Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, August 29, 2009

C: Ranting

Just when you thought levity was going to reign for a while in this blog, I have to have a middle-of-the-night rant episode. Sorry. I've just had it. It has been a long week, and this one has been particularly full of sorry-men stories for me--even for a divorce lawyer, they've been coming out of the woodwork at an amazing rate. A bunch of them in their 50's and, I can tell you, I am relating...as you know...ad nauseum, I'm sure. And I'm helping women deal with the wreckage of their lives that they don't deserve.

This week has caused me to think on this subject on a larger scale. Look at these folks:

Here's poor SC Governor Mark Sanford. He's just lookin' for love...in all the wrong places. See how sorry he is--wipin' his tears away an' all?

Yesterday Politico website reported that, according to recent polls, half his constituency favor his stepping down as a result of his affair with the Argentine bombshell. Only about a third will say they think he should stay. Good for them! If they can't be honest with their families, why should we allow these folks the trust of public office?

Let me share some of my favorite Sanford quotes:
It is my personal view that the largest proclamation of one's faith ought to be in how one lives his life. (ABC, June 5, 2008)

And then,a year later, he proclaimed that he could
"...die, knowing I've met my soulmate." (A reference to his S. American tart, not his wife and mother of his children).

Yes, sir! Livin' that faith out in his life, isn't he?

And, then, there's prince-of-a-family-man, John Edwards; you know, the one with the folksy smile and the steadfast wife who is dying of breast cancer? He cheated on his wife and kids (because, never let it be forgotten, that the children and extended family are also victims of the adultery hurricane).

PLEASE GET THIS: he let his wife write a freakin' book about his "past" affair and go on a national book tour thinking "Whew! That was tough but we made it past!!" All the while he was still diddling where he should not be!! And now he has moved this woman under his long-suffering wife's nose.

The disrespect is amazing. Don't you think he could at least tell his wife of decades that she was about to present to the world that he was repentant when he was not? Of course he could not do that! This is because men in this frame of mind think only in the moment and only about themselves. Reminds me of when I found out that my H had brought his honey to my home. Tells you lots about them both, doesn't it? And it is just a clue as to how far gone men in this situation become...only one thing on their minds, and it does not include kindness to their families.

You know the suspect list: Bill Clinton ("I never had sex with that woman") who also let his wife go on national television to defend his sorry butt. There's good old Elliot Spitzer, who was governor of New York and spent--do you remember?--over $80,000 on prostitutes!!! (And that's just what can be found!).

I could go on and on, which is the nature of a rant, but you know the names of others (John McCain, Newt Gingrich... yadayadayada). These are attractive, talented men who have a gift for leadership and who have much to offer us in the way of public service. Too bad their actions should disqualify them for those positions--as I say, if their families don't trust them, why should we? We shouldn't. Period.

I think the real reason for my rant is the wives. I have spent time with women who have worked their fingers to the bone, building retirement funds that they are now going to have to share with their wayward husbands. I am STILL having to remind these women that their husbands of decades have now become their enemies, and that is not too strong a word. These guiltless women will, statistically, have a much, much harder financial life following their divorce than their husbands will have. And there is just only so much I can do about it. It is, as you can see, keeping me a bit awake at night.

And, as for you women who participate as "the other woman" in this, shame on you! There is no excuse for adultery, none whatsoever--not even your "special" circumstances...quit it, now. By the way, he's lying to you, too--oh, yes he is, absolutely. Okay, I'm stopping at that--whole 'nother rant.

Thanks for tolerating this, those of you who have made it this far. I'm going to sleep now and might just regret pushing that "publish" button, but oh well...


Sunday, August 23, 2009

C: GIVEAWAY!! Our First Ever! Join the Fun!

As promised in my last post, this is your chance to WIN!! If you read the previous post, you will see that I am intrigued by by-gone etiquette rules. I have two copies of this book, one dating from 1945 (for which you can all vie) and one from 1950. The questions I am asking below are from the 1950 book because I had not yet dug the other one out when I starting composing this one.

The topics we cover in this quiz seem foreign to me, and we think they will to most of you, since the classes are so mixed up these days. Emily, herself, notes this trend. You can almost hear her sniff as she says in her introduction on Page xii:
The smart and the near-smart...are all mixed up together. The walls that used to enclose the world that was fashionable are all down. Even the cartracks that divided cities into smart and not-smart sections are torn up.

And, I must say, V and I probably hail from the "not-smart" side of the tracks...sigh.

Okay, here are the rules (such as they are):
1. This is a self-graded test. We really don't care about your "score," what we want are your comments!! Go through the questions and see if you know the answers. Score yourself.

2. Go to the "comments" section, give us your "score." (If it's perfect, we will suspect that you have come to us from a time warp...and probably through a few social classes, if you're reading our blog).

3. In your comments, let us know what you thought interesting, what you got right and why (please, tell us that one), or some antecdote about your own etiquette (we especially love to hear about others' faux pas!)

4. Ten days from now (which would be September 2, Wednesday, we will choose a winner to be announced on Thursday, September 3. This will be while V and I are in the throes of etiquette, preparing for her son's wedding on the 5th.

5. Method of choosing a winner: Everyone's name goes into the squirrel cage, to be drawn by the "G People" (Grandparents: My mother and mother-in-law). BUT you can get extra chances! Help us build our readership and share the opportunity here by posting about our contest (let us know, please) for two extra chances. New followers get two extra, as well. The "G-People" will also award one extra point for each of the five comments they deem worthy (such as the ones that make them giggle).

V and I love this contest thing and (just a hint for the future), we've snagged and put away some neat stuff (the rest of it is new, mind you) for our future contests! The chance to build readership aside, we love the sharing idea!

So, here goes. Answers follow, below:

1. What is the proper custom for a man wearing a hat when he is introduced to or greets another person?

2. What verbal response do you give when you are introduced to a new person?

3. What are the differences between "balls" and "dances?"

4. What is the difference between the butler's dress and the gentleman's dress after 6 p.m.?

5. What is a P.P.C. card?

Now, in your head, hear the Jeopardy "thinking theme." I tried to insert the music, but did not have time to figure it out...too advanced for me.
Okay, get your red pencils out and score yourselves. Here are the answers:

1. A gentleman lifts or removes his hat when he greets someone with whom he is already acquainted. If it is a stranger, he "tips" his hat.

2. You ALWAYS say "How do you do?" in response to an introduction. Nothing else is acceptable. Emily says that to reply "Pleased to meet you" is the "tabu of all tabus" (her words).

By the way, "I beg your pardon" is also the ONLY acceptable; never, ever say "Pardon me," unless, of course, it is in French, in which case it is perfectly acceptable.

3. Dances are geared toward one age group, while balls include people of all ages and are, of course, more elaborate. Balls ALWAYS sport TWO orchestras (you can get by with one for a "dance") and a supper which must begin at 1 a.m. and end by 3 a.m.

Balls also include announcing at the door, ALWAYS a red carpet, and a valet/chauffeur to open the door of the cars as they pull up. There are many, many more differences, but you get the idea just in case you need to decide whether to throw a ball or a dance.

4. Until 6 p.m. the Butler wears a suit of black or very dark blue. After 6, he wears a dress suit differing from his employer in a few details only: no braid on trousers; the silk on his lapels is, of course, narrower; and he wears a black waistcoat (never use that vulgar term, "vest") and white lawn tie. A gentleman, of course, always wears a white waistcoat with white tie or white waistcoat and black tie with dinner coat, but NEVER the reverse. (By the way, only a "vulgarian" allows a butler with a mustache.).

5. A PPC is a visiting-card on which the initials PPC (the French: pour prendre conge—to take leave) are written in ink in the lower left corner. This is mailed and merely means that you are leaving town and is a sort of “good-bye.” No other message is needed. It was, at Emily’s writing, becoming acceptable to replace the PPC (French) with the English version initials of T.s.g.h. which means “To say good-by).

I had to restrain myself to keep this from getting pages long. I love this stuff. Can't wait to get your take on these and hear your own stories or interesting words on etiquette! BE SURE WE HAVE A WAY TO REACH YOU SO THAT WE CAN SHIP YOUR VERY OWN COPY IF YOU WIN!! (and yes, dear international readers, we WILL ship to you!) -C

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

C: Mind Your Manners

This weekend we held a shower at my house for V's soon-to-be-daughter-in-law. V's middle child will marry this sweet girl on September 5--I am certain there will be pictures on this blog.

Weddings always bring etiquette to my mind--all those rules about whose (bride's? or grooms?) responsibility this or that is and whether you are "supposed" to do this or that thing. I observe the everyday rules of etiquette most of the time, like writing thank you notes and telling someone "so nice to meet you," but weddings, well they bring out the Emily Post, don't they?

About 20 years ago I was doing library duty at my son's elementary school and I ran across the Emily Post book,"Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage" from 1941. As I whiled away time between checking books out for kids, I read through it. It was so fascinating that I took it home to read and, finally, I just had to buy it. The librarian recognized that it had little use in her school's little library, and she let me purchase it and so now it is mine. Since that time I found another copy at a garage sale and snapped it up, so intrigued was I. So, now I have TWO!

The rule structure is amazing, and it became clear to me as I read through it that Emily's "rule book" was so intricate that none of us "commoners" who were not born into the system could ever "pass." A "faux pas" was bound to happen if you were not born and bred into society. Breeding will, after all, tell!

As I got ready for the shower, I wondered what Emily had to say about this tradition of "showering" a bride-to-be with gifts. I reached for the antiquated etiquette book, half expecting to find that showers are held only by "common" people. I was pleased to see that 1941 Emily not only approves of the shower tradition for new brides, but has several interesting suggestions for throwing one. Er, uhm, for "hosting" one (how vulgar to use the term "throw" when speaking of a social occasion!)

Emily points out, as well, the difference between gift giving for wedding as opposed to gifts for showers: Weddings gifts are sent directly from the shop where the gifts are purchased, not hand-carried, don't you know? Shower gifts, on the other hand, are given personally, either upon arrival or sent ahead for presentation at the shower.

Let me give you one of Emily's suggestions for a delightful bridal shower:
...the most effective way of giving the presents is to have them all sent to the hostess several days beforehand. She leaves the packages wrapped as they are, but puts each in a uniform 'gift wrapping' so that the whole stack of packages shall be attractively alike.

See how much more attractive the "matching" pile is than that dreary mishmash of wrapping paper?

Now, let me understand this...I would re-wrap already-wrapped gifts so that the packages are alike but as you unwrap, the original wrapping paper appears to then also be torn off??? I'm thinking I simply don't have the time for this (I'm sure these women relied on staff to do this), and Emily certainly was not "green!"

Emily also suggests a type of treasure hunt (think scavenger hunt, although I am almost certain Emily would not approve of this term!) The bride-to-be is given clues with each succeeding gift and finds them hidden all over the house. What fun! If you live in the Biltmore mansion. In my home, however, I just don't have the hiding places to make this fun game a reality!

Here is a picture of my maid greeting my shower guests:

Ha! If only...Emily's caption to this photo says,

A GEM OF A HOUSE. It may be no size at all, but its details are perfect, and its bell is answered promptly by a trim maid with a low voice, a quiet courteous manner.

Ah, well, we girls made do without a maid ("low voice" or not), and had a great time. And hauling the Emily Post book back out has me, once again, obsessed with this glimpse into "society" of nearly seventy years ago.

In the next few days, I will post a quiz to see how well you readers can score on Emily's requirements for "best taste," as she puts it. And, from your entries and comments, we will choose one to win your very own copy--my spare!!

See you next time! C

Monday, August 10, 2009

C: Tractoring and Poker Tells.

My brother-in-law taught me a new term yesterday: “Tell.” Apparently, in playing poker any body language that tends to give away is called a “tell.” Google provided list upon list of them: eyes shifting quickly toward the chips can signal that a player is nervous about the strength of his hand; acting nonchalant (“Oh, is it my turn?”) can indicate that a player’s hand is strong. These are involuntary.

Oddly enough, the whole conversation that introduced me to “tells” had to do with my tractor and my lying husband. Only this time, it was the kind of lying that one hears referred to as B**LLS**T. (Cleaned up to maintain my PG-13 rating).

I was telling my BIL about hubby’s reaction to my tractor woes. A friend had borrowed it a couple weeks ago but returned it promptly, saying it just was not powerful at all and he was worried about using it. Great! A few days later I got on it and it was fine, then I had to baby it along, and, finally, it just quit in the middle of the pasture. When I sent my son out about twenty minutes later, it started right back up. What??!!

I let the subject of tractor repair ruminate in the back of my mind while I went on with life the next couple of weeks. I have no way to take one to the shop—are there “house call” tractor mechanics? So, I tackled the problem by avoidance of the issue plus prayer.

Shortly after this, my husband came out to get his tools. While he was here (with one of his guy friends to help), I thought I’d take a shot at shortcutting the tractor repair problem. After all, we were being cordial enough, and he knows the tractor, maybe there is just some idiosyncrasy…I explained the problem.

Then he did an odd thing. It is what I now know is a sure-fire “tell” for BS: He straightened up, kind of pulled his britches up a little by the sides, and did a little fake spit to the right. “Well, I’ll tell you, C, it sounds like you might be havin’ some transmission problems. Too bad…”

Transmission problems??? Well the dying in the middle of the pasture did not seem like transmission problems to me, but who knows?

As he was leaving, he did another weird thing. “I see you had some electrical outlets installed in the work shed. Did DK (electrician down the road) do it for you? How much did he charge?”

It was none of his business, but I told him, anyway, which resulted in this condescension: “Hmmmph! I thought so…he’ll get to ya alright…” (Translation: “You idiot, you got took.")

DK did NOT get to me. I had called several before thinking of him and he was far and away the most reasonable. I know my husband knew this price was good, why was he doing this? (Revelation comes later….)

So, fast forward to last weekend. I got the tractor out, hoping that my prayers-and-avoidance treatment had cured all ills. And, remarkably, it cranked right up and I bushhogged right along for an hour. Then, the weakness began again. I babied it a while and then it started to hiss. I just don’t think that is ever a good sign. And there was a little fluid leaking. Yikes! This is not my tractor pictured, but it sure what was pictured in my mind (can you see the spewing out of water in this picture?):

I left it sitting in my mother-in-law's front yard and walked dejectedly down the driveway wondering again about house-call mechanics.

Halfway home I was intercepted by my neighbor who asked what was the problem. I told him and we walked back to the tractor together. His response: “I don’t know what’s wrong, but let’s check the most obvious. This hissing and fluid is from your tractor overheating.” He showed me where the air filter is. We removed it and turned out chunks of dirt. I mean, that thing was filled completely up! “Your little tractor was just gasping for oxygen, he said!”

And, as an aside here, this man did not treat me with condescension like my husband did on this subject. Rather, he seemed to think that he might know a little more about tractors than I but that I probably knew things he didn’t as well, like, say, how to do a writ of habeus corpus and such. No down talking here, just respectful exchange of info.

This weekend, the tractor performed like a champ—being able to breathe and all. But, now, back to that “tell” thing. First lesson I learned here: When a guy does that fake spit to the side thing, accompanied by hitching up his britches, he is more ‘n’ likely about to BS you. Truth is, my husband did not have the faintest idea what was wrong with the tractor but rather than say that, he gave an answer and it was one that was designed to demoralize me.

And the remark about the electrical work was also designed to demoralize me. It was gratuitous and stupid. In the end, he had to know I actually knew what the job should cost. Why would he take the chance that this could actually make him look childish to me? Which it did. Sort of like a kid saying, “Well, I can do that better than you!!” Whether it's true or not. Again, I pondered, and it came to me: It’s a “Tell!” I think he is halfway afraid I am going to succeed without his sorry butt and—horrors!—I might actually manage better than he does.

How funny; he ain’t wrong…he can just hide and watch!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

V: Undefeated! At Least I'm Trying

No one is beat till he quits,
No one is through till he stops;
No matter how hard Failure hits,
No matter how often he drops,
A fellow's not down till he lies
In the dust and refuses to rise.

Fate can slam him and bang him
And batter his frame till he's
But she never can say that he's
While he bobs up serenely for
A fellow's not dead till he dies,
Nor beat till no longer he tries.

Edgar A. Guest

This has been some kind of summer! Most years, I yearn for summer. The sunshine, flowers, farmer's markets, Fourth of July picnics, etc. all help dispel the gloom after months of our grey, dreary winters and our too cool for comfort, rainy Spring seasons we have here in our neck of the woods! But this summer brought with it stress induced illness, my empty, lonely nest, my son's impending wedding, my daughter's expected baby in October and news that my job is changing to a new position which makes the less palatable part of my job, the primary function.

We returned Sunday from Alabama where we cleaned out my mother's condo because Alzheimer's Disease has forced us to move her to an assisted living center. The culmination of all this craziness was a terrible case of hives which rendered me pretty much useless. All my housecleaning and home improvement project plans were kaput. My usually upbeat optimism took a nosedive! Financial drains have made any kind of a vacation an impossibility. Woe is me! Boohoo!

As I went through the wrenching task of going through all the boxes of personal papers and photos at my mother's condo, I found this little poem by Edgar A. Guest which was in a little box of saved clippings and photos that had belonged to my paternal grandmother. Here's the clipping.

During the seven hour trip home, I reflected over how she had persevered through trials that make mine seem trivial in comparison.

My grandmother was born to a mother who made no secret of the fact that she favored her sons over her only daughter. She was abandoned by a cad of a husband before her only child was born. Old photographs portray a sad, forlorn child.
Left alone on the farm, remote from town, she lost both her parents before her thirtieth birthday. Her second husband who she married when my dad was nine, was put on notice by her that if he ever laid a hand on her son again, he would be out of the picture. When my dad was thirteen, this stepfather shot a man in a dispute over a tool, supposedly in self defense. She packed up her husband's belongings and left them on the front porch.

My grandmother and dad and moved to town where she bought a small house. Her brothers and former in-laws helped her a little. When my dad ran around with his wild bunch of cousins and played hookey, she paid a teacher to take him to school in the rural community they had left. She worked as a Home Extension agent, teaching women in a rural, Italian community how to can food. Her college education enabled her to work as a Welfare caseworker in later years. My father joined the navy during WW2 and was gone for four years. When I was five years old, she married a third time. It was NOT a charm. The sixty year old batchelor was more than eccentric. There was a dark side to his character of which I will write later! His second wife murdered him!

I suppose what most impressed me about my grandmother was her indominatable spirit. Although she was nervous and high strung in personality, she was also fearless. Only when she lay dying, did I see any fear rise up in her. She was also a forgiving person. When I was 13 she was actually going to remarry my grandfather who had abandoned her, against my father's wishes. Fate intervened and my grandfather died before it came to be. She was inconsolable for a while. But she picked herself up and went back to work.

When I ran across this little poem she had clipped out of the newspaper, I knew it reflected her philosophy of never giving up. So I'm trying!

C: Sightings...Sigh...

Well, it is bound to happen. Ours is a mid-sized city--our metropolitan area holding just under 400,000 and, truthfully, most of my "circle" frequents one particular area of the city. So, my sister and her family ran smack-dab into my husband, his honey, her two kids, and their new baby. In Target. Awkward.

She said that she and my hubby had that "deer in the headlights" startle, and both groups bounced off each other like same-pole-magnets, heading quickly in opposite directions wordlessly. Sis says that the babe was in a carrier but she could not tell me whether the blankie was pink or blue, so eager was she to exit the scene.

My youngest niece is eight. She was my husband's particular favorite at the time he left (the youngest always is). She ran to him each time she saw him, and he would scoop her up, carrying her around. My sister went a long time after our separation without saying anything to her kids except that Uncle C was "away," thinking we might reconcile, and she did not want to go through that mending unnecessarily. Finally, however, she sat the kids down and age-appropriately explained just what he had done to quell both their curiosity and their hurt that favorite Uncle had just disappeared.

So, in Target, this little one turned to her mom and said, "Why doesn't Uncle C speak to us anymore?"

Mom answered, "Remember? I explained that to you?"

To which, she asked, "But, Mom, how can you be family and then not be family? I mean how can you love someone (meaning herself, I'm sure) and then all of the sudden not love them?"

How, indeed? Ah, a whole 'nother post from the desk of a divorce lawyer...

I'm actually doing fine with this issue. I still chuckle everytime I think of my near-sixty-year-old husband contending with this:

And then, at nearly 80, contending with this:

See the money bag the Dean is holding? Take it from one who has sent a child through college: that is no joke. I cannot imagine doing that in my late 70's.

And so, the topic of money brings up looming drama (and you thought it could not get any more dramatic!). As an aside, I battle with misplaced guilt in women clients all the time. One of the things wayward husbands like to say to their wives who are holding them to financial obligations is, "It's all about money with you, isn't it?"

I have had wives of reprobates sit in my office and actually cry over this "accusation," until I tell them the stock answer to use. "Look him in the eye," I say, "and tell him 'money is ALL it's about!' because, surely, it's not about anything else with a man of his character" You cannot believe how empowering this is to them.

So, I'm trying to apply the same to myself. He owes me money...I intend to get it. Drama looms large ahead.

Besides, I am feeling very empowered, myself, these days--why, just yesterday I cleaned out the tractor air filter!!! (See appropriate addition to power list on the sidebar!).

As always, thanks for listening. C

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ruth and Naomi: the saga continues

I've been side-tracked, ranting about cell phones and being nostalgic about my Dad. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things are progressing. Those of you who are just tuning in to the little mini-series melodrama of my life can find the back story at my June 16 post, "Ruth and Naomi..." (I cannot get my link thing to work...me, I'm sure)

My mother-in-law is getting settled, but it is a much, much slower process than we had hoped. We are giving ourselves pep talks about how we have no schedule but our own, and I think we're relaxing a bit.

One problem is that I am so stinkin' busy. This is, really, a good thing. I am blessed to have lots of business (although, this is, of course, a mixed blessing in that much business for me means others are divorcing...oh, yes, there's plenty of that, unfortunately). I am working long hours, so there is not a lot of time for me to help MIL settle in physically.

She has contracted for her deck. The materials have been delivered, and we expect construction to begin tomorrow or Tuesday. Her little shed has come and is so very cute. Her carport is on the way; we expect it on Monday as well. So progress is being made.

Still, there are boxes everywhere, and my mother-in-law is finding out that she does not have the stamina she had even two years ago. These pictures were taken a week or so ago, so it's better now; but you can see what we're dealing with:

The main thing is that in spite of our settle-in difficulties, we are happy! One of the most forlorn feelings of being single again was having no one to wonder where I am! It was unexpected for me, but when I realized that I could be as late as I wanted coming home, it also occurred to me that I could run off the road and be in a ditch and no one would know I was late~not good! So, we are accountable to each other, and I think that is a healthy thing. And I think we have both enjoyed having supper mates each night.

She is waiting to get her dog until she is more settled. In the meantime, my two have loved having her here, too. My dogs sleep in the house with me each night. In the morning when I leave for work, they head to "Grandma's house," where they stay all day until I return. When my car turns the driveway, they head home, waiting to greet me. MIL says that they stand guard each day for her, alerting her when the construction guy is approaching or the meter reader arrives. This is probably what Chili looks like to the meter guy.

This is misleading--the photo was snapped while Chili was barking at the horses, and he's never bitten anyone. But the meter guy doesn't know that! MIL loves that security, and I think it is funny how the dogs transfer their "duty stations" dependent upon who is at home! Of course, there is the added attraction for them that she lets them into her house (especially when it is very hot or when it is raining) and, then, there is always that treat thing...Here's Scout with her "I want" look, which is hard to resist.

I'd show you outside pictures (shed, etc.) but, frankly, I'm embarrassed! It's been raining a lot here, so the grass is high. I might be able to mow today (if the rain lets off long enough to let everything dry out).

So, I'm happy to report, we are progressing! Thanks for tuning in again.
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