Friday, October 07, 2005

Social conduct

There are many social conventions I flagrantly flout, but there are some that I was brought up with that still remain. Problem is that I'm not sure if I am alone in believing that certain niceties be preserved or if I have somehow slipped out of the loop into a limbo where social conventions are as difficult to define and maintain as holding sand in your hand.

Case in point: I sent a birthday card to someone I know casually, but someone who is facing a big milestone with a lot of doubt and questions in their mind. Some friends encouraged me to celebrate her birthday with a card and I felt I knew the person well enough to do so. I chose a card, wrote a little something positive and sent it winging out into the virtual world. It was picked up; I got an email informing me it had. There was, however, no email from the recipient to thank me or acknowledge the card.

Maybe I am too old-fashioned in this way. I have been taught that a gift, even a card, is noteworthy enough to be acknowledged with a thank you or a nod or something tangible to let you know your wishes and gift were received and appreciated. This leads me to believe that my card was not appreciated, even though I know it was received.

In the days when snail mail was all the rage, you never knew when or if a gift or card was received. Before phones, the only way to know if your missive had been received was with a return missive of some sort, even if it was a small thank you card. In this age of virtual worlds and speedy communication, as well as return receipts and notifications, we almost always know when something we've sent has reached its destination. There is no reason to send a card or letter to let the giver know. But is there a social reason for letting someone know their gift/card was received and appreciated?

Am I being overly sensitive or am I just that old-fashioned and should wrap myself in a dusty shawl, let the silver grow out and wrap it into a netted bun, and sit in my rocking chair on the old folks' home porch and realize that common courtesy is a thing of the cobwebbed and distant past?

I have gotten used to -- and when I'm angry and frustrated use -- profanity everywhere. I have become inured to displays of disrespect from people who haven't the time or interest in using disrespect instead of diss. I have hardened myself to accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without too much fuss and I rarely take it to heart when people claiming friendship smile in my face and plunge a knife up to the hilt in my back. I have survived much worse. But it is difficult for me to accept the death of the last social convention I have always happily embraced -- common courtesy.

It is said that for evil to flourish it takes nothing more than that a good man remain silent. The loss of common courtesy is not blackest evil, but it is a sign that gracious and polite behavior is as rare as hen's teeth and going the way of the dinosaurs. I wonder if I will be able to go quietly into that good night without losing my last shred of dignity.

I'll shut up now.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


It's nearly that time again when writers all over the world race to finish a novel during the month of November. I have to decide if I'm going to give it a shot again this year. With work the way it is, maybe not. I don't have the time to do that many things at once. Besides, I'm sure there's someone's work I can steal instead. (just a joke)

I've been working about 20 hours a day and yesterday a male friend came over and kidnapped me. He felt I was working too hard and needed a break. I guess I took a little too long making up my mind about going out with him. Serves me right for making him wait so long.

Anyway, the past few days have been full of work and getting ready for another weekend of fun and frolic -- not to mention a little bit of ham radio action. It's time to VE again. I've gotten rather used to being the only female around and soaking up all the male attention - and they give the nicest hugs. Of course this weekend will be a bit different since I'll spend some time with the president of the local amateur radio club to discuss me taking over editing and producing their newsletter. I fell into that one quickly when I spent a Sunday working on helping to raise an antenna tower for another local ham. The help was paid for in a trip to Denny's and a bit of sun and sweat, but there are lots worse ways to spend a Sunday.

I've also been working on a new ham project: learning about RISC architecture and PIC-ELs. If you're not electronic savvy, I'll be putting together and programming a board to do all kinds of interesting functions. A friend worked on it last year when I was studying for my ham licensing exams but gave it up when I made Extra. He asked if I was still interested and offered to go back to the beginning and see if he could keep up with me. I got my board and some of the parts on Monday and I've been working on the course ever since. I'm still trying to decide whether I want to wait until the end of October to buy a parts kit or bite the bullet and buy the parts (a whole lot of extra parts, too) from electronic suppliers and fill out the rest by a trip to the local OEM. Haven't quite made up my mind and I haven't had a chance to run the numbers yet.

Besides, there is that fella who is taking up some of my time lately -- and he's not the only one. The ladies have been stopping by and going to discussion groups with me then kidnapping me for moonlight drives in the Garden of the Gods and trawling over at Denny's for hot chocolate that turns into grand slam breakfasts and such. Lately I never know what is going to happen from one day to the next, and that is a far cry from the way it has been over the past few weeks. Nothing like spontaneous friends and fellas to take my mind off the mundane and predictable. And I have been working a lot lately. I need more than one break

Around here, I never know what will happen next and I like the surprises -- so far. Some Monday night a group of us are going to play Drag Queen Bingo. I wonder if I can pull off the Victor/Victoria deal for a night or two. Psycho Ken and a couple other friends are hitching a ride and I will be helping with costuming and makeup. My costume and makeup will be in very good hands.

And there are offers to help me put up my antenna and get me on the air to field. Haven't decided yet which gentleman I'll give the nod. Should be interesting.

In the meantime, time to go hit the button a few hundred more times and see if I can catch some work today. I want to get done early so I can take a shower and be fresh and ready for those spontaneous drive-bys.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Being adopted gives you a keen sense of family, a yearning and a need to know where you come from and where you belong. Those who were raised by family or in orphanages and foster home, no matter how they deny it, feel that same urge, the need to know who you are, where you belong and why you were given away, why you weren't wanted. There is a palpable need for connections, for family, to belong somewhere to someone, to a family.

We all crave a sense of family, a need to know where we belong, where we fit in. For those of us who have rocky pasts, a history pock marked with pain, trouble and alienation, we gather family around us or cling to what family we create, no matter what. We grasp at familial straws, determined to keep some sense of family around us even when that family is dysfunctional.

A friend told me about a movie he had seen a couple weeks ago: Antwone Fisher, directed by Denzel Washington and starring Derek Luke. It's the story of a young Navy man who gets into a fight with one of his shipmates and is sent for psychiatric evaluation. He has a problem with anger, striking out with his fists to cover the pain and alienation he carries like the rock he says he crawled out from under. His father died two months before he was born while his mother was in prison. The movie is the story of his search for himself and to find where he belongs.

What resonates most is his stony silence and his tentative reaching for connections as he strives to better himself by learning Japanese, drawing, reading and writing poetry. It is a moving tale, one that shines a search light on the loneliness of not knowing where you belong.

I am lucky in some ways; I know part of my family. There is still a big hole inside me, a gaping chasm where family ties should have been to weave me wholly together. I do not know my father's side of the family and every time I have begun to look what family I do know turn my need to know into a battle for possession of my soul and my heart, a battle I choose not to fight. Instead I back away and wait. It seems I have been waiting my whole life for a moment when I can reach back into the past and find my connections to the family I never knew.

I am alone with few connections -- real family connections. I have gathered family around me, finding connections in shared experiences and knowledge. Like Antwone, who wrote the story behind the movie, I am afraid of making those connections, afraid of rejection, afraid of the look that I have seen in so many eyes over the years, the look that says I'm not good enough, simply not enough, that I do not belong. It is in moments like watching Antwone Fisher's journey unfold, I find another connection, another person searching for the place where they belong. It is something I also share with my friend, a friend who has become more than family, who is my connection, the one who didn't reject me, who sees in me what I see in him -- family.