Thursday, April 25, 2013

Make a Mess - Reap the Benefits

"You know that point in time in the middle of organizing/cleaning during which you have created a bigger mess than you had when you started? I'm there."

That was my Facebook post yesterday. I hate being "there". But it's a place you have to go when you are switching our winter clothes for summer, and cleaning your closet. Invariably, you find things that have been hiding, are stored in the wrong place, or just waiting patiently to be hauled off to Goodwill. This is tedious, time-consuming work - but the results are worth the effort. It would be embarrassing to tell you how many times I've gone into my closet to see how great it looks now. I'm pretty proud of myself.

Yesterday I chatted with a dear friend who shared his disappointment over an inconsiderate action by his spouse. He's fuming and hurt, but hasn't yet told his other half that he's angry. I understand that. You don't want to make too much of something that might blow over. You don't want to be a nag, and stir things up and cause a fuss. But you have to say something. Sometimes you must make a mess to make it better. Letting things fester only makes them worse. My advice to my friend was to get his frustration out in the open and clear it up.

Procrastination is in my genes. To be fair, it's my Haropulos genes. If I can put off something unpleasant, I'll put it off until the last possible second. This has made me a Master of Crisis Management. It's not that I'm proud of it - it's just the way I am. But as I get older...I have less tolerance for the unsettled feeling fomented by unresolved messes. Everything should have its place. Harmony shall reign. It makes me happy and allows me to sleep well at night.

Stir things up and tackle a little mess today. Then take a nap. You'll feel great.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beyond Reason

"We still do not know who did this or why," said President Obama in his first official statement about the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15th. "But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this, we'll find out why they did this."

I'm sure the President's statement was meant to convey confidence and provide some semblance of comfort, but it fell flat with me. There is no "why" to discover. Whoever did this despicable deed hates the United States and wants to threaten our collective way of life, our freedom. They want us to suffer. The perpetrators are godless, evil, sub-human creatures, who murdered and maimed innocent people. I believe the authorities will find them, and they will be punished and (in the President's words) "feel the full weight of justice". But the truth is that our civilized Justice system won't allow the punishment to be gruesome enough to fully fit the crime.

I am haunted by this picture of 8-year old victim Martin Richard; a mere child who understood humanity:

Those who choose to do harm will always find a way - guns, bombs, hatchets, ice picks, knives - we can't do away with all the implements that can be used in evil ways. The "why" is beyond reason. Let's pray for Evil to be conquered (in this case, preferably in an Old Testament kind of way involving impressive fire and brimstone) while we protect our loved ones as well as we can. Let's live our lives in a way that allows Faith and Grace to overcome.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Now I Get It

Funny how as you age you begin to understand and appreciate your parents’ perspective on so many things that were lost on you as a youngster. I could take it as a depressing sign that I am getting to be a fuddy-duddy, but I prefer to look at it as hard-earned maturity and wisdom.

SO MANY READING GLASSES:  I don’t know how many pair of readers my dad owned, but they seemed to be everywhere. Now I understand that no matter how many pair you have, and how far and wide you strew them around the house – you can never put your hands on a pair when you need them. Dammit.

A LITTLE RESPECT IS NICE:  My parents belonged to a country club. Dad seemed to get an inordinate amount of pleasure from being greeted by name and called “Sir”. What I failed to appreciate at the time was that being a member of that club meant a lot to my parents – especially my father. They enjoyed their leisure time among friends with similar interests. Dad spent hard-earned money there, and the staff treated him with respect. It made him feel good. Now I get it. We belong to a community club. The bartender knows what I drink. The F & B Director makes sure we get a good table for dinner. We appreciate the service and the recognition we have as active members. (Dad, it does feel really good.)

ROUTINE IS COMFORTING:  We had a few cherished routines in our family, and if any of my siblings read this, they will remember. Saturday night was Burger Night at home. Dad would grill them and give Mom a break in the kitchen. Sunday Night we watched Disney and had popcorn, apple, and ginger ale for dinner. It was nice to know that we would be together on those evenings, sharing a tradition. Although routines have changed for Ron and me over time, with our moves, we value certain constants that add comfort to our lives. Part of our evening routine is that Ron tucks me into bed every night. Sweet.

THE MIDDLE-AGE BATTLE OF THE BULGE:  Once, when I was little, I said to my mother, “Mommy you would be so pretty if you would suck in your tummy.” It made her cry. I was shocked and upset at her reaction, because I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. If someone said that to me today, I would cry too. I’m still sorry, Mom.

REVEL IN YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  My parents were always proud of their children and their home. The night before my father died, he and Mom talked about what they accomplished together in their married life. Over the years, Ron and I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the fruits of our efforts. It’s good to talk about them and reinforce their importance. They got us to the happy place we’re in today.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What I Believe

From 2004 to 2008, NPR aired a feature called "This I Believe" wherein they featured people reading essays about their guiding principles and core values. It was based on a 1950's radio show hosted by Edward R. Murrow. Today there is a not-for-profit foundation by the same name that encourages people to write, share, and discuss these essays as an inspiring educational tool for youth and adults. 
My blog is an unfocused, shotgun-style attempt to tell you about who I am, and what I believe. It seems daunting to attempt to put that so succinctly into a single brief essay. Here we go...


I believe that it's important to work and sacrifice for the life you want. That means that you know what it's like to work two jobs at a time and scrabble from paycheck to paycheck, have a late model car that barely gets you to work, say no to buying things you desire, and live in a sub-par apartment without granite countertops and stainless steel appliances (gasp) that requires diligence in pest control. It's difficult to truly appreciate and be thankful for attaining a level of comfort in life unless you know in your heart that you have earned it.

I believe that life is not about the accumulation of stuff. Fancy cars, McMansions, runway fashions, pedigreed pets and the like are hollow ways to spend money and express ourselves. They tempt us to be self-satisfied in an unbecoming way. Our personal comfort, safety, and health bring us peace and are the foundation of our existence. We can be creative in achieving those things without going to excess.

I believe in honesty, friendship, loyalty, and in doing no harm. I believe in kindness and generosity. I believe that it's important to play and have fun. Life presents challenges and battles, and we must be strong to fight the fight when needed. Life also presents wonder and opportunity, and we should joyfully embrace chances to experience and savor what inspires us.

I believe that faith and religion take many forms, and that sects that would damn people for living a good life outside of boundaries interpreted by other mortals are more restrictive than a loving God condones.

I believe that life is best lived side-by-side with those we love; partners, family, friends, and pets. Appreciate what they add to your existence. When we are gone, we will be but dust. Our spirits live on - formless or formed in unknown ways. The life we have today is a precious gift, and we should live it well.