Monday, July 27, 2020

If I could Have a Superpower it Would Be...

By Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

I finally have an answer to that question everyone seems to ask, “If you could have any superpower would it be?” When asked this ubiquitous question, I never had a great answer. 

My answers included powers like: Sleep all night. Stand-up without grunting. The ability to do yoga again. Be understood. Despite all the things I sort of wanted, there never seemed to be just the right one.

Recently, I watched a movie where the main character said he wanted his superpower to be the ability to hover a few inches above of the earth. Not fly, just float. At first, I thought this was genius, then I remembered that my primary form of exercise is walking. Floating everywhere would just result in my failing health which kind of takes away from that super feeling.

In fact, flying in any form does not make sense for me because I’m terrified of heights. So that’s off the table.

Superhuman strength makes no sense. What do I really need all that extra muscle power for? It’s not like I’m knocking down buildings or throwing cars out of the way on a daily basis basis. In fact, aside from some brief road rage incidents and that one time I smacked my car into the side of a brick wall, I’ve never needed to hurl vehicles or relocate buildings in a hurry.

Invisibility or reading minds is just creepy. I mean, do I really want to lurk around in people's unspoken thoughts or overhear what they say when I am not around? I have a hard-enough time dealing with what people say when they know I’m listening. Social media and blogs like this one have given people the power to feel like they are talking to no one while revealing some pretty disturbing stuff.

I promise I am not revealing anything disturbing here, well, in this specific blog post anyway.

All that fire and ice stuff just seems tiring, and aside from some internet trolls, I really can’t think of a person that I would like to freeze or set aflame. Well, maybe just one or two tyrants, but not enough to need those permanent powers.

Let’s face it. A lot of superheroes don't have powers as much as they have fancy equipment like Batman or Ironman. I have enough gadgets and fancy stuff around the house I don't know how to use. Why add more junk to the collection?

Then recently, while on one of contemplatory walks, I revisited how I wished for the ability to verbally dress down ignorant and rude people in the moment. Instead, when faced with unwanted confrontation, I become verbally impotent. It’s not until hours or days or years later, usually while in the shower or while battling insomnia at three in the morning by recounting all my life’s missteps, in a streak of pure genius that the words I wanted to speak, flow. I shout to no one and speak with articulate passion what I wanted to say in the heat of the moment.

On that walk, I realized what my superpower would be if I could choose, to embody Julie Sugarbaker.

It’s genius.

The designing woman, Julie Sugarbaker, is the world's most perfect woman, nay, human! She is smart,both book-smart and street-smart. She is refined but also sassy. She is beautiful and for the time, very well dressed. No woman wore bright colors, shoulder pads or peplum skirts better.

She is a savvy business woman but a fair and generous boss. She loves men but does not allow them to change or control her. She is devoted to her family and friends. She balances her work life with her social life. She is a philanthropist. She is sexy because she is tough.
The most enviable talent utilized by Ms. Julia Sugarbaker lies in her flawless ability to process an insult or ignorant rant and then, without hesitation, launch into the most eloquent and timely rebuff ever heard.

This woman has the unequaled ability to spout the most linguisticallybeautiful snubs and insults ever composed in the heat of the moment. Not only can she string together a series of articulate, haughty, and persuasive soliloquies, she can do it instantaneously. She does not require the benefit of a long shower to muster the words nor does she necessitate ten years of stewing to put rude and ignorant people in their place. Rather, Julie Sugarbaker listens, feels, and responds at a moment’s notice.

That is true power.

Julia Sugarbaker doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She has the uncanny ability to educate the ignorant while making it clear she does not and will not tolerate their nonsense. Even more enviable is her power to not ruminate over her choice to say it like it is. She has the courage and the self-confidence to speak up and speak out. She doesn’t lie in bed restless and sleepless questioning her words and actions.

Julia Sugarbaker is a well-rested, self-confident, activist who believes what she believes and will not not let others intimidate her. That is not to say she is not open-minded and willing to learn from and even admit to her mistakes. She wears her heart on her sleeve beside her intellect and bravery.

Yes, I want my superpower to be, becoming Julia Sugarbaker. So, watch out you people who have been rude, crude, cruel and unjust to me. Once I acquire that superpower, I’m coming for you. I will give you a lecture as iconic as Julia’s when the lights went out in Georgia tirade. I might even wear shoulder pads and a peplum skirt instead of a cape.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Give the Gift of Experiences

By: Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

Well, here we are back in the most anticipated and dreaded time of the year. The Holidays. 

How can something so beloved be so loathed?

The answer is easy. Expectations.

We have created a monster out of this holiday season with our consumerism. The unrealistic expectations of perfection are pervasive and stifling. We are expected to spend loads of cash to create an idealistic holiday full of picture perfect decor, food, clothing, and gifts just to name a few. We work hard year round just to blow a huge amount of our earnings on things. 

According to some statistics, the average household spends $1500.00 on the holidays. That's fine if you bring in 150K a year, but for the average Joe and Joanna that's a lot of moola greenbacks, dough, etc.

The problem goes beyond the exorbitant amount of money we spend. It's that those things that we buy disappear or lose their appeal almost instantly. Who hasn't spent hundreds of dollars and worked late into the night to purchase and assemble that gift your kid begged for only to be disappointed when the child ignores the toy and plays with the box instead?

Most kids will play with a toy for a day or two, maybe a week if your lucky. Then it starts to collect dust in the corner of the toy room (by toy room I mean your living room because let's face it the toys never stay where they are supposed to be). The child then begs for the next best thing they saw on TV or that their friend got for Christmas. 

I'm all for a great meal with family and friends gathered to talk and laugh and just enjoy each others company. Sipping wine or cocktails and eating delicious food is, in my mind, money well spent. Making memories is they way to go. 

Even buying decor for the Holidays is money well spent. I like to buy an ornament each year for my daughters that represents a milestone or a hobby of the past year like a piano or mellophone. Maybe the ornament will represent a favorite thing like candy or shoes. These ornaments are hung each year and create conversations and laughter as we recall each girl's past experiences. 

Decor can be passed through the generations to create bonds through time. Stories of grandparents and other relatives who owned the ornaments create an unbreakable bond between family who never got to meet.

Great memories and experiences make the best gifts. So how can we come to terms with the embedded expectation to buy things even though we know many of those things will be unappreciated or forgotten quicker than it took to unwrap them?

Easy Peasy!

I have complied a few ideas of experience gifts that you can even wrap and place under the tree. The best part about experience gifts is that they often provide more opportunities for you to spend quality time with the people you love the most.

These gifts are great for adults and kids alike.

5 Experiences to Gift

1. Zoo membership. Many zoo passes include a free or discounted pass to zoos across the country. So if you by a pass to the Pittsburgh zoo might use that same pass in Cleveland, Columbus, and Baltimore, all with in driving distance. Look to see if your zoo is part of the same network.

To make this gift more exciting wrap it up with a stuffed animal, an animal picture book, or coloring book about zoos  to give something more tangible on Christmas. Spend time planning trips or researching zoo animals with your kids or grandkids. 

2. Museum Memberships Not all museums are free like the Smithsonian or the Cleveland Museum of Art (an awesome place).  Buying a museum pass is a great gift. If you buy a pass to the Carnegie art museum you get entrance to four museums! That is an awesome deal.

To make this gift more exciting wrap up some sketching tools like a paper and pencils to encourage kids to draw what they see when visiting. You can give them a framed print of an artwork they might find at one of the museums. Of course take time to plan an adventure with your child. 

3. Tickets to a concert or sporting event Pair this with some memorabilia or a CD (do they still make those). This gift is sure to thrill any music or sports fan. 

4. A trip to a nearby town for a day or longer to explore. Make it more affordable by planning a picnic and going when there are free events like festivals or outdoor concerts.  Heck if you are feeling generous give tickets for full vacation week. Who wouldn't love that! 

Important note here: If you do give a vacation for a gift beyond a weekend you must think carefully about whether or not you should tag along. Sometimes giving the gift without being part of the deal is the most generous thing you can do.

5. Lessons for a favorite hobby Purchasing lessons for art, theater, music, sports, sewing, knitting, or a million other things will give your loved one a chance to learn or refine a skill. So many people won't splurge on something like this so do it for them. 

To make this gift more exciting pair it with things they will need to complete the class like art supplies or a bus pass. Offer to babysit on the nights they need to be free for class. Whatever it takes.

I hope these ideas inspire you to think beyond the traditional sweater or Barbie doll. Give the gift that keeps giving, EXPERIENCES!

Monday, September 2, 2019

September Sights and Sounds

By: Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

It's labor day 2019 and my head is foggy with the sleeplessness of the night before. The storms were big and loud and long. The humidity rose unexpectedly and the breeze through my third floor windows was not enough to keep me cool enough for a restful sleep. The dog barked in fear. My daughters radio blasted music from beneath her closed door.

Eventually the storm died out and sleep came back to me in fits and starts.

The morning brought chatter from my youngest and her friend. The news blared from the kitchen TV with more stories about guns and hurricanes. It seems peril is everywhere. Everywhere but here. My home is safe and cozy even with the nonstop talking and bickering between all of us.

Later, I turned on a movie because it's that kid of day-cloudy and damp. The yard is soaked from the torrential rains. A mist and drizzle persists. I try to tune out all the background noise and focus on the actors before me. 

The family exits returning my oldest daughter to college after her long weekend home. I stifle the tears pricking my eyes as I say goodbye once again wondering when I will see her again. I think she was too.

I stay behind to recharge and regroup with much needed alone time. 

The movie (The Women in Black) was perfect. It was compelling without tragedy. (There is enough real life tragedy I don't need fictionalized trauma.) It was happy but not trite. I was left feeling better than I was when it started. 

I noticed the sun peeking through the thick curtain of grey clouds and allowed myself to be drawn outside to sit in the yard. I resisted the urge to put on music or listen to an audio book. 

I just sat and looked and listened enjoying the quiet.

The ice cream truck chimed its tunes in the distance trying to coax the last customers of summer out of their homes and into the rain for a frozen treat.

The wind rustled the leaves making that ruffled sound that we will not have for much longer as Autumn can be felt and smelled in the breeze. The broken umbrella creaks in the wind sounding a bit like the doors in all the haunted houses that will spring up soon.

The bees buzzed my sedum getting the last of the flower pollen before all the blooms die off. The crickets and other creatures chirped, and trilled, and sang the songs of evening even though it was just late afternoon.

The birds were quiet. I suppose they are leaving unnoticed for warmer places.

I could hear the water seeping into the ground in the places that were turned to bog in the late summer storm.

I saw the fading flowers in my pots and gardens in the backdrop of more vibrant and hardy species like my dinner plate Hibiscus.

The vegetable garden was decorated with pretty pests like the Japanese Beetles. A few tomatoes struggle to turn red before it's too late for them.

The pear tree has one last pear to offer. Last year we had dozens. This year blight limited our crop to just three.

The grape vines drip with fruit both green and purple. A good pruning will make them flourish next year. 

The yard is still pretty and inviting even with the fall approaching. 

Last night we had a fire to warm us in the cool evening air. The scent of burnt wood lingers.

My reverie is suddenly interrupted by the return of my family minus one. The truck pulls in, the doors slam, the dog barks in greeting. My youngest daughter is still talking, she never stops. She comes in with stories to tell even without an audience. 

I suppose I might be doing the same. Even with no one listening or not many, it feels good to share.

Enjoy these days while they last.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Making the world a better place one quarter at a time: How ALDI is changing the world for the better.

By: Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

Times are tough. Mass shootings are happening more than daily. We had 4 shootings in the last 24 hours. I believe the latest statistic shows more 253 mass shootings in the last 216 days.

I am scared.

I want to cry.

I want to scream

With these incidences, we cannot deny that we are living in a divisive and violent world. We are polarized by politics, racism, sexism, poverty,  wealth, climate change and many other factors.

I can’t help but feel that we are meaner, more judgmental and more isolated than ever before. We cannot agree to disagree. Instead, we launch anonymous insults over social media. We unfriend and unfollow each other. We say hateful things with no regard to who we might be offending. We no longer talk and listen. We make snap judgements based on sound bites and other people’s opinions. We refuse to meet in the middle. We wave and wear symbols of hate

We do virtually nothing to make the change we need.

Before the world got so complicated, I allowed the little things in day to day life make me angry. I would rail against the small injustices like line cutters or mispriced merchandise. These minor infractions got my ire up sometimes to boiling. It’s funny how just making it out of a store without being shot is the current goal. Coupons and grabbing the last bargain off the shelf no longer matter.

Before gun violence distracted my shopping adventures, one of my biggest annoyances at the grocery store revolved around shopping carts. I would pull into a parking spot only to discover that some thoughtless patron had left his or her cart smack dab in the middle of the diagonal lines marking the deceptively available spot.

This left me with some hard choices. A) I could put the car in park, get out and move the cart. B) I could use my car to nudge the cart out of the way. C) I could relocate hoping to find another truly free spot.

This never failed to put me in a foul mood before I even exited my vehicle. No doubt I would take my frustrations out on the other customers or staff (though never with a gun). I would be impatient as I pushed past carts stopped a bit too far in the aisle. I’d groan as that indecisive lady hemmed and hawed about which jarred sauce she wanted. I would stand seething as I waited for my turn making the same decision which, of course, I would make much more quickly. Next thing I know I’m rudely reaching in front of her offering a curt and insincere, “excuse me” or “sorry.”

Equally annoying, after finding a truly free spot and walking the half mile to the store, I would enter through the automatic glass doors to be greeted by the cavernous area that was supposed to house the carts for the shoppers. The echo of my sigh and grunts of frustration would fall on deaf ears as the staff was busy stocking shelves with merchandise I had nowhere to store. They were oblivious to the lack of ready carts for the customers.

A simple look out of the plate glass window revealed a parking lot over flowing with carts. Carts in corals. Carts in parking spots. Carts abandoned on the small dirt islands that helped to divide the parking are into neat rows. Carts everywhere but inside the store entrance where I needed one.

My aggravation, once again, would translate into anger as I stormed out into the lot to push a rattling metal cart over the rough and uneven pavement. The loud vibrations finally abated once we reached the smooth linoleum of the store.  Safely inside, the front wheel revealed an annoying squeak previously masked by the thunders trip inside and of course,  a slight tug to the left.

ALDI grocery stores, with a stroke of simple genius, solved all of these problems, well most of them, by simply tethering each cart to the one in front with a device that requires a quarter to free a cart to be used in the store. The quarter is easily retrieved once shopping is completed, the groceries are safely stored in the car parked in the spot you pulled into the first time without incident and the empty cart glides back across the seemingly glassy smooth terrain of the ALDI parking lots.

With this simplistic system no carts are left abandoned in strange and inconvenient places. Plenty of carts wait in the coral (at least on the off-peak hours I shop) ready for the customer to slide in the quarter before slipping easily into the store. Freed from the frustrations and annoyances of traditional grocery store cart usage, customers’ grasps their carts and shop with kind and joyful hearts.

Shoppers, overflowing with patience, gladly wait for that weird, indecisive lady to smell each melon oblivious to dozens of others stacking up behind her as her cart blocks the entire aisle.

The staff smiles and practically sings as they checkout customers and stock shelves knowing they do not have to tramp out of doors in all types of inclement weather to wrangle carts left willy-nilly in the lot. Customers’ kindness rains down on them making them smile and even like their job. They volunteer to get that item you overlooked bringing an array of flavors or styles to let you choose never asking the customer to reshelve it.  

A simple quarter, twenty-five little pennies, have made the world a better place. A quarter is just enough money to motivate people to want the refund and return the cart but not so much as to discourage shoppers from spending lots of money.

Even better, a generous spirit overtakes some folks. These new philanthropists offer up their carts to new arrivals waving away the quarter proffered to pay them back. This simple act of kindness inspires a chain reaction of paying it forward as that one cart gets handed off free of charge all day long.

People help each other out by commandeering recently unloaded carts right at the trunk of their fellow shopper’s car saving them from pushing it back to the coral. An act rarely witnessed in traditional grocery store parking lots.

The good mood of the customers often translates to other small gestures such as helping a less abled body person wrangle that impulsively purchased bookshelf into their too small car.

The addition of a quarter to release a cart into the customers care is genius.

Twenty-five cents might just be all we need to make our country unite and find compassion for each other. The white supremacists hands the cart to the Mexican-American. The misogynistic boss hands off a cart to the administrative assistant who suffers with low pay and daily harassment. The climate change denier helps the woman with cloth bags unload her cart of the organic, ethically sourced foods she purchased so he can push it back into the store to load up with his processed foods.

The mighty quarter may just lead the way to making us kinder, safer and happier.

Just in case that doesn’t work stop what you are doing and write or call your congressional representatives and demand change so we can shop without getting shot.

Links for contacts can be found here:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Returning to Nature Through Pictures

By Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

Spring has sprung here in Western PA! The trees are budding. The daffodils are blazing in hues of yellow and orange. The grass is greening up and needs to be cut (or "needs cut" if you're a local). The songbirds are busy with their mating rituals and provide a symphony of music as the sun rises. The pollen is torturing every poor soul that suffers from seasonal allergies.

This past weekend I joined a group of folks who I'd like to think were significantly older, but in reality were my peers, sigh, on a trek through the woods of the nearby Yellow Creek State Park. We were led by an experienced nature photographer. She gave a thorough and information-packed talk on how to best take pictures in nature using whatever camera you own. 

Some of my photog cohorts lumbered around with cameras and tripods or cameras with lenses as tall as a toddler or just a simple cell phone. All listened intently as we learned how to take advantage of light and shadows. We learned how to frame a shot. We were encouraged to spend time with one subject and take the shot from different angles using a variety of settings (when available) to get a different effect.

We began our slow meandering walk into the woods forcing ourselves to see the beauty in the leafless trees, the rotting detritus of last fall that carpeted the forest floor and the general browness of the landscape.

After a few minutes and shifting my idea of what beauty is, I was able to spot a variety of shapes, textures and even some color peeking through to photograph. I spent some time fiddling with the manual settings on my Canon EOS not relying on the automatic options. I changed F stops and ISO. I zoomed and unzoomed. I got low and aimed high. 

I found green lichen making interesting patterns on the bark of trees. I found bark in all types of textures and shades of brown. Moss provided a spectrum of greens and textures. The sun glowed through thick clouds that at first appeared to be a solid wall but when studied they had shape and shades of grey. The barren trees made for dramatic angles. Red berries the birds hadn't eaten popped against grey-brown bark. Little yellow wildflowers popped from brown leaves providing a contrasting background.

Once I started to appreciate the beauty of early spring, I couldn't stop taking pictures. Most of my pictures did not come out as I had intended but it was nice to get back into using my camera that had been collecting dust. I needed this push to get me excited about a hobby I let slip away. I love taking pictures, especially black and white photos.

As I started to snap shot after shot I became excited. I got dirty as I knelt i in the ground for better angles. I wandered off from the group and winded my way into the woods looking for more interesting images.

I would have kept at it but my 10-year-old camera decided it had had enough and just shut off.

As I wait for the new battery to arrive, I anticipate my next foray into photography so I can hone my skills.

Until then I will share some of my not so great shots with you.

Happy Spring. Take time to enjoy the little beauties that get lost.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Magical Christmas on a Dime

 By: Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

My mother always managed to make our Christmases magical. It started with crafting hand painted ornaments or building them from clothespins with scraps of fabric and sundries from her sewing room. 

We always visited the local tree lot to select the perfect “fresh” cut evergreen tree. We would adorn that tree with the ornaments we’d made at home and school as well as the store bought and inherited treasures. Each branch of our perfectly lit tree would be finished with exactly three evenly hung pieces of tinsel. No balling it up into a frizzy mess and tossing it on at our house.

We would smell batches of her cookies baking throughout the season as mom perfected old and new recipes. We would be allowed to help decorate her cut out shapes with candies before she baked them. We even were permitted to select a few shapes to be made into her delicious sparkle cookies. There were parties and family gatherings as well.

Of course, the most anticipated time was Christmas morning when we would find mounds of presents under the tree and overflowing from our stockings. My sister and I received very few gifts throughout the year. Our parents did not spoil us by buying us every little toy we coveted. On our birthdays, we looked forward to a few gifts, but Christmas was when we hit the jackpot.

I’m not sure why my mom felt compelled to lavish us with such riches on this day. Perhaps she was trying to outdo her childhood. She was the fourth child of nine and my grandparents were not wealthy so gifts at Christmas were sparse. Perhaps she was trying to compensate for our emotionally absent and verbally abusive father. More than either of those, I suspect she liked to shop. She was an expert bargain hunter and that allowed her to buy many, many things for her girls at Christmas.

On Christmas morning it looked as if Santa had barfed under our tree. There were unwrapped toys that were clearly from Santa himself. Beyond those lay meticulously wrapped boxes that were from mom and dad to either my sister or myself. There had to be at least 20 gifts for each of us. There were toys, clothes and books.

After we opened those gifts, my grandmother would arrive with bags and bags that overflowed with gifts. Many of her gifts were handmade. She was crafty and a bit eccentric. Her gifts never disappointed. The most memorable of her lovingly crafted gifts was a piece of thick cardboard cutout into the shape of a wreath. She coated it in bright red wax and pressed seashells into the wax before it set. Then, she topped it off with a red feather. What eight-year-old wouldn’t want to unwrap that on Christmas day?

There were always more gifts from family friends. We would travel to my other grandma’s house where we would open several more gifts. The bounty and booty were overwhelming and glorious.

The tradition of overabundance continues to this day. My mother has created a monster of a tradition. The difference between then and now is that we do buy things for ourselves and our children throughout the year. We spoil ourselves and our kids 365 days a year, not just that one spectacular morning. As a result, the gifts at Christmas become redundant and not as exciting.

Not needing stuff or even wanting anything in particular combined with dwindling expendable income has made me want to downsize Christmas and focus more on the quality of the gift, not the quantity. The quality can be found in the meaning, not in the cost. 

A thoughtful gift means more to me than an expensive one.

I have been encouraging, to mixed reviews, the idea of low cost or free gifts for our Christmas. Rather than spending two or more hours opening gifts, why don’t we spend that time playing games, cooking and sharing stories? Christmas is often a time for families to reconnect, that in itself is a gift.

Ideas for Free or Cheap Gifts

  • Make a photo album
  • Frame a picture you made or a photo you took
  • Make a Mixed CD/[/playlist to share
  • Regift something you no longer need like jewelry, a pretty scarf, an heirloom cast iron pan or knife
  • Offer your services like babysitting, cleaning, painting, etc...
  • Gifts of food like granola, spiced nuts, soups mixes, baked goods, etc...
  • A box/book of your favorite recipes
  • A day out to a museum, park or another free place
  • A homemade meal
  • A handmade gift, not a wax wreath with seashells, but something you sewed, knitted, sculpted, painted, etc….

My mother happily agreed to provide gifts from the heart and her kitchen. So now, at Christmas, I open homemade cookies, hand-me-down jewelry, CD’s of her favorite music and 20 store-bought gifts. Not quite what I had in mind, but I appreciate the effort.

All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

Sparkle Cookie Recipe:
Pre-Heat oven to 375

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (softened)
1 ½ cups Sifted confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 egg
2 ½ cups sifted flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
Cream butter, vanilla, sugar and egg together. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the first mixture.

Chill the dough 1 hour cover with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. 

Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about ¼ inch thickness.

Cut into desired shapes with a floured cookie cutter

Place on baking sheet. Brush lightly with cool water. Decorate with Candies and sugars.

Bake for 10 minutes

Makes 3 dozen

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Think Thrice Before You Speak: How Social Media Made Me Nicer

By Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is it true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
~ Rumi
Those who have known me the longest know I had no gates to contain my words for much of my life. My words just leapt out the door as soon as my mouth swung open and ran for the hills unencumbered by barriers of any kind. No locks were in place to slow the pace of my often reckless word choices

The hurt and embarrassment they caused were not impeded. They just made a mad dash for the nearest pair of ears and drove their meaning both unintended and intended into the brain and heart of the people within reception distance.

Many times, I tried to will those words to make a sharp left as I prayed for the sound waves to be absorbed into a nearby tree or bounce off a wall and ricochet back into my mouth where I could swallow them back down and save myself the embarrassment and others the pain they would surely cause.

Sadly, acoustic science does not work like that.

Instead, I would inevitably have to face the consequences of my blabbermouth. My belief in always telling the truth no matter what was not as charming a quality as I had hoped. I thought honesty was the best policy. I still do.

If you want the truth, I’m your girl.

The problem was that I felt compelled to blurt the truth even when a white lie would have been a wiser and kinder option. Even just silence or evasive tactics like changing the subject would have served me better. For some reason, the truth always erupted from my lips and that was that.

Damage done.

My truth-telling was more obvious than I thought. Many people who I had thought took little notice of me and what I said often characterized me as someone that says it like it is. Or, she’s a straight shooter. Or, she’s not too shy to tell the truth. Or, she doesn’t hold back. Or, she has a strong personality. Or, she’s a bitch

Let’s face it, all those other euphemisms were just nicer ways of saying the latter.

The problem I had with that banal estimation was that I wasn’t a bitch. My words were never intended to hurt. They were meant to be kind. Truly. I believed being honest was the equivalent to kindness. I was not being mean or judgy like so many thought. That was me being nice.

Once I got my head out of my ass, I realized that my brand of thoughtfulness was never going to be perceived as kindness.

I needed to make a change.

" media taught me to be kinder and gentler"

Strangely enough, social media has taught me to be kinder and gentler. It has taught me to stop and think before I speak and respond. This took a bit of time and few instances of getting it wrong, very wrong before I learned to the art of letting my words pass through three gates before I speak.

How Social Media Taught me to be kinder:

Tone and intent are lost in the transmission. How many times have you sent a text or an email with a sarcastic tone in your mind only to realize the jokiness intended got lost in the microwaves no airwaves, no phone line, no…oh heck whatever line transmits our typed words to other people’s devices?

Other People are Jerks: Nothing has taught me this more than the cruelty that is being spewed in the name of political affiliation across the land of Facebook and Twitter. The things people feel compelled to share and the way others respond to what they disagree with is sickening. Many times, I have read something a reacted by typing some angry response followed by backspace, backspace, backspace until it was erased. I’ll sit and seethe and breathe and then type something more level-headed and wise only to realize that fool has no interest in my sage approach. So, I hit backspace over and over until my thoughts are erased once again. I walk away and imagine all the witty or intellectual retorts I could leave and then decide it’s best left unsaid. I am not going to change anyone’s mind or personality with a few well thought out sentences.

I want to have friends and family in my life and a job. While I occasionally like or share something that is mildly political that others with my group of followers, I purposely keep my stronger beliefs and opinions to myself. This is very hard to do because I want to support and defend those I love who are being hurt by the political views and leanings and voting of others who I like.

I have decided that I am not eloquent enough to be the voice that can make the strong arguments using factual information and the correct language needed. My rantings would sound more like inarticulate whining more than debate worthy knowledge presented in a professorial tone that I strive for.

If I allow my truth to flow from my fingertips, I will offend many more people than I did when it spewed from my lips. I want to share information about the things I love on social media: my family, my books, my travels, my work, and what I eat because I eat some pretty damn tasty stuff. If I start ranting about my politics I will alienate those people I want to hold close. Just because we don’t agree politically doesn’t mean I want to lose them in my life. Well most of them. Some I just can’t handle their level of hate so I unfollow them, but the others I want to keep.

Being employable for years to come is necessary. I am only 49. I can’t risk making myself a pariah in the warm and fuzzy field in which I work. All I can say is as my retirement age gets closer, watch-out. I may just let the words fly again. That is if I have word finding ability at that age.

So, for now, I have installed three gates. I will determine if what I have to say is true. I will then decide if sharing it is necessary. Finally, I will ask if it is kind. Once my words have passed through the three gates, I will type them and then ask the even more important questions, is my spelling and grammar correct?

Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action