Sunday, December 26, 2010

Verbs to Live By

I am not a fan of New Year's Resolution. I believe that one needs to reflect more than just once a year. Instead of writing yearly resolutions, I decided I just need some words to live by: understand, believe, inspire and enjoy.

understand (verb): to be thoroughly familiar with; apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of

I believe that understanding is the basis for kindness. In order to make a decision to be kind to that grumpy old man that yells at people to keep off his lawn, one has to understand him. I know many teachers that get so frustrated with students and don't know how to deal with them. If only the teacher understood where the child is coming from, it would be easier to "deal" with the child. I remember a student that fell asleep in my class first thing every morning. I would get so frustrated and without thinking I would say to him as I was waking him, "Get up from your nap, buddy. Maybe you need to go to bed a little earlier every night." Then I talked to a teacher that knew him well and she told me that his father had recently gone to prison and he stayed up all night guarding his family because he was the oldest son, and then she said, "You need to understand before you judge." Ahhh, knife in the heart! From that moment on I made it my mission to know each and everyone of the students I come in contact with. 

I changed my schedule for my morning sleeper.  He was really great at math, so I taught that first thing in the morning because he could pick up on any math concept quickly. I had an old bathtub in my room that students could lie in and read. I bought big comfy pillows for the bathtub and told my sleeper to go and "read" a book every morning.

I have learned that it doesn't pay to get frustrated and angry with anything because it doesn't change the person or the problem. And with frustration comes judgment, and right behind judgment come shtupid.

believe (verb): have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so

This definition of believe is interesting because it means that one has to believe without proof. That is a hard thing to do because in order to believe without proof one needs to have faith. Everyone needs to believe. Believe in yourself. Believe in others. With belief comes accomplishment. If you believe, anything is possible. 

inspire (verb): to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence

I believe that one needs to inspire others through their love for what they do. I once tried to figure out how many students that I have come in contact with over my thirty-two years of teaching. (Yea, I know, get a life!) I worry about the ones that got away. The ones I didn't inspire to do their best and to be the best person they could be. The ones I didn't inspire to believe. I know that not everyone can be inspired, but I have to believe they can.

enjoy (verb): to experience with joy; take pleasure in

The word enjoy comes from the late 14th century french word enjoir. En means to make and joir means joy. If you don't find joy in what you do, where you are, or who you are with then enjoy. Enjoy - make joy. If you don't find joy in your job, figure out a way to make it joyful or find joy in another job. The same goes for where you are or who you are with. Everybody has the choice to live in despair or joy. Enjoy - enjoir - make joy! 

When I was thinking about these words to live by I made a long list of words. I then narrowed that list down to these four verbs. Verbs mean action. These words to live by are words that I need to do daily and reflect on daily. This year instead of making a list of resolutions try making your own list of words to live by. I strongly suggest you make them verbs.

Paco's Perspective

twirl: to cause to rotate rapidly; spin; revolve; whirl

The Flip Side
What's a verb?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scrabble Anyone?

I come from a long line of gamers. Some of my best memories and Caren's best "remember whens" took place during game play. Every Christmas there was always a game under the tree. I believe those many years of game play created Caren's very competitive spirit. I remember one year when my oldest sister, Chris, and her son Michael came to Phoenix for Christmas. He received a game for Christmas, of course it is a tradition, and Caren was playing it with him and she won continually and he got so frustrated he cried. Chris said, "Come on, Caren, he is just a little kid let him win." And she replied, "I am not going to let him win. He needs to learn to win fair and square. He also needs to man-up and learn how to lose with some sportsmanship." We were and still are very competitive. 

My brother Brad had this competitive spirit. I am sure he was the one that taught Caren to be competitive. Brad was confined to a wheelchair since birth, so he couldn't compete physically, but Caren could do it for him. He was the brains and she was the brawn. Together they were unstoppable.

During our summers in Montana, Caren and I play many games. There isn't much else to do. The TV reception is bad. How bad is it? It is so bad you have to point your left finger at a tower across the lake, hold the TV antenna with your right hand, and cross your legs all while wrapped in foil. We can only read so many books and play so many rounds of golf, and we are not allowed to eat, so we play games.

Playing games is what I miss the most about our Texas holiday gatherings. I haven't made it to Texas for a couple of years, so I haven't had the opportunity to participate in the traditional marathon Scrabble play, or 10,000, or Yahtzee. During our game playing one can always count on an argument, lots of laughter, and someone will end up peeing their pants. Caren is the queen, she is the queen, she is the Yahtzee Queen and I am the Scrabble Queen and Chris . . . , well, Chris is just Chris, we let her come along for the trouncing. I love it when Caren gets frustrated and yells at me during Scrabble. 

I will put down the word suq  and she will say very loudly, "That is not a word."
"Yes, it is."
"What does it mean?"
"I don't have to know what it means. Scrabble is a spelling game not a definition game."
"That is not a word."
"Okay, a suq is a market in middle eastern countries.I read it in some book."
"What book?"
"Not My Girl."
"Well, if it is what you say it is, then it is a foreign word and you can't use foreign words."
"I bet it's in the dictionary. Go ahead and challenge me."
Caren looks at Chris and Chris laughs and says, "I'm not challenging her. I am sure she has the Q, J, and Z sections of the Official Scrabble Dictionary memorized."
"I won't challenge you, but after this we are playing Yahtzee, and you know what is going to happen."
"Yea, Chris is going to lose."

The other day when I was playing Scrabble all by myself on my phone I got a double triple. One hundred seventy-six points. It's just not the same spinning in my chair in my room all alone shouting, "I am the queen, I am the queen, I am the Scrabble queen!"

Scrabble anyone?

Paco's Perspective

Okay, I will play, but if Flip spells F-A-T-B-O-Y one more time.

The Flip Side

L-I-Z-A-R-D-L-O-V-E-R, go ahead, challenge me!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pass the Kleenex, Pahleeeeeeeeeeeze

I am a sap for holidays. I relish the gathering of families, and I even kind of like the family spats. I love finding the perfect, thought-out, quirky gift. I spend hours on the internet "in search of". But the thing I love the best about the holidays is the Hallmark and Lifetime movies. I record them all, watch them early in the morning and bawl my guts out. Really, it is the same movie over and over and over with different characters and settings. Of course, there is always that fairytale-girl-gets-prince-and-they-lived-happily-ever-after ending. When I watch a movie at 2:34 a.m. I don't want to have to think too much because I usually fade in and out throughout the movie. It doesn't matter that the movies all have the same ending I still cry. As a matter of fact, if I have seen the movie before I start crying before the sad/then happy ending because I know what is coming up.

There are two overall themes that weave through the different characters and settings:

"Giving in its purest form expects nothing in return." Lifetime Movie
Even though I relish in finding the perfect gift, I enjoy more finding the perfect thing to say. Speaking the perfect words isn't about money it is about love, and expressing words of love are the hardest to express. The most difficult part of giving of yourself is expecting absolutely nothing in return. This is a difficult concept for me because I want reciprocation. I don't want reciprocation in the form of gifts because that is just one more thing to get dusty, but I do want words of love and thanks. I consider myself despicable because of it.

"Joy is based on where you decide to put your heart." Hallmark Movie
I want everyone to have that fairytale-girl-gets-prince-and-they-live-happily-ever-after ending. I want everyone to have that perfect job. I want everyone to live where they have always wanted to live. In order to be truly joyous you have to put your heart into everything you do and say. People don't like their jobs, where they live, or who they are with because they haven't decided to put their heart into it. Happiness is where your heart resides.

I have spent the past five months working on buying a house. So, this year I am not able to buy the perfect gifts. I guess I am going to have to work on those perfect words which frightens me. The expecting no words in return is going to take a lot of work. Maybe I will give everyone copies of all those movies, a box of Kleenexes, and let them figure things out on their own.

Paco's Perspective

Is this your way of telling me I am not getting a new toy for Christmas?

The Flip Side

Oh, Mr. Lizard, come a little closer I have something I have to tell you?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Whirlygig Man

I enjoy looking at the wares of the corner street vendors. Unfortunately, many have been chased away from their corners, especially, in town. On the corner of Jackrabbit Road and MC85 there were tons of people selling their wares. We called that corner the Jackrabbit Mall. The vendors are no longer there. They have been chased away, apparently, they were an eyesore. 

One of my favorite vendors was the Whirlygig Man. He parked his converted bus on Jackrabbit just south of the I10 freeway. He would always show up when the weather started to get cooler and leave when it got hot. I am not a whirlygig connoisseur (to be a connoisseur one must be at least 65 years old), but it always looked like he had some great whirlygigs. He also had quite and interesting variety from galloping horses to swimming frogs. 

My best buddy, Colleen, was obsessed with the Whirlygig Man. Whenever she came to my house she had to make a comment about the Whirlygig Man. He was a regular topic of our conversations:

"Do you think there is a shower in that bus?"
"I don't know."

"Where do you think he goes to the bathroom?"
"Mmmmmm, second bush on the left?"

"What do you think he does all day in that bus all day?"
"I am thinking he makes whirlygigs."
"Look, look, look, he has a TV!"
"Okay, so he watches TV and makes whirlygigs all day."

"I wonder how much they cost?"
"Let's stop and find out."
"No, that's okay, how much money can someone make selling whirlygigs?"
"Enough to buy gas for the bus?"

"Where do you think he lives?"
"In the bus?"
"No, I mean in real life?"
"I am thinking the bus is his real life!"
"NO, where does he come from?"
"The Land of the Whirlygig Makers?"

Colleen moved to Arkansas and for a going-away present I stopped at the Whirlygig Man's place of business and I got her a galloping horse for the front yard of her new home.

Every year I see the Whirlygig Man I think of her and I text her that her boyfriend is alive and well in Arizona. And then, one year he didn't show up. Through some research, I found out his bus burnt up, yes, I too am obsessed with his welfare. I had to text Colleen:

Me: Hey, the Whirlygig Man is nowhere to be found. Is he with you?

Colleen: Yes, he is living in my barn.

Me: Has he filled your yard with whirlygigs?

Colleen: No, I won't let him out of the barn!

Dear Whilygig Man,
I hope wherever you happen to be that you are well. I hope you found somewhere warm to reside. I hope you are still making whirlygigs. In another ten years, I will be needing some whirlygigs. Colleen sends her love.

Paco's Perspective

Hey, I whirl! I could take over the whirling gig!

The Flip Side

Does he make LIZARD whirlygigs?

Monday, December 20, 2010


 noun, a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting

I love traditions. It could be because I am a rule follower, and traditions are really just a set of rules that must be followed from year to year. Not only must traditions be followed, but they must be followed without question. When one questions why something is being done and the answer is, "Because it is tradition!" That's it, it's done, there are no further arguments. Just think, if families had more traditions, it would be so much easier to raise children:

"Mom, why do I have to do my homework?"
"Because it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

"Dad, why do I have to pick up the dog poop?"
"Because it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

"Mom, Dad, really, college, why?"
"Because it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

"Daddy, why do I have to wait until I am thirty to I get married?"
"Because it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

Holidays are especially filled with tradition. One Christmas tradition that we had was that we always opened ALL our presents on Christmas Eve. No, not just the new pajamas, but every single present. Our grandparents would take us out to see the Christmas lights and when we came home the presents were all there under the tree even the ones from Santa. The explanation for Santa getting to our house so quickly was our last name was Cunningham and Santa delivered in alphabetical order. We believed them. I believe this tradition was devised by very intelligent parents. They never had kids bugging them to get up at 4 on Christmas morning to open presents, and everyone looked great in the pictures.

"Mom, Dad could we not open our presents on Christmas Eve this year and wait until tomorrow morning to open our presents like all our friends do?"
"Nope, it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

Another tradition was that we were the first family on our block to get a fake tree. We had one of those silver aluminium trees with one of those rotating lights. As the light rotated, the tree changed colors. We, kids, loved that tree. We thought we had the most beautiful tree on the block. Again, another tradition created by intelligent parents. There wasn't the annual paying megabucks for something that would die within a week, no finding pine needles in the carpet months after Christmas, and we never had to worry about that metal tree igniting. 

"Mooooom, could we just once get a real tree?"
"Nope, it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

Our Christmas decorations came out on the 15th of December, no sooner and no later. They were taken down on the 30th, no sooner and no later. Also, there was no decorating the outside of the house. If one didn't know us, one would think we were the Jewish family on the block with a strange glowing light in the living room. One more time, tradition created by intelligent parents. Our electric bill didn't go up at Christmas. While the other fathers in the neighborhood were climbing up ladders and falling off roofs on Thanksgiving weekend, my father was spread out on the couch watching the football games. 
"Dad, could we get some lights this year for the outside of the house?"
"But, Dad, all the other houses on the block have lights."
"Not all the houses, the Abramowicz's don't have lights up."
"But they really are Jewish!"
"Sorry, Kiddo, but it's tradition."
"Oh, OKAY!"

Traditions, if you don't have any, get started creating some.

Paco's Perspective

"Paco, why do you have to twirl three times before entering the house?"
"Because it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

The Flip Side

"Flip, look at you. We will never get all those sticker out of your fur. Why do you have to chase lizards in the farm field?"
"Because it's tradition."
"Oh, okay."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Girl, You Haven't Even Scratched the Surface

The other evening I had dinner with Caren and a dear friend, Jo May. Jo and I have know each other for years. We have grown in different directions and unfortunately don't see each other as often as I wish. I blame the fact that I no longer drive for many of my lost relationships. I was the one that always went to people, and now I am very GU(geographically undesirable). I miss those friends that I no longer see because I no longer drive. Our conversation at dinner made me miss those friends more. 

We stayed long after the bill came to chat. We were having so much fun that I am sure everyone in the restaurant wished they were sitting at our table or maybe they were wishing we would just shut up and leave. Some people don't like to be reminded of what a boring time they are having. We laughed so hard tears were dripping off our cheeks.

Jo May and I have always wanted to be authors. During our many hours of traveling we would outline our ideas for books: Codependency the Lighter Side, Jack Handy is My Hero and Why? just to name a few. Jo just recently found my blog. She asked how often I write, so she could keep up. I told her I try to do it once a week, but I am starting to run out of things to write about. 

Me: "I was kind of hoping Caren would do something stupid during her visit, so I would get some new ideas."

Caren: "I am sure you have other friends or relatives that do stupid things."

Jo and Me (after looking at each other): "No, not really."

Jo: "Remember the time I rode with the Wild Women of the West and I was riding near South Mountain practicing my hat trick for a parade. I fell off my horse and she bolted away and I was chasing her down Central Avenue in my parade regalia and the darn horse kept blowing the lights."

Caren: "Remember when we were at Rhonda's and Dalton and I were riding his wagon down the hill on the side of her house. We hit a bump and we almost flew over the fence into the neighbor's yard."

Jo: "I noticed you haven't written much about the Peggy and Cathy exploits."

Me: "Like when we got stuck in the revolving door in Pittsburgh."

Jo: "Or when you two did a song and dance in the district-wide talent show fund raiser."

Caren: "Cathy can't sing."

Jo: "I know, that's my point."

Me: "I dance so much better than I sing."

Caren: "You can't dance."

Me: "I know, I know, that's my point."

Caren: "Speaking of dancing, what about all those names and life stories you gave to the regulars at The Toolies bar where we used to hang out."

Jo: "Ahhhh, the good ole' days of real Wrangler butts."

Me: "Dick and Honey. Princess and Cord. Ken and Barbie."

Jo: "Eighth-grade Sweater."

Me: "Gumby and Pokey."

Caren: "Hey, did you know that Pokey IS in the pokey? What about One-Eyed Jack or Stinky Barry?"

Me: "Wait, I need to write these ideas down before I forget."
Jo: "Girl, you haven't even scratched the surface! And if all else fails, just spend more time with Caren."

After a couple hours of guffawing and crying, we made our way to the parking lot where we laughed some more.

Paco's Perspective

Ahem, you do have another family member that does many more stupid things than Auntie Caren. Think about it the name might flip into your mind.

The Flip Side

Have you seen how the "stocky one" always gets faked-out by my fancy footwork?

Friday, December 3, 2010


I moved to Phoenix with my family at the age of six in 1962. Since that time, I have been fortunate to have only two general physicians. One was an understanding, caring, funny man named Dr. William C. Stonecipher. He believed that a physician could be a professional and still care about his patients. Just before my brother died, Dr. Stonecipher left his room, told my mom that he had done all that he could do, and leaned against the wall and slid to the floor in tears. Dr. Stonecipher retired to somewhere in sunny California. I hope he is well and happy. My second physician was under the tutelage of Dr. Stonecipher when I first met her. Ilona B. had a great teacher and she learned well. She is a physician's assistant and now works under Dr. Cunningham (yep, we are related in someway but he doesn't know). I wouldn't know Dr. Cunningham, if I ran into him in a flood light lit alley. I have followed Ilona to Scottsdale. I see her once or twice a year, and I have a great respect for her. 

For the past ten or so years, at this time of the year I always send her a gift basket. The other day I received a call from her thanking me for the basket and she said, "I don't know what I do to deserve this kindness."

I laughed and replied, "Everybody deserves kindness."

And then I stopped to reflect. Darn, one more thing I have to put on my list of things to remember when dealing with people. Everybody deserves kindness. Or is it the only thing I need to remember? Everybody deserves kindness. In my blog about the book, Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine's dedication  explains the title, author's purpose, and book: In hopes that we may all understand each other better. Yep, everybody deserves kindness! Even that grumpy old man that works at the post office.

Everybody deserves kindness. I am not very good at this, again. First, I am not a talker. My lack of conversation in crowds gives people the wrong impression about me - BITCH! I am really not as bitchy as one might think. (At least, I don't think I am.) I AM a good listener. I am very good at giving my opinion, as a matter of fact, some (okay, many) don't like that about me. I have been told to keep my opinions to myself. But it will be easier for me to be a better person, if I just have one thing to remember on my list: Everybody deserves kindness.

I have some good role models for: Everybody deserves kindness. Da Boyz, my dog's Paco and Flip, treat everybody with kindness. It doesn't matter who walks through my door Paco and Flip are so happy to see them. Flip wiggles his entire butt and "talks" to everybody, "Raaa, raaa, ra, raaa, ra," and Paco twirls, piddles and brings the guest a toy. If there would ever be an intruder at my house, I am sure Paco would twirl, piddle on his shoe, and bring him a toy, and Flip would show him where the good stuff is, "Raaaalk dis raaaay!" Da Boyz truly live the "everybody deserves kindness" mantra. My, younger sister, Caren, is my other role model. Caren has no barriers. She has built no walls around herself. She is everybody's best friend. Caren can get on an airplane (the place where everyone reads so there doesn't have to be any conversation) and by the time she gets to her destination she knows everybody's life story and she has all their phone numbers and everyone has hers and they will ALL call her and they will ALL become her new best friend. Caren will stop at a coffee shop to run in and get a drink. As she leaves the car, she will say she is ony going to be a few minutes, but I know that is wrong. She has to talk to talk to everyone in line and behind the counter. She also has to get everyone's number. Caren and the grumpy old man at the post office have swapped numbers. Caren and Da Boyz understand that everybody deserves kindness.

Dear Ilona, (Yep, I call her by her first name and I even have her phone number.)

You asked what you did to deserve such kindness. You don't have to do anything because everybody deserves kindness. But actually you have done a lot. You have kept me alive all these years even one year when I didn't want to be kept alive. You have fought the "quality of life issue" for me. You have put my needs above medical "I really shouldn'ts". But really it shouldn't matter what you have or haven't done, because EVERYBODY DESERVES KINDNESS.

Thanks for leading me to that bit of understanding,
Your favorite patient

Paco's Perspective

Okay, okay, I get it. When Flip enters the house I will twirl, piddle of his foot and bring him a toy. Does it have to be my favorite toy?

The Flip Side

I am nice to the lizards. I invite them in the house all the time. I haven't eaten one . . . . . . yet.