Standing for Good
Ultimately this weekend is about love and sacrifice, forgiveness and acceptance. My heart is full as I contemplate the tremendous blessings I experience in this beautiful life. Life is full of choices which constantly face us wherever we turn. What to eat, what to wear, what to buy, who to befriend, whether or not to work out, how will we spend our money...pretty much everything we do is a matter of choice, particularly here in the United States. Choosing to allow God to guide and direct my life’s course was the smartest decision of my entire existence.
I think often when people are confronted with the idea of allowing God into their lives their minds are immediately flooded with resistance because they have a hard time getting beyond the thoughts of what they might have to give up in order to let Him in. That is partly the fault of Christ-followers today. I think sometimes Christians are so busy broadcasting what they stand against or are opposed to they forget to share the positively awesome and amazing concept of seeking God and developing a relationship with Him in spite of who we are or the life choices we have made or are making.
I have observed Christians protesting so many different things these past few years. Sometimes I wonder if in some way they believe they are being persecuted when they stand on the picket line or join the crowd in front of whatever capital building they are at. I understand the desire to squash all that is not right in our society, it is hard to watch people suffer when I know societal choices are partly to blame. But I do try to stand back and contemplate the bigger picture before I jump in and brainlessly join a protest. I don’t want to be defined by what I dislike. I don’t think God wants me to be.
I want to be known as a loving, accepting, willing servant. Nobody on Earth is better than I am and I am not better than anyone else. God looks at this Earth and sees over 6 billion souls and He loves all of them, wherever they are at. I didn’t enter into a relationship with God because I wanted to change behaviors in my life; and I didn’t stay away from Him to avoid changing behaviors. I entered into a relationship with God because there were some Christian women in my life who cared about me and exhibited a peace in their lives I had never experienced. They did not make me feel like God was only going to accept me when I changed who I was, they caused me to desire the peace of mind and quiet joy they had. Maybe that was a selfish reason to give my life to God, but it was truly the driving force.
Kids keep life interesting. This morning when I was passing through the livingroom to the kitchen, I looked down at a large plastic bag I was about to trip over and saw a hand inside. Yup, a human hand. I was a bit startled, to say the least. Of course, it was molded from plastic and it is a tool my daughter Maddy uses for her cosmetology practice to work on manicures. That’s my assumption anyway. I didn’t know it was in our apartment until I almost tripped over it. I never know what to expect from those four kids of mine.
One Christmas, after we finished eating our Christmas dinner together, my four children and I were sitting around the table talking. In the midst of our conversation, my son Markie casually pulled a fake arm and a suture kit out of his bag and began to practice suturing wounds on the arm. After a few comments about the arm, and pausing to watch my daughter Melodie give suturing a try, we resumed our after-dinner conversations without a glitch. When I thought about it later, I realized it was unlikely any of my friends had the same experience on Christmas day.
I have been a mom for thirty years and my kids have blessed my life and filled it with entertainment and joy. There are moments throughout our lives in which time freezes and our memory banks hold those precious seconds forever. The blessed seconds when I held each one of my incredible children for the very first time are moments like that. Those memories are etched deeply into my mind and have become a part of me. I love to take time now and then to invoke the amazing experience of holding close precious new life. Misty is now thirty and Maddy nearly eighteen but when I reach back to the day I first met each of them, it is like time has frozen and I will never forget. It might as well be yesterday.
Did you ever think about all the people we encounter in a lifetime? I was thinking this morning about the many people I know. I was also thinking about people I don’t know, but I see everyday or almost everyday at work. Then there are the people I see in the grocery store or library or bank or gym whom I don’t know at all and maybe only see once or twice in a lifetime. I am so curious about people and their lives. Sometimes I over-hear snatches of conversation and they make me wonder how people come to the conclusions they do.
In the store the other day I heard a mother and her teenage daughter discussing spring break. The mother apparently did not like it the kids were out of school for break starting on Friday, which happens to be Good Friday. She felt like the schools were taking a religious holiday and they should not. She carried on for a long ten minutes while we waited in line. Her daughter was just happy she didn't have school Friday and she kept saying she didn't care why. I wondered if her mother really felt so strongly about what seems a small matter to me, or if there were deeper issues going on and complaining about students not having school on Friday was an easier topic to attack. Who knows? But I got curious. I always do.
People are such a magnificent creation. I think it is easy to forget that because often we see the worst in others and don't look beyond that. There are people I deal with on a regular basis who are never clean. Ever. I see them out shopping or in other situations and they are always dirty, hair unkempt. They are magnificently created, but it sure doesn't look like it. I have to check myself when such thoughts creep in. It’s not my job to make snap judgments, dismissing those I feel are not clean enough or well-dressed enough for me. I don’t know what has happened in people’s lives, where they have been or what they have overcome or are currently struggling with. I don’t know, so how dare I judge? It sneaks up on me sometimes and I don’t like it. I am such a work in progress.
For the past three years, since I graduated from Spring Arbor University with a Masters degree in Communication, I have been hitting the job-search trail faithfully. I have submitted hundreds of resumes and written numerous cover letters. I have dug down deep and pulled out every ounce of creativity I possess to try to make my resumes stand out from the crowd. I have networked the people I know and made connections with hiring managers for companies from Detroit to Lansing to Ann Arbor to Jackson. It is a lot of work and sometimes an exhausting enterprise. I have received an education in job searching and work skills I was not anticipating nor did I desire.
Although my main motivation for completing a Masters degree was largely intrinsic - I did have an unspoken expectation I would find a job in which I could use the knowledge I had gained. When it all started, I was working both a full time job and a part time job. I had been offered a full time position at my part time job upon completion of the degree, but the poor economy and some other difficulties eliminated that as an option. I had no idea three years later I would still be applying, writing, networking and searching.
I can’t say it has been fun, but I can say it has been educational and most definitely a faith-building exercise. I remember when I landed my first professional interview three years ago almost immediately after I graduated with my degree. I was so certain God was opening for me with that interview - after all, I had turned in my application and resume late and was called for an interview anyway - surely God was blessing my hard work and diligence with a job! I was crushed when someone else was hired. The human resources manager assured me I had done nothing wrong and was, in fact, a strong candidate, but the board of directors had opted to hire someone who was already part of the company. And that scenario has repeated itself time and again.
For a while I was a bit jaded. Every time I actually landed an interview, I would dedicate myself to learning about the company and preparing to present and sell my very best self. However, I told very few individuals when an interview was coming up. I was tired of spending time explaining or speculating why it didn't work out once again. People mean well, but I was not struggling through interviews and blowing my chances for potential jobs as they seemed to assume. I was tired of receiving a lot of unsolicited advice about what to wear and how to conduct myself at a job interview. I also didn't allow my hopes to get too high. I simply assumed I was interviewing for experience and had zero hope a job would work out. I went into the interviews preparing my best face, but also with a rather fatalistic attitude. I guess I was in Eeyore mode - “Oh well, here we go again, nothing good is going to come out of this.”
Let's Hear it For Math!
I like math. Everything fits together so neatly and cleanly when you balance both sides of the equation to solve for “x”. It makes sense if you have three apples and you get four more, you now have seven. That so clearly is what it is nobody can interrupt and say, “Hey! That’s wrong!” Or, “Hey, when I gave you four more apples, I didn’t mean for you to have seven, I meant for you to have six” and change the outcome that three apples plus four apples equals seven apples. In that sense, Math represents Truth. The right answer is the right answer is the right answer.
Sometimes in math there is more than one way to get to the solution to the problem. One day I spent ten minutes arguing with a student about an equation. I was trying to show her how to do it and she kept interrupting me saying, “That’s wrong! That’s wrong! You don’t know how to do it!” I double-checked my final answer and it was right, but she kept saying I was wrong so I told her to do the problem herself while I kept my mouth shut and watched. When she took the first problem-solving step, I instantly saw the equation from a completely different perspective and realized right away even though she was approaching it in an entirely different way than I had, she was right and was going to come up with the correct solution doing it her own way. And that is another thing I like about Math - sometimes there is more than one way to get to the right answer - but whatever path you take you still end up with the right answer. Life is often like that too but sometimes I am so wrapped up in doing things MY way and wanting everyone else to do the same - I do not make an allowance for anyone else’s way. Or sometimes even God’s way.
I want to be very careful I do not put Him inside a box in such a way I expect Him to work exactly the same way in everyone elses’ lives as He does in mine. In the past, I have found myself mentally writing off the faith others have in God because they worship in a different way or maybe are not even as far along the path of faith as I am. I have changed so much in the past several years. God has softened my heart and made my soul wiser. He has drawn me to a depth of spirituality I was only skimming the surface of before. I realize He is the Great, Awesome, Mighty God Who NEVER changes - and He made this amazing world we live in. The concept is mind-boggling.
There is something soothing about watching fire. I have always loved a good roaring fire in the fireplace on a freezing cold day. I enjoy the delicious juxtaposition of sitting by a fire while watching snow fall. There is something equally mesmerizing about loafing around a campfire. I remember being at a family camp event once and several families were gathered around the campfire. One person really wanted all of us to sing, but the songs kept dying out because everybody was just relaxing, watching the fire and drifting off into our own thoughts. And who doesn't love a bonfire? Have an outdoor gathering and as darkness creeps in - where do all the people gravitate? The bonfire, of course!
I do realize not all fire is soothing. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, smack at the bottom of the San Bernardino Mountain range in Southern California. California is basically a desert most of the time. For the majority of my childhood we endured drought conditions. Mom tried hard to get us to flush the toilets with water we saved from our showers and to be careful about leaving water running when brushing our teeth or washing our hands. It was a very dry state and we were furthered cautioned constantly about fire danger. I heard the story of “Smokey the Bear” I don’t know how many times in school and at home. I learned the importance of NEVER playing with fire outside and that I should make sure when I was finished with a campfire or BBQ, to be certain the fire was completely out before I left the area. A single spark could wreak havoc on the dry timber which was everywhere.
One day, a visitor in the mountains behind our home carelessly threw a cigarette out the window of his car. That one cigarette ignited dry brush by the roadside which ignited a forest fire which spread rapidly across the entire mountain range. We had had occasional forest fires in the past, but that was the first one I could remember which caught the entire ring of mountains around our valley on fire. It was the first time I could remember smelling smoke all day and all night long - there was no escaping it. It was the first time ash rained constantly, gently from the sky. It was the first time night was not completely dark, instead, everything was cast in an orange and flickering glow. I would stand in the front yard and hold out my hands to catch ashes while I watched in fascination, horror, and sadness as the mountains burned. Many evenings I found I could not tear myself away so powerful was the lure of the inferno nearby. Whenever I went outside, my eyes were drawn instantly to the mountains, focusing on the fire. That fire burned for a long time, too. It was difficult to contain and consumed many acres of mountainside before the last ember was quenched.
When was the last time you had an AWE-SOME moment that just was so amazing it took your breath away?
I think my most recent moment like that was December 31, 2012. It’s funny, because I sent in the IRS 501(3)c application for The Torch October 14, 2012, after 80+ hours of preparation. Those forms are long and meticulous to fill out. Right after I dropped that thick envelope in the mail - I started to pray for a decision. Somebody told Sarah a story of waiting three years for an IRS exemption to go through for a non-profit. We were prepared for whatever God had planned. I understand why the IRS is so careful about handing out that designation - I can see how it could easily be abused by people who might use a cause simply to line their pockets.
On December 30 I received a survey from an organization designed to help the IRS improve its services (hee hee). The survey began with something like, “You recently received a decision from the IRS. This survey is to give you an opportunity to rate the IRS service you received...” I stopped reading at that first sentence, because I had NOT heard anything from the IRS since October, when they sent me a letter acknowledging receipt of my application.
Now, according to the introduction to the survey, we had received a decision? I thought there must be a mistake and decided to show the letter to Sarah the next time I saw her to see what she thought. The next time I saw her happened to be the next day - December 31. She didn't understand either, so I dug out the letter of acknowledgement I had received in October and found a phone number I could call for assistance.
It was in the early afternoon and the woman I talked to was very pleasant and helpful. I told her I had received a survey which made me think a decision had been made for my organization, but I had never received a letter of determination or denial. She took my information and put me on hold. Those were a long few minutes of waiting. When she came back and told me we had received tax exempt status on NOVEMBER 22, 2012 - it took my breath away! I cannot hardly describe how it felt to know we had crossed one of the largest obstacles in our path - in a shorter time-frame than I would have hoped for or imagined. This was the IRS we are talking about! The moment felt surreal and she continued talking, giving me some instructions for how to get a copy of the letter, which apparently disappeared somewhere in the mail. It’s a good thing I wrote it all down, because I really wasn't hearing anything she said. All I could think was - “We GOT it!” As soon as I hung up the phone Sarah and I stared at each other in a daze for a few minutes, then exploded in celebration! We could hardly talk, it was so hard to take in. We were prepared to wait up to three years and suddenly everything we had been envisioning and dreaming about was within our reach and the moment felt utterly unreal.
Don't Hate the Haters!
We all have haters in our lives. I know, you are thinking, “Even you, Rhonda? How could you possibly have haters in YOUR life?” Well, believe it or not, I do. And I have noticed they affect my life in a few different ways, mostly depending on me. Who came to mind when you read the first sentence in this blog? I imagine somebody did. They stick with us, because they can affect so much of our lives.
I constantly tell my students at the high school to ignore people who pick on them. Bullies gain satisfaction from the reaction they receive from their victims. Because I work with students who have special needs, they are often a favorite target of bullies. I know, it’s 2013, you would think our society would be beyond that but there is a subculture of individuals who disregard peer pressure and the anti-bullying trends and continue to perpetuate hatred and intolerance. That’s a blog in and of itself. But I do tell my students to ignore the bullies. And I have to tell myself to ignore my haters.
Which is good advice, but my students often tell me they can’t ignore it, and ignoring is not the full extent to which I should deal with haters anyway. What happens when I don’t ignore them? I give them power over me they do not deserve to have. I become bitter and angry. I think this affects me sometimes even more deeply if I have moved on and they are no longer a part of my life. In my head it also becomes even worse when the person held some position of authority over me. In one particular situation, I respected the individual a great deal. I was lied to and trust was broken. Physically, I moved on but the hurt was deep and remained.
I found myself replaying the events leading up to the point where I discovered I was lied to over and over again. And I would become so angry. When I later learned the hater was spreading untruths about me - it added to my anger which was turning to bitterness. One day I was reliving the memories and I stopped myself short.
I started thinking about how it didn't matter how hurt and angry I was by what happened and even what might still be happening. No matter how angry the situation made me feel - my anger toward the hater did not make a bit of difference in that individual’s life. That person was completely unaffected by what I was feeling. I was the one being continually hurt by the constant replaying in my mind and I was the one who needed to turn it off.
So much easier said than done. Like ignoring bullies, I guess. But I made myself consciously stop the thought process when it started rolling and building steam. I would catch myself and change the direction of my thoughts. Philippians 4:8 was a huge help in this: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” I replay that verse in my mind a lot. It drives my focus.
Soon I got to the point where I no longer dwelt on those evil memories. People could even tell me the hater was still saying untrue things about me and I would just let it roll off my back. And that was all good and healthy and much-needed. Then I started to realize even though I no longer allowed myself to become angry and consumed with how badly I was hurt and the injustice of it all - there was something in me I really didn't like. Part of me was hoping for bad things to happen to my hater. I wasn't comfortable with the fact I held that secret hope, but I didn't do anything about it at first, either.
It is killing me the way we have apparently lost the ability to resolve problems and differences with people in a constructive manner. I work in the public school system and again and again I witness parents and students who have an issue with a staff member who, instead of asking if they can sit down with the staff member and discuss the situation rationally, run around and gossip with other students, parents, administrators or counselors about the situation. I have even observed school staff members do that to other school staff members.
And it is certainly not limited to the school system. It’s all over society in general. We seem to have forgotten communication skills and consideration for others. My goodness, nobody is perfect and sometimes things happen which are out of our control. Or we make mistakes. For the past seven months, I have also been working in retail. Many people are nice and understanding if a mistake is made or something goes wrong. But many are not. They will call in anger, demanding things are made right immediately. I have a friend who works at a pizza store and she says the same thing happens there. Sometimes customers even insist on trying to get the individual who made the mistake into trouble or even fired from the job. Sometimes fellow employees do the same.
America has a reputation for being a litigious society. I have to wonder how many lawsuits could be avoided if people would just sit down and talk things through and really try to listen to each other? Maybe the biggest problem is an inability to listen. I was an interpreter for the deaf for many years and one sign which has always stuck with me is the sign for “listen”. Since deaf people cannot hear, the sign an interpreter uses when a speaker says, “Listen” is the sign that means “Pay attention.” Paying attention is what listening is really all about and is the part we seem to have forgotten. We form opinions on the fly or based on a one-time interaction without taking time to pay careful attention to the person or situation we are dealing with. It is actually quite rude the way we disregard those around us.
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” That is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill over 70 years ago. It is found on the walls of many classrooms and public places. I was staring at it one day while proctoring students who were taking a test and it got me thinking. I was struck by the realization the quote is actually wrong! I’ve seen it a million times but never really gave it much thought before.
What is wrong with it is: attitude is most often NOT a little thing, it is, in fact, a BIG thing. With the right attitude people can accomplish amazing things. Sylvester Stallone wrote “Rocky” and was rejected over 1500 times when he tried to get it produced. He believed in his project, though, and did not give up. The other day at the video store, I helped a man find the Rocky series and he told me how much he loved it and how excited he was to be able to show it to his kids.
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because they told him he didn’t have any imagination. I’ve been to Disneyland hundreds of times and personally am glad he kept the right attitude about his dream and didn’t give up.
Attitude affects me in a myriad of ways. How I approach tasks or people or situations influences outcomes significantly. If I think I can’t do something and I try it anyway, 99% of the time I’m right, I can’t do it. My attitude determines the outcome. If I focus on believing I can accomplish what I set out to achieve - I very often find I CAN do it, even if it seems impossible. It’s annoying to talk to people who have bad attitudes. I’ve been in the situation before where every idea I presented was shot down when it barely left my lips. I’ve always been a person who reaches for the stars and I’m willing to give the impossible a try, but in order to do that I have to get past the Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers. I usually stop arguing with them and just go on and do what I intended to anyway.
Sometimes I fail. But I find even with failure, my attitude makes a difference. Sometimes I use failure to find a different approach to the problem I hope to solve. Sometimes it spurs me to try harder. And sometimes I realize what I am doing is starting to be pointless and I do a 180 and try something that appears to be completely different, yet accomplishes my original goal. I tend to only make goals to try things which are important to me.
I got my first job when I was 151/2 years old. That is if you don’t count the babysitting jobs I started doing when I was 11. My mom pimped my sister and I out for $.25 per hour. Just kidding - in a way - she really did tell everyone with small children in the neighborhood we would babysit for a quarter an hour without consulting us. But it worked out and I learned I didn't particularly want to do childcare as a career. When I was 151/2 I was hired at a local fast food restaurant which sold deep-fried chicken. It was the best chicken in the area and I was so excited to be hired there.
That job marked the beginning of a lifetime of employment in a wide variety of settings as I have always held a job of one sort or another since the time I worked the registers at Pioneer Take-Out. Quite often, through the years, I have held two jobs at the same time. Now is one of those times and they often lead to 15-or-more hours per day. Last night I was working my evening job and I started thinking about work ethics. I have a very strong work ethic and I was trying to determine where that comes from and why I work as hard as I do.
At every job I have ever held I have worked hard to be the very best I can be, no matter how trivial the job might seem. If you ask me to sweep the floor or wipe down the tables - the floor will be thoroughly swept and the tables wiped down better than anyone else can do. I don’t know why I do this considering I have pretty much zero competitive nature - even when I participate in sports or run a 10 K I am not out to beat anyone except myself. But when it comes to working I always try to be the best I can at whatever I do. I have had a really hard time trying to understand people who do not.
Have Kids - Or Be a Parent?
Sometimes I feel so frustrated for young people in this society. Our understanding of family dynamics is so convoluted. Now, I am not a fan of regulating personal freedoms, but I do wish there was some sort of regulator that could be placed on potential parents. It would be helpful if, before they took the plunge, people figured out if they were ready to be PARENTS or if they were simply wanting to have kids. I think there is a difference.
I have worked with families for over 28 years - as a volunteer through church and as a school employee. I’ve worked with children and teens from all walks of life, in all demographics, at all different stages in life. The jobs I’ve had and the volunteering I’ve done put me in the position to observe generations of children grow up and become parents or have children of their own. It makes me wish there was a way to gauge parental readiness. I have some thoughts on this. There are several things people should think through before procreation happens.
First of all, if you have a child, you are not their friend. They don’t need you to be their friend. You should have your own friends and if you don’t, then don’t have a child so you can have a friend. That sounds silly when I read it. But seriously, it happens and it causes problems for young people when their parents are confused about their roles. You don’t look as hip and cool in their clothes as they do anyway, sorry to be the one to tell you. “Well, that’s no fun,” you might whine but believe me - it is quite possible to have fun with kids without trying to be one of their peers. A friend cannot parent. The parents I have observed who tried hard to be friends first with their kids always ended up with out-of-control kids and teenagers because when the time came for training and molding their young lives - which helps prepare them for adulthood - there was nobody around to do it. They might hang out with you a lot if you are more of a friend than a parent, but in the end they respect you more if you act like their parent. So just remember - do not have kids so you can be friends with them.
Second - do not have kids if you are looking for someone to control either with your words or your (gulp) fists. They are not possessions or objects, they are people. While they are small, they are pretty controllable because your bigness and loudness are intimidating. As they get older they may still cooperate out of fear of your wrath, but if you are hoping to have close relationships with them in the future - I haven’t seen that happen. Kids need freedom to grow and experience life and make decisions of their own. Even decisions you don’t approve of. Of course, I’m not saying they should be allowed to choose drugs and alcohol and teenage sex - as a parent your job is to teach them not to want to do destructive things with their lives. I’m saying they should be allowed some freedom in choosing things like clothes, food, whether or not to play sports, and etc. You don’t own them. If you find yourself considering children as a new acquisition or possession - don’t have them.
Spring = Hope
So I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of some robins near my home. As far as I am concerned, they are the harbingers of spring; although I have been told the arrival of red-winged blackbirds is likely a more reliable indicator that spring is here. I don't care about that, robins come home first, so I always start watching for them near the end of February.
Says the California girl.
Have you heard that saying, “You can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the girl?” To a certain extent I find it to be true about me. I grew up in Southern California and moved to Michigan over twenty-three years ago. After that first winter, I never would have dreamed I would still be here twenty-three years later. That first winter was culture shock at its finest. As a California girl, never before in my life had I felt such vicious, biting cold. I had never felt much cold at all, in fact. My sisters and I were the only kids in the elementary school whose grandmother (she lived in Illinois) crocheted winter hats for them - and whose mom actually made them wear them to school. It seriously was never cold enough for those hats with the little bumps all over them grandma made - and as for me, as soon as I knew Mom couldn't see me walking to school anymore, the hat came off.
As a child, I had many misconceptions about winter. For instance, my mom loved Bing Crosby and at Christmastime she played “White Christmas” over and over again. I would listen to the words of the song and think about the fact Bing was an old man and I drew the conclusion white Christmases and snow were from long ago days. We lived in a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel valley and the only snow I saw was that which occasionally blanketed the San Gabriel mountains. I never actually observed snow falling, so I guess it is understandable in a way. I seriously thought White Christmases were not real.
Then I grew up and moved to Michigan. Of course, by the time I was an adult I understood snowfall really happened, depending on where one lived, so I knew what I was getting into when I moved.
Well, sort of. I actually discovered I do not particularly like snow. I mean, it wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so cold. And slippery to drive on. I have found many of my fellow Michiganders are of the mindset snow is just fine as long as it only appears on Christmas day. I tend to agree with that. Most of my friends would tell you I am not a fan of winter and they would be right. They might even say I hate winter, but actually, that would only be partially right. I USED to hate winter, but not anymore.
I find that most things I hate actually have a lot to teach me if I allow them to. So what have I learned from winter? I learned that I can drive in very challenging weather on seriously slippery roads. I have learned there is a quiet beauty on the day after a heavy snowstorm, when the trees and ground are coated in glimmering white. I learned snow-bows are real and amazing to behold! But I think the thing I have learned to appreciate most about winter is that it comes to an end. Every year, the bitter, cold hardness of it comes to an end and what is next?
Beautiful, flowery, green Spring!
This nation’s preoccupation with plastic surgery, beauty pageants, and hair care products is off the chain. I recently had a conversation with a lady who did not appear to blink once during our five minute exchange and it was odd how her lips barely moved even though she was talking to me. I am still not sure what she told me, as I was in awe of this spectacle occurring right in front of me, and fighting temptation to poke her face. I can proudly say, I resisted temptation and only poked her face in my head – outwardly I was cool as a cucumber and nodded as I pretended to listen.
Back in the good ole days, people worked endless hours each day to put food on the table for their kids, got out of bed before the sun rose and headed to the dairy barns to milk their hormone free cows, raised their families, and also managed to salute the flag, all before heading to bed at dusk to get up and do it all over again. People used to work so hard the sent themselves to an early grave, or at least to an early visit from arthritis, or “Old Arthur,” as my grandma calls it. Even back in my day, kids were outside playing until the sun went down and had to be called in for dinner. The sound of the National Anthem was enough to get people to stop talking for two minutes during a baseball game out of respect for country and pride of the flag, and teenagers paid for their own gas and car insurance.
Well, now I sound like a nagging adult, but what happened to the “Ugly America?” The America where people were more concerned about getting a job than the outline of their jaw? The America where children and teenagers said “yes please” and “no thank you” and did not assume they were entitled to a smart phone and a car? Where the average citizen knew how blessed she was to be living in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” and because of these brave, people had the freedom to be as ugly as they wanted to be and didn’t have to go get injected with cellulite to look younger? The good old days, when being ugly meant you were working hard and didn’t always have time to make sure your eyebrows were perfectly tweezed, and people were hideous and proud of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for change…when it is for the better. I love new and exciting and applaud those who think outside the box, take a leap of faith, and venture into the unknown. However, I also appreciate heritage and history and feel we, as Americans, are quickly forgetting what our great nation was founded on. We forget those who have paved the path for us. I say it is time we get back to our roots and instead of getting jiggy with it, we get ugly with it!
There is an old Compaq desktop computer in one of the classrooms where I work. It was out of date and running incredibly slowly and so for the first half of the school year it was shut down and sitting on the desk. The kids all have laptops, anyway, so there was no need for it. Apparently, several weeks ago somebody decided to try to use it because I came in one day and it was turned on. And it seemed to be stuck in this unending cycle. It would suddenly boot up and slowly load Windows. A few seconds after Windows loaded, the shutdown process would begin. And the old Compaq would turn off. Within seconds it was on again and slowly loading Windows. It actually looked like it was painful, yet at the same time it was mesmerizing to watch in a way. I found myself feeling a bit sorry for the old boy.
The weird thing is - that went on for weeks and nobody did anything about it, including me, until the other day when I finally pulled the plug!
Every day, literally for weeks on end the computer turned itself on, booted up, logged out, shut down and did it again. Over and over. And we didn't do anything about it. When it finally got to me today - I found myself wondering why nobody turned it off? And then I wondered why I didn't turn it off? So I did.
Seems like I have a lot of areas of my life which are like that. There are issues or situations that happen repeatedly and in the vague recesses of my mind I know I should do something about them, but for some reason I don’t bother until they nag at me so much I finally take action to fix them. Here’s a prime example: I know my mom loves to get mail. She really does. She faithfully sends cards to everyone in the family for all kinds of reasons. And I buy cards to send to her, because I know it will mean a lot. But then I bring them home and put them on the desk, and eventually they get moved inside the desk drawer and I never mail them. That’s terrible! And it has been nagging at me so much I am going to send her a card or a letter right away.
Self improvement is challenging to say the least. It is far easier to look at the lives of those around me and think about how they need to improve than it is to address the recurring issues in my own life; yet I know I would benefit more if I spent time thinking about and facing my own issues rather than picking apart others’. I have to say, I am getting better at dealing with self-change and like everything else about me, I am a work in progress but there is definitely room for improvement.
Lessons From the Trail
I love winter. From the below zero temps to waist high drifts of the white stuff, I love it all. I know that raises the eyebrows of most other people – even here in the Snow Belt. While adults around me will openly lament the announcement of an impending storm, I’m like an eight year old with my face pressed against the window searching the skies in anticipation and delight at what’s to come. The words “winter storm warning” strike panic in the hearts of many but serve as music to my ears!
I will admit I harbor some of the same dislikes of winter that most people do. I’m usually cold, for one. I come from a long line of skinny hillbillies and although we’re a rugged lot, I’ve yet to meet many that think much of blowing snow and freezing temps. Growing up in the middle of Michigan farm country, I learned that driving in the winter includes the ever present possibility of ending up in a ditch large enough to swallow a tractor trailer. These are the kind of valleys you can disappear into and not be found until the spring thaw. Even if you are equipped with rope and grappling hook you probably couldn't manage to climb out much before then.
Lastly is the challenge of what to do in the winter, which - depending on how you define it - can extend from the end of November until the middle of May. One can only knit so many socks or play card games for so long. These winter time obstacles, cold, hazardous driving, and boredom cause half the state to abdicate for the duration and the other half to hole up and wait for it to be over. What then do I find so appealing? What affects my outlook so much that most of the red letter and vacation days appear on my calendar in the months of January and February when everyone else is longing for summer? Two words. Snow. Mobile.
Okay, technically it’s one word, but savvy enough to act as both noun and verb. Snowmobile . . . snowmachine . . . sled. Webster’s defines it as “an open vehicle with steerable skis on the front and an endless belt at the rear”. However you refer to them or riding them, they’re fun with a capital F and transform a winter of tribulation into one I embrace, enjoy, and even celebrate.