Skip navigation

Tag Archives: random tangents

It will probably not be a surprise that, as an abuse survivor, I have often struggled with anger. After so many years, I consider myself practically an expert on both what not to do and on finding ways to put anger in its place.

I am often bothered by the bad rap anger has received in recent years. We are regularly told it is unhealthy, it is negative, and clichés, like “anger only destroys its container”. But, let’s be clear. There are different kinds of anger, and how a person copes with it is largely what determines whether or not it is unhealthy.  Anger might destroy its container, but perhaps that is because anger isn’t meant to be contained.

Anger is a natural response to some situations. It is one of the things that tells us something is wrong. Of course, it can also be (or result in) an overreaction, masking the true issue that lies beneath.

When experiencing anger, it is important to pause and ask one’s self if the anger is justified. Is the level of anger the reasonable response to this current situation? Is it due to the current situation, or is it due to an accumulation of past events? Is it a response to the actual circumstances, or is it based on misunderstanding or misinterpretation of circumstances?

What is the real reason for the anger?

It may take some time and careful consideration, but once the real reason for the anger has been determined, it then becomes a matter of directing it appropriately, in the most constructive way possible.

For example, the Civil Rights Movement would probably not have happened if there had not been a large group of people who were angry about the injustices of the status quo. However, if the movement had not been mostly calculated and methodical, and had instead been allowed to deteriorate entirely into violence and profanity-laden rants, it might not have resulted in so many of the desired changes.

Generalized, misguided, misdirected rage is unhealthy, and often results in undesired consequences. It is destructive, and while you might feel better for a moment, it will eventually come back to bite you. Sure, you might be taken seriously if you are shouting and cursing at everyone in your general vicinity, but only to the extent that people will be wondering if they should call someone with tranquilizer darts. Your meltdown will be what they remember, not so much what caused it– unless it was caused by something ridiculously petty; then they will remember you for being an ass– and they will probably wonder about your mental stability.  Moreover, very few of the right people will be interested in helping you with whatever the situation is, if you are constantly lashing out at innocent bystanders.

So, once you figure out the root cause of the anger, it is important to properly address the issue. If you are angry because your boss treats you unfairly, calmly discuss it with your boss and explain your side, or get a new job. If you are angry because a law is unfair, work to have the law changed. If you are angry because someone did something awful to you 30 years ago, work to help others in that situation or work to prevent it from happening to someone else.

If you find that you are carrying around generalized anger from things you cannot change, accept that you cannot change those things, and find a constructive outlet for the pent up frustration. Put your anger into something productive, like exercise or art.

There is no need to stifle anger, or to pretend it doesn’t exist, or to attempt to drown it in disingenuous platitudes. There is a need to identify it, recognize it and its causes, and direct it to make a positive change.

Most of us have a tendency to stereotype certain professions.  Doctors, lawyers, police, bankers, artists, teachers, firefighters, plumbers.  For many of us, these words conjure mental images beyond the basic job description.  Some of those mental images might vary from person to person, depending on experience.  If your interactions with police have been minimal or you had positive experiences with them, you might have a mental image of a kind, helpful person who is boldly protecting and serving the public.  If you had bad experiences with the police, your mental image of them might not be so flattering.

Having known many types of people from many different walks of life, I try to avoid labeling individuals according to profession (or any other superficial characteristic, but this is about profession).  Sure, sometimes it turns out that the shoe fits, but often it doesn’t.

Society also seems to choose to label as “unskilled”– and then look down on– a handful of professions.  Many conservative communities (like the one in which I was raised) consider stripping to be an unskilled profession fraught with fallen/wicked/unclean/uneducated temptresses who made terrible life choices– without ever realizing how many of the dancers are just paying their way through college.  And, most of their clientele would probably argue that they aren’t “unskilled”.

The recent fast food strike has brought one of my own biases to the surface, so now I am going to nip it in the bud.

When the demand for a $15 per hour wage was announced, like a lot of people, my initial knee-jerk reaction was to wonder why they deserve so much when others who went to college and are working hard are still not making that amount.  But this reaction is based on some incorrect assumptions.

First, it assumes fast food workers are uneducated and/or unskilled, which is incorrect to assume.  Perhaps most do not have college degrees, but it absolutely takes some skill to deal with the public in a high volume setting, handle the cash and inventory accurately and honestly, and prepare food without making anyone ill.

The next assumption is more insidious.  It is the assumption that if someone is less educated or less skilled, their labor is somehow of even less value than what it takes to earn a living.  For many, the rationale goes something like… “Since even *I* am not making that much money even after working so hard and going to college, *their* work must be worth even less. And *I* have all those student loans to pay off, after all!”– which not only assumes *they* aren’t working as hard and have fewer financial obligations, it also assumes *I* am being paid fairly, when *I* am probably underpaid too!

Should you pay more to your accountant who went to a reputable university, or to the high school kid who is failing everything except gym?  I suppose it depends on which job you want done.  If you need help moving heavy stuff, the kid is probably your best bet.  But don’t hire him to do your bookkeeping unless he can save you enough money to hire a lawyer later.  Whose work is worth more?  It depends what you need to move, but probably the accountant’s work, usually… partly because there are so few great accountants and so many high school kids flunking everything except gym.  So, yes, there is– and should be– some difference in pay, according to demands/needs and one’s ability to meet those needs.

Don’t worry, rich people!  I still think you’re great.  And I’d say that even if you weren’t the only ones in the current economy who can still afford my original paintings.

But how much is enough?  If the high school kid grows up to work in fast food instead of becoming a personal trainer, does he deserve to be kept in poverty by low wages, while the company executives are making record salaries?  If I buy a cheeseburger, how much of that money goes to the person who actually cooked it?  And, at that moment, which did I need more– someone who knows how to cook, or someone who does the bookkeeping?  Do I want the person handling my food to be happy and healthy because he is well-paid and can afford decent health care, or do I want him to be bitter and unhappy because he works a full week in a hot kitchen and still can’t afford even the basics?  Do low wages encourage people to try harder and achieve more, or do they prevent people from achieving dreams because low-income families are too caught up in the struggle for survival and by the seeming hopelessness of it?  Are all these high-paid executives necessary? Maybe the cook should just cut out the middle man and set up a grill in the back yard… Oh, those pesky regulations.  Ok, so we need some executives too, in order to manage all those mountains of paperwork, and navigate all those regulations.  And, of course they deserve to be reimbursed for educational expenses, plus some extra perks, just because they’re such nice people.  But, there seems to be a significant lack of fairness in the division of profits in some companies, and not just in fast food.

Home health workers are now being encouraged to join the fast food workers’ movement, too.  I do not personally know anyone who would argue that those men and women don’t deserve a raise for all they do.  I am eternally grateful for the compassionate and competent care given to my grandfather by his home care workers when he was ill.

Some fear that increased wages will mean higher prices, higher unemployment, and maybe a move to make it the minimum wage, which some fear would kill small businesses.  Historically, yes, there are some large companies which try to use pay increases as an excuse to raise prices.  Also, more people with more money to spend means higher demand, and higher demand means higher prices for some things.  And, stockholders’ demands for more and more money might cause some large corporations to consider layoffs in order to increase profits for those already at the top.  I’ve had some (minimal) concerns about all this too, and have seen it happen with some businesses after other wage increases.  But guess what?  Some large companies will do that anyway, regardless of wage increases.   The same arguments arise every time minimum wage is increased.  And, the dire predictions prove to be mostly wrong.

But, no, wage increases alone will not fix the oversized gap between the poorest and the wealthiest.

The working class and supporters must put a collective foot down.  Refuse to support companies which underpay employees while paying top executives annual salaries that are more than most people will see in a lifetime.  When companies do mass layoffs in order to better line the pockets of the highest paid, boycott them.  Instead, support the companies which share the fruits of labor with the labor, and support small businesses, too.

And, whatever you do, don’t ask why of the 3 professions in the title, strippers earn the highest income.  But, maybe it’s time to buy a thong and consider a career change.

With so much recent strife over immigration, welfare, warfare, and various other things, this deserves a mention.  It’s the poem inscribed on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and I think some have forgotten its message.  Is it time to change the poem?  Do we, as a nation, still feel this way?  Did we ever?  If you could replace the poem, what poem would you choose?


New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips.  “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the  homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I have this habit of not titling paintings, which (among other things) eventually led to using numbers for identification purposes. Most buyers are perfectly fine with that. But when one of my biggest supporters mentioned it being a bit of an issue, I had to give it some thought.

What’s in a name? After all, “a rose by any other name…”.  Many of the “master artists” left their work untitled. If you wander around any art gallery, you’ll find many works titled “Untitled”, or with titles given by collectors and curators so the work could be more readily identified in records.

But what else does a title do? It gives the viewer a clue when interpreting an image. It can be a hint or confirmation of the intended message. It can add impact.  After all, without its title, The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living would only be a dead shark, preserved in a fish tank– still visually interesting work from an interesting artist, perhaps, but the title makes it more thought provoking.  Plus, without a title, it would probably have been just a little less marketable.  Just imagine if he’d gone with a name like “Pickled Shark”… or “Someone Killed This Just So You Could Come Look at It”.

And, without its title, Onement 1 is just a stripe on a background.

Personally, a part of me still feels like the work should be able to stand on its own, whether it has a name or not.  I find myself wondering, how many things would we still buy if not for the poets who bestow names and flowery descriptions?  Part of me objects to titling, partly because it resembles a sales pitch.  However, it does give the artist an additional tool, and another way to influence viewers.  It’s another way for artists to express ourselves, or to clarify what we are expressing in the artwork.

I’m still undecided about the value of a title.  But, for the sake of everyone else, I think I will name my work more often from now on.  If nothing else, it will save collectors and gallery curators the trouble of inventing names when I am gone.

Considering my gift for finding four leaf clovers, it’s no surprise I often end up in conversations about luck.  It is also no surprise that the topic is often raised after someone has had a string of what might be considered bad luck.  But is it really bad luck?

I recall a fable someone told me several years ago (there are other variations of the story, but the basic theme and most details are the same):

One day, a farmer’s horse ran away.
“What bad luck!”, the farmer’s neighbors said.
“How do you know it is bad luck?”, the farmer asked.

The horse later returned with several wild horses.
“What good luck!”, the farmer’s neighbors said.
“How do you know it is good luck?”, the farmer asked.

Then, while taming one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son fell and broke his leg.
“What bad luck!”, the farmer’s neighbors said.
“How do you know it is bad luck?”, the farmer asked.

Soon after, there was a war, and all able-bodied young men were required to fight; the farmer’s son with his broken leg was exempt.  Only 1 in 10 men returned home.

Luck is not determined by how pleasant or unpleasant an experience is, or by the short-term outcome.  What is unpleasant today just might be the best route toward a better tomorrow.(A more current real-life example: Steve Jobs was less than thrilled when he was first fired from his own company, but later said it was one of the best things that ever happened to him.)

So, when you are going through a string of what seems to be bad luck (it happens to the best of us), be patient; it might not be as bad as it seems.

But I’m still glad to have plenty of four leaf clovers around– just in case.

Framed Clovers

6-Lot Framed 4 Leaf Clovers, $54

The recent debate over a law requiring equal pay for women has touched a personal sore spot.

I recall years ago, when I began working as an administrative assistant for a large insurance company, I was paid about 10% less than the male I was replacing– and I had more administrative experience than he did!  But, at the time, I was young and naive, and it never occurred to me to ask for higher pay.

I was also charged about 20% more for my health coverage, purely because I am a woman, in spite of the fact that I had (and still have) no intention of having children. I actually argued with the inurance rep over this point.  The health insurance rep (also a woman) explained that it made no difference, because there was a chance that I might change my mind. When I asked hypothetically if they still charge more for women who were menopausal, she answered yes. I told her I hoped that someday she would realize how sexist the practice was. Then I paid the extra 20%, because what else could I do?

Women are not charged 20% less for everything for being women, so why should we be paid on average 20% less?

This should be important to men, too. These women are your wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. If they are making equal pay, it is a benefit to the men in their lives too.  When women are making the same pay as men, imagine how much easier it will be to save for your children’s educations, pay your mortgages, or take longer vacations.

Moreover, women make up about half the world’s population, so equality for women is equality for every ethnicity and culture.

And, ladies.. it is time to be bold. If you do not ask, you do not receive. Employers trying to save a few bucks will pay any employee a little less if they can. Don’t be afraid to ask for more; you might be surprised how often you get it!!

For months, I have been kicking this story around in my head, trying to determine the best way to tell it. It is a true story and it needs to be told so that others will not fall prey to similar circumstances. But, how does one tell the story while protecting the privacy of those involved?

The point of this is not to publicly shame or embarrass anyone, because only those involved know their true intentions. The point is to present the events, the aftermath, and possible ways someone else might avoid it.

Then it came to me. The whole thing is like the Brady Bunch gone awry. So, the story will be presented as such. And, frankly, to present it any other way would likely confuse many readers.

I’ll do my best to remain unbiased in the presentation, but I may not be privy to the whole story and these are just the “highlights”.  So, if anyone wants to add anything at the end, go for it.

In this version, he is divorced, she is widowed, and all the children are grown by the time the two are married.  Just to keep things simple, let’s say he has 3 sons and she has 3 daughters. 

Immediately, his children noticed that family events were almost always segregated.  There were holiday dinners for her family, and then (sometimes) a holiday dinner for his family (but never on the actual holiday– those dates were reserved for her family events).  When it was mentioned, she said having them all together at once was just too much.  It seemed reasonable even if suspect and his children did not want to cause him unnecessary stress, so everyone let it go. 

Over the years there were other things, most of them small, but they added up.  For example, in the livingroom were photos of her family, while the photos of his family were kept in another room few people ever saw.  When his grandchildren graduated high school, his wife gave them each $10;  when her own grandchildren graduated, she gave them… well.. something better.  As it continued, these small things, along with his seeming acceptance of and/or complacency toward these small things, began to erode his previously close relationships with some family members.  And, most of his children always felt his wife resented them.

When his health began to fail and he was diagnosed with dementia, medical bills were high.  So, the couple used her lawyer to sell 100+ acres of his land (which, in its history of more than 100 years, had been home to at least 4 generations of his family) for a fraction of its value to a real estate company owned by the same lawyer.  The lawyer’s real estate company then resold it to developers for a tidy profit.  (Apparently this is legal, although the ethics of it are questionable; but only those involved know their true intentions.)  The same lawyer made the new will, leaving virtually everything to the second wife, with a small percentage to be divided among all the children (her children included).  His children were kept in the dark until the deal was made and it was too late.

But, no one wanted to cause “Mr. Brady” unnecessary stress, plus everyone was happy he would have enough money to pay for his medical bills and the home health care he would later require.  So, even though their ancestral land was gone, no one made much fuss.

Years later, he passed away.  At his funeral, his widow proudly told people how many children they had, including his children. 

A few days after the funeral, she was discussing the will with one of his sons.  The son asked her if she was including everyone in her own will, since most of the estate she had just inherited had come from the sale of family land (a 7-digit total).  She allegedly replied, “Absolutely not, you’re not my children and I never liked any of you.”  When asked if she was serious, she confirmed.

Naturally, his family does not believe this is how he intended it, since the original will divided the land evenly amongst them, and since by the time he signed the new will, his health had deteriorated such that he had to sign with an “X”.

(Seriously, this is how grudges which last for generations are born.  If I recall correctly, that whole conflict in the Middle East began over this very sort of thing….)

Unfortunately, as many attorneys can attest, this type of scenario has become all too common.  But this isn’t about judgment.  As previously stated, only those involved know their true intentions (oh, and God probably knows too, so there is no need to judge anyone here since that will come later).  This is about ways the next person could possibly avoid similar circumstances, and perhaps at least one reader will find this advice useful.

If you intend for the new spouse to inherit your entire estate and entirely cut out all of your biological heirs, you should probably discuss it with your entire family.  This way, they can at least be reassured that this was your intention, and your new spouse didn’t bamboozle you or them.

If you’d rather make certain your own children aren’t left in the cold, read on.

A lot of people frown at the idea of a prenuptial agreement, but if there are assets, it is always a good idea to protect them, especially if there are children from a previous relationship.  Some might argue that a “prenup” is a plan to fail.  However, someone who isn’t planning to leave and take all your stuff will probably not mind saying so in writing.  Which brings me to another point…

Get your own attorney, even if it is only to have a second opinion.  If you need a referral, do not accept a referral from your spouse’s (or potential spouse’s) attorney; they may be golfing buddies.  I’m not suggesting they might conspire, but it isn’t a bad idea to take precautions to keep everyone honest.

A trust fund may be a good idea, too, if there are children from a previous relationship.  This way, payments can be made to the surviving spouse, so he or she will live comfortably ever after, then after his or her death, the remainder of the fund goes into the custody of remaining heirs. 

And, it’s ok to be a little pushy.  Don’t let anyone get between you and the rest of your family, even if it seems like the most peaceful solution at the time… unless your family is a cult.  That’s different.  But that is an entry for another day.

%d bloggers like this: