Rotten Tomatoes

I don’t like tomatoes.  heirloom tomatoesBig deal.
Can anyone argue that point? Well, they can try, but it’s futile. My opinion is my opinion, and it’s made at my discretion. No amount of arguing is going to change my opinion about tomatoes – I dislike the taste and texture of tomatoes! I don’t even care for tomato-based products like ketchup, or tomato sauces (pasta sauce, pizza sauce, marinara sauce – whatever name you slap on that jar of tomato guts!), and I’d just as soon not have to deal with explaining myself further, thank you very much!

          yes, I have a point…

So, in the blatantly rude exposition about my seemingly insurmountable displeasure with tomatoes, I discovered this is the secret to my new happiness – or, more joy than happiness, but, semantics

Heart-to-Heart-Key-Ring

I’ve dealt with a lot of self-loathing over the years (decades!), and I’m trying to come to grips with that – I’m a work in progress… Despite knowing in my head the love of the Lord, and understanding, in my head, my worth because of my relationship in Him, and because of Who it is I belong to, I still struggle with self-worth, and allowing the actions of others to dictate whether or not I am worthy of, well, anything and everything: love, recognition, acceptance, rest, peace, joy, acknowledgement, success… Anything. And. Everything. I so often allowed others to define my value, and the worst of it, I failed to recognize that it was through the opinions of others that I was allowing my value and worth to be ultimately decided.
Let me put it to you this way: who should determine the worth and value of a pizza? One patron who walks into the pizzeria and orders a pie with four cheeses, pepperoni, pizzasausage, and black olives? Or another patron who requests Canadian bacon and pineapple with feta cheese? Well, neither, of course! The owner of the pizzeria determines the price – the worth and value – of the pies! Why? Because ultimately the pizzas belong to him. And although each pie may vary – with different meats and cheeses, veggies and fruits – they are all still pizzas, and their appeal is based on people’s preferences.

Now, back to tomatoes (bleh!)…

As we’ve already discussed, I do not like tomatoes. Just so we’re clear on that point. Everybody got that one? Okay, moving on…

My distaste for the fruit masquerading as a vegetable (ah, so deceptive – another reason not to like them! tsk! tsk!) does not discount their value; there are many (poorly informed, highly misguided – I kid!) individuals who have fallen prey to this devilishly plump orb and bestow upon it a place of honor within their kitchens, their gardens, and their nutrition plans. Our varied opinions do not change the value of the fruit; thebasket of tomatoestomato is still a tomato (and for the record, going back to pizzas – those that squawk and wag their fingers, with wrinkled-up noses, about pineapple on pizza, attesting to some cardinal sin being broken when one puts fruit on pizza… umm, tomatoes! I rest my case!) Some love them, others are merely fond of them, and then there are those that toss them onstage during nauseatingly poor performances of “The Taming of the Shrew” (again, I kid!) In much the same way, I should NOT be allowing some other person’s opinion of me determine my value! Someone else’s fondness for anchovies on their pizza is not going to change what I view as a delicious pizza, and in our respective opinions, each of us has perfection on a plate!

Opinions are like belly buttons: everybody’s got Beautiful Belly Dance Of The Universe 2012 (6)one, and everybody’s is as unique and personal as the person
themselves! Holy Moses, what a concept! Okay, I have a feeling there are a lot of you that learned this back in kindergarten. Yay for you! You get a gold star! (No, really, that’s awesome! I wish I were so lucky; life’s been challenging not being able to recognize my own self-worth. You are blessed; you are!) Like I said, I’m a work in progress here, and I’ve not had a lot of success with the self-love stuff… I did, however, make tremendous strides this week in two facets: I jumped on stage, with the future completely unscripted, and threw caution to the wind! (check out my previous post, Detail-Oriented, and this reference will make a ton more sense!) I discovered during a monumentally ungraceful stumble-trip-step-step-trip-stumble-fall that I was mistaken in my assumption of the previous-witnessed kindnesses being anything more than that (i.e., they were apparently not interest), and realized the second act of the play called for my swift and untimely demise. The defeat simmered for a while, but soon developed a lovely aroma and tantalizing fullness within my gut and soul until it manifested itself into the mantra I now carry with grace, dignity, and surprising victory: I don’t like tomatoes…

 

We all make decisions based on past encounters and present situations, which are heavily influenced by our personal preferences and opinions. I can’t fault someone because of their personal preferences, knowing full-well that we ALL have this internal mechanism – water or soda, wheat bread or rye bread, loafers or sneakers, the ocean or the forest, rap music or alternative jazz – and we ALL harbor opinions that play an integral part in our decision-making. If I get upset with someone for choosing a different stage performer over me, that’s akin to them being upset with me for not liking tomatoes, and that’s not right. I shouldn’t have to defend my distain for the veggie-fruit, fending off an attack by some pro-marinara advocate any sooner than a tea drinker waving off the offer of a cupCup-of-black-coffee of java with ridicule from the coffee bean brigade! Opinions are just a simple way of expressing our preferences, and do not detract from the value of the item in question. I need to understand –  to remember!! – that the personal preferences and opinions of others do not in any way diminish who I am, and do not take away from my value as a human being!

 

So I say, “You don’t care for me? That’s okay; I don’t like tomatoes.”

 

roasted tomatoes

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Temporarily Permanent

Perspective.

What is it exactly?

By definition, perspective is “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”. (It can also be defined as “the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point”, and although it is arguable that life is art, I won’t be addressing artistic perspective, per se, today.)

I find it interesting – nay, intriguing! – how perspective influences our opinion. Much like experiences having leverage and significant impact on the dimension of our focus (see post Finding Humanity in Winter), one’s perspective in direct relation to a situation not only predicates the response given, it often monopolizes it, regardless of any previous experience to the contrary. Basically, if we’re in the dark and darkness is all we see, it is unfathomable to see anything more than darkness despite having experienced ‘light’ and ‘bright’ in the past.

Extreme? Perhaps. But nonetheless not necessarily untrue.

Illustration: Think back to the last time you had a severe cold, or the flu (or, if not yourself, a loved one that you helped care for during that time). Day Two or Day Three into the experience, the wretchedness of sinus pressure, the shredding pain of broken glass shards tumbling down your constricted, raw throat with each swallow, feverish chills forcing you deep under the tonnage of fleece and woven cotton only to be marred by the beads of sweat on your brow, and the ripping ache throughout your joints, restricting fluid movement, draining every ounce of energy out of your listless frame. Even to partake in a cup of lemon chamomile tea with honey or bowl of chicken noodle soup is a monumental chore. You lay there, tissue in hand, dabbing your swollen, chapped nose and expel the simple words illuminating your current perspective, “this flu is killing me!”

But, wait!

You’ve had the flu before. And you’ve, well, survived… And, despite that present position, deep within the recesses of snuggle blankets and menthol throat lozenge wrappers, the predominant prognostication is that you, indeed, will again escape the clutches of Death in a week or so – with plenty of rest and clear fluids – but you can’t see beyond the mounting pile of discarded tissues, drawing on faded memory, to know that you will see the light of another day. Your feet will touch ground again, gleefully participating in retail therapy. Your tongue will relish in fantastical feasts and roaring repartee. And yes, your heart will languish in the thought of wasting another breath in the living tomb which is your office cubicle… But you don’t see that; you see death. You see permanence in the temporary – darkness in the midst of residing in the dark, casting aside the lucid remembrance of healthier days…

Point made?

So, how is it that we shake off this “permanence in the temporary”, and realize things for what they are – or what they could be? How do we change our perspective even if our circumstance has not changed? If the physicality of something remains the same, how do we redefine it?

Several of my current circumstances can easily lend to melancholy and the ambiance of defeat. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when I succumb to these jesters and lose sight of things beyond the temporary; however, as the past chapter’s song floats away on the evening breeze and providence crashes upon a new calendar year (Hello, 2017! Let’s be friends, shall we?), I’m determined to remain aware of my perspective, adjusting it as one would a manual camera lens, allowing in light and clarity of focus, distilling shortsightedness, and capturing inspiration, catapulting me through – beyond! – the darkness and into the warmth of glowing hope, where once before I drew breath.

Dress the Part

Conversations aren’t always the easiest to strike up.

          Well, that’s not true! According to my youngest child, I have a knack for chatting up fellow patrons  in the line at the grocery store waiting to pay for their produce, fishing for unbiased feedback from strangers outside the changing rooms while hunting through second-hand haute couture, even alleviating awkward silences on the elevator while scaling urban high rises. But, when it REALLY matters…

My youngest child is at a new school this year, and is experiencing all the thrills that go with the territory: new teachers, new schedules, and a new terrain to navigate in record time each day. He’s not the only new face on campus, though – there’s an entire grade-level worth of “newcomers”: the 2016-2017 high school freshmen class! These individuals, stuck between adolescence and adulthood, trying to fumble and flail their way through the muddied waters of senior high school – no long the “upper classmen” of middle school, tight-knit and secure in their relative proximity to one another as ‘a pack’. Now, scattered across countless acres of mundane, mud-colored buildings, corridors humming with pounding feet and the crashing of exhausted metal locker doors barely clinging to their hinges and a veritable menagerie of shapes, heights, hair colors, widths, eye colors, voices, talents, laughters, snarls, social cliques and antisocial exiles representing all corners of the city, county, school district, and outer banks of consciousness possible. Tough enough task just to make it through each day during that first month. But that’s not enough for the soul-crushing monster that is High School…

 

Must. Inflict. More. Emotional. Scarring. Through. Social. Awkwardness.

 

          Is it just me, or in retrospect, does that seem like the general mission statement of high school?

Two weeks in, and all of a sudden, there’s a social function that requires focused CONVERSATION. The Homecoming Dance. It’s become so much more than what it was when I was in high school – back before the fall of the Berlin Wall and fashion-forward Swatch watches. Now, it’s pre-sale tickets, suits, ties, evening gowns, pre-dance dinners – it’s pre-Prom, for all grade levels! But what do you do when you only know 6 people on campus – those six friends you had in Middle school, four of which are guys you band together with to terrorize online gaming servers and blast everything into oblivion by way of Steam-enabled games? Sure, talking with the person sitting next to you in Geometry or Video Tech class is easy if it’s just random chit-chat about classroom subject matter; however, when there’s a calculated risk underpinning a seemingly innocuous dialogue, casual and light-hearted antics give way to fear, anxiety, and trepidation. Compounding on the perceived pressures of unplanned conversations with a relative stranger, add to the mix the innate cloddish and provincial mannerisms of life as a teenager in general, with untimely voice cracks and unanticipated brain drain, how could it even be conceivable to drum up the courage to talk with a fellow classmate? The list of unknowns is far too overwhelming! I haven’t even mentioned the earth-shattering concept of (gasp!) rejection… (dun-dun-duuuuuun!)

 

Enter ‘Spirit Week’ dream concept: “Traffic Light Dress Code Day”.

 

Okay, picture this – there are those whose lives are truly uncomplicated; they know their path. Class schedules are always without a hitch, friends all live within shouting distance of their front porch, their dog and cat are snuggle buddies, and their bathtub never drains slowly. And questions about a date for the Homecoming Dance? Pish! That’s a no-brainer. Then there are those who wrestle with details: did ‘So-and-So’ get a parent’s approval? Does ‘Whos-a-Whats-It” have transportation? Maybe there’s a relationship that’s as predictable as a bee’s flight pattern during a wind storm, and it’s anybody’s guess until the 11th Hour… Lastly, there are those who are totally open to the idea of unpretentiously parading into the dance with a partying partner but who lack the “partnering” skills…

Red.      Yellow.      Green.

For one day during ‘Spirit Week’ (the week leading up to the Homecoming football game, and Homecoming Dance, where students are encouraged to partake in activities that show their ‘school spirit’), individuals dress in the color that corresponds to their dance-date situation. If your dance-floor moves are spoken for, then red’s your color. If ‘it’s complicated’ for any given reason, dress the color of sunshine. “Green light” indicates you’re open and available!

As I was describing this to a family member, the reaction was mixed. Direct quote: “The color thing almost sounds humiliating. Like, look at me, I’m single. No?” I went on to explain that participation was merely BY CHOICE, and in my humble opinion, I thought the concept was inspired! This was my interpretation of the theory:

If you’re too shy to ask someone for fear of rejection, or you’re not sure if they’re going with someone already, you’re reluctant to ask. However, if you see them wearing green – or, on the flip side, if they see you wearing green! – it opens the opportunity for conversations that otherwise might not have taken place. At fourteen, are they really going to be ‘humiliated’ about their singleness? (please, please, PLEASE, I need to hear a resounding “no!”)

Besides, it’s not really a “look at me, I’m humiliatingly single”, but more of a “look at me, I have the potential of being your new best friend – because apparently I’m gusty enough to play along and I’m honest with people”!

Family member’s response (direct quote again): “Ok. That perspective makes sense.”

 

…for the record, my son wore green pants AND a long sleeve green shirt… I haven’t heard if it started any conversations, though…

On. Fire.

This girl is ON. FIRE.

Before you start waving disproportionately large foam fingers and flapping poster-board banners amid chants and cheers in rousing support, let me drizzle a damper on your enthusiasm… I know, right – nobody’s questioning anymore why I’m at home, writing a blog on the weekends and not out hooping and hollering and creating a general ferfuffle of mayhem with a group of scantily-clad lady-friends, tipping our frou-frou drinks as we climb up on tables to dance and sing and… Ah, who am I kidding? I’m not even sure I watch movies where the main characters do that! Anyway, back to the “fire” and “extinguisher”…

Last week, I hit mid-point in my classes – YAY! (Okay, foam fingers and poster-board banners accepted HERE!) However, in order to do so, I pushed myself to limits that were extreme. Let me see if I can put this into perspective: this past Monday – just a couple days ago – was the first time in 10 days that I went to bed before it was “tomorrow”, and I’m not talking about a leisurely stroll across the PM/AM threshold! Most “nights” ended around 3am, with dry, scratchy eyes, clenched jaw, a crabby dog chasing a bewildered cat on a trek from the laptop to the bed. From there, I’d muster enough energy to pet/lecture the bellowing feline from upstairs (yes, I have one cat that’s afraid to come downstairs, but at the same time suffers from separation anxiety – go figure!) to remove himself from my bathroom sink long enough to afford me a swipe with the toothbrush, drop my frame onto the mattress, only to start the process again at 6am. Lucky for me exhaustion helped induce rapid sleep – most “nights” I couldn’t recall five minutes after pressing my head to the pillow… But, after a while, a routine like that catches up with you. *Spoiler alert: I don’t run very fast!*

The vicious one-two-three pounding of Thursday, Friday and Saturday were definitely my undoing. There was a HUGE group project due in one class, and one quarter of our group was M.I.A. There were fourteen parts to the assignment, and 8 of those fourteen parts had over 5 parts to them. So, in essence, the project actually had over 60 parts to it, and we were a man down! I couldn’t spare any time at the office, because, well, I had work to do there (duh!), and even had an obligation to be present one evening at a school function for my youngest child. I forewent the concept of eating to save time, stretched minutes into hours in front of the computer, compiling data, analyzing ratios and forecasts, formatting spreadsheets, and composing technical mumbo-jumbo to coincide with the charts and graphs that would comprise our group project. I managed two and a half hours of sleep Thursday “night” before heading out the door for a full day at the office. Friday night quickly became Saturday morning, and the sun was up before I went down! I stole five and half hours’ sleep that morning, but repeated the process that next night – teetering off to bed Sunday morning about 5am, and returning to the glow of the computer screen at 9:30 that morning. All of the week’s assignments were due by 9pm local time. Oh, yes, I guess I failed to mention that besides the group project, I had FOUR other individual assignments to complete that week! Luckily, two were done already (the smallest of all the assignments that week), but the other two required a colossal amount of reading – not my forte! 200 pages in one book, and 15 peer-reviewed articles for the other assignment. Ugh. With six minutes to spare, I had all my homework turned in! (Again, foam fingers and poster-board banners…)

That’s when the stress level lowered, and the auto-immune triggers started their pyrotechnic display!

I was reluctant to head to bed early Sunday night (that’s its own blog post, trust me!) and so I kept with tradition, and meandered toward my room around 1am (relatively early for me)… Halfway through the night, I woke to immense pain. My legs ached and my skin felt as if it was on fire! The mere contact of one foot against the other and my right calf resting atop my left calf as I lay curled on my left side created sparks throughout my nerve endings. I slowly reached my arm to brush the blanket away from my legs, and struggled through the stiffness in my shoulder. Wow! I. Was. A. Mess.

By the time 6am rolled around, I was cognizant of the leg pain, the resurgence of the right shoulder ache, and was presented with tenderness and aching in the left elbow, additional “fiery” skin sensation along the mid and lower back, and non-stop pain in my left thigh and right thumb (two pains that I was aware of and have been dealing with for some time now – at least the left thigh… see Power Through the Pain). In as long as I’ve had fibromyalgia, this was quite possibly the worst flare-up I’d ever experienced! My wily schedule had definitely caught up with me, and I was paying a hefty price!

For two days, I quietly endured the “fiery” flesh at work; however, Tuesday was coupled with a few other ailments – most likely because I took a low-dose muscle relaxant Monday evening on my way to a full seven hours of sleep! (The muscle relaxants do their job wonderfully; however, they and my stomach don’t always have such a complaisant relationship…) I had to rein myself in, contact the appropriate personnel, and eventually just leave my poor, wrecked body in bed for hour upon hour.

I’m happy to report that the “fire” has scaled back tremendously; my left thigh, left elbow, right shoulder, and right thumb are still giving me fits, but at least I’m not writhing in agony if my legs touch, anything! Rejoice in the little victories, my friends!

          Speaking of little victories, twenty-three days left of school! Then I can actually get to writing my stories again! No more 12-page research reports! Woo-hoo!