My Family Has A Language Barrier

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We have a language barrier in our house. Or we could call it a communication problem. It’s not new to me. I grew up in a household where there was a communication problem because of language, but I didn’t think it would extend to my adulthood.

Boris and Natasha, my two shyster cats, refuse to learn English so we can better cohabitate. I get tired of trying to decipher the tone of their meows. It is hit and miss. I think they’re tired of it too because as they get older, they’re stretching their vocal fold cords to new heights. I must not be getting their new commands right. In the early years, they were quieter, ignored us when we spoke to them, and yet we did what they wanted. Apparently, we were better trained ten years ago than we are now.

Early morning and late evening Boris sits by his bowl and glares at me. That means he wants to be fed. Natasha, on the other hand, gets my attention early morning by putting her paw on my face and waking me up so I will administer her a morning massage. We had our routines down. The minute there is a hole peeking through at the bottom of the food bowl, Boris demands vocally that we fill it. If they think we are going to forget, they open and then slam shut the cupboard door a few times to get our attention.

Lately, they have been directing us more often with their meows. We have a hard time figuring out the new things they want us to do. “There’s a mouse in the basement, let me down there.” We missed that one. The mouse is gone and the meows at the basement door has stopped.

“I want a treat, not my regular food.” as the meowing starts at another cupboard. And then of course, there is the… “You are sitting in my chair.” It took me a while to realize the meow at my head and the push at my back meant I needed to get up and let Boris or Natasha in the chair. The older they get the more demanding they are.

Boris saying, “I want my chair. Get up!“

I tried to teach Natasha to nod yes and no. After all, if my son could train his cat to use the toilet, I should be able to make my cats learn yes and no and to shake their heads. Natasha just blinked at me that she loved me, but she was adamant that nodding was beneath her.

I think of all the arguments we’re having about language these days. Recently, I saw a post that said if you’re going to live in America you needed to speak English. While I agree learning English may be a good idea, I thought of my grandmother.

My grandmother lived in America from the time she was 19 or 20. She never learned to speak English. I have no idea why. That’s what I mean when I say I am used to language barriers in my home. We lived with my grandmother. I never had a conversation with her that I could understand. For some reason, they never taught me Polish. I could understand a few words but that’s it. When my relatives would visit my dad and I would laugh because we couldn’t understand a word. I can’t say I was ever bothered by it because the one thing I did understand was that she loved me.

We are still having language barrier arguments all these years later. I wonder if some of what we are arguing about, only having people speak English, isn’t because of fear. I remember waiting on a couple of customers that spoke Spanish. They spoke English to me and then when talking to each other, spoke Spanish. I must admit I was a little fearful or paranoid because I had no idea if they were talking about me or making fun of me, or were planning something else. Media had put fear in my mind of a different culture. I no longer feel that way once I recognized it for what it was.

Different cultures view language different ways. Young people in other countries and now too here in our own, are learning to speak many different languages. I have friends whose children know how to speak Chinese because they went to language camps in the summer. Knowing each others languages breaks down barriers.

If you’ve ever had teenagers you know that may create a language barrier in your home. They speak teen-speak. The hard part is their language changes with each generation and now…it’s a language with letters and emojis. I can translate LOL but anything more my grandkids text me, I have to ask, “What does that mean?” I think I need to hit them with some shorthand or cursive, although my one grandson can read cursive.

I would like to think if we look someone in the eye and see them, really see them, the language barriers would fall away. If we take away the fear of insecurity of what we don’t know when they are speaking, maybe we wouldn’t be so judgmental.

As I grew up, I knew people who spoke Polish, German and a few other languages. They were the immigrants that were here during my generation. Not all spoke English. The argument was the same as it is now and so was the judgment. Guess what? We survived it and we integrated these people into our culture. I would not be here today, living in America if it were not for my Grandmother who never learned English. Yet in those days their culture was not accepted either.

My family kept their traditions alive by speaking their language and keeping close to the rituals of their heritage. Their roots were important to them. Perhaps it’s hard for those of us that were born in this country to understand that. It took me until my later years to get it as I sort through the things that were important from their native land. Though my mother was born in this country, her roots and heritage mattered to her. She never forgot where she came from and she never neglected to try and teach me their traditions. Sadly, I never realized the importance of keeping another culture’s heritage alive in family until she was gone

I find it exciting to learn about different cultures. The next time you eat Lasagna or Chinese food or take part in a tradition of another country, enjoy it’s richness. I am learning more about my Polish heritage and I am proud of it.

I think Boris and Natasha are proud of theirs too. I am sure Natasha is meowing Siamese and Boris is meowing Alleycat, and both are going to be stubborn and hold tight on keeping their language skills to meowing in their language. How lucky are we that our love for one another transcends those language barriers so we can bask in the purrs and blinks they give us on a daily basis.

Traditions, roots and culture remain important no matter what nationality we are, especially if it connects us to another country rich with history of our ancestors. It doesn’t make us less of an American to embrace our lineage.

Barriers can be created by closed minds and hearts. I am lucky love always won with my grandmother and my shysters. My life is richer because of it.

The Art of Persuasion

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If you have a way with words you have the art of persuasion. That may be a positive or a negative trait depending on your character.

I loved speech class in high school. It was where I first found my voice. Before that class I was easily intimidated and wasn’t much for speaking out. I did not have faith in my abilities. The high school counselor questioned my choice as it didn’t seem to fit what others saw. I fell in love with speech and writing. I remember when I got an A+ on a humorous speech; I was amazed. I had agonized over the assignment. I was not a funny person. Apparently somewhere inside of me when it came to writing I could be funny. That speech pulled something out of me I never knew I had.

Fast forward to 2021. We seem to be in the throws of being persuaded by the words of people we do not know and we give them unswerving loyalty. They are good speechmakers, influencers, and persuaders. It’s funny but we tend to believe those whom we do not know over people we formerly trusted, all because of good verbal persuasion. We don’t see the need to check out the facts.

It’s apparent in society today. Some are pursuaded to send money to men or women overseas who they form a relationship with on the internet. They trust what they are being fed in the beautiful words they see on the screen or hear on the phone. The talk shows and news reports are full of people being scammed all in the name of love.

We pass around on social media those ads that say Kohl’s or Best Buy are going to give us $500 just for sharing a post. We share and no one sees the money. We believed without questioning that if a company did this they would be broke. The scams are rampant all because we believe charismatic words of a stranger.

Recently someone made the comment, “He’s such a Christian man.” The comment was made about a politician that said a beautiful prayer at the right time in front of millions of people. I’m not saying this person isn’t a Christian man. But the conclusion was this person prays a lot in public it and makes him someone we should believe and follow. But do we really know that? Do we know them in person?

There are televangelists that woo us with beautiful prayer, and dynamic sermons. If you look at their bank account you know they are successful at persuasion because people are tossing a lot of money at them. Maybe they do good things with the money but if you look at their lifestyle, it is a very lavish life they are living. Yet we don’t protest their power of persuasion. Their power is growing and our churches in our communities are floundering.

I am not a flowery prayer person despite being a writer. If I listen and read all these beautiful prayers in all the media today I tend to feel my prayers may not be good enough. I’ve gotten over that for a few reasons.

My faith has been built not on flowery prayers but on actions of people I love and trust, not by those that are always in the public eye praying for all to see, or persuading us with their charismatic speech.

When I think of the Christians in my life that have influenced me I think of my Grandma Krock. She could speak no English but she had a big impact on me by her actions. Each day she would sit by the window in her house or by the wood stove with a rosary in her hands praying the rosary. I don’t remember many conversations that I understood but I understood her faith and her rosary. I watched this until she died when I was 17.

Grandma Krock

I think of my Aunt Mary who every night after supper would sit down with her Bible, read it and pray quietly in her living room. I was young when I noticed that and I remember it still today.

I think of my friend Jan, who endured 24 years of cancer. I never heard her complain. She treated everyone with kindness and respect and I saw her live out her faith in her church attendance, her music and private time with the Lord. Plus keeping her faith always while enduring much.

These people who affected my faith life, didn’t shout it in public, didn’t shout their faith from the rooftops but by their actions they brought their faith to others in a way that was humble.

These three are only a few examples of the people in our lives that quietly lead us. I can’t say someone is one thing just by the words they produce in public. I know too many people who are one way in the public eye and another in private. Some may see me as that way. Perception. Can we view something honestly, if we only have the glitz of the public eye?

That doesn’t mean I don’t follow and read some prominent Christian writers. Max Lucado is one of my favorite. Do I think he’s a good Christian man? Yes, I do but do I know? I don’t know him personally. That doesn’t stop me from liking what he writes but also viewing it with an eye that knows there may be more underneath that isn’t what I read, so I know not to believe unconditionally. I write fiction for a living. What I write is my perspective, to be read with a watchful eye and mind knowing it is fiction. In today’s world I probably could convince someone that fictional Fuchsia exists.

Churches, our churches, have a hard time maintaining members. We throw money at online preachers but starve our churches. We believe charismatic people and belittle our Pastors. We put our trust in strangers words but don’t believe the words of those we know preaching in our hometown churches.

If you’re looking for church, most of our local community churches are now online. Listen to those you trust. Are they perfect? No. But you know them. You know their imperfections and their strengths. Put your trust in those you know personally.

Having said that I will tell you I love my church being online. I get why we follow popular online preachers. We can listen without getting involved in church politics. When I watch my church services online I love sitting back and hearing what is being said and sung, with my eyes closed savoring the words. I am not distracted by anyone else.

In my old years, thinking back, I realize some of the greatest controversy in my life has been church politics, arguing about things that don’t matter. I am not referencing biblical beliefs but insignificant things that gain too much importance in our home churches, such as who didn’t stack the silverware or who isn’t dressing in the correct way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “It isn’t done that way.” In fact I’ve been told at one time my opinion on whether a group could meet in our church didn’t matter, because we weren’t one of the top givers. So I get it. Online we don’t have to deal with the church politics that are man made. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to believe and follow the people who are eloquent speakers that we don’t know because we don’t have to get involved.

At times, I have the art of persuasion. With it, comes a responsibility. My advice, look to what you know, the people you know and respect in your life. Look deep at how they live their lives. That’s the best persuasion.

Thank you Grandma Krock, Aunt Mary and Jan for letting me know what it means to be a Christian person. It’s up to me what I do with that.

Friendship – Nourishing or Toxic?

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Yesterday my phone was busy. I was blessed because I received phone calls from friends. They brightened my day and reminded me of the gift I was given when these people chose me to be their friend. All of these particular people were old friends. Friends from childhood, my early years as a wife and mother, my middle years as I struggled, as we all do, with responsibilities we never dreamed of in our wildest dreams that we would have to tackle.

As I pondered my conversations throughout the day with these people, I was not only amazed all of them called me on the same day, but that it seems as if we just talked yesterday. Throughout this pandemic we have been in closer touch sharing our joys, our fears and just talking silly. What had kept us together so close all of these years?

As we grow both in our personal lives and in the way we present ourselves to the public there are some friendships, old friendships, that fall along the way for many different reasons. Perhaps we didn’t always connect and take the chance and show those friends who we are, or we did, and because of it just didn’t mesh anymore. There is something about hearts aligning that keep important relationships going, along with hard work.

Although, I must say, with the friends yesterday, it has never felt like hard work to keep the friendship. Probably because our values align, our interests may be the same, but along with that we have challenged each other to try something new and experience each others interests. And…after trying their crazy ideas, it’s been perfectly acceptable to say to them, “You can do that but I think it sucks.” All in all, through it all, the good, the bad, the ugly, we have the luxury of acceptance of who we are. We feel safe in those friendships sharing our failures, our fears and also our triumphs and successes and we are happy for one another.

Inevitably, as we go along life’s road we have let go of people because the way in which we change and feel and believe, is too different for us to maintain a connection. We agree to disagree but life’s circumstances have changed us so much that middle ground is hard to find. We are in a different era in our lives and we need a friendship and a soft place to fall that isn’t there in a friendship, and maybe never was, but we made excuses and bit our tongue so as to not provoke judgment from a friend. I say that as these friends were probably doing the same thing with me.

I have changed. I have always been opinionated. I was spoiled. I didn’t have time or enough compassion for those who had less than I. I didn’t care about others feelings, or I shouldn’t say I didn’t care, but I didn’t see them. Life hits you in strange ways. My wake up call was job loss, illness, losing people I cared about, Alzheimer’s in a family member and their ire, and abusive relationships. I found when we were down and out I no longer fit in some places because our cash was gone, and we live in a world where belonging needs money. Some friendships I thought I could count on I lost, occasionally because of my attitude. Once we peeled away the mask of acceptability because of what was happening in my life, people went away. I learned the true meaning of friendship and the true meaning of compassion, and that I am not a sum of the kind of house I live in, what type furniture I have, or if what kind of vehicle I drive. Figuring out how to pay my bills was more a challenge than trying to keep up appearances.

I’m not complaining because those experiences opened my life to so many peoples struggling like we were, and though we were never in the situation some are in now, I have empathy for those who use the food shelves, need help and assistance during a tough time and who struggle every day with illness or mental health problems. Let me tell you there are days I want to go back to not caring about anyone because it hurts to see others hurt.

My old heart friends have been there with me through it all and I felt no judgement. That doesn’t mean they let me get by with bad behavior. They are very good at calling it out, but it comes from a place of love. Those are the friends you need. Disagreement but no judgement, calling you out when they see you making a mistake, or putting their take on things when you have a different viewpoint but it’s never toxic.

I can be a very toxic person. I don’t want to be that toxic person that destroys lives, but I also don’t want to be that person in a friendship that has to bite their tongue all the time, or be scared if I voice my opinion I am going to verbally be assaulted. For a long time I felt guilty wanting to distance myself from some people, but talking to the friends I did yesterday I realized I am only toxic when I spend time with others that feed that toxicity. There should be no guilt in letting that go. Friendships should make you a better person and those are the ones to hold on to.

I am rambling. I guess that’s what a blog is all about. I do have some advice. When you are with a friend ask yourself how you feel when you are done with a conversation. Are you a better person being with someone? What brings you together? Is it a commonality of spreading toxicity or love? Maligning others that think differently than you or uplifting others and accepting the differences? How has life changed you? It took me a long time to get out of the pity party of the circumstances we were in. It was the friendships that stayed, put up with me, listened to me and jerked me up once in awhile that got me through. They know who they are. I am forever grateful because that is true friendship. I still fall short being that type of friend but we are all a work in progress. The key is to keep that progress going.