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Feet You Meet

Blog Post #34

InStep-S

“Front feet, Back feet,

Red feet, Black feet,

Left foot, Right foot,

Feet, Feet, Feet,

How many, many

Feet you meet.”

(Dr. Seuss, The Foot Book)

I found myself meeting all kinds of interesting feet while sitting on a bench at a Southern California amusement park. It began with simple people-watching. Then, a man stopped about twenty feet away. My eyes zeroed right in on his feet, or rather, his man-sized ruby slippers. (Not the Dorothy from Kansas variety, but resembling something akin to the Nike or Adidas type.) I’m sorry to admit that, as far as I was concerned, the guy wearing the shoes was completely incidental to his feet—he might have been a Wookie, for all I knew. I never got a good look at anything but the brilliant, fiery, shiny, red boats carrying him adrift in a sea of paved walkways filled with other colorful foot-supporting spectacles. Those red shoes shouted like a diva, “LOOK AT ME!” and I did, until they became lost in the mass of “Red feet, Black feet, Left foot, Right foot, Feet, Feet, Feet” parading up and down in front of me.

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LOOK AT ME!

The rest of that day, my eyes were riveted on the phenomenal number and variety of shoe-shod feet crammed into a relatively small area, as well as the excessive diversity in design, texture, shape and size, and the equally excessive diversity of the people wearing them. Especially impressive was the enormous quantity of feet in motion—all busily going this way and that, while mostly avoiding collision with other feet in such close proximity. The numbers were staggering, really. There were shoes of every kind—sneakers, pumps, flats, boots, even stilettos! (I have never understood women who wear stilettos to an amusement park—some strange obsession or vanity must consume them to self-inflict such torture! Just spike my shoes with nails, why don’t you?)

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I realize that the prescription for comfort varies from person to person. Some opt to get as close to the mercilessly hard asphalt as possible, choosing flat, barely there sandals—a thin piece of leather separating foot from scorching heat, and a spaghetti noodle strap to insure one’s foot doesn’t slide off. (As a teen, I wore a pair precisely like this to the same amusement park; I perfectly recall the heat radiating up through the sparsely protective sole, and the pain and soreness my feet suffered in the name of fashion by mid-afternoon.)

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Probably most popular among amusement park goers, are those who cushion their feet in the sweaty comfort of rubbery padded vinyl. (I’ve also experienced this type of sweltering, stink-enhancing foot environment. Great for cooler days, but a virtual sweatshop in 104 degree temperatures.)

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With crowds as thick as peanut butter, still others find comfort in making sure they can see parades and shows from any location by wearing platforms that give them eye shot five or six inches above the heads of their low-heeled counterparts. (I have not experienced this, and doubtless never will,—even if I had platform shoes. Five-inch heels would barely place me on an even keel with those of average height. Most of the time, I’m too short to see above heads belonging to persons over six years of age.)

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While in the attitude of foot-watching, my mind wandered into one of those “what if…” imaginings that have no real merit, and do no real good.  I conjured in my mind’s eye some futuristic shoe connoisseur doing the equivalent of a Google search for “shoe fashions of the early 21st century,” and pictured results showing a pathetic sampling of sneakers, flats and pumps reminiscent of 19th and 20th century fashion plates. After seeing such an enormous variety of shoes in one place, at one time, I felt certain our generation’s multiplicity of shoe styles would be lost to history. No one in the future would ever really comprehend a hundredth part of the varieties of shoes available to our generation from, literally, all “walks of life”.

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Once home, I did a Google search myself. I was flabbergasted at my findings! My imaginary shoe connoisseur would not be disappointed if cyber files remain intact eons into the future. Indeed, our era has produced the most enormous, and I might add, ridiculous, array of footwear ever conceived of. Surely, comfort is not a primary motivation! Nor is the proper alignment of one’s skeleton while in motion. Beauty does not seem to be an all-encompassing rationale, either.

The inspiration for many of today’s shoes is a mystery to me. I present to you a small sampling from my own search results. I have to ask, are these for real? You be the judge.

Feet and shoes

Most of what I saw while foot watching was not as extreme as my Google search would have you believe. Furthermore, I recognize that each pair of shoes represents a uniquely individual personality who chooses them. I suspect that if I were to interview a cross-section of shoe wearers, I would find distinctive personality traits tied directly to the shoes they chose to wear. Just as surely as “Stiletto Gal” chose her shoes for looks over comfort, “Ruby Slippers Boat Shoes Guy” chose his shoes as an outward expression of some inward desire to have his feet noticed. Of course, these are very shallow, soulless, (or perhaps, sole-less) observations which don’t begin to comprehend the special, priceless souls that occupy those shoes. I’m no expert—no well-versed student of human behavior—but I do wonder why someone of a sound mind would, by choice, wear a pair of furry shoes with a cloven-footed toe and gold pistol heels….

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Really?!

Our seven year-old twin granddaughters were with us during part of that day at the amusement park, each wearing a pair of boots.  A couple of weeks earlier, they had desperately wanted to go on a particular ride, and had been straining for months to reach the mark, but hadn’t quite grown tall enough to prevent the ride attendant from forcing a finger between the top of their curly heads and the wooden bar indicating how tall you had to be. Far from dense, these girls conspired a way to measure-up. They chose to wear their boots in place of their usual flip-flops or tennis shoes. Why? Their boots have significantly higher heels than any of their other shoes. Just to be sure, they wadded up tissue paper and stuffed it in their shoes to lift their feet even more. Off they went—on one of the hottest, most humid days Southern California had to offer—in their shorts and high top, laced-up boots. Their efforts didn’t go unrewarded—they were thrilled to find they had made the height requirement, and were able to go on the ride—being re-measured at every checkpoint right up to the last one just before stepping into their seats. Later that day, one of the girls began complaining that her feet hurt. On closer inspection, her mother discovered the wadded-up tissue had formed into tiny balled-up clumps, like small marbles, under the arches of her daughter’s feet, adding absolutely no height to her stature, but causing a great deal of discomfort (a small price to pay for achieving the desired goal). A stranger may have questioned boots with shorts and lightweight T-shirts on such a hot day. Had they know the serious business these girls were about they would have understood the combination.

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I suppose the same might be true of “Stiletto Gal” and “Ruby Slippers Guy.”  If I knew the motivation, or the inner workings and desires of the heart, I might better understand the choice of shoes. Doesn’t this apply across the board? People make all kinds of choices about things…things I, standing in my own hand-picked variety of shoes, simply don’t understand.

A well-known adage says we shouldn’t judge a person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. After seeing some of the bazillions of shoes out there, and some of the bazillions of people filling them, I’m certain I don’t understand what makes people choose what they choose—whether it be shoes, or food, or other choices of more consequence. But one thing I did notice, and do understand, is that most of those people belonging to the feet I saw were kind enough to say excuse me, or I’m sorry, or pardon me, when they accidentally bumped into, or stepped on my shoes—a frequent occurrence in a crowded amusement park.

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Contemplating the vast amount of shoes out there, and the equally vast amount of shoe wearers, I can’t help but think that there’s no way I could ever comprehend the minds and motivations of such a variety of people. I’ve been married to my husband, Brad, for over forty years and I still don’t get how his mind works a good portion of the time. How could I possibly understand what motivates complete strangers in their choices? When one considers the mileage each individual has trod through life—much of which may have been traveled alone on painful, wadded-up-marble-sized-balls-of-tissue-stumbling-blocks, over quiet, lonely, desolate, and difficult pathways, one is certainly not in a position to judge!glass-slipper-coloring-page-2047

Indeed, the opposite is true. One must pick up the glass slipper (that was left in a rush before the magic ended), and seek out those who need the magical quality of kindness and charity restored to their life. Among the throngs of feet, we must search out those who have been hurt, or lost, or forgotten, and find the shoeless ones who have had a dream or a hope burning in their hearts, but don’t know how or where to find the lost slipper. We each carry a glass slipper in the pockets of our hearts. We each have within us the ability to restore to those in need the proverbial glass slipper of kindness, hope and truth.  We can start by nurturing patience and tolerance towards those whose “choice of shoe” we don’t understand, and forego unkind, shallow, and false judgements that do injustice to those like “Stiletto Gal” and “Ruby Slippers Guy,” or more importantly, those whose feet are bare, or shod with nondescript, tired, worn-through uppers, insoles, and treads.

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A good place to begin is by lifting one’s eyes from the ground, and looking into the eyes and hearts of others. This naturally occurs when one accidentally bumps into, or steps on someone else’s toes. That’s when most of the thundering crowds at places like amusement parks actually stop a second, look up, and look into, and really see the eyes and faces of others, and simply, and sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”

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Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp Shoes

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own,

and you know what you know.

And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

© July 15, 2015

© October 23, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

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Crickets …or Defending–or Fending Off–White Noise

Blog Post #33

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Is there anything more indicative of a summer’s night than the constant, rhythmic creaking of crickets? Their wearisome song repeats until my brain flatlines in monotony…Then, suddenly, my ears perk up. The chirping stopped! I hold my breath…waiting. Just when I think the crickets are quite through for the night, the creaking begins anew, picking up the whirring drone exactly where it left off.

The crickets’ song is like many other “white noises” of life,—things one is conscious of, but registers mostly in the inner folds of the mind,—out of sight, and mostly out of mind.

Hush Little BabyLike so many summers’ nights, I have often found myself lying awake in a state of cricket-droning stupor, where my mind repeats nondescript patterns of thought in a rhythmic, almost locomotive manner—ever chugging onward, but without reaching a destination. When I was in school, mathematical equations and answers to history test questions boarded this train of thought. Later, items related to marriage and children climbed aboard. Recently, my mind dredged up from its long-forgotten annals the words and melody of the lullaby *“Hush, Little Baby.” I found myself repeating the lyrics and tune up to the part that goes, “And if that diamond ring…”—which is as far as I ever memorized that song.  Over and over I reviewed the lyrics, and like the crickets, abruptly halted at the words “diamond ring,” after which my mind picked up the pattern again, re-playing the lyrics from the beginning with precisely the same result every time.

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To make things worse, my poor brain was troubled by the unfinished poetic stanza, and began to search for words that might correctly finish the lyric—but to no avail. After three quarters of an hour of this kind of frustration, my jaded head cried out for relief. I attempted to change the tune, to knock the phonograph needle off its groove and replay it nearer to the end of the record, but it was no use. Like a scratched LP, the needle of my weary brain was stuck in a groove of thought–too tired to resist the white noise patterns of my mind.

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This is only one such white noise event that has been replayed in epic proportions for a good many years of my life. Just as the crickets don’t chirp every night, thankfully, neither do these repetitious episodes return every night, but when they do, they lull my poor, tired soul away from rest, and into a holding pattern of unproductive, undesirable, and relentless thought.

White Noise
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White noise is a curious thing, and somewhat fickle in its effects. Sometimes I welcome it, like a soothing friend, and other times, I want to block it out completely. As a rule, it is the kind of sound that I automatically tune out, but other times, it feeds monotonous thoughts. Several of our children have taken to setting up fans in their bedrooms to lull them and their little ones to sleep via white noise frequencies. I have never preferred this practice, but it works for them.

By definition, white noise is “noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities” (Google Dictionary). I might redefine white noise as “noise containing many distractions with equal intensities.”

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Revere 8mm Projector like the one my father has.

When I was a little girl, the family sometimes gathered to watch home movies. Daddy had (still has) an old 8mm projector that made a clickety-clack sound—the only sound emanating from that projector, since neither his movie camera nor his projector were “talkies.” We filled in for the audio by remarking about what we thought and felt as the action took place on screen: “Can you believe I wore my hair like that? I look like a poodle! And look at that rag of a ribbon pasted to the back of my head.” “Did you have to film from that angle? I look like the side of a barn in those pants!” “Ha ha! Look at those clothes! So 70s!” “Why are you filming that? It’s just a view of a boat on the water way off in the distance…(ten minutes later)…How long does this go on?…What’s so great about that tiny boat?…When are we going to be in the movie again?” “Aw, look how cute he was.” “I remember that day as if it were yesterday.” No matter how interesting and fun the movies were, in all my days, I could never keep from eventually succumbing to the clickety-clack of the projector. Its ability to knock me out was as potent and as certain as a drug-induced sleep, or a boxer’s jab in the face.

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The car has a similar effect. My poor husband, Brad, is a lonely long-distance driver much of the time. The hum and rumble of the motor puts me down for the count in the first round of the trip. Only when the bell rings as the car pulls to a stop at the bathroom (gas station) do I find myself arousing from the sleep of the dead, and walking, zombie-like, into the ladies room. Somewhat refreshed from the stop, I pull my seat into the upright position, and chatter like a squirrel for the next half hour until the persistent rumble begins tugging at my leaden eyelids, causing them to droop over my pupils, which disappear like tiny, hazel suns sinking on the horizon.

Voices

There are other forms of white noise that really don’t belong in that classification, but have such similar effects as to wind up tossed, like soiled laundry, into that same categorical bin. One of these has to do with voices. Not all voices, mind you, but certain voices, and only at certain times.

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Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

Brad and I,—in an attempt to find the best time to read scriptures aloud together—at one point, settled on just before bedtime. Sadly, this was anything but ideal. I was fine as long as it was my turn to read, but Brad’s low, quiet voice in combination with patterns of writing and speech found in scriptural text had such a soothing, sedating effect, it wasn’t long before I was bagging Zs. If this had only happened once, I would dismiss it, but since it happened, pretty much, every time, I am forced to shelf it right next to the spindle on the spinning wheel that put Sleeping Beauty to sleep.

(Hmm….I think I’ve just had an epiphany! On nights when I lie awake with monotonous, cricket-whirring thoughts, I should wake Brad up and have him read the scriptures to me! Think that’ll go over well?)

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Our sweet twin granddaughters

We have adorable, precocious, 7-year-old, twin granddaughters who have a lot to say—all the time! Unfortunately, they choose to tell me what they have on their minds at precisely the same time, in precisely the same mode and timbre of speech. Not only do I hear two distinctly different topics at the same time, I hear them in stereophonic sound, at the same shrill pitch, and with the same unrelenting, feverish enthusiasm making it absolutely impossible to understand a word either of them is saying.  My mind is thrust into Never Never Land where I never, never hear a word they have to say. This is disconcerting, to be sure. I love these precious little girls, and I want to listen attentively to their thoughts and feelings, but even though I try mightily to focus, and have talked to them about taking turns, they persist in speaking at once, as though it is inconceivably beyond their ability, as twins, to do otherwise.

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As a seasoned mother of five, and a home schooler as well, I learned—for the sake of sanity—to tune out the many frequencies of voices that played in full pitch around me. Not all darts of speech were aimed directly at me, but there was always an abundance of them firing off in every direction, containing many varieties of tone, intention, and intensity. There were many occasions when Brad would arrive home from work, and call my attention to what was taking place in the next room. “Cynthia, the kids need your attention. Don’t you hear that?!” he’d say, incredulously. “Hear what?” I’d respond, in oblivious innocence. Honestly, to me, the house was as quiet as a tomb. I had learned to tune-out much of the white noise produced by multitudes of children in active pursuit of learning and fun. (Unfortunately, I had also learned to tune-out children in active pursuit of mischief and disciplinary action.)

Media

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Perhaps the most devious of white noises is that which enters the brain via the media—all kinds of media. On a recent shopping excursion, I found myself becoming increasingly anxious and antsy. My fidgetiness escalated until I found myself wanting to run out of the store before finishing the necessary shopping. As I focused my reasoning powers on my growing restlessness, I was able to pinpoint the cause with exactness. It was the piped-in music—loud, confusing, and irreverent—a winning combination for driving away shoppers like me who prefer quieter, upbeat, positive, white noise type of input from a generic source. Most stores, in fact, choose white noise kinds of music—the kind that filters out any negative feelings, (such as fleeing the store!), and encourages positive, money-spending behaviors.

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Traveling on a long road trip with our children many years ago as built-in, DVD-player-wannabees, Brad rigged up a small TV set and video player in between the front seats, duct taping the contraption together, as well as to our arm rests to secure it in place. (The TV faced towards the back, of course, placing the speaker next to my head at precisely the level of my ear.) To my chagrin, from my spot in the front passenger seat, the much loved movie, Star Wars, A New Hope turned out to be nothing more than horrendously loud, ear-splitting sound effects blasting their way through the speakers via The Force directly into my left ear. (If you don’t believe me, you are welcome to try a similar experiment next time you make a long road trip. I was surprised at how little dialog there was in this film. Some movies are not to be confused with audio books.)

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Han Solo’s Blaster from Star Wars

As far as I’m concerned, most TV noise falls into the white noise category. (It’s actually quite entertaining to turn the sound off and see how silly the actors and action appear without it.) This is not to say that I never find something worth listening to and watching on the TV, but it has become increasingly rare. Frankly, dialog, commentaries, speculation, and sound effects delivered with mind-jarring insincerity, sensationalism, and noise have driven me to tune out all noise originating from the TV as white noise. Whether whispered, or shouted, TV sounds and voice-overs are mostly exaggerated and artificial, while sound effects, as has already been mentioned, have reached brutal decibel levels.

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Television White Noise, also called “snow”

You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just turn off the TV if it bothers you so much?” A legitimate question. I have a legitimate answer. My father, (whom we live with and care for), at 92 and nearly deaf, spends a good deal of his day in front of the TV. His wireless headset is an ear-saver for all of us. However, in order to hear, he must listen at maximum volume, and I can hear every word and sound from virtually every room in the house via the sound leaking out of his headset. It is often hard to tune-out when I sit with him attempting to read.  I’d be perfectly content to hear the white noise “snow” in lieu of some of the other more obnoxious and nerve-splitting sounds emanating from the TV. Once you’ve heard white-noise-via-headset-sounds for years, you develop practices for lessening them—such as listening to white noise music via your own headset. Interestingly, as I sit here typing away, with earbuds inserted, and beautiful music serenading, I can still intelligibly hear the TV through Daddy’s headset. Alas, some white noise cannot be completely eliminated.

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Summer Evening – Childe Hassam

There is much to be said for white noise. Crickets are often a welcome sound on a summer’s eve. They suggest lazy, long summer days, warm nights, and flinging one’s cares into daydreams. Engine rumblings, clickety-clack projectors and any sound that calms and quiets may be just the prescription for a frenzied mind and weary brain.

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Family gathered on the red couch, also known as….

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…the sleeping couch (as ably demonstrated by one of our grandsons)

Some of my most restful, white noise moments have been enjoyed in the family room on “the red couch” (which all family members refer to as the “sleeping couch”). On a quiet, rainy afternoon, while a passel of grandchildren play with toys that make lovely white noise kinds of sounds,—the clicking of wooden blocks, the rustle of drawing paper, and the scratching of pencils,—and while engaged in happy chatter, the sounds in the room gradually distill into a blend of cozy, comforting bliss, as I slip into a half-awake, half-asleep state of euphoria. This is the best kind of white noise—the kind that cradles you in a subtle, mindless, safe, pleasant trance of peace. The spell can only be broken by an abrupt, non-white-noise sound, such as the slamming of a door, or the blatant ringing of the phone. Or maybe even the unexpected chirp of a cricket.

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I wonder….perhaps those crickets repeat their song because they’re trying to remember the words….

© July 15, 2015

© October 10, 2015

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear friends, for reading.

My First Blog Post EVER!

*I realize that in writing this, I may cause a stupor of thought as to the words of this lullaby in my poor, unsuspecting readers. So as not to keep you in suspense, or lying awake tonight, I am including for you the lyrics to “Hush, Little Baby.”

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Hush, Little Baby

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat

And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark
Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart

And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.