Why Do We Sometimes Treat Strangers Better Than We Treat Family

Saturday, May 18, 2024

 Sometimes the people we love the most are  the ones we hurt the most. - anonymous

Have you ever experienced that to be true?  I know I have.  I recently took to email to share some 'constructive criticism' with someone I admire and respect.  As I normally try to do when communicating in a more formal setting, I carefully measured my tone and chose my words thoughtfully, being careful not to offend.  I wanted to share my experience and opinion, but didn't want this one small negative point to overshadow what was overall a very positive, and moving experience.  I've shared my  opinions with this person previously on a few occasions and each time, I felt respected and valued and just as importantly, I felt heard.  This time was no different.  These experiences not only made me feel relieved and glad I'd spoken up, they made me feel 'safe', safe to be myself, safe to be honest.  I feel confident that I can share without fear of an angry response or rejection.  

When I received a thoughtful and reassuring response to my email, I thanked the recipient for always being a safe place to vent.  His response was, "You always do an excellent job of giving feedback in a way that isn’t distasteful…which isn’t a common skill :)"   For a moment my ego puffed up a little but almost immediately I was hit with a wave of guilt - guilt because I knew in my heart that there were some people (mostly my spouse and close family members) that might disagree with that flattering assessment.  I thanked him for that compliment but admitted my guilt and the fact that my spouse may not always agree with that assessment.  If you can't be honest with your Pastor, who can you be honest with?  ;)   What was his response you might be wondering?  "You should do a blog post on it".  So here I am (and yes, he's that influential).

I'm sure many of you can relate to this story, and can admit that we are more polite and more guarded with strangers, co-workers, and other less familiar people whose opinion we don't want to tarnish.  It's the people close to us, the people who know us and accept us despite our dents and scratches, the people who have seen us at our worst that we unleash on.  Why do we do that?  Why do we let down our guards, release self control, and uncork our anger and frustration on the people in our lives who mean the most to us?  

I've been thinking about this a lot since this exchange and I realize that there are some people who have mastered the art of self-control better than others.  The rest of us need work.  As for the 'why'.....I think it's a couple of things.  I think with our loved ones, we feel safe.  We feel accepted - even with our flaws - so when we reach our boiling point, when life's failures and frustrations fray our last nerve, we've learned that the people who love us will be our safe place to fall.  They'll understand that the daggers aren't aimed at them, though they may get caught in the crossfire.  Sometimes our frustration is over that spouse or family member.  I don't know about you, but I'm here to confess that I often don't use the same finesse or careful wording in expressing myself with the people closest to me.  But I should, we all should.

Just because our friends and family accept us at our worst doesn't mean we should give them our worst.  Maybe we should work harder to treat our loved ones with the same polite respect we offer strangers and colleagues.  Because here's the thing, while we know our people love us enough to forgive us, the love that enables their forgiveness also makes them more vulnerable to be hurt by us.  I'm sure you've experienced the painful hurt that comes from the mouth of those you love the most, the ones whose love you treasure the most, the ones whose acceptance you value the most.  So wouldn't it be good if we worked harder at being kinder, softer, and more thoughtful with the people closest to us?

The last time I visited Sugarbush Lane Mercantile in Charlton (weeks before this conversation took place), my husband picked up a small framed verse that really speaks to this topic.  Here it is:

THOSE WE LOVE

They say the world is round - and yet I often think it square,
So many little hurts we get, from corners here and there;
But there's one truth in life I've found while journeying East and West,
The only folks we really wound are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know, we please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow to those we love the best.

The framed verse had no author listed, but when I Googled it today, I learned that the poem is titled, 'Life's Scars' and was written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  There's actually several more verses to the poem.  Interesting to note, Ella was born in 1850 and died in 1919.  Her poetry was first published by the time she was 14.  You'll probably be familiar with her famous quote, "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you'll weep alone".  That was published in the New York Sun on February 25, 1883, and she received $5 for it.  It seems to me our ability to hurt those we love isn't a new thing in today's world of less formal etiquette and lack of social finesse and blunt honesty.  Ella wrote about it over a hundred years ago.  That doesn't mean that it isn't something we should work on changing.  I hope this might inspire you, and me, to do better at treating those closest to us with more kindness and less prickliness.  They may love us either way, but imagine what a better world it would be if we all spread a little kindness starting with our own family.  For a little inspiration, here's the poem in its entirety...

Life's Scars
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox 

They say the world is round, and yet
I often think it square,
So many little hurts we get
From corners here and there.
But one great truth in life I've found,
While journeying to the West-
The only folks who really wound
Are those we love the best.

The man you thoroughly despise
Can rouse your wrath, 'tis true;
Annoyance in your heart will rise
At things mere strangers do;
But those are only passing ills;
This rule all lives will prove;
The rankling wound which aches and thrills
Is dealt by hands we love.

The choicest garb, the sweetest grace,
Are oft to strangers shown;
The careless mien, the frowning face,
Are given to our own.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.

Love does not grow on every tree,
Nor true hearts yearly bloom.
Alas for those who only see
This cut across a tomb!
But, soon or late, the fact grows plain
To all through sorrow's test:
The only folks who give us pain
Are those we love the best.

Pretty wise, right?  There are many bible verses that speak of this subject, but one that stood out to me was:  Proverbs 31:26 - She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.   Shouldn't we all strive to live that truth?

If you haven't visited Sugarbush Lane Mercantile yet....you can check out my blog post filled with photos of this beautiful shop on Maple Avenue in Charlton NY....Sugarbush Lane Mercantile For more about Ella Wheeler Wilcox.....https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poet/ella-wheeler-wilcox/

"Be careful how you treat people.  Life is the art of drawing without erasers."


Everything You Never Knew About Porcupines

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Until I met my first porcupine yesterday, my knowledge about these creatures was pretty limited.  Judging from the comments I received on the photos I posted on Facebook, I was not alone in my naïveté regarding porcupines.  They are pretty fascinating, so fascinating that I felt compelled to share what I learned!

  1. Porcupines are the second largest rodent in North America, weighing anywhere from 7-39 lbs, measuring 23-35 inches in length.  
  2. Their average lifespan is 18-20 years.
  3. Porcupines are usually dark brown or black in color, with white highlights. They have a stocky body, a small face, short legs, and a short, thick tail.
  4. Their unique and defining feature is their long, sharp quills that cover their bodies. These quills provide them with excellent defense against predators. An adult porcupine has about 30,000 quills that cover all of its body except its underbelly, face, and feet. Quills are modified hairs formed into sharp, barbed, hollow spines.
  5. Quills are used primarily for defense but also serve to insulate their bodies during winter. The quills are normally flattened against the body and in this position are less easily dislodged. Contrary to popular assumption, porcupines do not throw their quills.  Instead, when threatened they contract superficial muscles which cause the quills to stand up and out from their bodies. In this position, they become easier to detach from the body, especially when the tail is swung toward an attacker. The barbs at the end of the spines lodge in the flesh of a victim and are difficult and painful to remove.
  6. Quills of these animals possess a topical antibiotic, which helps prevent infection.  This is handy for the animal on the receiving end of a porcupines defense but the antibiotic is mainly intended for self-defense, in case the porcupine is accidentally pricked by its own quills.
  7. Porcupines fall out of trees fairly often because they are highly tempted by the succulent buds and tender twigs at the ends of the branches.
  8. The word 'porcupine' originates from 'porc espin', meaning ‘spined pig’ in Middle French. These animals were named 'quilled pigs' by Americans, but they are actually rodents, which aren't related to pigs.
  9. Porcupines are primarily nocturnal animals. During the day, they rest in trees or sheltered areas, avoiding direct sunlight. Porcupines are solitary creatures and spend the majority of their time foraging for food.
  10. Porcupines are generally solitary, mostly only interacting with other porcupines during the mating season.
  11. Speaking of mating....Porcupines reach sexual maturity at around two years of age. When the late summer arrives, the mating season begins. The male porcupine, driven by instinct, seeks out a female partner. He approaches her cautiously, making sure not to provoke any aggression. The courtship rituals involve gentle nuzzling, sniffing, and even sharing a meal together. These behaviors help establish a bond. Once the bond is formed, mating occurs. The female porcupine has a receptive period that lasts only a few hours, during which she allows the male to approach and mate with her. After mating, the male porcupine usually leaves, and the female resumes her solitary life. Sort of a one-night stand, I'd say.
  12. Porcupines have a gestation period of around 210 days or 7 months.  Moms almost never carry more than one pup per pregnancy. The porcupette enters the world covered in soft, flexible quills that provide a certain level of protection. These quills harden within a few hours, becoming the iconic defense mechanism of the porcupine. Pups (porcupettes) are nursed for about 127 days.  Pups become independent around 5 months of age, while the age of reproductive maturity is 29 months old for males and 25 months old for females.
  13. Porcupines are agile climbers and can often be seen resting in trees during the day. This behavior not only provides them with a safe place to rest, but it also allows them to access food sources that may be out of reach for ground-dwelling animals.
  14. They primarily feed on bark, twigs, leaves, and fruits. Their diet consists mainly of plant material, making them herbivores.
  15. The North American porcupine has a strong odor to warn away predators, which it can increase when agitated. The smell has been described as similar to strong human body odor, goats, or some cheeses. The odor is generated by a patch of skin called the rosette, on the lower back where modified quills serve as osmetrichia to broadcast the smell.
  16. To watch a really cool four-minute video about these really cool creatures: Really Cool Porcupine Video and below are my own videos.


  1. Look at those claws!

    The white hair on his back is not quills, the quills are in his tail and rosette on his butt.


    This shows how high he was today and how miraculous I even saw him!









How high he was the first day I spotted him.

 So next time you're outside, look up!  You never know what you might find.  I just happened to look out my bedroom window and saw a big blob in the trees, assuming it might be an owl or hawk.   It was only when I got my binoculars that I realized it was a rodent.  I never realized they climbed trees!  Both mornings I spotted him, he sat still for a bit, then as the sun rose higher, he slowly slithered down the tree, chomping leaves along the way.  I can't wait to see how long he sticks around and as long as he restricts his snacks to tree leaves in the woods and not in my garden, I'll be glad to share my 'forever wild' with him!  

For more information on porcupines, you can check out these great sites where I gathered my information. 

Wild Explained - Porcupines

https://animalia.bio/north-american-porcupine

Stayin Alive - Reliving the Bee Gees Music Sensation

Sunday, May 5, 2024

 There are a number of things that remind me I'm not as young as I used to be, some of those are reminders I could do without, others are the ones that I'm happy to have.  Last night was one of the good ones!

John and I had the pleasure of attending a concert last evening at the The Egg in Albany.  The band performing was Stayin Alive, A Bee Gees Tribute Band from Canada.  We learned about the upcoming concert during a PBS special about the Bee Gees and jumped at the opportunity to buy tickets.  John loves the Bee Gees, in fact, they rank up there with his other all-time favorite group, the Beatles.  In his younger days, he'd seen the real Bee Gees in concert three times so we knew a tribute band might not quite measure up to the 'real thing'.  I mean, how could they?  Well, at the risk of spoiling the ending - they came pretty darn close.

The Egg is a beautiful venue for any sort of production, able to accommodate 982 people, small enough to be 'intimate' but large enough for a group of dedicated Bee Gees fans.  Every seat in the house is a good seat and ours in row K center were great.   The one thing about The Egg is that, except for the back row which is saved for handicapped people, patrons must walk down stairs to their seats. The access aisles are shallow stairs, not a ramp.  We arrived to the show about an hour early when the doors opened and relaxed in our seats until showtime.  It only took a couple minutes before we were reminded that most of tonight's patrons were people like us, the beyond middle-age generation - many of which took some time and effort to navigate the many stairs.  I bet if they did a poll of how many audience members had or needed new knees or hips, the number would have been right up there (along with our ages).  But what would you expect, the Bee Gees hit popularity in the late 60's - over 50 years ago - way, way back when we were all in our prime.  While there were plenty of folks under 50 in attendance, the majority of us seemed to be over 60 or 70 which made the evening quite fun and probably made the crowd one that Security didn't have to work hard to manage.  We seniors are a pretty harmless bunch.

Stayin Alive Canada did not disappoint.  Not only did they look and dress like the Bee Gees, they sounded like them.  Tony Mattina belted out Barry Gibb's falsetto almost without effort eliciting cheers from the crowd several times.  Todd Sharman, Robin Gibb's counterpart, took the lead as MC and sang and danced the entire show.  His dance moves took me right back to my dancing days at the Rafter's in the 70's.  Joseph Janisse, Maurice's counterpart played keyboard and did vocals.  The Bee Gees have quite a catalogue of hits and during the 90 plus minute show, the band covered most of the big ones.  The crowd really came alive during 'More Than a Woman' and, of course, all the Saturday Night Fever songs.  It didn't matter that we were not 20-somethings anymore, all that mattered was that the music last night touched us in a place deep within our souls, deep within our memory banks.  What mattered was how those songs and the people singing them - 50 years ago and tonight, touched a nerve and stirred us to get up and move to the music and for a few minutes forget we were not young anymore and didn't have to act our age.  Instead we took a trip down memory lane.  We remembered our beloved Bee Gees, we mourned when they played a couple Andy Gibb songs, and we savored the days gone by and the music that filled the background of our youth.  Stayin Alive didn't just play music last night.  They took us back, they made us young again and for a couple hours they distracted us from the state of the world today.  That's no small feat.  During a brief break to accommodate a costume change, a video montage of images and music of the 70's played evoking cheers and applause from the crowd after being fairly sedate first set.  That enthusiasm continued throughout the second set and by the end of the show, everyone was dancing, some in their seats. 



 I'm not a big concert goer but at this point in my life when I do get out to enjoy live music, it's almost always to hear music from my youth.  Why is that?  I think it's because music has a way of letting us relive the old days, even the days when we didn't realize how good life was or that someday we'd one day look back on those days with melancholy and smile because now what we remember is the joy, not the disappointments or heartbreaks.  Music takes us to a time we can't travel to on our own.  It provides the transportation if we're willing to go for the ride.  If you're not usually a concert goer, I urge you to take time to listen to the music of your younger days - even if it's not at a concert with a bunch of folks who aren't young and wild anymore, but even better if it is.  

Thank you Stayin Alive Canada for a great concert, for bringing us back to our 'good 'ole days' and for a night we won't soon forget.  To watch for future tour dates for Stayin Alive Canada:

 https://www.stayinalivetribute.com/ 

and their Facebook Page: 

https://www.facebook.com/StayinAliveCanada

photo courtesy of Stayin Alive



 


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