Category Archives: Observations

Various observations about family, nature, life and whatnot.

Scenes from a Burger King

The kid is on a hamburger kick recently. My teenager wants to try all the decent restaurant and fast food hamburgers to see which one is the tastiest. Already Glory Days, a nearby sports-themed bar and grille, is winning with its bacon and egg layers among the juicy char-grilled patty of meat. He has never been a big fast food kid, so I have to coach him on some burgers he might like to try, some I liked as a kid before I turned all pollo-pescetarian.

I told him of Burger King last week, and how they actually put their burgers on a real flame searing grill. “Notice the smoke wafting from the roof? That’s a real flame-grilled burger!” He tries one and is craving another the next day.

Now we never go into these fast food restaurants, only through the drive-thru. Today on a day trip with his grandparents, we stop inside one, by his incessant request for a Burger King burger. There happened to be one on the outskirts of the town we were visiting. And by outskirts I mean there were people in the parking lot who I think had just escaped jail.

We walk inside and immediately I begin to think of a prison cafeteria, or a high school cafeteria, as they basically look the same. The lighting is bright and glaring and the furniture is nailed to the floor. There’s a couple sitting side by side munching joylessly in unison, staring straight ahead into nowhere. Of course there’s a long line to order and there is nothing fast going on at all here. I notice a strange looking man with blonde, curly hair that could have been a wig on a mannequin in the early 80’s. He’s fumbling with his paper cup and receipt and mumbling to himself.

After we order (finally!) we grab our paper cups to fill them at the soda trough. I’m scanning the dining area to see where we could sit without brushing shoulders with someone who might stab us with a plastic knife. I notice 80’s hair, sitting by himself. In fact he is the only person on the whole left side of the dining room. I avert his stare and we glide over to the more bustling side with the lesser of the people who could possibly drag me into their white van.

As soon as we sit down I notice that my teenager looks as if he’s about to have a panic attack and I tell him Hey you wanted a BK burger! He doesn’t like going anywhere remotely sketchy, not even to the grocery store with me. My dad gets up to go get our tray of food-like items and immediately 80’s mannequin hair walks over to our table.

“I was cleared of those charges,” he says defensively.

He repeats himself.

Again, repeats. “I’m telling you I was cleared of those charges!”

My son and I stare at each other in non-disbelief. My mom stammers through, “Uh we don’t know what you’re talking about?”

80’s mannequin hair continues. “I don’t know why everyone keeps talking about it!”

He walks off in a huff.

I look at the man sitting a couple booths over, who I’m certain is a serial killer, mouthing the word Oh-K and rolling his eyes after witnessing this altercation/creepy conversation.

My dad comes back with the tray of our food-like items and misses the whole thing. I grab the pepper shaker and immediately recoil as it’s coated in a stickiness I don’t even want to ponder. The four of us eat our meals in our little bubble, snickering about how weird it all is. They love their burgers and I’m kind of enjoying my salad, if only I had a plastic knife to cut the choke-able-sized chunks of chicken or defend myself in an all-out BK clientele skirmish.

2 Comments

Filed under Observations

Let’s Start a Revolution: Smartphone Moderation

Gathering from the various articles I’ve read lately expanding on the subject as well as erupting conversations, I believe there’s a collective consciousness occurring. Electronic devices, highlighting the smartphone, are becoming addictive. Really they already are, just science and psychology are in the midst of theories, predictions, data, discoveries.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was a recent stint with some friends who were so enthralled in their devices I might as well have been talking to a wall. These were adults and children alike and it made me so upset I hurled my own phone across the room in protest. Thankfully it did not break (gasp!)

I’ve since spoken to these friends and they agree their phones are a problem in their daily lives, especially regarding intimate relationships. It’s as if there’s another person there, sucking the life out of the, well, life that is right in front of them.

When I see babies in strollers zombie-fied in front of a screen I feel a pang for all humanity. The addiction is already starting before they can even feed themselves. What the hell are we doing?? When my son was a baby I only had a flip phone and he played with plastic toy keys. It wasn’t that long ago! Now I see him, gaming, watching YouTube, staring at his his phone screen which is twice the size of mine. I don’t mind him playing online with friends (who I’ve met in real life so far) as the laughter is infectious and I know in those moments he’s having a great time. I don’t mind him texting his friends (as long as it’s during appropriate hours) or watching YouTube videos about innovative homemade musical instruments or people making fools of themselves at Costco. But when the weekend is half over and he hasn’t moved from the couch I have a problem.

Yesterday I implored him to walk with me to our beautiful neighborhood park to play Frisbee. The kid complains incessantly about our stifling Florida heat and it’s finally cold outside so here’s your chance to get some of that! He obliged, as he had no choice, and of course ended up having a great time. “Wow, it feels really good outside,” he said as he spun the sturdy red disc towards me. I realize it is me who will have to be the one to set limits, put the brakes on all this device use. Too much is too much. And I don’t discount myself in this, either.

There have been moments when I felt I was spending too much time burying my face in the screen. This is why I don’t partake in Twitter or Instagram and am phasing out Facebook, too. Minutes can turn to hours scrolling looking at other people’s lives. It’s not that you don’t care about them, but we have our own lives to live, right here, right now. My dad is off Facebook completely. My phone addicted friend has also logged out of her account. If you can scroll occasionally and it doesn’t inflict undue depression then go for it. But many people cannot limit the stuff themselves so they are better off walking away entirely.

I’m not saying all devices and apps are evil. But when I’m walking through a restaurant and 80% of the people at the tables are on their phones instead of talking to the person in front of them THERE IS A PROBLEM. My family has implemented a “No Phones at the Table” rule and it has been quite refreshing. I will gently (or angrily, depending on mood) suggest this to friends as well. This can also go beyond the dinner table. Moms, watch your kids on the swing. Sons, put down your phone when your mom is visiting. Girlfriends, take a break from social media when your partner is sitting right beside you. We could all stand to take a moment to look around once in awhile. Even engage in awkward silence. Those nonverbal cues and instances of being present mean more than we possibly realize.

So what do you say? Want to start a revolution? It doesn’t have to be prodigious. Starting small, one step, one day at a time can pave the way to why all this device madness came about in the first place– to connect with each other.

mobile_phones_swimming-374261

For the love of humanity, please let’s not make this our future.
Photo courtesy of The Sunday Express

3 Comments

Filed under Observations

Dull Faces

In a moment of subtle voyeurism as the band riffed another joyously happy song I scanned the room. People eating, sipping beer from sturdy glasses, engaging in conversation, a couple of older ladies dancing, some tapping their feet to the live music, some staring at sports on one of the obnoxiously looming screens above. Then my eyes rested on a table of three young men in their early twenties.

They looked no more alive than if they were a body in a coffin or a robot waiting to serve its master. One was staring at his phone as we tend to do these days even while a real live body or bodies are sitting in front of us. God they looked bored as hell.

Perhaps their night didn’t go as expected. Perhaps the band was playing the kind of music they loathed. They were obviously dressed to go out. Built better than any guy I ever knew in my twenties. Hair perfectly styled so as not to look too pretty nor too unkempt. Were they there to meet girls or grab a bite with buds? Whatever the case it seemed they were the most miserable table in the room. Even more so than the woman in the corner who hadn’t looked at her date all night, sipping dully at her white wine.

These young men, these guys of a generation that came after mine, and even my own teenage son, live in a world I really do not envy. The more I watched them the more I felt a bit of sorrow for them and their peers. I don’t mean to sound old when I say this (as I have before described myself as a 12-year-old girl trapped in a 44-year-old woman’s body). I just mean they have access to and so much at their fingertips that instead of looking at the world in amazement a look of dullness has washed over their faces. Not much seems to WOW them. Not everyone is like this, I realize, but it’s kind of just a general ma-laze I see wafting through.

I try to imagine what it must be like to grow up in this culture, where you are constantly in contact with everyone and your personal life can be broadcast like a giant movie marquee on the front page of everyone’s daily newspaper. I mean the same thing is going on with us in our 40s. But we had our time of having to wait in excited agony for our favorite song to play on the radio. To stand by the phone booth until our friend called us back after we paged them. To marvel at things in nature which can’t be accessed immediately by Google images. The list goes on. By waiting and not knowing there was a sense of mystery, of wonder. As much as it might have been frustrating at times I can’t imagine my youth without all this archaic simplicity.

Do others feel it too? Or have I become like every other older generation who thinks things were better in “the good old days.” I worry about the amount of time my son spends looking at various screens. On Sunday nights I pry him away from his nest on the couch and take him across the street to our community pool. We always end up diving and flipping and laughing and snorting like kids ought to do.

The young men soon got up and left just as I thought they would. On to better things I imagined. And after their table cleared and cleaned another group of people settled in. Me and my coworker table-danced to the music as one-by-one our large party left for the night. “Die-hards” I said to her, describing our having closed it down. We are teachers. And we don’t get out that much.

I checked my phone for messages once I got to my car. I’m glad I didn’t take it out at the table, looking on dully.

5 Comments

Filed under Observations

Growing Older, Alone

Is there a secret, a recipe, a manual for getting older? Or do we inherently know how, like a mother instinctually knows to pick up and nurture her child and the child to nourish from his mother? 

I don’t know why I ask this question as I don’t particularly feel old but my left knee has been in a bit of pain lately. This reminds me I’m not 25 anymore. Not that I have any desire to go back. Except to just spend an hour with my then-self and tell her to chill out with the worry and the self-consciousness and inhale life. Oh yeah and stop eating all the simple carbs and put down the damn cigarettes.

But we cannot go back in time. Or at least not right now. And when we do drift on thoughts of the past many of those memories are sad or regretful, so what is the point in the torture? Unless it is to remind ourselves why we shouldn’t make the same mistakes. And to be grateful for all the roads that lead us to the positives in our life.

I find it unbearable to think back to when my son was a baby. Or when he was 4. Or even 10. Those days are forever a wind off the crest of a wave, a photograph tucked neatly in an album. I love the boy he is and the man to become. But this child rearing thing is so fleeting it’s preposterous. Everyone warns you. Then your kid is a teenager and you’re divorced and you’re all trying to do the best you can peacefully with the choices and circumstances from within or thrust upon.

I can handle a Saturday night alone. I can marginally handle an entire week alone. But I cannot and will not handle growing older, alone. My grandparents slept in separate rooms but at least they had each other. But then they also drove each other nuts. I understand the women I know who are older and single. However they also have hobbies and friends and family so I suppose they are not really alone.

But the loneliness that engulfs when the moon is high or the lovers are kissing on the beach or the old couple is holding hands or the child is dancing and calling for Mommy does not absolve. No one is exempt.

I look to my stuffed animal Snuggles for cuddles and warmth when the proverbial cold night is present. Yes I still sleep with a lovey.

Point is I don’t want to grow old alone. I don’t think anybody really does. I believe we are here to connect with each other. And from that connection, love within and throughout.

Tonight I look to the almost full moon, its bright vanilla glow rising stately and calmly above the pines and palms. And in this moment I think of hope. Because that is all we can really do. For the goodness of our lonely souls.

2 Comments

Filed under Observations

A Thanksgiving Feast, Intimate

We stood next to the dining room table, a 1920’s Art Deco antique passed down from my great-grandmother Nanny. Decades-old scratches laced its corners but a fresh coat of furniture polish and a sprinkling of orange and brown Thanksgiving-themed decor, carefully placed earlier before they arrived, brought it into modern festivity.

“How many meals have been eaten at this table over the generations?” my dad observed with a hint of nostalgia as he scanned the room, his grey-white hair neatly combed and a crisp flannel button-up clothing his smallish frame.

I eyed the antique buffet cupboard next to the table. “I thought about taking all that stuff off and putting the desserts on top,” I replied. It was strategically covered with recipe books and photographs and trinkets and candles. It was always covered with coconut pies and chocolate cakes during holidays at Nanny’s house.

This Thanksgiving it was just the four of us- my mom, dad, and teenage son. It still feels weird to say that, ‘teenage’. In so many ways he is still just a boy. His dark-blond hair tousled and his imagination still intact. Although his appetite is one of a teenager. His meat-eating is making up for all the mammals he did not consume the first several years of his life.

I’d also set the table before my parents arrived, arranging the crystal glasses and beautiful black and silver bone china plates on the brown and gold place-mats. The plates were as flawless as they’d been when they arrived in packages at the doorstep as wedding gifts for me and my soon-to-be husband. He did not ask for any of the china when we separated or officially divorced. I would have shared it with him, of course. It took a year or so afterwards for me to even look at the china. Now I wash and dry them carefully after holiday meals, tracing the raised etchings with my fingers.

My mom and I shared a bottle of wine, perfectly chilled and light and brisk, just as I imagine the vines in Washington, from where it came. Back in the small and warmly-lit kitchen our appetizer spread was a gorgeous mingling of banana bread, fine cheeses, fresh fruit, honey, and my mom’s amazing deviled eggs, sprinkled with paprika. We ate and drank and chatted while the teenager napped peacefully on the couch. The main course just an hour from ready to devour.

When the yeast rolls were browned and the salad tossed with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, it was time. We filled our stately plates with an assortment of both mine and my parent’s favorite holiday dishes. The light and crunchy salad paired well with the warm green bean casserole and fluffy potatoes. Tart and sweet cranberry sauce made the perfect coupling with the savory, chicken casserole (we do that instead of the traditional turkey, it is a hundred times better). Baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter is good any time of year.

We enjoyed the dinner back at the dining room table, my dad at the head and my son on the other end, my mom across from me. We filled our bellies and mused and laughed. The pumpkin-scented candles flickered on the dark wood. The open window left a cool breeze to gently cascade in as the squirrels played around the big oak tree. Frank Sinatra and the like serenaded through the stereo speakers. No phones buzzing or ringing.

The table was cleared and an engaging game of “Heads Up” began. Then we slipped into a family traditional card game of “Oh Heck” which brings out the competitive nature in even me and my mom. I finally won! After all these years!

Dessert followed, still on bone china, although these plates smaller and more delicate. Home-made creamy, spiced pumpkin pie from my mom, and Coke-cola chocolate cake made by me and my son. A perfectly sweet ending.

There were times when we had sort of a house full on Thanksgiving. Various friends and family over the years and in several different dining rooms or lanais. Although this one not a house full, it felt full in the way it does when company has encased you with good energy and love and you are left smiling and dancing as you clean the remnants of a Thanksgiving feast, intimate.

3 Comments

Filed under Observations, Yep I'm Becoming My Mother

Sometimes it’s OK to just watch birds

When was the last time you stared into nowhere, or better yet at something out in nature? I mean like really lost yourself in the moment with no dings or tings or rings perpetuating your space or thinking?

I find it harder and harder to acquire moments like these. Recently I did a little experiment where I turned off all notifications on my phone. So no matter what form of communication trying to contact/lure/disrupt was not available to my anticipating ear. I found I had more peace in that day and probably lower blood pressure.

It’s not to say I don’t welcome contact with friends or family. But all this technology and availability 24/7 can be exhausting and stressful. Couple that with the daily grind and you find yourself longing to stare out into the abyss.

Especially when the weather is nice I like to gaze at the tops of trees dancing in the wind or under the glow of the moon. This is something I discovered by accident a few years ago. Sometimes days or even weeks go by when I don’t do this, however. Work and domestic duties and the pulsing of time does not lend itself to such leisure provocation. Then perhaps during a buzzing moment I catch a glimpse of a bluebird or heron or hawk and I’m reminded to stop and just watch and BE. There is something so peaceful and organic about engaging in something so simple.

We tend to look down at our racing feet or ahead at our constant to-dos. Children are always looking up and noticing things we don’t, like a wasp’s nest or a pink airplane or a woodpecker in a tree. We should strive to grab some of that youthful curiosity.

Maybe those old ladies who sit on park benches and feed birds have it right, too. Maybe they are laughing at us, thinking we’re out of our minds.

 

Drawing by John James Audubon, who started a revolution of bird watchers. 

2 Comments

Filed under Observations

Energy Surrounding

Energies. We get in what we give out. September’s whirling storms coughed up darkness and laid it down to fester for a while. October’s breezes have blown it away, back to that no man’s land from whence it came. Halloween’s jubilant fare begins the season of social rebooting. November is on the horizon.

I went to a really good party last night. Quite spontaneous and so glad I went instead of curling up in my cave, which is sometimes needed, frankly. But not last night. There were kind people from all walks of life, better than average party chit-chat. Lots of cool photographs and art along the walls to appreciate. Music to sway to. One dear friend and lots of strangers who made me feel completely at ease. I went home with that good feeling of having ingested good people energy.

Now the wind outside the open window is doing a little dance.

Last week I kept thinking about how I miss my dad. He’s doing the snow-bird thing, up in Tennessee, and I haven’t talked to him in a while. It’s my mom who usually does the phone calling/texting. My mind flashed back to moments with him years ago. His coming home from a long day at work yet giving us his full attention. His reassuring words when I didn’t feel so assured. Raking the leaves and mowing the lawn together. Sitting across from him at any one number of meals over the last few decades.

He must’ve felt this across the miles because guess who was on the other line when my phone rang Friday night? We had a nice, light-hearted conversation and it was so good to hear his voice.

Sometimes the space held for these energies is closed down. And in those moments trudging through the marsh with shoes heavier than bricks. No carefree wind. The still branches either mirroring or mocking. These are the arduous of times.

But when that positive space is opened again, hope and wonderment carries along crests of waves and bursts of wind, reiterating the power of the energy surrounding. A phone call, a hug, a kind gesture, a twirl on the dance floor, a smile, a happy nod, a dancing tree, a reassuring touch on the shoulder, are welcome immensely.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Observations