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Following are the ways in which my son reminds me of my dog:

  • Whines when hungry.
  • Constantly drools.
  • Requires the use of sitting services.
  • Loves chew toys.
  • Gets taken for walks.
  • Has been featured on Christmas cards.
  • Tries to eat everything.
  • Requires me to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with excrement.
  • Plays with stuffed animals.
  • Performs tricks, especially the High Five.
  • Gets excited when we say “Good boy” after said tricks.
  • Is highly flexible.  In my son’s case, he can put his foot in his mouth.  In my dog’s case, she can lick herself in certain hard-to-reach places.

Admit it…at this point they’re pretty similar, aren’t they?



I feel the need to clear this up, for the benefit of humanity:  Please don’t use air-quotes unless you are being ironic

Air-quotes can be funny or sarcastic when used well, but their misuse is making them really annoying.  I feel it is important for me to set the record straight so air-quotes can stick around for a while and then die a natural death when the time is right. 

The directions for air-quotes are really quite simple:

  • It is fine to use air-quotes when you are saying one thing but mean something else; air-quotes convey sarcasm. 
  • It is not fine to use air-quotes when what you are saying is, literally, what you are saying.

To illustrate my point, let me share a couple of examples of the proper use of air-quotes:

Example 1.A.  When your friend is on his way to hand out fliers in a hot dog costume, you say to him:  Hurry up, you don’t want to be late for your “job.”  In this case, you have employed air-quotes as an efficient way to let your friend know that you don’t consider walking the street dressed as barbecue food to be an actual career choice; the air-quotes are how he knows what you really intended to say.  They probably made him feel bad about himself in the process, but that’s between you and him.

Example 1.B.  When a guy who is a complete Mama’s boy is going to visit his mother, you tell him:  Say hi to your “girlfriend.”  Here you are conveying that this guy’s relationship with his mother is too close to be considered in the normal range of mother-son relationships, but you are using air-quotes to signal that you know he isn’t actually dating his mom.

On the flip side, following are some examples of the improper use of air-quotes:

Example 2.A.  You say, OK, it’s time to get back to “work,” but you are, in fact, getting back to work.  Hopefully the mistake here is obvious.  If  you are saying what you mean, which is that you took a break but now have to finish doing what you are being paid to do, then you are prohibited from using air-quotes.  Now, if you are wearing a hot dog costume when you say this, then you are fine (at least as far as air-quotes go) as explained in Example 1.A.

Example 2.B.  You say, Nice “face”, to someone when you are really talking about his or her face.  Nice face is an awesome insult in that it typically takes the recipient a second or two to recognize that he or she has been insulted.  In this case, the use of air-quotes actually lessens the impact of the insult, as well as puts the user in violation of the air-quote guidance as stated above.

You can help me in this effort.  The next time someone inappropriately invokes air-quoting, you need to call that person out.  Try this with the second example above…

Nice “face”?!  Are you talking about this?  (Point to your face.)  Because if you are, I think you meant to just say: Nice face, sans air-quotes, dumb ass.

You don’t have to say it as as angry as I did above, but it helps.

I fear I may be too late, because even as I am writing this I am realizing that I have pretty much given up on air-quotes already.  I am not sure that air-quotes can be saved.  Air-quotes have gone the way of the slang term “D.L.,” which at one point was only used by those in the know, but is now often spoken by people in their 60s (no offense, Mom and Dad) and on commercials.  Since air-quotes are almost over, I guess I will have to resort to using inflection to communicate the same sarcasm that I could have much more easily conveyed with air quotes, as in “Say hi to your mom.”  It’s disappointing, but I guess what’s done is done.

P.S.  Just out of curiosity, I went to Wikipedia to see what it says there about air-quotes, lest I am inadvertently being unoriginal by writing this post.  I confirmed that I am fine, at least in regard to having an original thought, and in addition I got a wonderful gift in the form of the photo accompanying the air-quotes entry.  Priceless.

UPDATE:  My friend Joannie shared this awesome website with real-life examples of people using printed quotes improperly:  It’s hilarious.

I wanted to write a funny blog today, but I am still feeling pensive and I need to roll with it. 

Below is a photo I took of my son half his life ago, when he was a little over three months.  At first, I simply considered this a great photo opportunity and I was very self-satisfied with my abilities as a photographer.  Today I looked at it again for the first time in a while, and I found a lesson waiting for me.


When was the last time you felt this joyful when looking in the mirror?  How often have you looked at yourself, only to be critical of or disappointed in what you saw?  I would venture a guess that virtually everyone would answer, “A while,” and “Too often,” to these questions.   Yet I defy you to find a young child who looks in the mirror and does anything but smile at him or herself.  Young children certainly don’t look in the mirror and judge themselves, that I am sure of.

Many spiritual teachers proclaim that there is no good or bad, there only is what there is.  Over the course of our lives we develop and strengthen our identity or ego, but that is really just a collection of ideas and memories about our physical selves, to which we become attached.  Our egos spend all day judging things as inherently good or inherently bad, instead of accepting them as they are.  The judging we do clouds our view and prevents us from being truly happy and fulfilled.  Our essence or spirit, on the other hand, is unencumbered by judgment or negative emotions; it isn’t attached to how we look or to things we have or haven’t accomplished.  It is our pure potential, as Deepak Chopra puts it, and connecting with our pure potential is the key to happiness. 

My first thought is, “Gee, that sounds like a nice place to be and I wish I knew how to get there…”  But I am starting to believe that we all used to be there, and the challenge is just remembering how to get back. 

I recently read that, until about the age of five, very young children have not fully transitioned into the physical realm and they are still very connected to the spiritual realm.  In other words, young children are still in touch with their essence, and lack a sense of identity or attachment to the physical form they have taken in this lifetime.  Is that why a child can look at him or herself in the mirror and feel pure joy?  Child psychologists might say that developmentally, the child doesn’t yet associate the image with him or herself, it is something that needs to be learned.  Maybe.  But, what if that association is to be unlearned, or if the real learning is to remember that the physical form our soul inhabits is not who we actually are.

When I first became a mother, I believed that much of my role is to teach my child by introducing him to new experiences, but that is only part of this journey.  The other part of the journey is for me to learn from my son as well, and the first lesson is that I must reconnect with my essence.  I must let go of my attachment to my accomplishments, my failures, my successes and my disappointments.  I have to try to remember how to look in the mirror and see past my Self, so I too can experience pure joy.

Over the week or so since my last post, I have been thinking about my Purpose (with a capital “P”).  I have been trying not to dwell on it, but rather to just let it bounce around in my head so that, when I see or hear something that resonates with me, it might help me define my mission in life.

Interestingly, the term that keep coming to me is “philosopher.”  So in my typical fashion, the next thing I think is, “But is that a job?”  I guess what I am trying to figure out is, will someone be willing to pay me to muse about life and its meaning?  I know that is not the way to approach finding my Purpose, it’s just a knee-jerk reaction. 

When I joined Twitter a while back, I needed to write something as a one-line biography.  In Twitter-world, everything has a character-count limitation, so with only 160 characters with which to work I came up with this without any forethought:

Student of life, working mom, business advisor

I think it is interesting that “student of life” just came out.  And what is a philosopher if not a student of life?   But for some reason the visuals I get when I think of philosophers don’t seem to fit me:  the first thing I picture are togas; the next thing is someone sitting under a tree; then I think of a quill pen, you know, with a feather.  Don’t ask me where these associations come from, because I have no idea, but none of them seem to fit me or who I aspire to be.  I mean, I did participate in a lip-syncing contest in high school and we reenacted the toga scene in Animal House for the song “Shout.”  And I like shady trees, but haven’t sat under one in a while.  Can’t say I ever used a quill pen. 

Maybe what I need to do is redefine the term philosopher for myself, and even for the world at large.  Perhaps the modern day philosopher is the one who ponders life, provokes thought, and helps people make sense of the world…from her laptop.

I absolutely cannot think of the word “philosopher” without immediately calling to mind one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies.  In the Roman times part of History of the World, Part I, Mel Brooks’ character, Comicus, goes up the Unemployment Office window and to get his weekly check from the agent, played by Bea Arthur (remember the Golden Girls?):

Unemployment Agent:  Occupation?

Comicus:  Stand-up philosopher!

Unemployment Agent (annoyed):  What?

Comicus:  Stand-up philosopher.  I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.

Unemployment Agent:  Oh, so you’re a bullshit artist…

I think that says it all.

Hi All…following is a guest post from my childhood friend, Jenn White Doremus.  We grew up together at the Jersey Shore  – actually, Monmouth County, which is the northern part of the shore and very different from the southern part.  Enjoy her rant about being from New Jersey.

Happy Fourth of July!

“Welcome to New Joisey” by Jenn White Doremus

I’m a huge Sopranos and Real Housewives of New Jersey fan.  My mom, aunt, and uncle think those shows put New Jersey in a horrible light, and perpetuate the “Joisey” stereotype.  Those of us who are native to NJ know these people are from NORTH Jersey, and most likely not originally from NJ at all.  Look at the Housewives – they live in Franklin Lakes, and Jacqueline is from Vegas, Danielle is from Brooklyn, Caroline and Dina are from NY.  Theresa is the only one originally from NJ – and she’s the one who tossed over the table in the finale.  I can’t say I blame her – I probably would have also.  But I digress …

When the Sopranos was at its height, I worked at Monmouth Park Racetrack. I was the Controller for the food-service department (Aramark was the company).  Our workers were union, members of the local and international HERE. Being a union house, we would get audited by the unions yearly to make sure union payments were being deducted and paid properly.  We would receive no notice, they would just show up.  I remember one year when we were being audited I called our corporate office in Philly just to let them know.  They became very concerned, asking me if I was safe and if they needed to call anyone to back me up.  I laughed so hard, totally disbelieving that any time NJ and union were in the same sentence visions of the Sopranos came into people’s minds.  Really, we’re not all mobbed up!  

I’m from the Jersey Shore, and we are (sometimes) snobs who consider “The Shore” to be an entirely different entity from the rest of the state.  But we are.  We are neither North Jersey (Bennies!) nor South Jersey (Shoobies!). Did you know if NJ seceded from the union we would be the 2nd richest country in the world?  So there.  You’ve seen our beach, now go home.

I often joke about the early midlife crisis I went through when I was 37.  It had all of the superficial trappings of such a life-event:  the convertible (Saab, but at least it wasn’t red), the inappropriate relationships (12 years younger), the surprising hobbies (taking up the drums). 

However, there was one aspect of this life experience that was not as frivolous.  I had reached goals I had set out to achieve, then realized I didn’t care about them.  I had climbed the corporate ladder, then felt the urge to jump.  I had acquired the dream house, then resented the time and effort that went into maintaining it.  I started to realize that the life I had created for myself was not the one I was meant to have.  

When I think about it, I believe that every midlife crisis can be boiled down to two key recognitions: 

  • You aren’t sure about your purpose in life.
  • You just noticed that your time is running out.

So this is where I found myself at 37.  Grappling with the age-old question:  “Why am I here?” and its not-so-distant relatives “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and “What will people remember me for when I’m gone?”  It might have hit me earlier than some, but it was painful nonetheless.  It still is painful because, four years later, I thought I had the answer and now wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree…again.

To consider having a life’s purpose or higher calling sometimes feels fluffy to our Western brains.  We are so results-focused, so goal-oriented, so matter of fact, that the idea that we would have a “purpose” rather than a “career” seems silly – purposes don’t pay the bills!  But according to Deepak Chopra (yes, him again), if you can find your dharma, your reason for being on this planet, then the money you need will follow.  That can be hard to wrap your head around, and I suppose it really requires a leap of faith. 

I do know some people who see their job as just that – a job.  They tolerate their job and pursue their passions outside of work.  That doesn’t cut it for me.  I can’t imagine enduring something for so many hours a day so I can live my life on the weekends.  My continual struggle is to develop a vocation – a job that gives me joy, is consistent with the contribution I am supposed to be making to this world, and will sustain my family.  Gee, I wonder why it is taking me so long to figure this out…

I know it is possible, which is why I refuse to give up.  With increasing frequency, I see examples of people who are pursuing their missions in life and finding that it is works out financially, as well as emotionally.  I will leave you with one such example of someone manifesting her purpose.

My friend, Kerri, has always enjoyed bicycles.  She rode them, learned to repair them, and has been working around them for years.  Her love of biking has become part of her lifestyle – she chooses to ride her bike instead of driving a car.  A few years ago, Kerri channeled her passion for bikes into a wonderful organization called The Bike Church.  Through this program, children in Asbury Park help recycle and repair old bicycles, and are given the opportunity to earn a bike themselves in the process.  Kerri had been running this program during her free time, but knowing it was part of a larger mission to get more people riding bikes, she decided to leave her job to expand the program by adding Second Life Bikes, a similar program for teenagers.  She did this without knowing how she would get paid; obviously, she had to have faith and believe that everything would work out.  Well, a wonderful thing has been happening and I have been fortunate to witness it first-hand:  materials, supplies, and financial support keep presenting themselves to her. 

One day in the course of a conversation, Kerri said, “I really need to get an Internet connection in the shop.”  The next day, she mentioned in passing that a friend had stopped by, and while he was there he offered to set up an Internet connection for her.  I said, “Are you telling me that yesterday afternoon, a couple of hours after you mentioned to me that you needed an Internet connection, someone showed up at your space and offered to install one?!”  “Yes,” she said, and her smile said it all:  On one hand she was surprised and on the other she wasn’t.  Everything has been falling into place. 

This has happened repeatedly.  One day, Kerri was thinking that she should order helmets, and later the same day a woman called and specifically said she wanted to donate helmets.   Another time she was thinking about a specific person who someone had mentioned she should call, and that person stopped by.  There are many more examples, and it has been surreal.

Kerri’s experience has been proof to me that when someone starts a journey down the right path, the universe conspires to provide help along the way.  So even though it is exhausting for me to grapple with the Big Question, I know that this is the hard part.  Once I figure out what I was sent here to do, the rest will be like a downhill bike ride…effortless and fun!

About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.


© Operation Peace and Serenity, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Operation Peace and Serenity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.