Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whatever happened to...

 Courtesy. Privacy. At the moment these two things come to mind.

I am sitting in my living room, with the windows closed. Yet I can hear my across- the-alley neighbor talking on his cell phone. Granted, I hear only his portion of the conversation, but really, should I have to hear ANY of it?  

This is not an odd occurrence.  Usually, several times weekly, I am privy to Mr. Cell Talker's conversations. Sometimes they are simple, even friendly. Other times they are laced with expletives that lead me to believe he's angry with the person on the other end.  

I know things which the Hippa Privacy Act dictate  I shouldn't know without his consent!  I suppose talking loudly in a public thoroughfare implies his consent to allow the sharing of these details, however I have NOT consented to be made aware of theses personal issues.

Last weekend as I was changing for bed, at 11:30PM, I could hear him ranting about some place that in his estimation was "a (expletive) palace!"  and how he'd "live in the (expletive) place!"  Those who know me well, know that I am not overly sensitive to coarse language. In fact it is an area I often struggle with. But why am I hearing this from a middle class man who has a home in which he could be having said conversation?  It's not like he's out there doing something!  It's dark. He's pacing in the alley! Go into your house, for goodness sake, or at least for my sake!

Not that Mr Across the Alley is the only offender around here.

I have heard folks across the street arguing with the cable company about their payments. Again, these people have a home, but choose to have these conversations outside, while walking back and forth in front of their house. I don't get it!

Another neighbor often will walk outside his house and either sit on the front steps during his conversations, or else, like the before mentioned guy, pace the sidewalk.  I have been the unwilling recipient of knowledge about his 12 step program, his dinner plans and much more.

What ever happened to keeping one's personal business personal? When did it become acceptable to share with such abandon? Especially with folks who are simply  neighbors by accident of fate?

Do these people even realize that they are inadvertently sharing details of their lives with anyone in earshot? Are they so self absorbed that they think we find the minutia of their day to day existence fascinating?

Am I just becoming overly sensitive as I age? Am I the only person who finds this behavior annoying?

And since I mentioned annoying, when did it become acceptable to wear ones pajamas to the grocery store? I know I've ranted about this before to friends.  But I am seriously asking when it became acceptable to walk to the grocery store in an item of clothing that one would sleep in? I know we send pictures of people inappropriately attired as email jokes, but I see it all the time.  I live very close to Kuhn's Grocery and see woman and girls, mostly, on their way to the store in items that I recognize as sleepwear. 

There was a time, when I was growing up in Lawrenceville, that there was a woman who often strolled the main street in her pj's, with curlers in her hair. She was mentally ill. But even she wore a robe over her jammies!

Again, I ask, am I just getting old and becoming a fuddy duddy? Or have we allowed our casualness to cross the line into inappropriateness?


Yesterday Raymond and I drove to Hershey from Pittsburgh to attend an RV show.  While traveling along the PA Turnpike, we made a stop at one of the service areas.  I decided to get something to eat and was standing in line behind a group of six gentlemen who were discussing what they each would be ordering.

One of the guys said, "No, I don't want anything. I have all those cookies in the car."

Ever the busybody, I said, mockingly, "Young man! that is no kind of lunch! Cookies, indeed!"

He laughed and one of his buddies told me, "You tell him. He can't just eat cookies."

The fellow laughed and said to me, "They're really good cookies. Homemade. Chocolate chip."

My turn to laugh, as I asked, "can I ride with you guys?" And answered my own question by pulling out my car keys and saying, "Wait. I'm the driver, so that won't work."

We all went on to place our orders and I waited for Raymond to return from his personal sojourn. We got our sandwich and  fries and were headed out  through the parking lot to our car. I noticed a bronze colored mini van pull up to the edge of the parking area, but paid little attention to the occupants. 

The sun was shining, the air was clear and perfectly crisp. I was enjoying the conversation with Raymond. 

I had passed by the mini van and was headed to our car when I heard a horn beep. I looked around and saw someone motioning to me from the van window.  I ambled over to the van and one of the passengers leaned forward from the back seat toward the driver's window, with a ziplock bag in his hand. The bag was filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies! It was the guys from inside the rest stop. They had stopped to offer Raymond and me cookies.  I took one and thanked them for their kindness. They told me to take one from my husband, too, but I explained that he doesn't eat cookies, which they accepted without question.

Then they drove away and beeped good bye.

I was stunned by such kindness. 

Since Raymond had missed the interaction while I was standing online, I explained what had happened.  He told me I should've taken one for him and I could've had two.

Somehow that just didn't seem like the right thing to do. 

I know sharing their cookies isn't on a par with saving the world, or even a portion of it, but it went a long way toward improving how I looked at my fellow travelers and touched me deeply.

Have you ever experienced a seemingly disproportionate reaction to some stranger's act of kindness?  

And even though the context may not fit, it made me think of Hebrews 13:2.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." (NASV)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Off To School

As you may know, I care for two little munchkins three days per week.  The older child, Nicky, is  nearly 3.5 years old and I have been one of his caregivers since he was six months.  He is not the first child I have cared for over the span of my life, but I dare say he is one of the most challenging. He is also the one that I have grown to love in a way I never anticipated. 

Last year he attended a preschool program at the local Jewish Community Center two mornings weekly for two and a half hours. In the beginning, he was less than happy about going. He adjusted pretty quickly, though and was sad when his parents decided not to sign him up for another year, at the beginning of the summer. I was glad to have him home with me and his baby sister all summer. Although, I knew that the plan was to enroll him in some other program in September.

There was some anxiety on the part of some the adults (Mom, Nana, me)  that Nicky would react badly to the "new" school, since he has spent a good bit of time talking about Judy and Naomi, from his previous school.

Last week, he started his new preschool. It's a three day per week program at a local church for 4 hours each day. He even has to bring a lunch. 

So it was that on his third day of school, last week, I stood in the doorway as he walked off with his Mom, to get in her car and be dropped at school.  He kissed me good bye and trotted off like he'd been doing this for years, instead of DAYS!  As he climbed into his car seat and his Mom was buckling him in, he very nonchalantly waved to me.  I lost it!  I immediately teared up and excused myself from the activities, mentioning to his Mom that I had to go inside because I was going to cry. She said, "You're worse than me!"

He just seemed to have grown up overnight!  And I'm crying now as I type this. it doesn't seem that long ago that I held him on my chest and rocked him in the afternoons so that he would sleep longer than thirty minutes.

At one PM his sister and I were waiting in the hall at the school to pick him up.  As he left the classroom and saw us, he ran to me and threw his arms around my legs with abandon and said, quite loudly, "JeanMarie! You came!!!"  I almost cried again. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Learning, Still

Having been at home on vacation for the past ten days gave me a lot to think about.  My big plans included starting to purge unnecessary items from our home in preparation for our planned lifestyle changes next autumn. Best laid plans and all that... It was in the 90s, our house is not air conditioned. Those two facts lead to a lot of book reading & computer playing in the only room with AC, our bedroom. Not accomplishing my goal for the week sent me into a minor depression, complete with feelings of unworthiness and inferiority. 

Then we got a reprieve from the scorching temperatures.  So far I have made a small dent in the plan to rid ourselves of unneeded stuff and new homes have been found for many, already.  

Depression, lifted. Self esteem, improved. Self worth, in the positive column.

Add to that, the fact that I spoke with my employer yesterday and also with one of my little charges. Until I had that telephone interaction with them, I had allowed my depressed brain to tell me that I wasn't important to them and that they probably didn't miss me, or even like me. After talking with them, all those negative thoughts evaporated as if they had never been. I was looking forward to going to work and looking forward to spending time with Nicky and Anamaria. I even began wondering, once again, how I will leave them next Fall, when Raymond and I start our adventure.

The lessons I am learning from this experience are ones I probably should have 'gotten' a long time ago. But, as they say, "Better late, than never."  I'm learning to be easier on myself. I'm learning that I do need a connection to people. I'm learning to be flexible in my plans. I'm learning that spending time editing photos can count as work, as much as cleaning the attic. And I'm learning that sometimes I need to pick up the phone, no matter my aversion to it.

Brings to mind something Larry Osley, my twelfth grade American Democracy teacher told me, "You're a late bloomer".  Bet he didn't think I'd be this late!