Who Are You?

The columnist delves into the difference between how others may see us and who it is that we truly are, as well as our amazing propensity to mimic one another rather than finding our own unique identity.

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky,

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

 

And the people in the houses all went to the university,

Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same.

And there’s doctors and lawyers and business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

 

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,

And they all have pretty children and the children go to school.

And the children go to summer camp and then to the university,

Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

 

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family

In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

Little Boxes – Words and music by Malvina Reynolds. Copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company

 

I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit; a trait that has, at times, cost me dearly – relationally, professionally and monetarily. But the thing about being a free spirit is this; those things don’t bother me. Please hear what I’m saying, they don’t bother me; that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. Those are two distinctly different things.

I’ll admit there have been more than a few relationships in my life that have fallen by the wayside; relationships I wish could have been saved; friends I loved; people whose company I greatly enjoyed. But too many times I felt the pressure to be someone I was not – a phony – a plastic man. At times I thought maybe it was me; that I was the problem; that I needed to change. But I was merely trying to justify continuing that particular relationship; a relationship based upon my ability to please the other person, to be the Bob they wanted me to be. That’s not relationship. That’s a one way street or, more accurately, a dead-end street. It doesn’t work.

I’ve experienced the same issues professionally. I have very specific gifts and talents; talents that I’m happy to share. When I’m contracted for a specific job, my employer is asking me to exchange my talents and abilities for monetary remuneration. That’s how it works. That’s our system.

But again, I have frequently experienced the one way street/dead end street syndrome; employers who are out for themselves with no concern for the well-being of the employee; users who want every ounce of sweat they can get and maybe just one ounce more, without fair compensation. I believe that’s called greed, not relationship.

So, assuming that this situation is not fixable; that this relationship is not salvageable; what’s the solution? For the free spirit there is only one solution. Move on!

But this does not come without sacrifice. I’ve left many a job and forfeited my fair share of cash because I’ve refused to acquiesce; refused to change who I am to feed someone else’s avaricious appetite.

I don’t believe that any of who I am has much to do with me. That may be a bit confusing so let me explain.

When I was in my teens I was both an athlete and a musician. I played football for five years, from the eighth grade (yes, schools had the funds to field an eighth grade team back then – go figure!) through my senior year of high school. I was also co-captain of my track team. I started playing sports from the time I was old enough to hold a baseball bat.

I started playing the trumpet in fifth grade and continued up until my senior year of high school when, much to the dismay of many, my parents in particular; I quit quite abruptly. Why? I didn’t want to be a Band Brownie, the derogatory term used by some for members of the band. Being a Band Brownie didn’t fit well with my persona as a jock.

You see, I felt pressure from both camps. The athletes saw me as a jock and the kids in the band saw me as a Band Brownie. The strangest part of the whole thing was that I never felt like a member of either group. I had severe dissociative disorder! I had no idea who or what I was! One of them had to go; for my mental health if nothing else. I chose to drop out of the band – concert band, jazz band, and marching band – everything – a clean break. The sad part is, I didn’t feel any more like I fit in with the jocks than I had previous to quitting the band.

This was my first lesson in self-realization. Years later I would discover that this decision, although a great learning experience, was a terrible mistake. I had given up music, something I loved, for athletics, which I also loved, and that’s a choice I never should have had to make. I could have had them both; but I didn’t want to be seen as a Band Brownie. I’d made my decision based upon what I thought others might think about me.

But now I’m me. Like it or not, and some don’t, I’m me. I need not fit in with any group. I don’t have to put on airs or act a certain way. I don’t have to be a chameleon, changing to fit in with my surroundings. I don’t have to impress anyone, nor do I feel the need to have everyone like me; that’s their decision, not mine. I’m me and I’m very happy being who I am.

I’ve never understood the concept of knowing exactly what you want to do in life at an early age. My friend, Karen, told me that she had wanted to be an attorney since the sixth grade and another friend, Debbie, said she knew she wanted a career in business when she was in high school and chose to pursue a career as a CPA at age twenty.

That makes absolutely no sense to me! None! I really don’t get it! What is it that’s seemingly inherent in Karen, Debbie and so many others that is not present in the rest of us? Is it a gift; a passion planted within their being? Is it merely a decision? Could it be some random genetic fluke?

In previous writings, I’ve referenced my propensity for ‘people watching’ being in direct proportion to my Starbucks budget. I’m there so frequently that the baristas, all young women, know me by name and know my drink of choice. My wife says I’m a flirt. I told her that a twenty-five-year-old girl would have no interest in an old guy like me. She laughed and said, “That’s for sure!”  I’m fairly certain that was not a compliment.

Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or any place where there is a lot of foot traffic are great places for people-watchers to ply their craft. I love to observe; to size-up and analyze folks as they go about their daily business, and these places seem to bring in the most diverse assortment of people.

My fascination with people, their idiosyncrasies and behaviors, is something that’s been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. I was a psych major in college and I’ve worked at a mental health clinic in the past. A healthy curiosity as to why individuals do the things they do; observing – wondering what drives them – imagining what their lives are like – analyzing why they do the things they do is a tremendous asset for a writer; a tad creepy perhaps, but an asset none-the-less.

One thing I’ve never understood is why so many people want to look and act like everyone else. That baffles me. I’m not a psychologist nor do I play one on TV, and I’ve never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but this has always fascinated me.

I was a Hippie in the sixties. Yup, a full-fledged, dyed in the wool Hippie. Among the tenets of Hippiedom was that we rejected the accepted social and political values of the day. We didn’t want to be like everyone else – didn’t want to look like everyone else. Individualism ruled the day. Ironically, over time; we all started to look like, talk alike and act like one another. We had created our own counter-culture and that counter-culture became our prevalent culture, thus becoming the norm. It was no longer unique. Funny, huh?

An individualist, a true free spirit is a rare bird indeed – very difficult to find. True uniqueness defies categorization or labeling- being ‘put in a box’. You’ll notice in my opening I said – I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit – ‘bit’, being the operative word.

I’m a writer. Therefore I’ve declared myself as a member of the group, writers. I may be unique within that group, but by declaring myself a writer, I’ve given up, at least to some extent, a small piece of my individuality.

But my inner person, not my profession is who I am. My profession – a writer – is an extension of who I am, but it will never be my true self.

I write, but I’m Bob!

How do you see yourself? How are you seen by others? Have you been pigeonholed – categorized – defined by what it is that you do – as opposed to who you truly are – the you?

Who are you?

Make it a great week!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

Wading Through the Primordial Goo and Sinking Fast!

Primordial_Goo    There are times when the columnist just needs to let off a little steam. Caution: This is one of those times!

Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist. ~ George Carlin

I think I’m morphing into a curmudgeon. Perhaps not a curmudgeon of the dyed-in-the-wool, full-fledged, card carrying variety, but at the very least; a highly cynical, overly-critical sixty-seven-year-old angry, white male who’s just about had it with everyone and everything!

I’ve just said some extremely harsh things about myself. If anyone else had said these things about me I’d likely have attacked them. Not physically; I don’t do that anymore, but at the very least I would have retaliated by unleashing a fiery verbal barrage on them, unlike anything they had ever witnessed.

I’m exaggerating a bit here. I’m not really highly cynical – just basically cynical – the garden variety. I believe my cynicism is a valuable, integral part of what makes me a writer.

George Bernard Shaw said, “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” I love that quote. As a matter of fact, I’m so fond of it, I once had it printed on the back of my business cards.

And I can’t really lay claim to be overly-critical all the time, but it’s probably true more than I’d like to admit. It may be that I expect a lot of myself so I project that onto others as well. I’m my biggest critic. I’m tough on myself.

Now I will admit to being sixty-seven. I’m actually proud and amazed that I’ve made it this far. There are things that I did back in my younger days that, as I look back, probably should have killed me. But apparently the guy upstairs [that would be God] had other plans for me. I just wish he’d let me know what they are. I’ve been waiting a long, long time!

Now, as far as being an angry, white male; I’ll plead guilty as charged to the white male part, but angry? Well okay; I have my moments. I’ve been known to spike the old blood pressure on occasion, but it’s not something I carry around with me all the time. It’s not my nature. And it’s not my fault! I’m Irish!

But I must confess, I’ve really just about had it with everyone and everything! That portion of my self-portrait is correct. It’s my humble yet learned opinion that the human race is becoming more and more irresponsible, daft and dim-witted with each passing day.

Case in point; I ordered a pizza for my grandson, Logan, a few days ago. I called the pizza joint, which shall remain unnamed to protect the innocent employees of this establishment who may actually know what they’re doing. I’m sure there must be a least one or two of them.

The young man who answered the phone sounded like he had a mouthful of marbles. After mumbling the name of the pizza place, he muttered something that was totally unintelligible.

Having no clue as to what he’d said, I asked, “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

His response was, “Huh?”

“I couldn’t understand what you said,” I repeated.

Following five seconds of silence he again muttered, “Cup or diddly?” Or at least that’s what it sounded like. Since I’ve called this particular establishment many times and I pretty much know their phone routine, I surmised that he’d asked, “Pick-up or delivery?”

I decided to take a shot, hoping I’d accurately deciphered his garbled response. “Pick-up,” I said, not all that confidently.

There was another long pause. I waited patiently. Okay, I’m lying. I was getting annoyed. All I wanted was a pizza! Was that asking too much? “I’d like a small pepperoni pizza,” I said, breaking the awkward silence.

“Namma?” was his barely audible response.

“I’m sorry,” I replied, trying my best not to lose my cool, “What did you say?”

“Namma?” he responded.

Now I was irritated! “I have no idea what you’re saying!” I shouted.

“Phone namma,” the young man replied.

“Oh, my phone number!” I said in my most celebratory tone. Finally we were getting somewhere! I gave the young man my phone number – more silence!

“Hello!” I barked angrily, “Are you there?”

“Wa you like?” the budding genius asked.

“I already told you!” I shouted. “I want a small pepperoni pizza!”

“Ten to 15 minutes,” he said.

“Thank you!” I replied rather acerbically. I hung up the phone, grabbed my car keys and headed out the door feeling totally frustrated, yet gratified that I’d finally gotten through to this kid.

I pulled into the pizza shop’s parking lot, jumped out of my car and walked through the door exactly 15 minutes after I’d placed my order.

“Take out or eat in?” The kid at the counter mumbled indifferently. It was obvious that this was the same guy who’d taken my order on the phone. There was no mistaking his voice – or his blasé attitude. Lucky me!

“I called in an order for a small pepperoni pizza,” I said, confident that this horror show would soon be over.

“Oh, pepperoni,” he said disconcertedly as he turned away and walked hurriedly to the kitchen. “Yuh, made a small cheese. Back in the oven. Few minutes.”

Apparently this young man was incapable of speaking in complete sentences, but being that I have a fairly good grasp of the English language, I concluded that despite the fact that I had ordered a small pepperoni pizza [twice!], these whiz kids had made a small cheese pizza and were now putting it back in the oven after adding the pepperoni.

Under normal circumstances, I would have less-than-graciously chewed this numbskull out and walked out the door sans pizza, but my grandson was at my house, hungry and anxiously awaiting gampy’s return, so I sucked it up and took a seat at a nearby table.

About 10 minutes later, the boy wonder emerged from the recesses of the back room with my much embattled pizza. I paid him; he mumbled something that I’m assuming was thank you and I was on my way.

Logan ran to greet me as I walked through the kitchen door. “Did you get my pizza, Gampy?” he asked excitedly [and in perfect English I might add].

“Yup! I got it, Logan,” I replied as I placed the pizza box on the kitchen counter and grabbed a plate from the cupboard. I opened the pizza box and……….

No pepperoni!

These nitwits knew they had made a cheese pizza in error, had told me they were adding the pepperoni and had me wait an extra ten minutes while they fixed their mistake. How the hell did I end up with a cheese pizza!

And how stupid am I to believe that they had given me what I ordered? I should have opened the pizza box and checked before I left the store! I always check before I leave the store!

As fate would have it, I had some pepperoni in the refrigerator, so I plopped a few pieces on the already twice-baked pizza and stuck it in the oven for a few minutes, just long enough to warm the pepperoni. As I pulled it from the oven and took two pieces from the pan, a veritable river of grease ran down the inside of my arm. Logan’s pizza was an oozing pile of overcooked mush. It had been soaked with tomato sauce and oil!

Idiots!

Let’s recap, shall we?

I’m rapidly zeroing in on curmudgeon territory. I’m a highly cynical, overly-critical sixty-seven-year-old angry, white male who’s just about had it with everyone and everything!

Yup! I’d say that pretty much sums it up.

Any questions?

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

Traveling Northbound In The Southbound Lane

11_Driving-wrong-side_Minto-Road_081214_0015I was the kid next door’s imaginary friend. ~ Emo Philips

There’s an old adage – sometimes you eat the bear – sometimes the bear eats you. I’ve gotta tell ya; that old bear has been fattening up on Bob Havey lately.

I’m not complaining. We all have our share of misadventures. We all take a thrashing now and again. What goes around comes around [apparently it’s old adage day]. It just seems that over the past few weeks I’ve had more than my fair share of time tied to the whipping post.

Have you ever felt this way? I’m sure you have. And if by some extremely remote chance you haven’t, please send me an email and let me know when we can get together, because you and I can make a bundle of cash when I write your life story.

But we both know that if you haven’t experienced trouble in your life, you’re either a liar or you’re under the age of three; unless you count having a poopy diaper as trouble. Then I guess that just leaves you a liar, which means I can’t help you with the chronicling of your life story. I don’t write fiction.

I’ll spare you the majority of the sordid details of my recent descent into the proverbial abyss, but if you’d be so kind, let me share just one day’s worth of minor irritants with you. Actually, you’re going to hear them regardless of your willingness to ‘be so kind’ as to listen, so you may as well sit back and enjoy it.

It all started a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I went to Target in Easton to pick up a few things and, as is our custom, we made a stop at Starbuck’s before doing our shopping.

If you’re familiar with the Easton Target store, you know that Starbuck’s is located just inside the entrance. And if you’re not familiar with the store and you didn’t know that, you do now because I just told you. No extra charge for that. It’s what I do.

So, we went to Starbuck’s and my wife grabbed a table. Well, I guess she didn’t actually grab it; I was just using a colloquialism. But she sat at a table so we’d have a place to sit and drink our highly-caffeinated, over-priced beverages. Tasty little buggers though – and potent! That’s the Starbuck’s marketing secret. They create a physical and physiological need for their product. I believe that’s called addiction.

Oh, by the way, just as an aside; there could be a pop-quiz on colloquialisms when you least expect it, so be sure you understand them. That’s why God created Google.

I went up to the counter at Starbuck’s, spent a few minutes visiting with one of the nice young ladies who work there [I’m a well-known protagonist at this particular location] and placed my order.

I grabbed our drinks and headed to the table, sat down, set my latte on the tabletop, and reached over to give my wife her drink, spilling my latte all over the front of my pants in an area where no man wants to experience the painful sensation of a hot beverage.

That’s okay though. I was more than happy to supply the 20 or so nice folks in my general vicinity with a good, hardy belly-laugh and, as a bonus, a hilarious story for them to relate to their families at the dinner table when asked, “So, how was your day?”

One of the girls cleaned up the mess on the floor and, in between snickers, asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” I replied. “We weren’t planning on having any more children anyway.”

The young lady was nice enough to bring me another latte and admonished me to be careful as she set it down in front of me. I carefully picked it up and my wife and I walked to the front of the store to grab a shopping cart [this grab was not a colloquialism. I actually did grab it. This will not be on the quiz].

I did my best to hide my wet, stained crotchal area from the other shoppers [no – crotchal is not a word – just having some fun] because I was terrified that someone would notice the huge, beige stain that if I didn’t know better; I’d swear was beckoning passers-by to take a peek at it.

Do you have any idea what people are thinking when they see a guy in his 60s walking around with wet pants?

All things considered, we made it through our shopping trip in fairly good fashion. We went home and I changed my clothes before retreating to the solace of my writing cave, aka my office. I sat at my desk and opened up a Word document.

From that point on, everything that could possibly go wrong did! My browser froze up on me several times. When I tried to cut and paste within my MSWord document, nothing happened; it wouldn’t paste. And when I finally did get everything pasted in, I couldn’t set up my embedded links. When I clicked on my links to check them they linked me to nothing!

I know all this seems like small potatoes. I know it seems that I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but a whole slew of little annoyances can quickly grow into one massive conglomeration of exasperation. Kind of like a snowball rolling down a steep hill.

After much effort and a whole boatload of consternation, I succeeded in getting my column finished. I had some errands to run, so I grabbed my car keys and was about to head out the door when I remembered I’d wanted to trim my beard earlier that morning, but didn’t have the time.

I went into the bathroom, opened the drawer in the vanity and took out my electric beard trimmer. I affixed the 3/16 inch attachment, plugged in the trimmer and turned it on.

I carefully trimmed my beard on one side of my face, turned the trimmer off, removed the attachment and cleaned it out before starting the other half. I snapped on the attachment; hit the switch and – nothing! The trimmer wouldn’t turn on.

I again removed the attachment and hit the switch again – still nothing! So, being the mechanical whiz that I am [that’s a lie] I figured it would be a good idea to take the shaving head off the trimmer to check inside.

Bad idea! As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the head reattached to the handle properly. Every time I thought it was ready and turned the trimmer on, it made a horrible grinding noise. I wasn’t about to put that up against my face.

After several more fruitless attempts to get it working, I threw the trimmer into the trash [after screaming some choice expletives that I really shouldn’t write here] and headed out to my car, slamming the kitchen door behind me.

Of course, in the midst of my tirade I’d forgotten that I had only trimmed half my beard and as a result I ran around town all day looking like both sides of a before and after commercial.

My first stop was the car wash. It was closed! In the middle of the day! On a Tuesday!

Next, I went over to Dunkin Donuts to grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Apparently, unrestrained anger stimulates my appetite.

I placed my order, waited by the food window, got my coffee and my sandwich, sat down at a table next to the window and unwrapped my sandwich. I had ordered a turkey sausage flatbread. They had given me a wrap!

I walked back to the counter, handed the girl my wrap and told her I’d ordered a flatbread.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said apologetically. “Let me get that fixed for you.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

I went back to the pick-up window to wait for my sandwich and had a pleasant conversation with a very nice lady who had also been given the wrong order.

A few minutes passed and finally a young girl came to the counter with two bags in her hand. She handed one to me and the other to the woman to whom I’d be conversing.

The woman opened her bag, pulled out the sandwich, unwrapped it, looked at me and said, “Okay, this isn’t right. I’m a veggie. What are you?”

“I’m a turkey,” I responded.

The woman laughed hysterically!

Stupid bear!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Bein’ a Curmudgeon

 

ranting

Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain. ~ Lily Tomlin

I have a beef. I know that’s completely out of character for me [he said sarcastically], but everyone should vent once in a while. It’s good for the soul – and the blood pressure!

So, here’s my beef. I was driving down North Worcester Street in Norton last Saturday morning when I came upon an extremely narrow section of the roadway jam-packed with cars on either side.

I’ve been on God’s green earth long enough to know that when one comes upon such a scene on a Saturday morning during good weather, it’s a sure sign there’s a yard sale in progress. My definition of a yard sale is people selling their unwanted junk to other people who neither need nor really want it, but who have no control over themselves. They’re yard sale junkies. They’re inflicted with a progressive, malevolent disease. They need intervention.

I slowed down to a crawl as the road was barely passable due to all the cars sticking out into the street. Just as I passed the driveway of the house where the yard sale was taking place, an older lady walked right out in front of me.

My first instinct, after stomping on my brakes, was to lean on my horn, stick my head out the window and curse this lunatic up one side and down the other, but I didn’t want to give this poor, clueless soul a heart attack, so I just sat there behind the steering wheel, calling her nasty names in my head.

She meandered across the street at a snail’s pace, never cognizant of the fact that she had just come perilously close to visiting with her deceased ancestors. As oblivious as this woman appeared to be, it’s fortunate that our roles weren’t reversed with her being the driver and me being the pedestrian. I’d have been mincemeat.

I hope this woman reads this column, though she probably will have no clue I’m talking about her. She was totally separated from reality – captivated by the thrill of the hunt for weathered old knick knacks.

Just in case she does read this, I want to ask a question. Hey lady! Do you really think it’s worth risking life and limb for some two-bit dust collector that used to belong to someone’s Aunt Hilda?

Since I seem to be on a roll [which explains the butter on my pants] I may as well address a few more of the things that have frosted my butt over the past couple of weeks.

The concept of the Excise Tax annoys the heck out of me. We’re basically paying a tax on something we’ve purchased in the past upon which we have already paid a sales tax. So an Excise Tax is a tax imposed upon something you’ve already been taxed on. Sounds fair to me!

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I have to pay this ridiculous tax whether I want to or not and regardless of whether or not I think it’s fair, which I don’t.

A few weeks ago, I received the excise tax on my vehicle and chose to take the option to pay it online. This seemed like a good idea to me. It saves me having to drive over to the Easton Town Offices and ostensibly saves the Town of Easton money and resources because a clerk doesn’t have to take time away from whatever they’re doing to deal with me and the thousands of other taxpayers who would otherwise have to make the annual pilgrimage to the town hall.

I went to the town website, found the proper link for Excise Tax payments, input my debit card info and clicked ‘Pay’. This took me to the next page where I was informed that I’d have to pay a $3.95 service fee for the privilege of paying my taxes in a timely fashion.

Okay, now I was ripped! It’s bad enough I have to pay a tax on a tax, but now I have to pay a service fee on top of it. I considered driving to the town offices where I guarantee you I would have laid into the poor clerk who had the bad fortune to wait on me – but I didn’t. I paid the fee, but I wasn’t happy about it! I feel so dirty!

This seems like the same scam the banks ran on us a few years back when ATM’s were going to save ‘time and money’ by freeing up the bank tellers to do more important work. Well, the formerly free ATM’s have implemented fees that have increased exponentially over the years.

My bank started charging fees that I was unaware of until I received a bank statement with four $6.00 charges for making transactions at the teller window. Can you imagine? So much for human interaction and so much for that bank. I closed my account that afternoon.

I have a Post Office Box for my business. I pay the fee for that privilege twice a year. I’d pay annually but in their infinite wisdom; the Post Office doesn’t offer a discount for paying that way. The annual fee is the same whether it’s paid every six months or once a year, which is probably, in part, why the Post Office is billions of dollars in the hole and sinking fast – poor marketing and business management skills.

Not long ago, I received my P O Box bill for the upcoming six months. My six-month rate went from $22.00 to $29.00! That’s about a 26% increase. Apparently, I’m supporting the bail out of the U.S. Postal Service, which is exactly what they should do – bail out!

Out of control food costs, sky-rocketing gasoline prices, rising medical and prescription expenses, ever-increasing cable costs, soaring utility rates – where does it end?

Golden Years! Hah! I don’t think so!

Everyone else is mining the gold – and I’m getting the shaft!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

415px-Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder-Adam_and_Eve_1533

“Calvin: Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man? Hobbes: I’m not sure that man needs the help.”

I have a problem. I can never go into a Honey Dew Donut shop again, or at least not as long as they have the Monte Cristo breakfast sandwich on the menu! Have you seen this thing? It’s ham, egg and Swiss cheese on French toast. I mean, what’s not to like?

I dream of yummy cheeseburgers, super-crispy French fries, fried clams, onion rings, fried scallops, fish and chips; pretty much all the members of my favorite food group – fried!

You see, I can’t be around that stuff. I had a Triple By-Pass back in November of last year and I’m not supposed to eat that kind of stuff, but I’m weak and if I put myself into a situation where I’m tempted and I blow it; it’s my own fault. It’s my responsibility.

That’s a real challenge for me because I’ll eat just about anything that doesn’t eat me first – especially if it’s deep fried.

Why is it that most every food that’s guaranteed to shave a few years off our lives tastes amazingly scrumptious while every food that’s deemed healthy and nutritious either tastes like horse feed or has no discernible flavor whatsoever.

I’m exaggerating just a bit to make a point; hopefully a cogent point, though I’m certainly making no promises in that regard. Hey, I do what I can, ya know? That’s really all any of us can do regardless of the lofty expectations of others, but that’s another topic for another day.

Choosing healthy foods isn’t an easy task. Let’s be honest. Who in their right mind would prefer a Sprouted Mung Bean salad over a nice fried clam plate with onion rings and a great big bowl of creamy clam chowder with a couple big chunks of butter floating on top? Throw in a few draft beers and you’ve pretty much created the perfect meal.

Lobsters, crabs and shellfish are bottom-feeders, meaning that they eat all the junk sitting on the bottom of the ocean [whale poop and the like], yet nothing tastes sweeter than a nice, big chunk of lobster meat, a King Crab leg or a Cherrystone or Littleneck on the half shell. Go figure!

So, given the fact that the aforementioned crustaceans that eat the most disgustingly unhealthy diet one could envision are among the best tasting and most desirable of all the bounty of the sea; doesn’t it make sense that we should follow suit and eat just as unhealthy? Should we be less desirable than an oyster?

And what’s this whole Vegan lifestyle about? Cows, hippos and elephants eat a strict vegan diet. Do they look healthy to you? They’re huge! Would you like to be told you look like a hippo? Of course not!

A few years back my wife and I spent a long weekend at an inn in New Hampshire. We were in the dining room eating breakfast when two couples whom I’d guess to have been in their mid-thirties sat down at the table next to us.

One of them, an extremely gaunt, pasty looking woman, was carrying a large tote bag that appeared to be made of hemp, reminiscent of something you’d have seen back in the 60s. Come to think of it, she kind of looked like something you’d have seen back in the 60s.

Rather than attempt to describe this woman’s overall appearance, let’s just say she was what I’d describe as an extremely ‘crunchy’ type; a female Euell Gibbonsdrinks wheatgrass – heavily into recycling – grows her own medicinal herbs on a windowsill in the kitchen – doesn’t shave her armpits or legs – uses pure baking soda for deodorant – reeks of patchouli oil – a dedicated devotee of NPR [National Public Radio}. Got the picture?

So, Pioneer Girl reaches into her magic bag and pulls out a box of cereal. I can’t recall the name, but it was one of those types only available in stores frequented by people with more money than brains. You know – the stores that only sell ‘whole’ foods and by the time you leave they have your ‘whole paycheck’.

You have to picture this in order to really appreciate it. I’m sitting there eating my sausage and eggs with a side of nice, greasy home fries and a butter-soaked English muffin, watching this stick figure of a woman pour her cereal into a bowl. It looked like twigs and dried tree bark with a few other unidentifiable colorless chunks of God-knows-what thrown in for good measure.

Okay, let’s be real here! Number one – under no circumstances do I ever want to look like this woman, no matter how ‘healthy’ she may be. Secondly, I have no desire to be on any eating regimen that requires me to haul my own food everywhere I go. And lastly, I don’t eat any food that’s designed to scrape the interior walls of my intestinal tract and exit my body within eight minutes of it being ingested.

When my time on this earth has ended and I go to be with God, I have a couple of questions for Him; things that have been bothering me for quite some time – heavy questions – questions of great consequence.

My questions are……….

1) Why is it that, as we grow older; we lose hair where we want it to grow and grow hair where we don’t want it to grow?

2) Why is it that all the really tasty food is bad for us and all the terrible, disgustingly bland food is good for us?

Oh, and one more thing……….

God, is this a test? Because if it is, I have to be honest with you.

I didn’t study!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

 

Facing My Fears Because Of My Ears

speak_up_be_a_friend_bully    I had my bully, and it was excruciating. Not only the bully, but the intimidation I felt. ~ Robert Cormier

In my forty-plus years in the communications industry, mostly the newspaper business; I’ve learned there is one great truth above all others for those of us who pen words for a living and that truth is this……….

Not as many people read your stuff as you may think – and even the ones who do don’t really care all that much. Your writing is much more important to you than it is to any of your readers, or non-readers, as the case may be.

Of course there are those who hunker down beneath their beach umbrella with a good book, but this isn’t a book and not too many people are dumb enough to take a laptop to the beach – sand!

I suppose there are those who may tap into the my site on their Smartphone, but still; it’s a holiday and you’re at the beach. You should be soaking up the rays, flailing around in the cool water and checking out all the hot chicks [or guys, depending upon your preference].

So in this,  my column tackling the issue of bullying, I’ve decided to tell you about my personal bully; someone who will forever live in the dark, ugly recesses of my memory. His name was Gary Pike – and he harassed me for the better part of a year.

I was a tall, lanky, if not skinny kid at the Central School in Mansfield; a fourth grader who wanted nothing more than to go to school, put in my time and go home to play with my friends. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but Gary Pike had other plans for me.

Nearly every day as I left school and headed down Central Street on my way home, Gary Pike would come up behind me. “Hey big ears,” he’d yell. I always tried to make believe I didn’t hear him. I wanted no part of him. He was three times my size and had the disposition of a rabid honey badger.

Granted, I had big ears back then [I grew into them some years later]. They stuck out like two open doors on a taxi. But come on! Can’t a kid just walk down the street in peace? For me, the answer to that question was a definitive ‘No’ as long as Gary was within ear shot [pardon the pun].

My defense against this lummox was simple. I wasn’t a fighter. And even if I were, Gary would have pummeled me into sawdust. He was huge – and mean! So when he’d come up behind me, I’d turn around and stare him in the eye as he attempted to humiliate me. “Where ya goin,” big ears?” He’d taunt relentlessly. “Goin’ home to mommy, big ears?”

Then there would usually be a long barrage of, “Big ears! Big ears! Big ears! Big ears!” Gary was large, but he wasn’t overly creative. I guess Big ears was the best his rather feeble brain could come up with. I’m guessing he may have pursued a career in politics.

When Gary decided he’d had enough fun with me for the day, I’d turn and head toward home, none the worse for wear. Gary didn’t bother me. He was just a nuisance – someone I had to deal with as part of growing up.

As much as I despised him, I think I actually felt pity for Gary. Now that I look back on it, I think he was probably suffering on the inside, As the English actor, Tom Hiddelston said, “When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.”

Now please don’t get me wrong. I would have loved nothing more than to have pounded the living crap out of ole’ Gary. Kind of like what Ralphie did to his long-time nemesis in A Christmas Story. You can be sure that every kid who’s ever been bullied stood and cheered after that scene. Way to go, Ralphie! You’re our hero!

As for Gary, I never saw him again after the school year ended. I guess his family moved away. I went on through grade school and into high school virtually unscathed by my year-long exploits with Gary.

I put on a lot of weight [and muscle] and, as I mentioned earlier; I grew into my ears. I was still the same kid I was in the fourth grade – just a little older and, hopefully, a little wiser – and still not a fighter. It just wasn’t my style. I left the fighting to the football field, where I let out my aggression as an offensive and defensive tackle for the Mansfield Green Hornets.

Every so often, even until this day; I think about Gary. He’s a tough guy to forget. I often wonder what ever became of him. My first thought is that he ended up in prison, or maybe that’s just what the fourth-grader in me wants to believe.

As mean and nasty as he was, Gary would have made a great defensive lineman for his high school football team; assuming he made it that far. Or perhaps he became the Chuck Parson of John Green’s Young Adult novel, Paper Towns.

“Chuck Parson did not participate in organized sports, because to do so would distract from his larger goal of his life: to one day be convicted of murder”

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.

Adversity Creates Opportunity

Men_pole_vault_French_Athletics_Championships_2013_t160252To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: ~ Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

I’d like to offer a word of encouragement for those feeling downtrodden and ready to give up their hopes and dreams.Stuff happens! And you can bet your last dollar that oftentimes life just happens too! The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune aka adversity, trouble, bad luck and sorrow will inevitably weave their way in to each of our lives, giving us little or no warning as to when or where they may rear their ugly heads. Bank on it!

That stinks, but that’s the way it is. It is an inexorable fact that we’ll all experience the ups and downs of life as life sees fit to dole them out to us. How we react, how we play the hand we are dealt makes all the difference. If we are to lead happy, fruitful lives, we can’t go flying off the handle, ready to jump off the deep end every time we face adversity.

If you’re abiding in the illusion that life owes you something or that it will be a cakewalk, free of problems, you’re in for a rude awakening.

There will be times you may feel as though you’re hanging from a cliff by your fingertips and, believe it or not, those are the times that will challenge you to greatness. It often takes being in a position of hopelessness before you come to the stark realization that hope is all you have.

But there’s good news! Hope is your most treasured possession. If you don’t believe that, just take a look at an individual who feels they have no hope. The contrast between those who have hope and those who feel they have no hope is profound. To take on the persona of no hope is to accept failure.

You may have noticed I said, “those who feel they have no hope.” I used the word, feel, meaning to think; to believe, because what one believes is the key. What you believe is fundamental to what you become.

But don’t take my word for it. This adage has been professed from time immemorial.

You become what you think about ~ Earl Nightingale

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he ~ Proverbs23:7 (KJV)

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~ Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart – this you will build your life by, and this you will become.” ~ James Lane Allen

No one is ever going to hunt you down and drop success in your lap. That’s not how it works. You have to take it. You have to do the things you don’t want to do. You have to think in ways you’ve never thought before. You have to experience failure; the pain of defeat – and you must learn from that failure. You must make mistake after discouraging mistake until you get it right. You have to learn to see your failures as learning experiences; as stepping stones along the route to victory in your life.

This is the price of success. Whether you’re a mom or a dad striving to become a better parent, a secretary with dreams of working your way into an executive position, a student with hopes of making honors, or a writer struggling to pen the great American novel; no matter what your goal or position in life, the formula for success is the same, and the path you must follow will be filled with disappointment and discouragement.

As crazy as it may sound, we must learn to embrace failure, for with each failure we encounter, we’re simply eliminating another barrier – and we’re that much closer to the prize!

Never give up!

Bob Havey is an author and freelance writer. Bob’s book,  BE NOT DISMAYED: A STORY OF SPIRITUAL TRIUMPH; the story of his daughter, Erin’s 22-month long battle with leukemia,  is available on Amazon.com. For a personalized copy, contact Bob at rhh@bobhavey.net. Visit Bob’s website at http://www.bobhavey.net.