Like most children, they were my first mentors. My mom and dad did their best to raise me right and teach me good ethics and morals. While I went my own way and have certainly made my share of mistakes, some of them very major ones, I have learned lots of lessons and have turned my life around 180 degrees in the past few years.

It is no reflection on my parents that I made a lot of mistakes. Remember Yoda and Luke? Luke screwed up despite Yoda’s strong advice and teaching. So did I and so do a lot of us. I think we all try to be the best parents and teachers we can be, but we are all human and all make mistakes. All we can hope for as parents is that our kids remember and value the good things we teach them, and have enough grace to forgive us for the mistakes we make and the bad things we teach them. My folks did the best they could and although I ignored some of their advice and had to learn things the hard way on my own sometimes, I have come back around, and I credit them with a lot of my ability to get back up, dust  myself off and try it again. It’s amazing how smart our parents become as we get older ourselves.

It says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. Well I believe that. I am now getting old (just turned 49) and while I am stubborn and certainly have a long way to go, I know I have benefitted from the teachings and the example of my parents, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer! 

Thanks Mom and Dad.

I love you very much.

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Bulldozers and Bedrooms

If you have ever raised teenagers, you have likely had to “choose your battles” to preserve your sanity. This mantra has saved countless parents from committing mass murder and prevented the need for a custom-fit straightjacket time after time.  AND…..even though in your mind you were ready, willing, and able to forfeit years of freedom for just a few minutes of quiet,  a clean house, and a car returned home BEFORE curfew with more than an ounce of gas in the tank, it was finally determined that all expense paid trips to state institutions are highly overrated. Limited socialization and dismal wardrobe choices are just two of the reasons to try and salvage your sanity by choosing not to fight to the death with your teen on every subject. However, there are some situations that you can’t ignore. They simply cry out for parental attention and you eventually have to try to break through to them. Maybe something like this.

Let’s imagine for a minute that, oh I don’t know, your teenager’s room is filled with dirty laundry. That isn’t a stretch, really. The homeowner’s association has already cited you twice for the odor coming from the room and they didn’t believe that there was an isolated gas leak or that the bedroom was built over a landfill. Both the Army and the CDC have come by, scouting your home for new strains of bacteria never before identified. Previous attempts to remedy this have not gone well, with responses like the following:

“It’s my room isn’t it? What difference does it make if my clothes are on the floor or not? It’s stupid that I have to keep it clean. If you don’t like it, don’t come in here. I can move around just fine. I have plenty of clothes. The Army? Cool.”

Well, this time there are so many dirty clothes that the bedroom door is jammed shut against the frame. Not just closed…. JAMMED. The door is bending like it is trying to escape, door frame bending, splinters and nails protruding, creating a hazard for those walking by the door, but there is also fear that the cloud of gas that would escape if the door was opened will kill all living things for miles around.  You haven’t heard any rumblings or other signs of life for 3 days and you are starting to worry, though if you check the computer network, there are signs of activity coming from their laptop, so you suspect they may still be alive in there.

Cartoon Landfill Guy © Planet Ark

The last time this happened you could at least track the food usage and determine that someone else was drinking the milk and eating cheetos, even if there were no visible or audible signs of human activity near “their room” (cue twilight zone music). No such luck this time. All the food is gone. You haven’t been able to go to the store because there is no more gas in the car, which is parked so unbelievably close to the garage wall that you can’t get into the driver’s seat without crawling through from the other side. You know they drove it but you don’t know when or how.

It is quite possible they starved to death in their room after becoming obsessed with a video game. Battling with 1,000 of their closest online friends, all of whom have been blown apart, shot, stabbed, crushed, and mutilated time and time again, only to return for the next “battle to beat all battles.”

“I just need to get to the next level”. Those were the last words you heard…3 days ago.

What can you do? You have lost contact and you need to confirm survival….and you need them to move your car! The stress is overtaking you. Bulging veins in the neck and forehead, crazy look, rapid breathing, sweaty palms. What will you do?

 

“I’ve got it!” You rush out the door to the garage.

“Crap”

You trudge back inside……. and call a cab.

2 hours later you return

Driving a bulldozer.

No, silly, not one of those big ones used for roadwork. That would be ridiculous. It’s one of those small ones with tracks that fits through the gate so you can dig up the back yard. THAT is MUCH more reasonable. He said it should fit inside the hallway by the bedroom….. after a little creative remodeling. Did I mention that you are the only parent at home today so this seems totally logical and no-one has dared to question your sanity?

 SO, now the bulldozer is in the hallway and positioned against the door. The carpet and walls haven’t fared well, by the way. The engine moans and groans, wood cracking,  exhaust and sparks fill the air,,,but you are losing traction. The door is not moving. You thought you heard something inside, but then there was only a faint clicking, only clicking. Could it be a mouse? A keyboard? Crickets? Finally, after the foam from the fire extinguisher was cleared and the bulldozer was uprighted, you jarred the door open just enough to slip a hand inside. You feel something. It could be…..rubber?…..no, cloth?….you just aren’t sure.

You use your infra-red camera to scan for survivors. You upgraded this month since the one you used last time melted as you retrieved it, sparking and dripping with a black goo that smelled faintly like cheetos and old shoes. Is there evidence of life? Lifeforms of any kind?  There! flashing on the screen…….Inconclusive…Inconclusive….Inconclusive. You are devastated….. and still without answers. The door is starting to close again. Grasping at straws now, you slam yourself against the door.

You try yelling through the opening but the sound won’t travel through the Bermuda Triangle, where no adult communication can enter and only video games and texting can survive. Clothing must be optional since you know there have been no clean clothes in this environment for weeks on end and the effect on what used to be carpet can not be imagined.

Nobody blames you. You tried. You slowly back away. Tears staining your soiled face. You drive the bulldozer back out in to the living room, too depressed to go any farther. Then you have one last final idea. You dial the phone and wait. The trap is set. The doorbell rings.

“PIZZA!”

Whar yew frum?

“Whar yew frum?”    “Ah, wayuh ah ya fram”   “Weer ya frem?    “Wuryafrom?’

“Hay thar”

Whether it’s the rapid fire speech heard in “New Yawk”, the distinctive tones in New England and the “Noth-east”, the slow twangs of  the “Deeeeeep Sayouth”, Chicago’s “Da Bears”, or other regional distinction, I find the various dialects very entertaining….and sometimes quite challenging to interpret. “California speak” can be very distinctive. I am a native Texan, but there are even different dialects here, depending on the area of the lone star state from which you hail. Louisiana and Cajun?  That’s a whole different article,  I garonteee!

Some of my family hails from the Appalachian region of the south, well known for their extreme dialects and rural lifestyle. Remember the movie “Nell”?  I recently watched a documentary about Appalachia and the majority of it was subtitled because the speech patterns were so different and hard to understand. Terms like “his’n” and “her’n” = “his” and  “hers”, “nar” = “narrow”, “better n life (loff)” = “really good”, “Pewt” = “golly”. I heard these from aunts and uncles when we would travel through the Applachians and I also lived in Tennessee for a few years , where I heard even more variations. Here are some examples.

“Wall, youins otter come back soon. This hyar visit was better n loff. Just cain’t stain it. Be carful headin round the nar n curvy road, as youns headn outcha holler. Be watchin for Ole Bud. That truck a his’n aint got but three good tars and kindly tips over when he turns them carners. Emma won’t let him drive at new car of hern. Fraid hill go off n get hisself kilt”.

“Thanks, we will. You be sure and come see us too”

“Pewt! Lawdy boy that’ll be the day. Nope. We ain’t gonna be goin that way, but youins come back to see us up hyar. Bah nayow.”

I think it is interesting how we can be in the same areas and speak so differently. Like Professor Higgins noted in My Fair Lady, dialects can differ in neighborhoods or even from street to street in certain areas.  

When I graduated college with a degree in speech pathology, I was concerned that my “Texas accent” would make me sound less professional in my new job, so, I practiced using my best newscaster voice to be as “neutra”l as I could. Think Tom Brokaw. I have a deep voice and I could pull it off pretty well. Well, my fears were relieved after about 10 minutes of listening when I got there, since southeast Tennessee is not known for generating many midwestern dialects. The Tennessee drawl was not far from the Appalachian patterns I knew, and suddenly I was not self conscious about my Texas dialect anymore. I could speak however I wished and would be right at home. I learned that being able to fit in allowed me to make other people more comfortable than they did when speaking to Mr. broadcaster.

However, there was a local professional there (who was from….duh duh duh… “up north”) who was advertising to work with local business people to “improve their speech patterns”. Why, you ask? “Because the southern drawl, after all”…(and this is what sunk her program) “makes you sound less intelligent”.

OUCH! Did you feel the slap of insult or was it just me?

Well, you might expect that a few VERY SUCCESSFUL and VERY INTELLIGENT business people who “growed up rotcheer in east Tinisee” were “holly offended” since they had “done just fon and could ford to buy this here bidniss and close it dayown” just so she wouldn’t offend nobody else. This was in the deep south after all, and peole are polite above all, even when trying to kill you….with kinidness. That program never really got off the ground. Can you believe it?

 Of course there were a few other things I had to learn when I got there, like what “HON” was.

“HON? What’s HON?”

Oh, you know what I mean. “Good mornin, HON”, “Thank ye HON”, “HON, can you comeer fer a minit?”   “HON” was short for “honey”, which I always liked to be called. Much better than other things I can get called at work, and HON was the traditional nickname for any younger man working among older women. It was so sweet. “Doncha thank so, HON?”

I was watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night and Fred Armisted was on. He gave great examples of the differences between the Bronx, Queens, and other of New York’s 5 boroughs. He obviously grew up there and it was so easy for him to switch between the tone of voice and pronucniations. Watch “Wiseguys” or “Donnie Brascoe”. Nuff said.

Minnesoooota and Wiscahnsin have their oooon distinctions, as does Vuhginya, waya an ah cayunt be fayund hodly anywayuh. “Oh mussy. I thank I may be gettin the vapuhs.”  Ok, it’s not that bad anymore, but I do know some old tranditionalists from Richmond……

“Hand ovuh yo hot when you refuh to mah fayuh city suh”

….where the “r” is delightfully omitted to this day and the more genteel the drawl, the bettuh.

And you wonder why peoople who come to America have trouble understanding English?

Go figure   or   Go figger   or   Gah figyah   or ……

Aw Shucks.

Do you ever do this?

It is 8:30 pm. I have lots I should be working on. I am writing instead.

Why?

It doesn;t seem right that when I finally have time to get some things done, I can’t focus and stay engaged in the activities I need to be engaged in.

Do you ever experience that? Maybe I have ADD. See what you think.

 distraction

Allright now. Let’s get settled down for an evening of paperwork, data entry, and completion of the to-do list. Oh, look at that. A bug is crawling ion the counter. I better kill it. Oops. made a mess. Now I better clean it up. Thats better. Where was I? Paperwork. Got it.

Hmm, where is that pen? It’s too dark in here. Light bulbs? I better go get some. While I am at the store I need to get to some toilet paper and bacon and nails and motor oil and….

ADD

Oh, shoot, paperwork. 9:15 already? Wheww. I better get busy. Ok, number two on the list. Yuk. I hate that. Number 3?. Ok, let’s start there. Ew. I better call the kids to check on them. 10:30? Wow. time flies when doing all this work. Guess I will have to try harder tomorrow. Tomorrow? Friday . Oh no. I have that project due next week. I guess I need to buckle down Saturday, right after the movies. right before dinner. Ok, that gives me 30 minutes to get it done. Hmm. Sunday? Nope.

image_drawing_distraction

Guess I will be calling in Monday morning.

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