Sheesh, Why so Serious?


For the second time in a year, someone has compromised my debit card. Yikes! How’d they do it? I have no idea, I might be tech challenged, or disinterested in the how.

I wonder who does these things and always want to make up a back story, an interesting story. Again though, who ever did it has low standards. What did they do? Bought gaming software, just like the last time. So I picture some kid, living in his parent’s basement, playing World of Warcraft all day and compromising cards by night.  The usual calling of the bank, reporting the fraud, filling out forms, and having to wait for a new card to be delivered is done. No back story to make of that. I come from a long-line of un-solemn people. I come from a long line of people who can find humor in anything.

In looking at my banking statement today while on the phone with my bank, I had a moment when I saw to whom the charge was made, MoneyBookers UK, when I told the bank person, “YAY! someone bought hookers, finally a good story!” There was that moment of silence when she couldn’t tell if I was serious or not and refused to say a thing. Honestly some people are so serious.  What a great story that would have been if someone  bought hookers with my card! Gone to Tahiti, ridden the Orient Express! What do I get? A snot nosed kid living in a basement terribly pale due to lack of sun…and not because he’s a vampire.

Once, while working some glass in a friends shop, we were making up stories about people who walked by.  While we were yakking it up and cutting glass, two men came in and started wandering around. They were speaking in hushed tones and touching items, not really showing an interest in us, the items, or the fact that we offered to help them. Never one to leave things alone…when they walked closer looking at our work, I started in. “You two are awfully quiet, may we help you with anything?..”No thank you we are just looking around.” “Well, I said, since you are terribly quiet I was just wondering if you had heard the rumors about the shadow government being in the basement of my friend here’s shop?” Dead silence. My friend, the shop owner, plays right along. “Oh yes, they have been there for quite a while and we always whisper when we know they are listening.” Still, no reaction, no comment. So I looked at them again, and in all deadpan seriousness said, “Look if you are casing the place for a heist later, you should know we are broke, the cash register owes us money, and we are after all protected by that shadow government in the basement.” Finally, one of them looked at me, slowly pulled his sport coat aside, and there was a gun and an FBI badge. Oops. Honestly some people are so serious.

My Mom had cancer. When they found it in her brain, we all knew the outcome. During her time of illness, she had a birthday. I bought a card with a bunch of old Italian women standing around a block of ice. Encased in that ice was a woman. The old women all looked very serious staring at the woman in the ice. The card had some inane saying like, “She looks like time stopped for her”. I thought it was hysterical, and I knew mom would too. My husband had a coronary. We had a row about how he thought it was in bad taste, I thought my mother would think it was very funny. He refused to sign it so I gave it to her from just me.  She laughed so hard tears were rolling. I looked very smugly at my hubby. Honestly some people are so serious.  I get that find humor in everything from her.  She called me one night a little bit panicked that she had just gone to the “ladies room” and her “poo” was black. She thought she was having blood. We spoke about it a bit, and I told her I would come the next day and take her to the doctors. This did seem rather serious. I worried all night only to have her ring me the next day and tell me to hold the ambulance, don’t call the funeral home yet…she was fine. Turns out she’d eaten a slew of black jelly beans the night before. I know, indelicate, but we thought it was funny.

One of my brothers once complained to an HR person on the phone, in another state, that he was frustrated beyond good measure that he couldn’t get a simple issue resolved. He made some silly statement like, “I am so frustrated you all may read about me taking hostages”, he then laughed and so did the guy on the other end. They both knew at the time he was joking. The comment made its way up the chain, and they called him and asked him to come in to work. When he arrived at the gate, they dragged him out of his car, searched him for weapons, inspected his car for bombs, then took him to a shed all night…like a scene out of Homeland. Honestly some people are so serious. Finally, his boss called and told the security folks it was simply his sense of humor, let him go. The retelling of this story by my brother had me shocked on his behalf and cracking jokes all the way through.  We thought it was so funny.  He could have however have ended up in a prison with no one knowing where he was, and still we laughed and laughed. His work does require a security clearance.  He uses me as a reference for that clearance, risky since every time they call I say stupid things like, “I don’t think this is funny, they only let him out for the weekend”, or “Oh, he is out now? Great!”

My Dad had brain cancer. While he was ill, we were watching the debates between John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama. He a strong conservative, me a bleeding heart liberal. Half way through the debate my dad turns to me and says, “Hillary is the smartest person on the stage tonight.” I jumped up, ran over putting my hand on his brow as if he were fevered and said, “Oh my God, you really do have a brain tumor!!”  We thought it was funny.

My other brother had an ear removed due to a large growth. After it was over, we couldn’t help ourself….Want to borrow my glasses? Oh wait, they won’t stay up…How’s that blue tooth working? Can you hear me now? got a lot of play. One of us gave him Micky Mouse ears…we tortured him with good fun. Yesterday, he sent us a text with two fake ears on that looked suspiciously like elephant ears. It must be genetic.

I like finding humor in life, I get that from my family. I can’t figure out people who are so damned serious all the damned time. Aren’t we supposed to be enjoying this brief life? After all, rumor has it no one makes it out alive.

What is Our Perceived Value?


You get up and go to work every day. You do the best job you know how with the direction and parameters established. You are abused by your coworkers regularly, and to top it off, you haven’t been paid in two months. Would I put up with it? No way. I do however know someone who does. Why? The dilemma is this person works with family. The mother asks her child not to leave, Dad hires a business coach to help, one brother is passive/aggressive, the other a tyrant. How do you get out from under this predicament?

After graduating college with a degree that will never translate in the real world, you go to work with family to learn the family business. Your older brother treats you like you’re 12 and incapable of making an adult decision, doesn’t mentor you in any area, doesn’t even show you a financial statement and keeps everything close to his vest. The other brother never says a word, not a peep, and the father is trying his best to keep the peace and get everyone working together. Out of college for 7 years, you have learned nothing from your involvement with the family business and may be a wee bit trapped because the family business has taught you nothing about the business, and everything about dysfunction. It’s your family that is keeping you down. What do you put on your resume when seeking work elsewhere?

It’s easy to cut ties with a company that doesn’t value your contributions, and seriously a company that doesn’t pay you should be gone the first time you don’t get paid, but how do you cut ties to a business where the lines between family and work are blurred? It’s the stuff movies are made of.

The real issue here is what does this do to your personal perception of your value? You are aware enough to know you haven’t really learned any skills that are portable. You probably start to feel worthless wondering around looking for a way to make contributions.

It’s hard when you are young and you interview and the potential employer says they are looking for experience. How do you get experience if no one will hire you? The scenario above is a double whammy; you have worked for the family business for seven years and still have no real experience.

I would imagine the complex dynamics would drain your self-confidence and weigh on you daily. You know you have to do something but how do you do it without ruining the family dynamic? I am old enough to know the family dynamic comes after my own mental, physical, and workplace health. I don’t define myself by my job, although I like it and make many contributions, it simply pays the bills…and the wonderful things outside my job, my volunteerism, my friends, my art, my contributions to my fellow man, these things define who I am. Without my job I would worry about how to pay the bills, but I would not view myself as any less.

If you feel worthless at work, are trapped by family and know you have to make a change but are paralyzed by it all, what’s the toll this takes on how you view yourself overall? The skills you know you had when you left college are languishing in the dark, your perception of yourself devolves as each day passes, and the end is never in sight.

Self-confidence and self-worth are bolstered daily as we have small and large successes in our lives. Where these successes happen, work, home, or socially matters not as long as they happen in all these settings at some point. It’s these moments that bring a small inner smile to our souls knowing we had a moment. If you don’t have these flashes during the eight or more hours you spend at work, when you leave there is nothing to look forward to when you go back the next day, and you have to go back because you can’t find another job.
By allowing ourselves to be defined by our workplace, we may suffer in a setting that eats away at our inner selves. No one would deny it is important when we go to work we feel we can make a contribution, have a pleasant experience, and know we are earning our pay. It is equally important that we view our value in broader terms or we may never be able to climb out of that dark endless tunnel of self-doubt…which in the end may be the only thing that keeps us one step from the edge.

The Death of My Father and the Death of a Kennedy


My father was a lifelong republican and Ted Kennedy was a lifelong democrat.  My father was a lifelong conservative and Kennedy was a lifelong liberal.  Where did these two men converge?  In their brains.  My father also had this terrible brain tumor and it also killed him this past January as we knew it would.  I have been thinking of my Dad all day.  He like Kennedy was pretty together until the tumor won.

Dad and I never agreed on politics.  I was always stirring it up for socially liberal causes, he for conservative causes.  He felt it was his duty to support his political party, I felt compelled to support the best candidate no matter their party.  We did, this past election cycle, agree on one thing after watching more debates than any one person should have to sit through.  He actually said he thought Hillary was the best candidate.  I rushed to take his temperature!  I told him maybe his brain tumor was affecting his outlook!  He laughed and said he seriously doubted it, but I thought…finally common ground.  When Kennedy was diagnosed with his brain tumor, I told my father” finally something you and a Kennedy have in common”.  Dad thought that was hysterically funny. 

As a child, peace signs were a sign of trouble; I had one on everything I owned.  Long hair parted in the middle was a no-no; as soon my parents divorced, I grew mine out and parted it in the middle.  Protesters were destroying the country; I couldn’t help myself, I protested everything. 

The Catholic in him thought gay people were choosing, the enlightened me thought it was not a choice it simply was what it was.  His brother came out and as I have said in a previous blog, his views changed and his less conservative older self thought, what the heck, it is what it is. 

I think our diametrically opposed politics and ideals were what contributed to me always having something to say about issues. At one point in our lives, I didn’t speak to him for eight years. And yet later in life, I became his caregiver when he became ill. 

We however always did have one thing in common; we never sat on the sidelines, he for his causes, me for mine. We had interesting dynamics, my father and I.  Not always good, not always healthy, always interesting.  

Family is a strange thing.  Someday, I’ll write a book about it all, even if only in my head.  I am sure my siblings will make me change their names to protect the innocent.

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