Denise's LOVE

          On New Years Eve, I found a very touching note from my daughter after I returned from dropping her off at the airport.
          I snapped a picture of her handwritten Love and made a character's face with it.  The L became the character's eyes, the o an ear, the v it's nose, and the e is it's smile (with tongue sticking out of the corner).   These items (and others) are available at my CafePress Shop.

This is the image alone.

My dearest only child - Denise,

    Please accept my apology.  I hate myself for shouting at you.  I have spent almost all the hours since our phone-call, trying to understand why your words caused me to feel so much anger.  I'm ashamed of myself.  I should have paused, thought about what you said, realized you had no way to know your actions (which—like you said—are the actions of many others) would cause me so much pain, and I should have waited to talk to you about my anger on a later date.

    In order to fully understand my own thoughts on this issue, I’ve had a long conversation with myself – and – this is that conversation:

    What were the words, said by Denise, which made you feel angry?
    “Denise shared how she and her boyfriend met in a bar and then she said, ‘The next day or so, we exchanged messages and I almost decided not to chat with him because he never offered to buy me a drink that night.’  I didn’t immediately feel angry when she made that statement.  But I did begin to ask questions to learn if she was aware of what her words meant.”

    Obviously the answers she provided to your questions did make you angry.  Why?
    “She said that when she went to bars it was what was expected and normal.  That, ‘all men purchased drinks for all women.’  When I asked her if, ‘she had ever purchased a drink for a guy?’ She replied, ‘No.  She had never done that, and no woman she knew had ever done it’.”    

    Why were Denise’s words so upsetting?
    “I was shocked to learn that someone I love, someone I care about as much as I care about my daughter, would have such low self esteem.”

    Can you explain what that means, and why you think she has low self esteem because of this statement?
    “The reason a man purchases a drink-gift for a woman is he hopes she will accept it, feel obligated to talk to him for a short period of time (commonly understood to be the time it takes to finish the drink) which—he hopes—will lead to more drinks, more conversation, and eventually sex.”

    What does that have to do with a person’s self esteem?
    “Self esteem means:  self-worth.  How a person thinks about themselves; the cumulative good and bad thoughts one knows about themselves.  (This is not a dollar price tag.  Having high self esteem is not saying, ‘I think I’m worth a million dollars.’)  Self esteem is a vague picture that people hold in their mind about themselves.
    “If someone has mostly good thoughts about themselves; takes care of themselves; treats themselves with respect; considers themselves to be both caring and thoughtful; and behaves in a positive manner—they are considered to have ‘high self esteem’.  Conversely, when someone thinks about themselves in mostly negative terms; treats their mind and body terribly; knows that they are careless and thoughtless; and performs negative acts—they have ‘low self esteem’.
    “If someone expects men to buy them drinks, then they are expecting men to pay to talk to them; to ‘buy their time’.  Women who think this way are communicating to men (even if they don’t know it) that their time is for rent.

    Are you saying these women are prostituting themselves for drinks?
    “No.  I am not implying women who expect drink-gifts are prostitutes!  Not at all.  Instead, what I am saying is that when a woman expects a man to buy her a drink — instead of informing him (not asking...telling him), up-front, that she is going to buy the next round — she is telling him that she considers herself to be subordinate to him.  She considers all men to be superior to her.  She is telling him that she has low self esteem.  Simply put:  she thinks her life is worth less than his life. 
    “A woman with high self esteem doesn’t sit and wait for a man to offer her a drink.  She offers to buy the man she admires a drink—first.  If he gladly accepts and says he will buy the next round, she has found an equal.  If he refuses to accept her drink but offers to buy her one—he thinks all women are supposed to be subordinate to him (she should run away).  If he accepts and never offers to buy her a drink and expects her to buy him drinks all night long?  Well.... is she looking for a subordinate man?  If so, she found one.
    “At this point I should mention:  “buying a drink” is a dumb, irritating, ‘ploy.’  The entire situation and verbal game sounds wrong-headed; it doesn’t matter if anyone ever offers to buy anyone else a drink.
    “Think of it this way:  if a person (woman or a man) goes to a bar and then sits and waits for the opposite sex to approach, talk, and offer them gift-drinks...they have low self esteem. Or they are a narcissistic attention-whore (which is not Denise, so, no reason to expound on that).  Everyone should feel free to walk up to and talk to anyone whom they admire.  No drinks are ever need.  Approaches are made by people who are self-assured and confident.  All one needs to do is say, “Hello, I like your smile.”  That is how a conversation is begun.  If the other person is interested in talking to you, then it will take off from there.  If they are not, they will not offer you a seat, not engage you in conversation, and you can move on and tell the next person you admire that you, “think the color they are wearing looks good on them.”     

   Is this something you think everyone knows about?
     “About how to start a conversation with an attractive stranger?  I hope so.  Denise is not shy and she's in her mid-30s!”

     I meant awareness of one's own self esteem.  Is that something you think people have?
     “Unfortunately, far too many people have no idea.  This is not something many people have ever wanted to learn about themselves.  I also realize that many people have never even considered what the term ‘self esteem’ means and never think about their own self esteem.”

    Aren’t some women fully aware of their low self esteem and subsequent actions?
    “Yes.  Some women are open about their life’s expectations when they admit they expect men to buy them everything.  They have a clearly-stated goal of finding someone to take care of them.  Those women are derogatorily referred to as Gold-diggers and the men who keep them are derogatorily referred to as Sugar-daddy.”

    Did you get angry because Denise’s words made you think she was a gold digger?
    “No.  She said that she never thought about her behavior other than to think that it was ‘how everyone acted’ and that it was ‘normal’.  According to her, it was how every woman around her had behaved her entire life.  Since she and I have just reunited after 16 years, I think it’s possible she has never had a positive role model to show her how to act if she wants to attract a partner interested in an woman who is assertive and who expects to be treated as an equal.”

    Why didn’t you explain all this to her on the phone instead of getting angry?
    “The shock took over and I lost all my clear thoughts.  I love my daughter so much it makes my head spin at times.  When we talk, her words about her life make me feel emotions of concern, and worry, and pride, and contentment, and empathy, and excitement, and sadness, and so much more . . . all inside of one single conversation.
    “We have (so quickly) reunited to become parts of each other’s lives, that when I discovered she had adopted a long-term bad behavior—and it was something she’d done her entire life—I was so shocked I blew up.”

    And your shock turned to anger?
    “Yes.  Unfortunately all I could focus on was that she didn’t know how a simple act of “expecting free drinks from men” had informed every man she’d ever talked to in a bar that she had low self esteem.  And, then all I could think about was that she must also not know that almost all men with lower self esteem were only interested in finding women with low self esteem.   
    “Which made me think about all her previous failed relationships.  And, I wondered if all of them had been doomed to fail because of that.
    “Then I realized that if I had not lost contact with her 16 years ago, she would have known (because I would have told her before she was 21—before she went into her first bar) that she should only trust men with high self esteem, who gratefully accept compliments or drink-gifts from women and who are not looking for a subservient partner.  I would have also made sure she knew she should never talk to a man who only wants a subservient woman.  They are the men who always say: ‘I never let a little lady buy me a drink!’
    “I felt that, maybe, her low self esteem was caused by me.”

    How do you think you can fix this?
    “Denise knows how much I want her to be happy.  How much I love her.  How hard I am willing to work to help her in any way that she wants me to help her.  Over time, this will be thought of as ‘the phone call when I got angry and made her cry.’  I’m very sorry for not using my words very good.  I hope she will forgive me.”

Hello There 2018 - Let the Catching Up Commence!'ll be my bodyguard and I can be your long-lost pal.  I can call you Betty—and Betty, when you call me—you can call me Al...

    After three years of: ‘no good reason to sit down and write’ my life has spanked me with a dozen reasons.  Now I feel driven to get the swirling cacophony onto the page in-hopes of, maybe, getting “thoughts in order.”  (A distant *yay* echoes off the surrounding cliffs of the neverscape.  Or, at least, I think it was a yay...maybe it was naaayyy?)

    My ex-step-daughter — I can call her Betty — contacted me a few months ago.  She was 19 when I divorced her mother (with whom she shared a close, daily-contact, type of relationship).  Now she is 35.  Over the 16 year interim, I assumed our estrangement was, unfortunately, the expected outcome of what had become a tenuous relationship.

    In the early 1990s I assumed the temporary, non-tenured, position as her primary care-giver from a litany of predecessors.  She was an obedient, friendly and pleasant ten year old.  Easy to talk to.  We liked each other.  Her mother’s ‘hands-off’ parenting style fit nicely with my desire to teach.  My more authoritative and ‘present’ style seemed to be more appropriate and needed.  Until ... a few years later ... it wasn’t.  Because: teenagers.  (I see no need to provide details about the petty crimes, drugs, running away for weeks, or dropping-out of school.)  She was not “cash me outside, how bout dat?” girl.  But in the late 1990s, it felt like all my efforts to help her become a good person had amounted to hundreds of man-hours of wasted time.  Against my wishes, her mother allowed her—at 16—to get married.  At 19, my adult step-daughter was back in my house as a divorcĂ©e with an infant named Destiny. 

    It had become perfectly clear I was nobody’s parent, nobody’s teacher, all my opinions were worthless and the only things required from me were: shut up; provide food, shelter and money; and shut up.

    A year later, Betty's mother told me that all she required of me was the same five things.  And, that was when I paid thousands of dollars to lawyers so they would legally affix the prefix “ex-” in front of all of our respective relationship labels. 

    Last month, the aforementioned ironically named infant (my ex-previous-step-granddaughter...if that’s even possibly a real label for a relationship) turned 17.  Her mother, Betty, had progressed from using my name to using the title ‘Dad’ and we have progressed from the occasional text message or email to weekly phone calls.  By yesterday — Festivus of 2017 — our phone calls are almost daily and they sometimes are hours in duration. They are a vibrant and wonderful mix of reminiscing, catching-up, discussing current topical issues, exchanging opinions and tears, and planning future visits (Betty lives 3,000 miles away).

    In eight weeks, we have become bodyguard and long-lost pal.  I have learned many of the lessons (which I assumed had been a waste of time) were, actually, vitally important.  My parenting style twenty years ago had influenced some of her parenting successes.  She had now raised three, constantly-on-the-honor-roll, loving, respectful, and wonderful children, who are now 10, 14, and 17.  Yes, of course, her life has not been without its pitfalls.  But, I have recently learned, in several conversations, that the reason Betty believes she became an attentive, loving, parent (one might use the term “helicopter-parenting soccer mom”) with a job, stable household, and a smile in her voice, is partly because of me. 

    Next week, she will be visiting with my wife and I. 

    The pronoun game has already been addressed and re-addressed.  We can lay no claim to the names Grandpa and Grandma — even if those labels were appended with our names so that the “grand kids” can distinguish us from the people who rightfully hold those titles.  More important (and to-the-point):  two months ago, neither of us had any idea we would soon be exchanging stories with a highly likable, mature woman, overflowing with laughter and love who wants us to think of her as our “daughter” and who asks for, receives, and heeds our advice.  Also we held no inkling in our minds that this self-same “woman of many titles (none of which fit perfectly)” had three children who might someday be eager to include us in their lives as “pseudo-quasi Nana and Papa figures.”

    Maybe this is an appropriate point for me to provide a synopsis about the end of my life?

    Most people cringe when someone discusses their own death, preferring to only think of death in an abstract manner.  Or they always ask to postpone those “morbid thoughts” for when the “time comes.”  Others attempt to hold on to an obscenely strange belief that, “it’s never going to happen.”  That is not who I am.  I have contemplated and embraced my terminus and have come to accept its eventuality without any dread.  I hope to have about five years left.  It would be great if I have double that.

    If I make it to 62 (in 2021) I will have outlived all my male ancestors, none of whom lived to receive social security.  None had retired before they died.  All died of apparent (or possible) heart attacks.

    I have attempted to avoid and continue to (mostly) avoid many of the "environmental factors" which contributed to the early demise of my father, grandfathers, and great-grand fathers (nicotine, alcohol, red meat, etc.)  None-the-less: genetics.  So I retired at the age of 43 from the military, divorced a stress-inducing woman the same year, and have attempted to live as frugally as possible on my military pension for the last 16 years.

    My goal was to live through at least two peaceful decades of happy retirement.  Most people want the same thing.  Only the masses don’t think about actuary tables; they fall in lock-step with the government who proclaims that everyone should retire about 65, because the government says they'll more-than-likely die in their early-to-mid 80s.  (Those who think that way are stupid, conformist, sheep.  *baaah*)

    Now, I've — out of nowhere — received a wonderful surprise opportunity: to be able share my last few years (five? – fingers crossed ...  20? – all fingers and toes quadruple-crossed) with not only my still-fantastic wife, Pam.  But, now, with our new bodyguard Betty and her three children.  I'm immensely glad she treats us both like long-lost pals.

Shut - not Closed

          As I have done in the past, I turn this canvas to the wall.  I will be back when blogging excites me again.  Until then...Alf's feet are saying. 

Mashup by FAROFF

Mashup - Sabbath Jazz - Paranoid

nine hours of hobbiting

          We intentionally did not see the first two films (2012 and 2013) in order to see the 3d Hobbit Trilogy all at one time.  Today, we did just that—in comfort—in a local recliner-theater which offered a one o'clock (1300) to ten o'clock (2200) marathon.  Worth it.

2014 ten films

          With one last page still hanging on the calendar, I prematurely offer this years ten best films.

          Birdman should not be missed by anyone; Interstellar is a real treat; Gone Girl was filmed perfectly; John Wick aspires to be (and maybe is) the best retired-hitman-revenge movie of all time; Lucy is a great action-think film; Guardians of the Galaxy entertains almost everyone; Under The Skin perplexes wonderfully; Snowpiercer is full of great characters and is metaphorically over-ripe; The Lego Movie and The Boxtrolls prove stop-motion animation can trump green screen and computer animation.

Honeymoon - Pam and Veach

          Pam and I were married on 1 Nov 2014 and just spent an amazing few weeks honeymooning at the Oregon coast, Washington's Hood Canal, and in Leavenworth, Washington (no it's really not in Bavaria).