Thursday, March 31, 2016

Flying the friendly skies, uh, not-so-much

Have you flown the not-so-friendly skies lately? 
typical long lines in Denver

Vigilant Detroit TSA agents recently tipped off authorities that a pilot coming through security seemed under the influence of alcohol. The American Airlines employee was arrested, which should have made everybody feel a lot safer. 

Drunk passengers are no joke either and prohibited from boarding aircraft. Back in my Continental Airlines days a Hawaii-bound passenger was so drunk he passed out in the boarding area. Knowing what a nightmare he might cause six miles above the earth for eight hours we decided to let him sleep it off. When he awoke after departure we rebooked him and sent him off to the hotel shuttle.

I can only complain about Frontier Airlines. (Which tells you that I am as cheap as they are, or I wouldn't be flying with them.)  Agents pulled people out of line whose bags were too big and make them pay on the spot. My "personal item" just met the allowed limits. Worried, I brought my own tape to prove it. Watching what other grandmas and college kids boarded with, I quit worrying. Sling the "personal item" on your back and they don't seem so concerned. 

Frontier's shrinking tray table

The only thing still free during Frontier flights is the restroom. My husband thinks they'll be coin-operated soon. Not having a plane full of people with beverage glasses on their teeny-tiny tray tables was a good thing when we hit a pocket of turbulence. No reassuring word from the crew.

The plane pitched and dropped significantly. First time it heaved everyone gasped. Next time it got really quiet. Not even the babies cried.  I hung onto the seat in front of me and closed my eyes. The young woman behind me started to cry. A youngster further back waited until things smoothed out then her small voice carried over several rows. "That was scary." A calm adult responded that when you go to an amusement park you have to pay for that kind of ride. Well, I don't go to amusement parks because that's not my kind of fun anymore. So that makes the second free thing on Frontier--thrills. 

There was one friendly moment, however. Before take-off the young man across the aisle from us eyed the empty window seat next to me. He asked my husband if he could take it. Bill said sure and the ADD firefighter on leave for PTSD moved into it. (He gave us a quick bio as soon as he fastened his seat belt.) 

I'm the kind of flyer who pretends the person next to me is invisible. But this guy was so excited to ignore him would have been as mean as pouring water on somebody's birthday piƱata. He showed me photos of his daughter playing in the ocean and lovely photos of the sunset he could see from the window. Eventually he amused himself on his phone and I powered up my iPad. 

 I might try being friendly again. Somebody has to be. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter: Mixed Messages

An elderly couple in my neighborhood decorated the front of their home in mixed messages. They decked out a bush in plastic eggs the colors of girly Easter dresses. Then threw in the Duke pennant.

The eggs reminded me of a statue of Artemis  a second century goddess. Note that her chest is covered in what look like  grotesque eggs. 

My brain fired a synapse, a connection,  between the plastic eggs, our crazy Easter egg fad and Artemis. All are symbols of new life and part of Iranian celebrations of the spring equinox. It's interesting how Christianity reached into the existing cultures to make connections with people around their important observances-- the winter solstice (Christmas), and All Hallows Eve (eve of All Saints Day, Nov.1) which probably came from a Celtic festival. 

I wonder if it was an early version of being "relevant." It seems to me that the pagan influences have more derailed Christianity than made it compelling. There's no way that kids chasing around after plastic eggs point me to the central issue of Easter--Christ's death and resurrection. 

I choose to separate the secular from the sacred as much as possible. I quit giving our girls Easter baskets (which they still lament) and made a lamb cake instead. It never really looked like a lamb and ended up being more of a bad joke. 

This year I borrowed a Central American tradition of cascarones (hollowed eggs colored  filled with confetti) for the kids to enjoy in their before-Easter celebration. They can enjoy then twice. First in the making and second smashing them on their cousins' heads.  Thus the silliness won't completely overshadow the sacred.

Tonight, I am grateful that our church has decided to recognize Christ's suffering and crucifixion in a Maundy Thursday service.  The kids will chase eggs on Saturday. Then we'll come together on Sunday to remind ourselves what's really worth celebrating. 

Happy Easter! He is risen! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Anger, Part 2

... continued from March 10...

The next day I tried not to look across the street while I gardened. I hoped the dog would stay home.  At the sound of a truck coming up my driveway I looked up. It was my neighbor. 

My shoulders sagged. My chin dropped while I expelled a big sigh. I really didn't want to pick up where we'd let off. And I was quite defensive. 

He climbed out of the truck and handed me a bag. "I replaced your husband's gloves. I hope they're the right size."

"Well, thank you."

"I want to apologize for the way I talked to you last night. I feel real bad about it. Nobody deserves to be treated that way." He went on to explain that it's been a bad night. They'd had sad family news. 

"Thank you for the apology. In fact, it's an answer to my prayer. I really appreciate your coming over." I reached out and offered my hand. I felt myself get teary.

We shook firmly. "Thank you for forgiving me. " He was a little teary too. 

We then went on to resolve our difference of opinion. 

When he climbed in the cab and left, I considered that we were much better neighbors than we'd been before. 

I'll keep praying for him because I've found that anger has to be controlled or it becomes a habit of mind. An irritable person can find plenty to dislike about other fallible people. 

In this case I believe God did change the neighbor's heart. It encouraged me to see his humility and desire to make peace. 

Anger clings onto offenses. Conversely, peace opens our hearts and minds to release them. May we all be more willing to let go.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Anger is a hungry emotion

Anger is a hungry emotion. It feeds on irritations, feasts on frustration, gnaws on bitterness. 

 The truth is evident when I call a neighbor to discuss a minor but irritating problem I have with his dog. What should be a one-issue conversation turns into a list of complaints. He doesn't like my city attitude. He corrects me for saying up the street instead of down the road. In his mind, my tipsy mailbox is an affront to the neighborhood. "And tell your Mexicans to quit turning around in my driveway."

My Mexicans? 

Calm responses and apologies that he's upset get me nowhere. We don't come to an agreement on the issue. The call ends before "good-bye."

Dismayed and shaken, I resort to my familial frame of reference for this kind of conflict.

I spent my childhood stepping carefully lest I trigger one of my father's land mines. 

I learned that anger only needs a small flashpoint.  But once the bomb exploded poison gas filled our home and hung heavy over us for hours.

I wonder if it's the same for my neighbor.  I feel sorry for him and his family. 

Pity aside, I'm still upset. My self-soothing techniques don't help me fall asleep. I remember the morning's children sermon at church, ironically, about loving your neighbor. I don't feeling any love.

The Bible text commands me to pray for my enemy. I can do that. Each time the internal recorder replays a bit of the interchange, I counter it with a prayer. God, let the man across the road be at peace with me. Eventually I drift off.

How do you handle anger aimed at you?  What do you do to calm yourself? 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Robins for Breakfast

Dozens of robins settled in for breakfast this week. Early in the morning they scuttled around the yard looking for worms wriggling to the soil surface. 

Not for the first time, I wished for a good camera and the expertise to use it. This just doesn't convey their numbers.  They mostly hopped along the ground, occasionally flying low a few feet to where the pickin's looked better. 

Curious about the behavior, I learned that robins cluster like this as they move north. They migrate in stages, prompted to move on by the air and ground temperatures. 

Thus I can use their appearance in the early spring as an indication of warming soil, similar to how forsythia blooms when the ground temperature is about 55 degrees. Forsythia bushes are like a garden alarm. Once you see the yellow flowers, it's time to do some other garden chores.

Now I know to watch for the robins, then the forsythia, then the crabgrass.
It can't be long now, so get ready! 

What are your favorite signs of spring?