Charms and Talismans

I think talismans are underrated carriers of blessings in our lives.     Rev. Tom Owen-Towle

Wonder Woman has her magic bracelets and special tiara.  Some superheroes have special rings.  They provide power, strength and the ability to perform super human feats.  But I think even we mere mortals all have talismans of one sort or another.

Think about it.  You may have a favorite ring that was given to you by your mother.  You wear it often.  It reminds you of how much she supported you when you were young.  When you wear it, you feel loved and supported, like you can succeed at almost anything.  You may wear a wedding ring in a similar way, never taking it off, even long after a spouse has died.  Or you might have a favorite pair of cufflinks, a watch, or a military medal, passed down from your father to you.  They remind you of bravery, courage and the importance of fighting for causes you believe in.  If you are a woman, you might have a red power suit.  When you wear it, you feel energized, able to leap through executive glass ceilings in a single bound.  You wear it when you have to give an important presentation to the CFO.  Or you may wear it to an interview, confident that it will help you present the best “you” possible.  Channeling Gloria Allred. Continue reading

Like, Ya Know, We Need to Talk

I’ve come to the conclusion that there need to be high school and college classes in conversational English.  Forget, conversational Spanish, or French or any other second, elective language.  Many of today’s graduates cannot carry on a proper conversation.  By “proper,” I mean correct English speech with sufficiently correct grammar to converse with a supervisor or manager, or respond to an interviewer in a job interview.

I often sit in the lunch room of the corporation where I work, and while eating my lunch, I overhear bits and pieces of conversations throughout the room.  Some employees speak Spanish, and some Tagalog and I understand that they feel more comfortable with their native tongue.  But those speaking English are barely able to be understood, at least by me.  One side of a conversation might go something like this:

   So, I’m like, ya know, all chill, and….

   And then, like, he be all mad and in my face…..

   And then I go….

   And then he go…..

   And then, OMG I be like…..and I be tellin’ him…..

   And then he be sayin’…..

   And so I be thinkin’…..and I just can’t hang……

   Like, you git what I’m sayin’? Continue reading

Something New Every Day

            “Reach beyond your grasp.  Your goals should be grand enough to get the best of you.” — Teilhard De Chardin  

“Something new every day” could easily become my motto.  I am one of those “weirdoes” that becomes energized by learning new facts, trivia, quotes, or assorted tidbits.  I glean them from the web, newspapers, TV shows, radio news, emails, reading, crosswords, lectures and sermons, and travel.  And if you have your antennae sharply attuned, it isn’t very hard.  In short, a goal easily within grasp.

For instance, I was watching “Jeopardy!” (a “must” for every lifelong learner), and the Final Jeopardy question was about an item whose image was fashioned by Gustav Vigeland, described as depicting three naked men with their hands on each other’s shoulders.  And the answer turned out to be “the Nobel Peace Prize.”  Continue reading

Well Bully for You

These days the news is full of atrocious stories about youths and teens being bullied – in school classrooms, on the playground, at bus stops, in break rooms, cafeterias, and on line.  Bullying teens and heads of cliques and gangs, with their allied minions, “crowd” some poor, meek or weak kid and torment him to the point of intolerance.  They might push or shove or trip him.  They might destroy or deface property, break iPods, damage backpacks or rip clothing.  They might smash eyeglasses.  They might make derogatory comments or threats via social media sites or email.  They might threaten to harm siblings or pets.  They may cause physical injury.  Many teens seek suicide as a way out.  You’d like to think that once, or if, a teen makes it through to adulthood, some normalcy can be established and these poor tormented souls can find their niche and begin to fashion a life in an environment free of bullying.

Unfortunately, there now seems to be a growing trend toward adult bullying.  In the workplace, courses are offered in “managing difficult behavior,” conflict management, and dealing with strong personalities.  But what it really is about, stripped down to the basics, is adult bullying.  I’ve seen a lot of it, and the more I see, the scarier it seems.  In the workplace, dead flies and dead crickets are placed in coffee cups.  Lunches are pilfered from the lunchroom fridge.  The air might be let out of someone’s tires.  You might come to your car in the parking garage and find a group of adult bullies standing around, looking menacing, and making comments like “ooh, nice car” to make sure you know that they know what type vehicle you drive and where you usually park.  Some hide knives in over-the-ankle boots.  You are afraid to report it to anyone because you are afraid of reprisal or retaliation.  You start to get physical symptoms – headaches, palpitations, anxiety attacks, stomach disorders.  When you can’t take it anymore, you change jobs. Continue reading

Aiding and Abetting

I wrote another essay a few months ago about immigration and confessed that I didn’t exactly know where I stood on the subject of deporting illegal aliens, social justice protests over their mistreatment, the tearing apart of families and the whole murky swirl of complications that accompanies the whole topic.  I conceded then, and still maintain, that it is very complicated and for that very reason is not easily resolved.  Current laws and future changes to them will always displease some groups and there will be political fallout no matter how fair lawmakers and politicians try to be.  Perhaps that is why no equitable resolution has been found to date.  And whose definition of “equitable” is to be used as a yardstick?

I recently listened to a presentation by a social activist, a seminarian, talk about his own involvement in this area in concert with a faith-based group.  He and others would go out into the Arizona desert near the Mexican border and put out jugs of water at strategic points along routes that migrating individuals were known to travel.  There have been deaths in these areas due to dehydration in the hot desert climate and the placing of jugs of water is a humanitarian gesture.  After a period of time, this seminarian and others were accosted by federal officials and given tickets for littering.  It sounds preposterous, but there you have it.  There was a large fine attached to the ticket and the seminarian refused to pay the fine.  He was given a sentence of several thousand hours of community service.  The matter was appealed and the Ninth Circuit Court overturned the original decision, finding that sealed jugs of water do not constitute refuse or garbage, and therefore their acts could not be considered littering. Continue reading

I Am the Bejeweled Icon

I have two friends who always greet me with “Hey, Bejeweled Icon!”  That’s BJI for short.  Or, one of them may include this greeting in an email.  When one of them hails me in this way in public, anyone standing around within earshot does a double-take and wonders what the heck is going on.  What did he just call you?  Well, it is a long story, but not too long for an essay.

It all started with a trip to Greece with a group of fellow church members in 2006.  I belong to a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation in Orange County, California and a group of us got together and decided to go to Greece.  We’re a friendly, social bunch and small groups of us get together from time to time and do various things together, like dinners, museum trips and so on.  I don’t remember exactly how many of us there were on this trip, maybe 12 or so. Continue reading