Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's the little things. That are sort of annoying and become big things.

It doesn't take much to make you realize that yes, as the title of this blog indicates, you may the only sane person left on the planet. I had that moment a few weeks ago and since I mostly hate technology, except for electricity, it's not surprising that my moment of clarity was prompted by a computer.

As is our habit in my office, we are required to change our passwords on our computers on a regular basis. The screen even gives you a countdown to remind you that "your password will expire in three days. Do you want to change it now?" I never change it until it's expiring in one day or less. Mostly because I always find it painful to come up with new passwords. I know- it's a waste of time to obsess over something like a password but I do.

At least I used to - until I came up with a little system. I decided I would use the first initial and last name of authors I liked as my passwords, based on something that was going on in my life at that time. Example: last fall, my oldest son was in a stage production of A Christmas Carol. My password: Cdickens. When I had to change it, I had just watched the latest movie version of Pride and Prejudice. So here you go: Jausten. It made sense and they were easy to remember.

Fast forward a few months. One day, I had trouble logging on and called my friendly analyst who came to inspect the problem. Turns out my computer was broken. That's what he called it: broken. I needed another one and he'd have it out to me later that morning.

He called and asked my my password, which I spoke to him over the phone and explained my reasoning. He came by shortly thereafter and set me up while I was out of the office at a meeting.

Later that day, I tried logging on several times and was rejected. I was confused about what had happened with the repair to cause the problem. Feeling rejected and confused (my typical state), I called and tried to solve the problem with him. Turns out I should have spelled the password. He added Jaustin when he programmed my login name. Like Austin, Texas not Austen, Jane.

We laughed about it and moved on. Well, I mostly moved on, really I did. Except it's the little things that diminish you just the slightest bit - just a touch - and make you feel like the world is not quite what you hoped it would be. Everyday, when I would type in Jaustin, I felt just a little bit less like myself. I know it doesn't matter except it does.

I know - I can change it. I will. But not before I finish the book I'm reading by Atrigiani. At least that's spelled exactly how it sounds.

Monday, June 19, 2006

You Can't Win, even if You're Playing in Namibia

I can't stand us.

If the news about Brad Pitt's "popularity" is true, I really can't stand us. According to some poll or some celebrity watchers or someone "in the know," it turns out that Brad Pitt's latest starring role as father of the year is doing his box office appeal absolutely no good.

Let's leave aside the 'are they getting married or what' question for a second, okay? I know that's not going to sit well with many people but that's the way it is. It's not enough that Pitt has adopted (or soon will adopt) the third world orphans Ms. Jolie adopted a few years ago. It's not enough that he skipped his latest movie premiere at Cannes to await the arrival of his newborn. (In the same vein, I can't help but compare this to new dad Tom Cruise who flew off to Europe when his baby daughter was about three days old. Priorities become obvious.) It's not enough that this couple (for once) used the sense God gave P.T. Barnum to make a buck off people willing to part with their money, given the right motive. ("Sucker born every minute - and two to take him," is how Barnum put it I believe.) Good for them for auctioning off the rights to their baby daughter's photos and then donating the proceeds to a charity of their choice. I loved that.

I hate that for all these reasons, Pitt's box office appeal has somehow been depleted. I guess the poll numbers tell us that we like our box office heroes but they can't ever act like real people or we don't like 'em that much anymore. We want Pitt to be our Movie Star, not a dad. We want him spotted at La Costa or at Wolfgang Puck's. We want to see him on a red carpet, not within an African landscape, where he is peddling a bike with one of the kids riding along with him.

Well, it won't make a difference but I still like you, Brad. I've liked you since Kalifornia and True Romance. I really liked you in Troy but let's not get into that right now. Prove everyone wrong and be a great dad and an amazing box office draw. We don't have enough of those guys in the movies.

Talk soon -

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

a distant hug

Two years ago, I spent the day saying a last goodbye to my dad. Parts of our relationship – the parts that would never have made a Hallmark card - will continue to fade away and perhaps remain unexamined forever. There are others - the kinder, empathetic, truly love-filled parts - that I will relive and hang onto forever. I think those memories, the good and the not so good at all, make us both flawed human beings, who tried to "do better" and move past the mistakes we made with each other.
My dad was a complex man who held simple beliefs. Knowing that I won’t ever fully understand every person and event that shaped his life, I find myself in a place that tells me none of it really matters. Especially during the last ten years of his life, I found plenty to admire about my dad, including his unwavering faith in God. (He was sort of a poster boy for the story of the prodigal son, if you know what I mean.) His faith transcended his life; it actually gave me some peace when he died.
Here’s what I believe. When my Dad arrived in heaven, he found a place filled with the people he had loved and lost here on earth, people who loved him so much during their own lives. First he found his Mom - and he hugged her and kissed her - it had been 56 years since the last time he did that. He embraced his mother-in-law and father-in-law. He looked around and saw family, friends and neighbors whom he had loved so much during life and missed so much here on earth - smiling and waiting to welcome him into this new place of joy and love and contentment and peace that is heaven.
As he settled down into his little corner of his new home, he noticed he was surrounded on three sides by flowerbeds filled with vibrant blooms, and not a single weed. He found birdfeeders that never needed refilling, that nourished beautiful songbirds like the ones he loved to watch every morning from his kitchen windows. He also noticed extremely well behaved squirrels, who never ate the seeds or scared the birds away. He thought he heard the Notre Dame fight song playing softly in the background, as the team seemed to celebrate championship after championship after championship. And finally, he looked behind him and saw Marine Corps dress blues hanging nearby, just his size, that he could wear on special days. But he decided he’d mostly settle for the Semper Fi cap he found in his pocket, and put it on instead.
I believe that even while he felt completely at peace in his new home, he found himself missing all of us - everyone he left behind so suddenly. Sitting on what felt like his familiar old front porch, watching the world go by on what felt like his old street, something wasn’t quite the same. He watched us pass right in front of him - but when he called his usual, "Got a minute?" no one seemed to hear him and when he gave us a wave, no one seemed to notice. He picked up the phone at his side to call a few friends and say hello but never got an answer.
In an instant, he understood. He’s living in our hearts now, not by our side. He’s alive in our memories of him, not sitting in the chair across from us. We hear his voice and his laugh and his standard goodbye of "God bless" now only in our own minds.
And he smiled - that’s just fine with my dad. He touched many people in many ways during his life - and we touched him. He’s content to patiently wait for us to join him in God’s time. I’m positive he’s sitting on his heavenly front porch, enjoying his perfect flower garden, praying for every single person that meant so much to him in life - maybe even praying that all of us take that one minute of human connection he treasured so much, even once in a while, to embrace the people we love.
The last thing I believe is that my dad saw God and gave him a wave, too - but this time, he got a response. And when Dad softly asked, "Got a minute?" God said, "Before I answer you, let me just say this: Well done, good and faithful servant. And yes, I do, but we have much more than a minute to chat. We have eternity."