Calamities, Disasters and Embarassing Blunders

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"Oopsi Daisy" Inez Ibis falls as she tries to fly with her injured leg.

“Oopsi Daisy” Inez Ibis falls as she tries to fly with her injured leg.

Certain people are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though innocent, they often collide with those who are not. Law abiding, oblivious and unafraid, they may end up in an intersection with a drunk driver’s car wrapped around theirs. They fall into holes that others leave uncovered. They trip on the obstacles that careless people leave behind. We call these folks accident prone.

My niece was one of those people. Her brand new Mazda Miata was totaled when someone else ran a red light. She hit a rock while mountain biking and spun out of control. A few minutes before, she had loaned her helmet to her riding companion; yet it was she who managed to hit the rock, skid sideways, and wipe out in gravel causing a tragic head injury which required months of rehabilitation.

I don’t know whether I’m accident prone or just clumsy. But under stress, I have a tendency to drop things. I shatter dishes and glasses, and pull embarrassing blunders. After a stressful divorce, I was out on a date eating buttery movie popcorn. I had placed my soda on the floor within reach, or so I thought. I reached down to pick it up, and got as far as my lap when the lid came off spilling sticky liquid all over my skirt. The rest of the evening I sat in my wet outfit trying to ignore what just happened.

I’ve bumped the straw on my glass, reaching for the salt, causing water to spill all over the table; I’ve dropped my silverware when it stuck to my forearm and then crashed noisily to the floor; I’ve spilled hot coffee over my blouse when the cup I lifted to my mouth turned out to be light-weight melamine instead of stoneware.

Calamity follows some people wherever they go. And if not them, to those they associate their lives with. In 1852, Martha Jane Cannary was born; the oldest of five siblings, in Princeton, MO., though she sometimes claimed Illinois or Wyoming in her dairies.

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Martha Jane Cannary

She was married, or so she says, to Clinton Burke in 1885. They lived together for at least six years, but the marriage was never documented and historians doubt its existence. A child came out of that union, although it may have been Burke’s before he met Martha Jane or hers with another man. Things recorded in her dairies were part truth and part fiction. Her life was fraught with difficulties and she may have wrote them as she wished them to be.

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Martha Jane dressed as a man.

In later years, Martha Jane dressed in every way like a man. She moved around mining towns, railroad camps and the occasional military fort. She worked on the railroad and as a mule skinner to “eke out a living.” She may have protected herself from abuse by dressing as a man, although, some say she may also have worked as a prostitute.

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Martha Jane on her mount.

Stocky and strong, she worked like a man, drank like a man, and was a real frontiersman. She worked as a “Scout” and guide, but the Indians stayed away from her thinking she was “titched.” A good marksman, she appeared in Wild West shows with Buffalo Bill. When she died (most likely from pneumonia, inflammation of the bowels, or alcoholism), she was buried next to Wild Bill in Deadwood, Dakota at Mount Moriah Cemetery.

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She had a rough and tumble life. She threatened any man who bothered her with a “calamity” and soon became known as Calamity Jane. As her name implied, she was a most interesting and tragic person who seemed often to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Calamity Jane’s feminine side.

Link to her biography:
Calamity Jane Biography

We all have our days; some of us more than others. We fail to check out our surroundings for trip wires and red flags. We hurry too fast when we should slow down. We allow our uneasiness in new situations to shake us up. We become distracted by conversation and the noise level around us.

In either case, instead of being ourselves and feeling relaxed, we try to fit in and mimic the behavior of others making us feel more unnatural and uneasy. We may be too eager to please, or too curious about matters which are none of our business.

A favorite children’s book “Curious George” by Hans Agusto and Margret Rey is behind many books and a children’s T.V. show. During the episodes, George is always getting into trouble because of his curious nature. We love his escapades with the beloved “man in the yellow hat!”

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Curiosity helps us learn new things, but it may also be our downfall.

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Jean Partrager the lead character in “As Time Goes By” on PBS is about as curious as anyone can get. She listens behind closed doors and offers unwanted advice when others can’t make decisions. She gets her panties in a twist so often that she tells white lies to cover up her falsehoods. Her intentions are good; the well being of her family and loved ones, but she lives out the adage: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Is there a cure for people who meddle or for those who find themselves the brunt of small jokes or unwanted disaster? Probably not, but I find this advice helpful: “make the best of every situation, and allow laughter and good humor to put everyone else at ease.”

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“Inez Ibis sees stars when she is hit by a car.”

Those Awkward Moments – Filling in the Gaps

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A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

Some things, if repeated often enough, catch on. Take the word “awkward” said in a sing song voice after someone puts their foot in their mouth or there’s a lapse in conversation.

It happens to all of us. When my husband and I were dating, he’d fill in those silent spaces by saying: “Yup, yup, yup.” I tease him about it now; but obviously, when we were getting to know each other, he felt uneasy when there was a “pregnant pause” between our exchanges.

I’m a writer and an artist by trade so I’m better on paper and canvas than in verbal discussions where the bold and the loud hold sway. Maturity and life hurdles have given me muster, but essentially “chit chat” is not one of my strong suits.

Once I bumped into a mirrored pillar in a department store and said “excuse me.” When I looked up and saw that the open-mouthed face staring back was mine, I laughed in surprise. It’s healthy to laugh at yourself. When things go wrong seeing the humor can soften a bad situation.

Like the time my teenaged boyfriend walked me home from school and the elastic around my waist band snapped. I felt my slip crumple to the ground. Hey, at least it wasn’t panties! I stepped out of the slip, rolled it in a ball and carried it under my arm as we walked home. Nothing to fret about. Just another reason to make light of an embarrassing scene.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Another time I wore my skirt inside out to a meeting. I didn’t notice until half-way through the speaker’s message, and then I turned three shades of red thinking that the frayed seams and ragged hemline announced my stupidity. A quick trip to the girl’s room fixed my dilemma before any fuss could be made of it.

Waiters and waitresses are notorious for being on the receiving end of complaints by getting skimpy tips and insults. A waitress once spilled a glass of soda into my lap and apologized profusely. I could tell by her body language and facial expression that she expected an irate tongue lashing. When I smiled and said, “Everyone makes mistakes,” she breathed a sigh of relief. How could I not forgive her when I’m a klutz myself by nature?

On the news recently, someone pulled out a gun and shot someone for spilling a cocktail on his expensive suit. Many people take offense at far less than this. The world is turning into a population of whiny, short-tempered egoists who want their lives to progress without any problems. Pity the person who gets in their way.

Awkwardness is part of growing up, for Heaven’s sake; a stage of life prone to accidents. Arms and legs grow faster than we know how to use them. One day we’re short people with the perspective of a pup, and before we know it we’re towering over our parents but still under their rule and command. This odd time needs to be handled with patience and good humor.

"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box frame

“Shimmy Shake” 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame

My first marriage died from lack of humor. When you can’t laugh at yourself, or you resent other people teasing you or playfully trying to ease you out of a bad moment, you’ve got a compatibility problem.

Irritable, touchy people hate it when you try to cheer them up. They’re afraid that if they laugh or give into humor they might lose control and compromise their dictatorship.

Shouting from behind may get people to move, but real leadership beckons from the front with words of encouragement that say: “You can do it! Come on – follow me; I’ll show you how. Let’s do it together.”

Patience and kindness can bridge those awkward times we find ourselves in. No one has a “right” to make other people miserable or to constantly demand his or her own way. Relationships require that both parties get something out of it. Unpleasant personal encounters and dealings with other people should always be courteous and respectful, period!

"And All that Jazz" 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame

“And All that Jazz” 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame