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.

Are You An Influencer?

Are any of you confused by the popular rise to fame of influencers in our society? The definition of an influencer is a person or thing that influences another or a person with the ability to influence a person to buy a product or a service by promoting it on the internet.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In searching for the popular influencers the names listed were Daily Dose, Huda Kattan, and Cameron Dallas who were the first three in the top 9 I found. Others on the list were Selena Gomez and Kylee Jenner, which were the only names I recognized, but then I am old and I don’t follow them so apparently, none of these people are influencing me. I wondered how my life would change if I let them into my social media life to give me tips.

I checked out Daily Dose on Instagram and it appears to influence you to think positively and is inspirational. Huda Kattan is a beauty influencer and sells beauty products. I would guess it is women, not men she is influencing. Cameron Dallas, according to Wikipedia is an American Internet personality and actor who has produced some of his own reality movies. Do a search for influencers and the list is endless. These people were made popular by pitching themselves and/or their product on social media sites. Americans tuned in and made them famous. Many of them have spun themselves so there are books and products representing them. Many live their lives online sharing some intimate details such as the couple who gave up their adopted son and put it all out there online.

I was influenced for a short time by Marie Kondo. I still like her but do not follow her methods after trying them. Let’s face it, I do not like being totally organized and don’t like a perfectly clean and organized home. It takes too much time to be perfect and I am not into perfect. I feel more at home in my organized chaos so I let Marie go.

Not only do their followers propel them to the top so they can be famous, but they also contribute to their financial success beyond any of our wildest dreams. What would happen if we took a worker in a care home and propelled them to influencer fame and threw our money at them as we are doing to those whose only claim to fame is what they put out for others to see on Social Media?

The internet has gained a power over us that we are drawn in and hooked on following people who would not be celebrities without it. Some are deserving of the status but others make their living conning us by letting us be voyeurs into their lives. We don’t know these people. We used to call them salesmen in real life. A good salesman with a gift of gab and a charismatic personality was at the top of his or her game. Some were sincere and some were able to lead people astray because of their magnetic charm making them believable.

We are all influencers in one way or another. By the way, did you know that now Influencer is an official word? I had to look it up because my spell check kept tagging it. Apparently, spellcheck isn’t up-to-date on what is happening with the word the same as we aren’t all up-to-date on how our society is changing because of it.

How do you influence someone in your everyday life, silently without social media making you famous?

Early on I was influenced by my parents to believe in God and to pray. I watched my dad interact with customers in his shoe store and I was taught honesty, caring for others because if someone came in and they were down on their luck and needed a little cash, he gave it to them. I still have the IOU’s in his billfold that he knew would never be paid. I keep them to remind me of the kindness my dad showed to others.

I was influenced by my friend Karen, and Orrie, and Jan, who all faced cancer with courage and hope.

Every day there is someone that I actually know that does something or says something that makes me step back and consider following their lead. it isn’t only soul-changing influences but also small things that might not change my path but add to it. Such as Sally, who encouraged me to try Stained Glass, or Charlotte who encourages me to paint, making me find a new way to release tension. They influenced my choices for creativity.

The women in my trivia group got me hooked on Avon Banishing Creme. Their stating how much they loved it made me want to try it. I knew them, I trusted them.

I know most of the influencers in my life do not turn off their magnetic personality and become a different person when not in the media spotlight. They are sincere. They are trustworthy. Why is it then, that so many people put their trust in an unknown entity and it is happening regularly with our teenagers. Do we model that for them?

My point is that we don’t need to turn to the internet guru Influencers to find our path. You are the influencer. You make a difference in what you do, what you say to your family and your friends. The influence is in our daily words, our daily lives, the way we laugh, the way we look at life and the way we treat others. The world might not know who you are but those who count, do, and that is most precious contact in the universe.

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Napoleon Hill

Ringing in the Old

As I read the news this morning I decided to do something different on my blog the next few weeks that doesn’t speak of the virus. As some of you might remember, I wrote a column for the Albert Lea Tribune titled Something About Nothing. I wrote for them starting in 2005 and quit in 2019. I decided to dust off some of my favorite columns and post them on this blog the next few weeks. I am going to take these columns and put them in a new book to be read, either all at once, or a little at a time. My goal is to lift someone up especially at this time. I find writing helps me and I hope my words help you.

This column is from way back and I can’t you what year probably 2009 or 10. Enjoy.

IT’S A MIRACLE

The beautiful tall tree in my front yard that shades my house and keeps us cool is withering. I called the tree doctor. He diagnosed stress from this spring’s weather. He told me my tree would come back but possibly not until next year. In the meantime, I see its withered leaves and know there is nothing I can do to bring it back to health. It has to heal on its own with the weather and the water from the earth.

It strikes me that the tree is like our lives. When the storms of life descend on us, we seem to wither and droop. We feel helpless because there is nothing we can do for some of the stresses in our lives, such as friends’ illnesses, financial problems, and other things over which we have no control. We can only wait and heal until spring comes again.

I have said that it will be a miracle if my tree makes it. We use the word miracle lightly in our lives. We throw the word around as if we do not believe miracles can happen.

Dictionary.com describes a miracle as “An effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause….”

Perhaps we are skeptical of miracles because we Christians believe miracles have to be huge. The Vatican and Lourdes carry out scientific investigations of miracles of healing. They have to meet strict criteria to be called a miracle. We also may think of miracles as those in the Bible, such as Jesus turning water into wine or Jesus rising from the dead..

C.S. Lewis stated that one cannot believe a miracle occurred if one has already drawn a conclusion in their mind that miracles are not possible.

I am currently reading Expect a Miracle by Dan Wakefield. This book is about miracles in everyday lives. I expected the book to tell of great miracles that happened in everyday lives such as miraculous unexplainable healing, instead the book opened my eyes to the miraculous things that happen every day.

Do we miss small miracles every day because we are looking for something grand and bigger? Do we throw the word around because we feel a real miracle can only happen if it is huge, like water being turned into wine? Or are miracles happening in small ways inn our life and we miss them because we truly do not believe in miracles? Or we believe a miracle cannot happen for us.

My friend recently had surgery for cancer. It went well. She has been through many surgeries through the years for this cancer. She has a cancer that most people do not survive. I consider her life to be a miracle. I am sure she does, too.

When I see a rainbow in the sky, I know there are scientific reasons for rainbows, but that rainbow always seems to appear when I need it most to give me hope. When my mother died in the midst of a cold February winter, a mourning dove visited my window. The mourning doves hadn’t been around since fall. Usually they come in pairs. That winter, one morning right after her death, one mourning dove visited my window. To me that was a miracle, and seeing that dove made me feel that things would be all right.

My tree is withering, but if just one leaf comes back, it could be a miracle that there is still life in my tree. Pat Gralton makes this statement as she listed one hundred miracles that she sees in her life. This is one of them.

My garden is a miracle. It teaches me everything about life that I will ever need to know: anticipation, birth, joy, changes in color and texture, different shades of the same color, buds, dead blossoms, killing frost, burial, saying farewell, hope for the spring, renewal. (Dan Wakefield, Expect a Miracle, http://www.danwakefield.com/id7.html)

NOTE: My tree lived and is thriving today.