Category Archives: Life in General

Miscellaneous observtions on Life

90 % of Worries are Self-induced & Stressful


Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due.” ~ William R. Inge   

 

 

I used to be one of the worst worry-warts.  There’s always something you can find to worry about – whether it’s going to rain tomorrow and you hate to drive in the rain, or it’s 3:00 am. and the new driver in the house is not home yet.

Once I had a mini spirit-breaker over a job change.  It wasn’t the work that I wanted to do or studied for in school; I was transferred to another department that I had no interest in.  I worried about everything connected to this job for 9 or 10 hours a day.  What if I quit?  What if I didn’t succeed in something I had no passion for?  What if I made a lot of mistakes?  What if I get fired?  What if . . . ?

What are the odds of worrisome thoughts actually coming true?  Statistics tell us that the probability of things we worry about that won’t ever happen:  a whopping 45%; reliving regrettable events that happened in the past: 25%; unnecessary worrying about health: 10%; and nagging, miscellaneous worries: 10%.

So around 90 percent of worries are pure self-induced stressful, unnecessary time-consumers. The remaining 10%, are actual issues that may have merit to give thought to or concern about . .

  “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” ~Author Unknown

During a more-than-usually stressful peak in my hell-on-earth job, I asked a supporter for advice on what to do.  She asked me back, “Is it a life or death situation?” And although it felt like it was, it truly wasn’t.  No.  Then she asked, “Will this be as important 6 months from now?” And again, I said, no, it probably would not.   And she replied with the cliché, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and everything is small stuff. ” This advice was helpful to me in dealing with the day to day problems.  But when, at times, the stress increased, I asked another Support Person to help me – a Heavenly One.  In prayer.  I asked God to take this cup from me if it were His will.

Prayers are sometimes answered through other persons or events (this happens a lot to me; I believe there are no coincidences). That next Sunday, the pastor’s sermon caught my attention. He suggested that when stress is overwhelming you, go to a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.  Close your eyes and visualize all the stress factors in your life that you are dealing with.  Lumped together, they are overwhelming.  They would be to anyone. But — God tells us:    “Fret not yourself…..” (Psalm 37:1)

Take them, these ‘stress-thorns in your side’ — one at a time, and mentally picture giving each one individually to God. Visualize the problem ‘thorn’ and extend each one to God, literally with outstretched hands, asking Him to take it from you and to handle it from now on. Visualize God taking the worry from you.  And don’t take it back.  He wants to help you.  As you give each worry to Him, remember to thank Him for relieving you of this burden.  Consider it a ‘done deal’.  Take a deep breath and relax.  It’s not your problem anymore to worry about.  It’s in His Hands. And you will be amazed how God will give you peace. Our Ultimate Father in Heaven promises us this:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

P.S.  God did take the cup from me – and replaced it with the best job I ever had.

© Marie Coppola, Revised March 2015

 

If You Have No Expectations ~ There Will Be No Disappointments


As we look around and see results of the recession in some lives of family and friends, we can see how expectations for a good life can meet with disappointments. We can learn from what caused the recession.

“It’s a boom-bust world” says Kenneth Rogoff . When asked what caused the worst recession to grip the globe in decades, Professor Rogoff, a Harvard University economics and public policy professor, said history shows the pattern. Recessions follow booms.

Expectations for prosperity caused great disappointments. We can say these circumstances were beyond our control and yet, they cause disappointments. Big, major disappointments.

What if we add all those big ones to all those little disappointments we experience each day? If we depend on circumstances to gauge our happiness, we are in jeopardy because circumstances are constantly changing. And like the big ones, they are beyond our control. You might say you don’t do that. In a day’s time you may do it more than once. I use to.

I have felt like that when a great promotion was coming up that I just knew I was ready for; it was ‘my time’ in the department to move up, and I ‘sensed’ that I would get it — and I didn’t. I ‘expected’ the schools to close due to the bad weather, but it didn’t, and I had two teens bored from being indoors with ‘nothing to do’ while I had made my own plans for that day. I expected’ that I would get an “A” I worked hard for in my writing class, and instead, I got a “C.” No way! I expected my best article ever to be selected for a contest, and it didn’t. I set myself up for these disappointments because I ‘expected’ them.

When you place your expectations on people, you will usually be disappointed. A good friend whom you thought would never betray you, may have told another of a secret you told him. Or your child may turn off into another path you had not envisioned for them. Or an illness in the family changed the dynamics of plans you had made. You may be having a divorce which separates the family into a lifestyle you never thought or expected would happen to you. Crushed expectations; big disappointments. Life and people change; the unexpected happens. To us all.

I know that men and women can never fulfill all of each other’s needs. Only God can fill that place in my heart that needs that fulfillment. But I use to expect them to and in those expectations of them, when they don’t or cannot, I was disappointed. Disappointment is ‘the first seed of doubt’ and can lead to defeat or depression.

So how do we learn not to expect things from others, not to lean on others for our joy or happiness? Can we unlearn the emotion of expecting others to fulfill our needs and do the things we think they ought to do?

Yes, I believe we can. God made all of us in His image – not everyone else’s image. We are all separate beings. He did not make a commandment saying, “Thou shalt expect others to fulfill our needs and do what we want them to do.” Actually, the commandments are a compilation of honoring and doing good to others ;not expecting them to do good for us.

My answer to “Have no Expectations – Have no Disappointments”, is to experience gratitude and thanksgiving. By daily acknowledging gratitude for all the gifts and blessings I have in my life, I make them more important than the things I expect or want from others.

I had a tremendous expectation turn into disappointment with my teen-age son. It was a turbulent time and I loved him, but did not like him much. The disappointed expectation turned into a life role play where I was the mother of expectations and he was the child of disappointments. I had visions of what he should do with his life and he had much different views of what he wanted. So much so, that it affected our relationship and the whole family was affected.

I finally went to a trusted family counselor and gave him my story. He wanted my son to come in to hear his view. That being done, he then told me my son did not have to come back, but I did. What? Is there some mistake here, I am paying for this session and I’m the disappointer?

I did return and he explained that my son was perfectly happy with himself and in his choices for school, work and his future. I had different expectations for him and that was my problem. His remedy was that I should learn to love my son as he was and to compliment him each day on something he did that was good. I told him there was nothing he did that pleased me. And his answer was, ‘If he takes the garbage out, that is good – thank him.’

Which is the only thing I could do and the garbage taking-out WAS good and I did genuinely thank him. I’m happy to say that I did follow the counselor’s advice, I thanked my son for all the good things (and there were many I had overlooked) and downplayed what I thought was bad.

Within a week, the tension subsided and we were talking and smiling to each other. The mother of expectations and the child of disappointments were no more. I took stock of what the doctor told me and found that once I lost my expectation of what I believed was ‘good’ for my son, I found what was ruining our relationship.

Today, I am so blessed to have such a close and endearing relationship with this man – my son, who has done well in his life and succeeded without my expectations. Instead, he had my support, love and encouragement

I made a habit of gratitude instead of expectation. Don’t grumble or murmur if your mate forgets to put the mail out. Yes, you expect him to do that every morning, but he was in a hurry today. Instead, call him and ask him how his day is going and don’t mention the mail. It will get where it’s going. Expectation can become a habit and sometimes the more you expect, the more you want. Then you have to deal with more disappointments.

Marie Coppola © Revised November 2012

Thinking of Borrowing from your 401k? First ~ Know the Rules!

In these lean times, your savings account may be decreasing and you may need some extra cash. Loans are hard to come by with banks and lending institutions.  Borrowing money from friends and family may not be an option for you. Your retirement funds are nestled away in your 401k plan but it’s always been advised that you don’t touch it unless it’s a hardship.

If you are still working, your company may have some restrictions about borrowing or withdrawing from it, and if you are retiring or retired, your options will differ. The following are standard options for you if you are still working: There are usually two ways to withdraw from your 401K.

You can withdraw money as [1] a loan to yourself or you can withdraw money by [2] claiming a hardship.

[1] Withdrawing monies as a LOAN.   You are ‘borrowing’ on your own money according to the rules of your plan and pay yourself back with interest (usually the going prime rate plus 1%). You can take up to five years to repay the amount borrowed. In a loan to yourself, there are no restrictions on why you are withdrawing: it could be a large personal purchase, wedding expenses, a new car or anything you may want to buy. There are no tax penalties involved in this type of withdrawal. Repayment of loans are taken out automatically from your payroll check. You may repay back the entire amount of the loan without any penalties. Some 401k plans require a spouse’s approval for any loan amount.

Disadvantages of Loan Withdrawal:

[a] the money you withdraw will hamper your retirement funds with the loss of five years of compound interest – the “golden egg” of 401ks. Compound interest charts will give you an idea of what you may be giving up by losing all the compounding interest that you could have earned, therefore diminishing your future earnings.

[b] If you leave the company or are terminated before the loan is paid off then you have to repay the loan upon your termination or it will be considered as an ‘early withdrawal’ and the penalties that come with it — plus taxes.

We all know that there are life events that could force you to withdraw from your 401k if there are no other financial sources, such as a home equity loan. The only other way to withdraw on your 401k is to claim a ‘hardship’.

[2] Withdrawing monies as a HARDSHIP.   Hardships are defined as : overdue medical expenses; avoiding foreclosure (stipulations vary), funeral expenses, and college tuition. These hardships require documentation to prove that you have no other assets to draw on before the hardship is allowed.

Disadvantages of Hardship Withdrawal:

[a] Not only will you pay income taxes on the withdrawal amount (as added income), but also a 10% federal penalty for early withdrawal.

[b] You will be suspended from contributing into your account for six months, losing any company matching funds; a big loss that is hard to recoup, again, by losing all the compounding interest that you could have earned, therefore diminishing your future earnings.

[c] If your employer goes bankrupt or you’re laid off, the loan automatically becomes due. You will be given a certain amount of time to pay it back. If you fail to do, you will be classified as “default.” If you are on default for a 401k loan, you will be charged a 10% penalty fee for the outstanding loan amount as well as pay federal and local state taxes.

These withdrawal options above are for when you are still working on the job. It is advised by financial planners that when you leave your company or retire, you should roll your 401k into an IRA or other stable or fixed fund investments.

Disclaimer:  These materials have been prepared for information purposes only. They are not intended to be nor do they constitute legal advice.

Marie Coppola © Revised November 2012

Why Grandparents are a Blessing

 

Sandwiched between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are Grandparents.  What would we do without grandparents?

I remember a story about a young man who was very close to his grandmother.

On her deathbed, when he went in to say his goodbyes, his grandmother took his hand and told him, “I believe in you. You will be very successful one day”. This young man always remembered her prediction and went on to become successful in work, family and life. He believed what she told him and it became self-fulfilling.

Plagiarizing Jesus’ Beatitudes on the Sermon on the Mount, I offer and dedicate Beatitudes for Grandparents, celebrating grandparents and why we are so thankful to have them:

1) Blessed are the grandparents, who lovingly and joyfully come to the aid of their children and grandchildren in times of joy and in times of needs. Especially blessed are those senior parents who live some distance away, and bond with their little ones by phone, letters, e-mails, tapes and videos. The warmth from these communications lessens the distance between them.

2) Blessed are the grandparents who comfort their grandchildren in times of trouble, sorrow, disappointment, and maybe just for not making the football team or cheerleader squad. Grandparents’ comfort in caring for them gives them extra assurances of love. A kind and understanding word goes a long way, and is most special from a grandparent.

3) Blessed are the grandparents who instill confidence and self esteem to their grandchildren by appreciating and acknowledging their achievements – educationally, athletically or spiritually. Extra blessings for those grandparents who live nearby and attend school functions, class trips or school plays. Their presence lights up their grandkids’ activities. Attend a school lunch or a midget football game and watch how happy kids are that their grandparents are there!

4) Blessed are the grandparents who mentor their grandchildren with ethical issues, honesty in all things and offer themselves as examples of what kind of adults they should aspire to be. A grandparent’s fine example is better than reading a book about it. Kids emulate their parents and their grandparents.

5. Blessed are the grandparents who are patient with their grandchildren, especially if there are issues of fighting, misbehaving or argumentative displays between siblings. Especially blessed are those grandparents, who use tactics of understanding, forgiveness, and persuasion to bring calm waters to a stormy situation. Sometimes, a grandparent’s input is listened to more than a parent. A grandparent can be a great equalizer.

6. Blessed are the grandparents who act as peacemakers, not only with their own children and their family, but between grandchildren, too. It is a blessing when there is no finger pointing or taking sides or adding fuel to a fiery situation during family arguments. Grandchildren recognize grandparents ‘having some clout over their own parents’ actions; and that ‘clout’ is directed towards unity and not divided-ness.

7. Blessed are the grandparents who can overlook the young grandchild’s honest remarks about them; ie, you are old; you look fat, you look skinny, you aren’t as good on the computer as my mommy ; you walk funny; why is your hair gray? – and are serene enough to remember they are children and do not mean disrespect. Blessed are the grandparents who can make a joke or gloss over ‘truthful remarks’. Parents especially are thankful for this.

8. Blessed are the grandparents who are young in spirit and ‘play’ with their grandchildren. Kids LOVE to play and grandparents who usually have more time than their own parents to play board games, watch them on PlayStation [very boring, but kids love for Gramps or Nana to watch them] or even games you played when young. Kids love bingo, scrabble, monopoly, checkers, etc. or you can teach them card games or chess. Playing and having fun makes a strong bond between generations. Both enjoy these activities. Kids are very competitive and extra-blessings to grandparents who allow them to win sometimes.

9. Blessed are the grandparents who attend church functions with the family. Even if visiting on a trip and Nonna lives far away, going to church with the grandkids brings an extra bond in relationships. Kids listen to Grandma’s input on spiritual matters as well as others, and they will ask her questions they won’t ask other adults. She listens to them and answers them as best she can. A spiritual bond is a lasting bond.

10. Most blessed are the grandparents who show affection and love to these small people – and most find it very easy to do. The grandkids know how important Mimi and Pop-Pop are to the family unit, and how their unconditional love is the only one they will know besides their parents’. They know it and bask in it. Maybe it can be that one day these children may live with their grandparents or they with the kids or grandkids, and the love element will allow that to happen with more ease and naturalness.

There are countless ways that we are blessed with these ’surrogate parents’. Some are latch-key caretakers; some take the grandkids on vacations with them, or take them shopping which turn into memorable jaunts, or to the movies the grandparent really has no interest in going to, or simply reading and learning together. Grandparents are there for school vacations or extended visits. Grammy makes the best cookies and lets the grandkids help. Grandpa puts the miniature trains together and teaches anyone who wants to learn how to fish.

The best gift that grandparents give is the gift of themselves; they make some of our best adult memories. If we are fortunate to still have them, we are ever so thankful.

Copyright © Marie Coppola Revised November 2012

Do Men Really Listen to Women?

Men’s Selective Auditory Problem (SAP)

If you are observant and even if you are not, you have to notice that men and women hear differently ~ which probably accounts for communication problems some of the time ~ well, much of the time ~ OK ~ most of the time.

This auditory malfunction may be triggered in childhood when little boys make all those whhrrrrrr and brrrrrrmmm truck noises when they are involved in the concentrated effort of maneuvering steel trucks bigger than they are. They are totally ‘engaged’ trance-like in what they are doing. They hear nothing but their own noises. It’s a male thing.

Little boys take longer to come when they are called. This happens when calling them from their rooms, the bathroom, playing outside, watching TV or playing video games or anything that is compartmentalized. They simply are working at ‘compartmentalizing – a trait that was handed drown from another male influence and is designed to drive their female companions crazy. Males are direct in what they are discussing and when a subject has been talked about for 5 minutes, they are done. When they don’t want to ‘go there’ at all — they simply don’t ~ and the auditory malfunction occurs – they simply didn’t hear it. They nod a lot and say hmm, hmm, but the words never made it through the ear canal.

Females rarely compartmentize but are very good at dramatization and compounding discussions and conversations leaping from one subject to another which can last hours, overnight or even a talking-marathon weekend. On some occasions, it can last months.

It is a fact that little girls, hear everything. They can hear their mother applying nail polish in the next room and join in pronto with out-stretched fingers. They listen to every word spoken in the house and love to repeat it verbatim to anyone who happens in their path or they will go out and find one. Little girls are why neighbors know everything that goes on in your home. They are communicators and can hear the lowest whispering, decipher voice tones and even interpret spelling intended for them not to understand.   No matter how young they are – they get it. They understand. And they like to talk about what they understand. Or analyze what they quite didn’t understand. It’s a pre-cursor to becoming a mother which is the peak of their best auditory performances. This magnified hearing lasts their whole life. Some hear things BEFORE someone actually says it.

Auditory malfunctions morph and become increasingly dysfunctional and create havoc in marriages. The longer the marriage, the more hearing loss impairment ~ I mean selection.

Here is a typical communication between husband and wife waking up on a weekend.

She: “Good morning honey, What a gorgeous day! Look the sun is shining ~ wonder what the temp is — check, can you? — and we have great weather to go over Pam & Joe’s to pick up the desk she is giving us.”    She gives a detailed description of the desk, its measurements, how each drawer will be used and in which room they could put it and adds what times would be best to pick it up.  She continues to list all the things they had to do that day – AND methods of how to bring the desk home unscathed.

He: “Yuh”. (Silence for 3 seconds)……then….

She: “I had the best dream last night” (goes into descriptive, expressive, and demonstrative description of dream with exclamations and laughter).

He: “Burp”.

She: “Are you hungry? I can make some eggs and bacon (lists 5 or 7 different options) – or wait, we could go out to breakfast with Pam & Joe – should I call them?”

He: (Is in the shower already). No answer.

She: Opens the door and repeats what she said.

He: “I can’t hear you”.

She goes downstairs to make breakfast. As he comes down the stairs (she starts hearing him approach while he dries himself with the towel and hears him cleaning his ears with Q-tips. From downstairs.

She: “Shall we take the dog for a run in the park this morning?”.

He: (Sitting down looking over the paper) “I parked the car in the driveway”.

She: “I wasn’t talking about the car”.

He (not looking up) “I can take it to the car wash . No problem.”

She: “What about Pam and Joe?”

He: “What happened to them?”

She: “I think you need a hearing aid”.

Of course, he doesn’t need a hearing aid.   When he is in the car with Joe and Steve driving to a baseball game, he has heard everything that Joe and Steve said, even if both of them are in the back seat, and it is hailing, raining and thundering outside from a sudden thunderstorm, and country music is blaring on the radio and a tractor-trailer is traveling alongside them. Every word is traveling smoothly through his ear canal.

It’s called “Selective Hearing” and there is no hearing aid that can fix it.

Marie Coppola  ©  November 2012

 

Our Fallen Heroes in Foreign Lands

It was on one of many trips to Siracusa, Sicily, that I noticed a wrought iron gate on the side of the busy road,  Behind the wrought iron gate were numerous uniform graves similar to the uniformity found at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. We tried to park to see what was in the cemetery as family cemeteries in Sicily are very different from this one. The parking was difficult, impossible that day, so we passed it by. We tried on subsequent jaunts to Siracusa to try to park and did once, but could not get into the gates. When we asked the Sicilians about it, they would call it the English Cemetery and said there were probably Americans buried there, too.

One May, appropriately nearing Memorial Day, the honoring of fallen heroes, we finally visited inside the gates.

The grounds are immaculately cared for and flowers and shrubs are well tended. These war cemeteries (CWGC) are distinctive in treating floriculture, or flower farming, which is a discipline of horticulture concerned with the cultivation of flowering and ornamental plants as an integral part of the cemetery design.

Established by Royal Charter in 1917, the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) pays tribute to the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. It is a non-profit-making organization that was founded by Sir Fabian Ware, then commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross. This sensitive man, driven by the enormity of large-scale loss, felt compelled to provide a final resting place for fallen heroes on foreign soil. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known graves. These graves sites, are all over the world, and are cared for by the Commonwealth. The dead come from many different countries and cultures, all social ranks, standings and faiths.

The Commission’s principles:

Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial

Headstones and memorials should be permanent

Headstones should be uniform

There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed

Since its inception, the Commission has constructed 2,500 war cemeteries and plots, erecting headstones over graves and, in instances where the remains are missing, inscribing the names of the dead on permanent memorials. Over one million casualties are now commemorated at military and civil sites in some 150 countries. They build memorials for people who have no known grave and they keep records of the people who have died.

The grave headstones are uniform, similar to those in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. and there are no distinctions made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed. Some have names and branch of service and some have none. Some graves have remains of multiple persons with no name or country. Where the deceased is known, there may be a name, country, personal family message or religious affiliation. The majority of those who are buried in this cemetery fell July 10, 1941 when the Commonwealth forces landed in Sicily or in the early stages of the next campaign. Many were part of the Airborne troops who were killed when strong winds pushed their gliders away from their targets. And some who died here are unknown, both in name or where they were from.

The operating cost of the Commission are split amongst the organization members in proportion to the number of their war dead. The six current members are United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

We were the only ones in the cemetery that last Mother’s Day visit. I had a strong sense of separation from my own children across the waters on this day to honor mother’s and felt a kinship to the many graves around me also separated from their mothers across the waters. As I walked amongst the graves, reading the inscriptions therein, I felt a strong sense of respect and honor for these brave, fallen men, some not yet 20 and those in their prime of life.

The epitaphs, where the person was known were poignant. One merely said, “A Victim of the Second War World.” Others said, “Nine Soldiers of the Second World War” – Army Air Corps – Known Unto God; Another: “A Soldier of the 1939-1945 War”. And, “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember him”. “Not till the Loom is silent; and Shuttles cease to fly; Shall God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.” “May some kind hand, in some foreign land, Place a flower just for me, “My Hero”.    May they rest in peace.

Marie Coppola © Revised 2017

October is Season for Spiders

 

In October around Halloween time, pumpkins and scarecrows appear on people’s doorsteps. Along with these welcome and festive decorations, another prospect of something appearing on your doorstep is something many have a phobia about. Arachnoids, commonly called ’spiders’. Since I, myself, have a horror of these eight-legged arthropods — it is said there are 40,000 different species — isn’t that enough to make a night terror?

Why am I writing about them while I have goose bumps on my arm just thinking about them?  Because I believe in ‘knowing thy enemy’. If you don’t know their habits, you may unexpectedly bump into them with unwanted results.

When we moved to South Carolina, everyone told us that there were a lot of bugs here. This is true. There are bugs here that not only have I never seen before, I still don’t know what some of them are. They are avoided at all costs. Don’t know what it is? — my motto — Don’t go near it and Go away from it.

But the spiders down here grow BIG. Super-size! Nightmare size. We had spiders up north where we lived all our lives, but they were the garden variety, and were seen mostly in the fall when it got cold and they wanted a winter retreat inside. Since the weather is warmer down south longer, the spiders have ample time and choice to pick where they will vacation for the winter. But there’s no room at THIS inn.

I researched spiders before we moved here. Especially southern ones. I wanted to know what was here and what to expect. There is such a thing as having too much knowledge. or too much information {TMI}. Sometimes, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. But there were some very interesting things I learned about spiders and how to live with them {goose bumps again and now I’m scratching}.

As much as I have trouble writing about them, spiders are actually good for the ecological balance – and especially as part of the garden. They help reduce the amount of caterpillars, moths who do damage to trees, and especially those pesty mosquitoes. All spiders are venomous, but most of them lack the fangs to inflict damaging venom to those who have the misfortune to be bitten. Those with fangs and venom are: Brown Recluse, Black Widow {BW} and the fairly new, Brown Widow.

The other thing about the south is that in the morning, you can clean off a porch, veranda or patio or anywhere – and go to the store. When you return, the zealous little octagon-fingered nightmare will have a new home all webbed out in its place. So, at some point, you have to know who are the enemies and whom you allow to be neighbors.

Recently, I almost went face-first into an enormous web in my flower garden. It was an orb web, similar to the web in ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Before my nose touched it, my heart started to pound, realizing that some mega Gigantra Spiderosis –my made-up name — probably made this giant web which was not there the day before. It was like the sci-fi movie kind of spider web. Lo and behold, my fear turned to reality and I was inches away from a ‘banana’ spider– more formally known as nephila clavipes, banana spider of North America. They possess venom similar in nature to the venom of the black widow, but far less potent, making it quite harmless to humans. A bite from a North American banana spider will not result in much more than a welt that will pass within 24 hours. Of course, I did not know this info that before the encounter. Here is a picture and the size compared to a human hand, which definitely and positively is not my hand.

 

banana spider

Needless to say, my heart pounded much more violently and I stood entranced in shock for a several seconds and then beat it into the house yelling and screaming — my M.O. for when I see a spider and everyone gets on red alert. Someone responded and was ready to kill it, and I said to catch it instead – I was totally, morbidly fascinated that something so scary lived right in my back yard. It was caught and put in a Tupperware bowl with lid and put in the garage so I could peruse it when my blood pressure resumed it’s normalcy.

The internet can be a wonderful thing or it can open doors where you’ve never been and I learned all about the banana spider. They are harmless, they are very helpful in gardens, they like to build their webs close to the house. {Great}. For those of you who prefer the book info: “N. clavipes banana spiders have elongated bodies that resemble a banana in shape and coloring, beautifully bright yellow and black. The males are about half the size of females, and dark colored. Females grow quite large with a body length of about 1.1 inches {33 cm}. North American banana spiders prefer sunny areas and tend to like tall plants or trees. They will often spin a web across a walkway or trail, spanning several feet. The web of the North American banana spider is orb-shaped, golden, and is stronger than most spiders’ webs. In fact its silk is stronger than comparable threads of Kevlar or steel.” They are unlikely to find themselves indoors either as adults or as hatchlings. 🙂

And then I read that they are so NOT aggressive; that you could even lean into them and press against them and they may not bite even then. Furthermore, if they do bite, it is very rare and quite harmless, and I relaxed. A little. Well, somewhat. Enough so, that I went into the garage to see the monster and this was about 5 hours later. She was still alive and sitting there so I told the spider-catcher to let her go back into the garden. He did just that. I was in the house behind locked doors, of course, and he said that when he let it go – the spider scurried away as fast as she could scamper, probably to tell the Banana Family that she just saw the biggest bugs ever and they captured her in a Tupperware bowl. She is still out there making more orb webs, which are quite spectacular if you don’t think about what’s on them.

Now, my family tells me that black widow spiders, too, are helpful in keeping bugs in your yard under control, but guess what? I would wipe one of those BW’s out as fast as I could. The banana spider {who now makes her orb web far enough from the house but still in view} is big enough that she will undoubtedly keep my yard and the yards on either side of our street free of pesty bugs.   And probably to the next street.

Marie Coppola © Revised October 2018

Stop Complaining – A Smile is the Lighting System of the Face.


Paul of Tarsus said: “Do you do all things without murmuring and disputing?”

Do you habitually complain, whine, argue and grumble? Do you know anyone who does not? It seems to have become a habit for many of us. By the way, the word “murmurings” refers to the complaints of the Israelites during their wanderings. You may know murmurings as being critical of others, bitterness, bickering, protesting or being unsociable. Pessimism. Negativity. In the New Testament, Paul said: “Do you do all things without murmuring (complaining) and disputing?” 

Have you noticed that people get caught up in heated and unending political discussions? — lots of murmurings going on there. Our change in government has caused new policies and procedures being enacted or offered – big time murmurings at home and the office. Don’t forget the economy or loss of jobs — just mention the price of gas — oh, big time grumble – every time they gas up. Many prices have gone up – layoffs are increasing – homes are foreclosed; there are countless things to whine and be bitter about and protest against. It hasn’t been easy for anyone.

St. Paul in his ministry while traveling and visiting many countries, cities in one of his directives, a Letter to the Philippians (2:14) — “Do all things without murmuring and disputing”.

If you are not a Christian, you may not be aware of Paul of Tarsus, also called Paul the Apostle, who really was a Hellenistic Jew who called himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles”. Along with Peter, the Rock of the Catholic Church and the first ‘Pope’, they were among the most notable of early Christian missionaries.

Paul’s conversion to a follower of Christ is a profound story of faith. He spread Christanity by accounts of his travels which are found as Letters in the New Testament of the Bible and are full of expositions of what Christians should believe and how they should live.

What do we do in answer to Paul’s instruction – not to complain in all things. Sometimes it’s hard not to vent. Sometimes it feels good to get it off your chest. It’s hard to comply with the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” How can we tweak that?

We could say, “If you can only say something negative, don’t say anything at all”. Negative begets negative. Positive begets positive. It’s difficult to be positive when things are looking bleak, but does it help to heap more negativity on the pile?

It can become a habit to view everything with a sour outlook which becomes a bitterness and creates more murmurings. There’s little worse than facing each day with doom and gloom. Becoming embittered won’t change the price of gasoline or bring the prices down. It won’t change the politics of the day or create a new healthcare plan.

Listen to yourself and see how you approach these subjects. Do you always say things, “I’m afraid that….” or “I know that things are going to get worse before they get better”…..or “I hate this or I hate that or I hate them or I hate him ….” or “That’s BS” or “they’re stupid” or “they are such a bunch of #&%$’s. And the beat goes on and the words become more heated and your murmurings may keep you from sleeping well at night. Your fear and hate will become self-fulfilling. You are what you think.

We can offset these complaints by offering words of kindness and compassion and hope. Change your heart and you will change your attitude. Kind thoughts and acts will replace your habits of negative thoughts. Negative and Positive thoughts cannot share the same space in your mind. Crowd out those negative ones. God is still in control and local, national and world events are not as hopeless as we make them. Many others before us have lived through challenging times; bad times seem to be cyclical and eventually change from bad to good.

Be an agent for change. They say if you force yourself to smile, you will feel uplifted. ‘A smile is the lighting system of the face’…it sure beats the frowns and growls. Smiles beget smiles. Maybe your co-worker or spouse or friend is tired of ‘murmuring’ or listening to yours, too, and you can make the difference to change that.

Don’t get bogged down by the signs of the times. If you are spiritual, try to maintain a cheerful, willing mind, as we do what God has instructed. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Phil. 2:14-16a).

In a small village in a lovely setting in Sicily where we visited recently, there is a remembrance of Paul’s traveling through there and sharing his ministry. The church in the village is called Sao Paolo (St. Paul) and there is a marking along the road where it is said he slept. His spirit is still felt there.

Fill your spirit with Paul’s teaching: “Do all things without murmuring and disputing”. It can work and all you have to lose are your frown lines.

Marie Coppola © 2012   TBContinued…..Gombah’s Life Today ~ Chapter 10

YOLO vs. Saving for a Rainy Day ~ by Guest, Sharon Cece*

 Raleigh Frugal Family Examiner

Sharon Cece is a writer and columnist with a background in administrative management. Promoting thrift as an alternative to consumption, Sharon uses simple, common sense approaches to family budgeting and economizing. Her one-income saving solutions have appeared in a number of print and internet…

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Outside this fine morning, the sun was shining brightly in a blue sky. There was no evidence whatsoever of clouds, rain or rumble. I deduced, therefore, that I did not need to drag along an umbrella or jacket, that I could spend the day – based on the information I was given sensorily – dry, warm and safe.

Thus, I left the house without aforementioned umbrella or coat, and planned my day with confidence that things would go according to plan.

Five hours later, as blue changed to gray then black, I – drenched and cold, shaking my fist at the sudden foul turn of events, plans ruined – couldn’t help but wonder how I could have prepared better for this bitter, unexpected atmospheric shake-up. Even the weatherman let me down!

Our financial skies tend to be as fickle – one day, you’re confident that you can pay all your bills into the unseen future, eat at restaurants comfortably a few times a week, buy the latest upgrade in technology (hey I work hard, I deserve it, and I need to keep up with my friends; after all, what will they think?), plan for retirement, put money away for the kids college, pay off my debt, savings…well, if I have money left over, sure, savings.

But life – often stormy and unpredictable – can take a sudden shift: a reduction in income, an equally unexpected increase in expenses, credit card debt, household repairs, childcare issues and medical expenses. Financial climates, like the weather, can change quickly and with little forewarning.

Metaphorically speaking, saving for a rainy day is always a good idea, but one the average American pushes to the back of the equally metaphoric closet. It’s the last thing on our growing list. The reason for this is what teens today refer to as “YOLO“, You Only Live Once. Most people agree that bills need to be paid, but the consensus gets a bit sketchy when it comes to what and how much. People want to live richly; the thought of being frugal and careful with spending is more frightening than saving for…well, what may not happen. What probably won’t happen. Live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow. We’ll worry about hard times if and when they hit…

Saving for a rainy day. No, not as much fun as living in the moment. Not as much fun, granted, as up-to-the-minute technology and nice cars and new furniture, and Starbucks coffee, loaded, with whipped cream (remember, I deserve it!).

Yet, saving for a rainy day provides a lot more relief when the rain starts to fall and you know you’re covered. Just like when you’re dragging that umbrella around – inconveniently, no doubt – until the moment you need it, and the drenched are standing there looking at a dry you, relief etched on your smiling face.

At some point, we all have to make tough financial decisions. By saying “No” to expensive items and frivolous purchases, we say “Yes” to our peace of mind and our security. We can’t stop rough times from coming, but by preparing financially, we can make those tougher times less stressful and still have good lives. What makes a good life anyway: is it “things”? Living just for today with little thought for tomorrow? Or is it living smart, prepared, comfortable but not excessively, content in the little things, joyful in those moments that don’t cost a single penny.

For frugal families, “YOLO” has a much different meaning. It doesn’t pertain to a day, a week or even a year. It’s a lifelong attitude. It means living within your means so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to make mortgage payments (low payments, since you bought a small house with an equally small mortgage). How you’re going to get from point A to point B (you own all your cars and have no payments). How you’re going to eat (you eat at home, with inexpensive ingredients, learn to cook and bake, buy on sale, freeze, and don’t waste). How you’re going to make it during a stormy financial climate (you’ve put away money continuously, kept your debts and purchasing low, lived frugally, and you know you’ll be okay). YOLO = You Only Live One (Life), not One (Day)…

…for where will living it up for one day leave you in an unprepared tomorrow?

Sharon L. Cece © 2012

Gombah Becomes a Traveler………Chapter 2

 

Gombah thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors and Nello’s company. He loved prancing around outside and monitoring the garden, chasing chipmunks, squirrels and anything that moved. I would watch him from the deck running a marathon around the yard and dashing up a tree and down again – so high, I would imagine having to call the fire department. Occasionally, he would bring us a mouse dangling from his mouth or a bird flapping it’s wings but then he would meow and in doing so, would drop his prey which would run or fly away in much haste. Gombah was on the chase again.

 Gombah dropped & saved this poor bird when he meowed.

By the time that first winter approached, I was retired, too, from a downsizing and we decided to spend it in our condo in North Carolina by the beach. Gombah experienced his first travel venture which was 12 hours in the car. And he was a trooper.  It was in December and cooler that year than we expected.  We decided that instead of the expensive ‘house’ we bought for him to sleep on the screened porch, Gombah would be allowed in the condo.   “Temporarily”, added Nello. “And only when we are down here”.

At first, Gombah, was hesitant to do anything in the condo. He obviously knew that Nello was not comfortable having him inside. He didn’t know where to sit or lie down. Nello liked to take afternoon naps on the couch, so he patted his chest for the cat to join him – since he didn’t want him on the furniture. (Nello was still not sure if the condo was the same as our home and if the cat should be in it). The cat did not hesitate and so began the afternoon naps of the cat sleeping on Nello’s chest. And a strong bond was formed.

The ‘boys’ taking their afternoon siesta.  They became buddies that winter. I would remind Nello that although it was not our home, it was a home dwelling for us and the cat was in it. Nello said that we had no choice – “It is cold on the screened porch” and another milestone was reached.  He cared about the cat.   But, when we went home, I was reminded once again, “The cat goes back outside.”

After that, once we were home again, when the weather was bad, Gombah was allowed to come in through the breeze-way’s side door to sleep in the warm basement which we referred to as his ‘apartment.’ At first, Gombah was wary of going down in the basement, but became accustomed to his bed down there, and the nice warmness, but still avoided coming up into the house.  I’m suspicious that Nello reminded him from time to time in no uncertain terms that this was temporary. The cat was OK with this but as soon as it turned warm, he slept outside again at night. This cycle continued for a couple of years.  Summers in New Jersey and winters at the condo in North Carolina.

Gombah was getting to be a seasoned traveler. Every spring when we returned home from North Carolina , Gombah was happy to be in his outside element honing up on his predator skills and terrifying the smaller population. He was especially fond of chipmunks and we frequently spied him dangling one from his mouth in mother-cat fashion. The chipmunk’s heart could be seen pounding from his chest and we would say, “Let him go, Gombah.” Gombah would meow in return (probably in protest) and the chipmunk would escape with Gombah on his tail. He knew every chipmunk hole in the yard and would sit by them for hours waiting for them to come out to chase them. Gompah had a good two years in his beloved yard and woods. At heart, he loved being an outside cat.     (TBContinued.. Gombah the Cat is Attacked ~ Twice ~ Chapter 3)

© Marie Coppola, 2012; some rights reserved.

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