December 16, 2011

Friday Frustration: I got nothin'

It would appear that my thought to share a gripe a week with my readers was ill-thought out. Either that or for as crabby as I was last week, the pendulum has swung the other way this week.

I am in such an unbelievably good mood. I saw a darling cartoon this morning that captures my mood perfectly. I am dancing with Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

On a hunch last night, I got to thinking about a favorite teacher of mine from over 30 years ago. She was elderly then, and so I wondered if she was still alive. I did a quick search and found out not only is she still alive, but she's active with a Senior group in her hometown. I sent her a note and Christmas card today. I wonder if she'll remember me as well as I remember her?

Then, this morning, right after I made a professional vow to change how I work in 2012, a friend of mine told me about a job opportunity that could be a perfect fit.

It's been that sort of a day. I finished reading a book written by a friend of mine that filled me with joy and gratitude. Michele Gianetti's book, I Believe in You: A Mother and Daughter's Special Journey is a personal account of her daughter who has dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder. Her chronicle of the love she has for her family and the path they've traveled is nothing short of amazing. I'm so proud of her for sharing her family with the world.

Tonight is my daughter's birthday party. In the past, I've always had a "themed" party which meant special decorations, food, games, and weeks of planning. She announced to me that she just wants to have her friends over and have pizza and snacks and fun. At first I was a bit disappointed, but today, I realized what a gift she gave me. The gift of simplifying my life. I keep thinking I'm forgetting something, but really, it's just that it's that simple. Thank you, sweetheart!

Tomorrow we're joining dear friends for dinner to celebrate the holidays. I cherish the ties that were forged when our children were young and have remained in place through moves and school changes. Then the weekend wraps up with a special Live Nativity performance at our church. Camels, sheep, cattle, angels, shepherds, and of course Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Yeah, to anyone who is bah-humbug-ing?  Dare you to look at that cartoon and still frown.

Have a wonderful FANTASTIC Friday and rest of the weekend.

December 9, 2011

CSI Santa

This is the time of year when the Santa skeptics are abound. It only takes a whisper on the bus from another child or a bold announcement in the lunch line to plant the seeds of doubt in the shining eyes of your innocent one.

We've done some pretty wild things to keep the belief in Santa alive. Santa wrapping paper was hidden away and only used for Santa's gifts. We nibbled cookies and drank milk under duress, and we even put on big boots and left foot prints in the snow. My own parents knocked a log out of the fireplace onto the family room floor. I can remember coming home from midnight church certain I had seen Santa's sleigh in the sky, watching for any evidence of his travels. 

One of the most magical Christmas surprises I had was when we didn't have a tree up yet on Christmas Eve, and while we were at church, my aunt and uncle came over and put one up and decorated it for us, leaving a special note from Santa's Elves promising that he would be back after we went to bed. 
When my girls were little, the first year we had our dog, they were afraid he would bark when Santa came in, so they took his crate up into the older one's bedroom and slept together in the same bed to ensure they kept the dog quiet so Santa would still visit. 

There is a certain joy to be had in keeping the magic alive for a child and adult alike. One of the things my girls never knew was that I caught Santa. You see, I was so impressed with their plan that special year, that I decided to sneak into the bedroom and snap a photo of them sleeping. Apparently, Santa was impressed with their plan also, as he paused to smile for me. 

The company I CAUGHT SANTA is graciously offering FIVE of our readers a free photo. There are 20 Santa poses to choose from and you can upload any picture you wish. See the site for some cute ideas. To receive a code for a free photo ($9.99 value), simply comment on this blog post (not on the Facebook page) sharing a special Santa memory and then like I CAUGHT SANTA CLAUS on Facebook.  

The company also has other characters for skeptics everywhere. Offer proof and charm fellow believers. We will select the 5 winners on December 18th at midnight, EST. Winners will be contacted the 19th with a code for their photo.

If you cannot wait until the drawing,  I CAUGHT SANTA has a 25% discount code for Fresh Daily Bread's readers. Just enter SAVE25 at the checkout!

Ho, ho, ho... MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

Friday Frustration: with all due respect

I wanted to call today's post Friday Pet Peeve, but I'm a bit obsessed with alliteration. I considered Friday Flame, but figured that may conjure the wrong image. I intend to make this a regular feature on this blog in an attempt to jumpstart some creativity. So without further ado, today's pet peeve. 

Prefacing a statement of disagreement using the phrase with all due respect is one of my biggest pet peeves (Believe me, I have plenty! So many that I hope to fill a year of Fridays).  The need to use such a phrase underscores a prior lack of respect. It's as if the speaker is qualifying the fact that they don't normally exercise respect when speaking. I liken it to when someone has to tell me they are smart or classy or talented. I hope such traits are obvious enough to not require announcement.

When I carry on a conversation with another person, I treat them with respect. As tempting as it may be to say "it's a two way street", respect is a one way street and I choose to lead the way. If someone were going the wrong way on a one way street, I wouldn't careen forward to prove I was going the right way. I would move to the side.

In keeping with that tone, when someone I am talking to shows a lack of respect, I do not follow suit. I continue to speak with respect. If the conversation escalates, I simply remove myself from it. But whenever I hear the phrase with all due respect I bristle. It's like an asterisk that the rest of the conversation didn't take place from a place of respect.

Are there any words or phrases that rub you the wrong way?

December 5, 2011

A Novice Guide to Train Wrecks

Or rubbernecking or however we choose to define those moments when the momentum of a vehicle carrying someone to a destination careens out of control. We adopt the vernacular of "train wreck" as a code word for "I'm gonna stare".

I admit, when folks do things I don't expect? I stare. I am riveted. And even when they've indoctrinated me into their unexpected behavior? I still watch, curious if they can keep it going.

True dat. Or Beast. Or maybe Booyah. I'm borrowing the most current slang I hear my teenagers use in attempt to keep my commentary as relevant and timely as possible. I may be messing up the slang. I am actually giggling that I typed such words. My goodness, it's amazing what we do to be heard.

For every person muttering that they Do.Not.Do.That., I contend someone else +2 is muttering how much that is them. You see? Train wreck is only if you get off course. Train wreck has no basis in the folks who somehow or another manage to bullet forward without mishap. So it's about the gamble. How much can we  push it before we wreck?

How far can we go?

Crazy as it sounds? I think this is exactly what defines the American dream. This is the dynamic that pushes us towards the ridiculous. The impetus to behave in a way that is out of the norm, but with the hope that someone will agree and endorse you.

Each time you find yourself unable to turn away? Ask yourself ... Why? and if you can answer it? tell me. Let the world know why you're watching. What keeps your eyes on a Train Wreck?

November 30, 2011

Gratitude Sans Attitude

One of my favorite and most inspirational bloggers in the Whole Entire World (that is called sucking up, mah friend), put together a gratitude post and as always, she humbles me. Citing things that we take for granted so often really gave me a chance to reflect and practice some gratitude.

As I bare my most honest self here, sometimes I forget to simply give thanks. Oh sure, I profess it, I pontificate and announce how lucky I am, but in the depths of my pampered soul, I still find reason to gripe. It's a bit embarrassing, truth be told, so I try to drown those gripes with louder announcements of gratefulness.

I might be in the 1%.  I say that with as much humility as I can muster. My spouse works his tail off and I don't. Or at least not in a way that provides a paycheck. We live in a nice suburb, our bills are paid, the only debt we have is our mortgage. For the past 16 years since we started a family, I awaken to the rhythms not of an alarm clock to go to a job, but to the stirrings of our offspring, either to feed or clothe or send them to school. I take care of our kids. There are days I don't always realize how good I have it. There are days I rant as a mommy who gets nothing but sass and dirty laundry as my reward. But today, I'm realizing that hearing the voice of my children means they are healthy and alive and I have my faculties. Having dirty laundry to wash means we have clothes to wear and appliances and power to clean them. Each day, I take time to figure out how I'm going to spend my day. Sometimes it feels like nothing mindful or purposeful, but the fact is, I am not beholden to any corporation or employer. I answer to myself and my ideas of how to organize my day. What amazing freedom! I pick up some freelance work from time to time, but it really is just gravy, not living expenses.

Before we had children, I worked retail. I worked long hard hours in a grocery store. There were days I worked until midnight then had to return six hours later to start the day shift. I worked holidays and weekends. I worked with honest hardworking folks and to this day, there are things about the job I miss. I never tried to support a family with that job. I lived in a modest apartment with a beater car that got me back and forth to work. I was so proud the day I bought my first new car, with hand crank windows, and no radio. But it was new, it was reliable, and it was mine.

Today I'm really considering how much time I've spent griping and it makes me blush. I hear stories about how hard it is for folks and I drive my paid-for car with a full tank of gas through the neighborhoods where I hear how hard it is. I cannot begin to fathom such a life, it barely touches my world, except by choice, not by circumstance. When I say by choice, I mean I have time to volunteer for several incredible organizations. I am grateful that I can give my time to organizations that try to help. Sometimes, I wonder if it does. I question if one person can make a difference.

I was given the opportunity to review a new book that really drives the point home. I'm about halfway through Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. With the subtitle: transform your giving and our world, the book is a reminder of the difference someone can make. The book is chock full of information about the world of giving. We don't have to have foundations or cumbersome entities to make a difference. To quote the section I just reached, whether we are Saving a Life or Moving a Needle (page 105),  something is happening. The section continues with the question, "If you had one dollar to give, where would you invest it to have the most impact?" 

I follow up that question with, "If you had ONE HOUR to give..." and ask you to consider that. Giving isn't just about a season, but rather there is need all year. What began as an exercise in gratitude has become an exercise in giving. What I'm most grateful for is that I don't need all that I have and I want to give it away. I am grateful that I can.

November 22, 2011

*Gift Card for Groceries, *Anything...

That is what the tag read. I trembled as I picked it from the tree.

You see, every year, around this time, my church does a Twig Tree. A Charlie Brown-esque tree, filled with nothing but tags from folks around the community who could use a little extra. When all the tags are taken, we replace the twig tree with a Christmas tree.

As a Sunday School project, I had my students go and select one boy and one girl from the tree. We're planning an afternoon of shopping followed by a area-wide youth group party/bonfire. They chose a 13 year old boy and 4 year old girl. I was proud of my class as they agreed to spend the early part of their day pre-party shopping and wrapping gifts for those with less. I thought it was a good opportunity for fellowship.

They group the tags by family and so after my class had chosen their recipients, I went back to look if anyone was left out. That's when I spied the purple tag. The mother asking for only food. Or if you wanted to give something else, of course she would be grateful. My eyes welled with tears. To think that during this season of plenty, that her specific request was a way to feed her family? As I try to figure out if we should get our children another video game or electronic gadget? It was humbling. It was nothing I personally can relate to, or at least not much.

There was a time, while I wasn't hungry, I was at the mercy of the system. When I was in middle school, there was a short period of time when my brothers and I had to use the free-lunch tickets. It was humiliating. It was during the time when my parents' marriage was breaking up and truth be told, I don't know why we qualified for free lunches, but there was something in the paperwork that allowed it to happen. Mama, ever the resourceful one, figured that if we qualified, she wasn't going to pass it up. I think the way support was paid didn't show as income at that time. Whatever the reason, everyday, for 3 years, I had to walk to the office, get what seemed to be a glowing neon FREE LUNCH ticket, and present it for a midday meal. One of the boys said to me, "I thought you were rich". While I silently thought, "So did I",  I didn't have a reply for him. Instead the next few months, I stopped eating lunch, although I graciously accepted whatever my friends were prepared to throw out.

You see, I don't truly know what it's like to be hungry or poor, but I tiptoed the line and walked in those shoes.  I know how dehumanizing it can be and how others look down on you. I know how I was looked down on and I was only 12. I was a kid and felt the arrogance and elitism of those who didn't have to use the FREE LUNCH tickets. I've never forgotten how that felt and I never want to.

When I read about a mother wanting nothing more than food for groceries, my heart tugs. I image all the things that may happen when she gets that gift. Will she pack her children a lunch? Will she enjoy a meal of food of her choosing versus what is available at the food bank or soup kitchen? How many of us even consider the ability to choose what we are going to eat a LUXURY? It's something we take for granted. We open the pantry or refrigerator and gaze at an abundance.

Yet, for many of our brothers and sisters, that just isn't the case. A friend of mine who is one of the "working poor" quite honestly posted recently about how tired she was of eating rice with sugar in the morning and salt at night. By the way, this person works 60+ hours a week. By the time the rent and gas is paid? Just isn't a lot left. Sure her family eats. Rice. With sugar or salt depending on the time of day. She went to the food bank and was given a can of icing. No cake. But someone generously donated a can of icing.

I would like to help the lady on my anonymous tree tag and a few others who I know are struggling. I'm not a non profit, I'm no organization. I'm simply someone who knows that whatsoever you do, for the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. Let's do something for the least of us. (Matthew 25:40)

November 18, 2011

Running for Pleasure

the following is a sponsored post

One of my favorite things about a vacation is the opportunity to work out or run without interruption. Some of my best runs actually have taken place while on vacation. There is something liberating about knowing that you're not on a schedule, you don't have to drive anyone anywhere, or get someone else out the door. I only know that when I'm on a vacation, I do my best exercising. Granted, we cannot vacation 24/7 for 52 weeks/yearly. However, when I'm presented with a wide open day planner, the first thing I want to pencil in is a run or workout.

Imagine how thrilled I was to learn that several of the deluxe Disney hotels not only have enough characters to please even the most jaded princess lover, but also practical concessions for the desire to if nothing else, stay fit while on vacation. What could be more beautiful or invigorating than a jog around the perfectly manicured landscape of a resort property? Well, perhaps if that property actually planned trails for such a jog! In fact, a priority of mine now when I travel is to see if there are running trails. While I have the best intentions at home to run, there is something about new scenery and surroundings that motivate me that much more.

I admit it, part of my vacation plans is the chance to exercise without guilt or a nagging thought of needing to be anywhere else. As I said, running for pleasure is something that truly happens when I'm on vacation.

October 31, 2011

The Art of Enhancing Ourselves

As the nation prepares to celebrate Halloween tonight, kids across the nation will be painting make-up on their faces to become someone else and masquerade their appearance. I'm prepared to see a range from cute to creepy faces tonight, depending on the make-up.

Wearing make-up is truly an art. Like a child's first scribbles with crayon, early make-up use tends to be less than artistic, and while a parent may not ooh and ahh over the results, the child still has a sense of growing up. I had my play make-up kits as a little girl and they magically transported me, along with my mother's shoes and grandma's beads, to the world of adulthood.

When I was a young teenager, wearing make-up was the ultimate representation of all things grown up. Despite my frequent proclamations of maturity, I was not allowed to use cosmetics until I turned 16. To prove how mature I was, I would sneak make-up. I left the house fresh faced and spent the bus ride to school aging myself to perfection with requisite 70s blue eye-shadow, matching mascara, and shiny rolled on lip gloss. In my quest to appear mature, it never occurred to me that yearbook photos would capture whatever make-up I was wearing and my ploy did not go undetected. My seventh grade photo complete with the dramatic swath of blue eye-shadow serves as irrefutable evidence of my duplicitous actions.

When I became a mother myself, the art of wearing make-up was quickly relegated to nights out and church only, if that much. It became an art of carving out any precious time I could and make-up wearing rarely seemed like a good use of it. Then one day, my own children asked me if they were old enough to wear make-up, and I found myself scavenging through my drawer realizing I had relegated my art to the proverbial shoe box on the back shelf. The cycle had come full circle. It was time to let the scribbling on a fresh canvas begin. My rules were quite simple. You must still look like yourself or you have to wash it off. I allowed my own children to wear make-up at 13, to save them from the faux pas of sneaking make-up on the bus without intervention of a more sensible, no longer swathed in blue shadow, eye.

I've never thought of make-up as a true masquerade, but rather a way to flatter what I have or enhance my natural features. Much like the way we stand taller or hold in our tummy, make-up is the finishing touch on our personal work of art. Myself, I rarely like to be seen without mascara. What is your "must have" cosmetic?

In accordance with FTC disclosure policy, this is a sponsored post. For information about sponsoring a post on either of our blogs, Click Here

October 19, 2011

The Value of Teachers

In Ohio, as Issue 2 becomes more and more heated, as well as a local school levy trying to pass, a lot of criticism is directed to the teachers. Many folks are suggesting we to find out how much our teachers are paid at the Buckeye Institute site. Their income is public knowledge. I wonder how we would feel if our incomes were posted on a public site for the world to gawk?

However, I admit, I'm curious so I checked on a few of the teachers I know personally. I'm sorry friends, I feel like I snooped in their filing cabinet when they weren't looking. The highest I saw was $80K, the lowest was $33K but most hovered around $50K. Guess what? I don't care, I'm not about to be stingy when it comes to investing in the folks who will make my future. And honestly, let's talk about what we "make" versus what we bring home. And what we live on. Let's be real and upfront.

I will also mention the sort of things I see when I make my weekly visit to the inner city classroom:

The building is only 4 years old. As I was walk in, I notice two smashed windows held together with duct tape. I'm not sure if it was a gun or rock or what exactly was used to smash the windows. I can only hope it was after school hours. There are signs all around the block "school zone" no shooting/drugs/etc.

As if. We're assuming those doing the shooting have respect. In the past month alone, there have been 3 random shootings in this neighborhood. Admittedly, I'm nervous driving through there, but I think if everyone is afraid to go in, the children will never see a way out.

While I walked out, I see the flag on the flagpole hanging upside down. I've got a really strong patriotic streak, and I almost marched back into the school to tell them that the flag was hung wrong, but then I realized how busy they really are. The school doesn't have time to fix the flag. But it just made me sad. I've heard an upside down flag is a sign of distress. That certainly is the truth regarding this district.

When I was driving away, I saw an elderly gentleman walking along the sidewalk. He was wearing dress trousers, a fisherman's type of hat, a cardigan sweater, and was carrying a single golf club over his shoulder, presumably as a weapon if needed. Either that or his golf league had one last round and he was walking to the course. I'm gonna guess option A.

I live in a generous district and whatever factors into it, our teachers are well paid. Our students also excel in everything from academics to sports, to music, to arts. We are a highly ranked district. Our kids don't see smashed out windows, nor do the neighbors of the school walk around protecting themselves with golf clubs. I've never seen the flag sending a distress signal.

All I can say is that when it comes to if a student succeeds? Using that as a criteria, our levy should pass easily. My area of the country is known for not just its blight, but also its fight. We have a lot of exciting energy bubbling, as we have been recognized nationally as a great area to start a business, an area filled with emerging innovation. If we want to attract talent, we need to offer a reason. We need to entice talent to our area by the promise of good schools. We owe it to our children to build a better tomorrow.

August 2, 2011

Save Our Schools

June 23, 2011

Our Daily Green: Summer Vacation Green

Our Daily Green: Summer Vacation Green

What will you be doing this summer? Do you have any good vacations planned? Want a few tips to a more ecofriendly vacation along with a chance to win some great trips? Check my other blog, Our Daily Green for details!

Happy Summer!
What is better for a road trip than a good audio book? 

June 12, 2011

The Track won the Battle... but

I won the war.

My sleep patterns are messed up and it isn't surprising that I woke at 3 AM wide eyed. Yesterday I finished the ironman walk for our local Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The ironman category is for the relay participants who walk the entire 24 hours of the relay, with only a 10 minute break each hour.

I've participated in several Relays in the past, but never with this level of dedication or physical commitment. My reasons are both selfish and altruistic. On the selfish end, I had never previously tested the levels of my physical endurance and stamina. Last year at the Relay, I met two young girls who had committed to walking the entire 24 hours and their dedication inspired and moved me. I thought that sounded like something really cool to do, and figured I wasn't getting younger or thinner, so I better do it now. I asked my daughter if she would commit to walking with me the following year. She also was inspired.

2010 brought some powerful reasons to make 2011 the year we paid tribute. We lost two special people in our lives the last few months of 2010, my father in law and our little "niece" (the child of dear friends). We've also lost many other friends and family members and celebrated some survivals as well. Our walk was dedicated to all of them.

I didn't know how I was going to train, other than get in the best physical condition I could, stay hydrated, and try to rest the day before. Oh and good socks. I spent ridiculous amounts of money on two pairs of high tech athletic socks to rotate throughout my walk. I sound like Lt. Dan's character from Forrest Gump but  Lt. Dan was right.
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Look, it's pretty basic here. You stick with me, you learn from the guys who been in country awhile, you'll be right. There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks, cushion, sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry when we're out humpin'. I want you boys to remember to change your socks wherever we stop. 
This year's Relay was a For Life experience. I don't know if I possibly can capture the magic, the joy, the agony, and the incredible sense of community and love, but I hope my humble words will help. We arrived at the Relay and it turns out the two young girls who were our inspiration were there to walk 24 hours again, and they inspired most of their high school Key Club. There were about 25 of us in all, but my daughter and I are from a different town, and I was about three times as old as most of the iron-(wo)man walkers. There were a few folks close to my age, but they were a little more quiet and subdued in their walk. The kids, oh my goodness. I've never encountered such a level of enthusiasm or energy.

Quickly, the other kids befriended my daughter and they were energetically kibbutzing about all things high school. It was sweet to see kids be kids, and from different walks of life, but the same experiences, come together. I became the self-appointed "ironman mom". I was reminding people to hydrate, eat something, asking them how they were doing. I think I called every kid sweetie or honey at some point of the walk. I am so proud of them.

Austintown Relay for Life
The walk started easily enough, spirits were high, the atmosphere charged with hope. We reverently witnessed the luminary ceremony, where candles were lit in memory or celebration of cancer patients. The visitor stands of the stadium had luminaries spell out, "Every Candle Has A Name", and they read aloud each name. It was movingly eloquent.

About midnight, 6 hours into the relay, the atmosphere also became charged with electricity, in the form of lightning, and we had to move our walk inside the school gymnasium.  Only one-quarter of the walk was done and now we were like sardines, in a sweaty smelly musty gym. The fatigue and hour began to take its toll as we marched in a figure 8 between the old gym and the new gym. We got silly as my daughter and I started doing a Hokey-Pokey relay and other groups were doing the macarena, anything to keep our spirits intact. One of the most entertaining moments of the evening came when a group of boys started doing a leap frog Relay. The laughter helped keep us going the next two hours, when the threat of the storm passed and we were allowed to return outdoors.

The cool misty air was exactly the injection of fresh we needed. Some of us (author included) actually started running a lap or two. Believe it or not, the running was a great idea, not foolish. It moved different muscles and really gave a good stretch from all the walking. We had taken to walking backwards, sideways, skipping, anything to change up the continual movement. At 4 AM we celebrated reaching double digits of walking. I was feeling good and throughout the night was receiving encouraging texts from friends and supporters. After our 5 AM break, we lost my daughter. Turns out she dozed off during her break, I went to find her and she actually committed to skipping two more breaks to make up for the nap. We were closing in on halfway 12 hour mark. One friend's walking partner had to leave and her partner asked me to please keep her friend company the rest of the walk. This was about the time the best line of the Relay was uttered. One of the repeat walkers from last year said, "You know what I need so I can finish?" We said "What"?  "A wheelchair." It gave us a much needed moment of levity, followed by a moment of gratitude that we in fact were able to walk on our own, as we actually had seen quite a few Relay folks in chairs, walkers and motorized scooters.

At the 12 hour mark, I celebrated by getting sick. I should have eaten a bit more over the night, I believe my blood sugar dropped or something, but I've seen endurance athletes get sick during races, so I knew it wasn't really a virus or anything. I got some food and went back to walking. Unfortunately, I had hit the wall. Another two hours passed and at the 8 AM hour, I got sick again. I had to lay down for about 45 minutes. I collapsed back at our tent when my husband and second daughter arrived with breakfast. I woke up, ate and stretched and went back out. By now, I felt more like a "rusty-man" walker, but neither was I going to quit.

The texts were still coming and my spirits were lifted, even if my body was exhausted. We were past halfway, there was no turning back. The sun began to beat down and as the self appointed mom of the relayers, I made sure everyone was hydrated and sunscreen-ed. We hit high noon. The morning had been injected with fresh well rested people and new voices of encouragement. My other daughter alternated between walking with us, making lemon shakes at our tent, and fetching needed supplies. We were a family team. Unfortunately, I still hadn't bounced back from being sick and about 130 PM, I started to get nauseous and collapsed again. My feet were throbbing, my head light, and every muscle in my leg was tight. Again, I think I hadn't eaten enough. This time it was another 45 minute break, then like a phoenix, I rose with a determination to finish. I did send a message to a friend who was going to drive out to photograph the finish to stay home, because as determined as I was mentally, I wasn't certain my body would cooperate.

I got back on track, literally and figuratively. People asked me what hurt most and I had to admit, my ego. I felt more like a tin man at this point. I began to strike up more conversations with all the kids walking. We talked about their sports training, their proms, their futures. The conversations helped the time pass. I was fighting feelings of guilt for not being a "true" ironman, but also determined to finish, and never once did they question that I was "one of them" even with my 2 extended breaks. The afternoon ticked forward, each hour a celebration, but the fatigue was obvious in all the walkers. My daughter and I spent our remaining 10 minute breaks massaging our feet then plunging them in ice water to get the swelling down.

The walking portion of the Relay actually ended at 5:30 when they began the awards ceremony. After the 5 PM break we knew we were in the home stretch and planned our strategy to finish strong. We decided to run the last two minutes. After hours of gimping, limping and struggling, the end was in sight. 5:28 and we began to jog. The tired muscles dissolved, the sore feet felt healed, the track stretched before us and we ran. The last quarter of the track, we actually sprinted to the finish; exhilarated, relieved, and yes, on my end anyway, crying with gratitude. Hugs, high fives, and exuberance was the theme.

One of the groups kept count of laps. They had 180 counted, which is 45 miles. I think I probably did 40 based on the breaks that I had.

So now I'm up in the middle of the night, sleep messed up, but I'm proud. I may not be an ironman, but I am a tinman, and we all know the tinman had a heart. I do not have any blisters, so thank you to the socks. My legs are sore, but not immovable. I actually feel pretty good. To think 24 hours ago, I was still hoping to reach the halfway mark. I think I reached the whole way mark and now I know what my body can do.

I'm so glad I did it. One of the personal reminders I kept making was that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they simply start fighting the battle. They don't get to train for treatment, they don't get to pick whether or not to do it, they just have to do it. That became a mantra of sorts for me during the walk. Cancer patients have to fight a lot longer than 24 hours and there isn't always an end in sight. We gave one day of our lives to honor them. It was something I'll never regret doing.

May 16, 2011

a stone's throw

Not too far from where I live is an inner-city elementary school that I visit once a week. The school district is in academic emergency with a graduation rate of 58% for the 2009-2010 school year. The neighborhood around the school is best described as modern urban blight and decay. About half the houses are boarded up; the others have overgrown yards and rubbish strewn about. The sidewalks are heaved and broken.

I'm part of a program that goes into the classrooms and helps the children learn about working in communities and begin career planning at a very young age. The idea is to encourage and nurture ambition and goals for the future. It's a very well received program.

My most recent assignment is two combined classes of 30 first graders. They are in so many ways typical children; smiley, happy, wiggly, excited. This past week was no exception. Spending the morning with them always lifts my spirits for the day. Last week, it also gave me something to think about that hasn't left me alone.

Our lesson was about jobs people in our families do and part of the lesson involved creating a classroom job book. We talked about different things people we knew did for a living. As the students shared the sort of jobs their families do, I heard such examples as:

The Dollar Store
Mowing Lawns
Subway Sandwich Maker
WalMart cashier
and, repeatedly,

One of the only college educated people these children encounter in their journey is their teacher. I asked the kids if they had to go to school to get these jobs they mentioned, and for every job, they understood that you did have to go to school. One little girl earnestly explained to me that her mommy had to go to work an hour early every day for a whole week to learn how to make the fries and put the sandwiches together. They share stories about how their folks work two jobs and they help care for their smaller siblings. Many of them are single parent homes but have many people in their homes with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents together.

In an era when teachers are regularly disparaged, it seems to me that we ask quite a bit from our educators. These thirty little people have dreams, too. The first step to fulfilling those dreams is a good role model. While their parents are honest hard working folks, retail or fast food job will not ever take them out of their blighted neighborhood. A teacher is their beacon of light to a different world.  

photo courtesy of Inmagine
This school is less than a 10 minute drive away from my very tall, but not insurmountable, picket fence. The neighborhood is only a stone’s throw away. Maybe that stone doesn’t need to be thrown at windows, but instead can be used to measure distance. It’s not too far away from any of us. Getting closer keeps those arms from throwing stones and instead reaches out. A little one on one encouragement may be the difference between learning to make fries and learning to change lives.  

Thank you to all the teachers who make a difference every day. 

May 4, 2011

The First Official Mean Mom Contest

Dear Friends, Readers, and fellow Mothers:

First, I must declare that Procrastination Rocks! I had intended to post this two weeks before Mother's Day, when life intruded. However, since I also believe that mothers are entitled to way more than one day, I am declaring May MOTHER'S MONTH. Yes, you read that right. I am allowed to do that because, oh yeah, I own this space and I can do whatever I want. So I am giving us the rest of the month.

I have written in the past about this unpublicized Mean Mom contest. I never publicized it in the past, but rather self-anointed and proclaimed the award mine. I selfishly kept the honor for myself. I am the reigning Mean Mom. I have a tiara and scepter to prove it, in the world where the sky is not blue. (The tiara and scepter actually are a hair scrunchie and mop... it's called artistic license). I also have a loyal steed. Otherwise known as the canine who I walk, feed, and neatly package his droppings after I pick them up. Yes, life is good when you're the reigning Mean Mom.

How did I get this incredible honor, you ask? Practice. Fifteen-point-five years of practice. The day spawn number one was born, I began training for this honor. I fully accepted the title around the time aforementioned spawn reached first grade. The transition from trainee to award winning Mean Mom was seamless. I simply told my daughter that I didn't care if it was vacation, she still had to brush her teeth. I have continued my meanness through the years, but that first moment of mean will remain cherished. I knew I had arrived.

I realize how effortless it appears. But I suspect I'm not the only Mean Mom out there. I think I have comrades. I am inviting you to step forward  and share why you also are a Mean Mom.

Because I feel that no Mean deed should go unrewarded, I am offering a prize to the mom who wrestles the award away from my clenched fist. You not only will receive the Mean Mom of 2011 award, but I also will give you a a percentage of my earnings from the Mean Mom stipend. You too will receive an unlimited supply of "rolling eyes" "whatevers" "under the breath mutterings" AND...

A $20 Groupon gift certificate to patronize a local business in your area. Groupon offers daily deals on salons, restaurants, and other businesses at a tremendous discount.

If you're not a Groupon member, it's easy to sign up, and it's easy to find deals by zipcode. As a disclosure, I am a Groupon affiliate. I believe in their mission because I work hard to keep my consumer dollars in the local community. This award is a win/win. You will get a lot for your $20 and help your local economy.

To enter the Mean Mom of 2011 contest, I ask you to submit a comment (link to your own blog if you wish or share your story in the comments) about why you should dethrone me as reigning Mean Mom. I will choose the winner on the last day of May, 2011. You should alert me to your brand of Mean before the month is over in a comment here on the blog. Since I'm Mean, I can make the rules. My Mean isn't just for the kids, it's for my readers, as well. I must keep my tool sharp. So follow the rules, tell me why you're more Mean than me, and I'll send you $20 to use on a Groupon deal.

April 7, 2011

Tweet Me Right Green

The Singable Songs CollectionRead about a fascinating online conversation I had with the fabulous humanitarian and children's musician, Raffi and find out what he's doing with himself these days.

Tweet Me Right Green

April 6, 2011

Launch at Medium Speed

I just finished teaching a five week long course in Community Building to a fabulous group of second graders. I work as a volunteer for Junior Achievement.
Junior Achievement programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.
Obviously, at the second grade level, it was an introductory lesson, to teach the children something to build on for the future.  We discussed the ways that people, businesses, and government work together to build a community that everyone enjoys living in. We had a mock election, a donut factory, payday and tax collection. We campaigned for an issue, whether to build a toy store, animal shelter or skate park, in a vacant space in our community.

For about 45 minutes a week, I visited their classroom and was met with enthusiasm that knew no boundary. My group of 24 children had ideas, thoughts and dreams. Several wanted to be teachers, doctors, engineers, chefs. One girl wanted to be a billionaire, but didn't have a business plan yet. (I'm optimistic that JA will get her pointed in the right direction). Their dreams touched my world as I saw their futures stretch before them.

Yesterday was my last day with them. They had a big envelope filled with cards and letters for me. One boy made me a paper airplane (he's the one who wants to be an engineer) which he advised to "Launch at Medium Speed".

I think instead, they should launch at full speed ahead.

Thank you to the second grade class for your love and joy! I just know you'll all be wonderful successes and I cannot wait to stop in and visit you again.
Mrs. U.

March 16, 2011

Scholarship Searches

Having a child in high school means the inevitable fear over how to pay for it. Year after year, many scholarships go unclaimed simply because parents and students do not know how to find them or access them.

FastWeb is a subsidiary of and is the source for invaluable college information, from scholarship money, to financial aid calculators, to grants, to internships. Additionally, it contains wealth of information about the college experience and student life in general. FastWeb has been featured on The Today Show, USA News and World Report, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. And of course now, on Fresh Daily Bread.

Best of all, FastWeb is free, but you need to register to get the best information. I registered for my own child, and even though it means I have to admit the nest will be less full, at least I also know we can find the funds to keep the nest comfortable.

Secrets to winning a college scholarship by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post

February 28, 2011

The Informationist

The Informationist: A ThrillerLast week, I shared a story about my friendship with the author of the  novel, The Informationist, release date March 8, 2011. Rights to the thriller by Taylor Stevens have already been sold around the world, and it looks like it could be an international best seller. 

As indicated in my post, her personal story is as interesting as the novel she has written. Vogue Magazine thought so as well and had her story featured on this month's cover.

If you haven't preorded the book, call your bookstore today and ask if they will be selling it.

Congratulations, Taylor! 

As someone said on your Facebook page, in 30 years nobody will remember who Lady Gaga (who was also on the cover) was, but they will remember you! 

February 23, 2011

Friends in Soon to be High Places

Most of my Facebook friends have been following my frequent posts about a friend of mine who has been offered a three book deal with Crown publishers, a subsidiary of Random House. Her debut novel, THE INFORMATIONIST, will be released March 8th. My friend’s name is Taylor Stevens, and I’m going to tell you that “I knew her when”.

But before I tell you that, I want to tell you the story of a friendship between two writers. Writing can be a lonely job with no water cooler jokes, no lunchrooms, and no happy hours after work. No inside jokes between co-workers. While it’s most likely no longer a tablet and pen, it is a glowing screen and keyboard, and at times, nothing but white glow. Or with moments of writer’s block, maybe this: tgauh;psetuigbn;zjkfdj;hkawet after banging your fists on the keyboard, unable to adequately transfer anything from your brain to your screen.

But writers are a resourceful bunch and instead often gather on message boards and chat rooms and forums to kibbutz, share frustration and joy, and sometimes talk about nothing that has to do with writing, but maybe just personal fascination. About four years ago, on such a forum, I befriended a writer who had some fascinating posts about world travels and religion. We began to exchange private messages and eventually those messages led to long emails, instant message chats and then phone calls. I asked my friend if she had ever considered writing a novel, and she shyly admitted that she actually just finished one, would I be interested in reading it?

I was one of the first ten people in the world to read her novel and I actually went to a copy shop and printed all 200 or so pages of it on from the word document to paper and had it bound for easier reading and note taking. Clearly that shows my age and ability to deal with technology. But I couldn’t put down this cumbersome pile of paper, my friend’s baby, down. We writers do have that protective streak about our words. I knew my friend had shared something extremely precious with me. Time would prove to the world just how precious. 

The story itself is fascinating, but her backstory just as much. You see, my friend grew up in an apocalyptic cult and had no formal education from age 12 on. Every word she used, every paragraph she composed, past the rudimentary skills learned in primary grades was completely self-taught. Her desire for knowledge and information was so strong that when she broke free from the cult as an adult, she tried to make up for the education she never received. Her only marketable skill was weaving stories so she mastered the art of writing.

Writing a novel is something so many folks try to do that it’s not easy to actually get attention from anyone in publishing, which is why so many novelists self-publish. In order to reach a larger audience, a novelist first needs an agent, then a publishing house, then a lot of promotion. Even then the chance of success is slim. Most book stores go with a tried and true, proven best-selling author, unwilling to take a chance on an unknown.

Meanwhile, Taylor, with her fascinating personal story and equally riveting novel tried to make ends meet, selling cosmetics, hosting home parties, and working as a receptionist, while taking online courses to try to catch up with some of the education she should have had much younger. In our different chats and conversations, I helped revamp her resume and tried to grind through some algebra, to the point where I asked my own child how to work out a problem that I had long forgotten. Every little victory was quietly celebrated and when she was ready, she sent her novel to agents, and then came the offers of representation

The agent put the novel into the hands of a few editors, and one jumped at the opportunity to gamble on this new writer. The rest still isn't history. The novel, THE INFORMATIONIST, will release on March 8th. While the advance buzz is good, until it translates into sales, it's still a waiting game.

I’m so proud of the friendship we’ve built and the trust she gave me in reading her novel so long ago. I’m so proud of my friend’s dedication to excellence and education. So many take the gift of learning for granted and don’t realize what a privilege it is to learn in a formal setting. I want her novel to not just succeed but smash records and become a movie and household name. Maybe even action figures. Don’t just take my word for how great the novel is, instead, I encourage you to read about THE INFORMATIONIST here, here, or here.  Please follow along with her story at Taylor Stevens, Author  on Facebook and Taylor Stevens on Twitter.

What I really want for my friend, whose lifetime has seen more than her fair share of the dark side of the world, to see how bright and wonderful the world can be. I want her story told and her books to sell. We can make it happen together and I’m asking you to share this story of friendship and future success. If you believe in a friend, I ask you to help her make it happen. Let's ALL say... "we knew her when". 

February 12, 2011

Stopping the Leaks

One sad reality in today’s world is that only about 70% of high school students will actually graduate. That statistic is closer to 55% at inner city schools, in crime ridden areas with high poverty levels.

Yesterday, I was afforded the opportunity to volunteer as a last minute substitute for 3 hours at an elementary school in such a district. I mustered as much enthusiasm as possible and tried to ignore the blight as I drove through the tired neighborhood filled with boarded up homes that surround the school where I was volunteering.  I reminded myself that my car had an alarm as I parked it and tried to put aside my concerns. I wondered what it must be like to walk these streets where most of the sidewalks were heaped with snow, unshoveled, every day to school.

I came into the bright shiny building and hope surged. The building was only 4 years old and the walls were decorated with student art. We met in the library/media center and were briefed. I was assigned a class of 21 second graders.

I walked into the classroom and it was stacked with crates and papers in a state of complete disarray. The teacher explained in an exasperated voice that the roof leaked in her classroom and that the contractor and the architect were fighting over whose fault it was and instead just kept replacing ceiling tiles. My first impression was how sad it was that such an investment was being wasted. Then I realized the investment wasn’t the building but the 21 little people whose bright eyes stared back at me with enthusiasm and energy.

Well, actually only 20 of those 21 eyes. One little guy was sound asleep, head down on his desk. As I went around the room introducing myself to each child and asking what they wanted to be when they grew up, the teacher yelled from her desk, “You’re not allowed to say football player or basketball player!”

My heart tugged a bit as I thought what kid doesn’t want to be a sports hero? I wanted to be Nadia Comăneci. I could barely do a somersault let alone gymnastics so that dream remained simply that. I understood why the teacher would encourage a dose of realistic thinking, even though it saddened me to dampen youthful dreams.

When I got to the sleepy guy, his table mates said, he always sleeps. I glanced at the teacher and she nodded her head in agreement. I felt sad that he would miss our fun and educational time, but neither did I want to disrespect the teacher who dealt with him on a daily basis. Apparently, it was acceptable to let him sleep. I wondered momentarily about a second grader whose parent(s) didn’t make him go to bed, or perhaps even worse, who for any variety of reasons didn’t feel safe sleeping in his home.

My children excitedly announced that they wanted to be police officers, fire fighters, nurses, veterinarians, singers, soldiers and teachers. Typical second grade dreams, past the sports heroes. The teacher continued to glance up from her desk and loudly hush the children, to the point that I knew, her typical day was spent just trying to keep the children quiet. One little girl loudly told me she wanted to be a NICE teacher, as she glanced at her teacher, with a little gleam in her eye. I hoped she didn’t get in trouble for her ornery pronouncement later that day. I had to pause for a moment when one little boy told me he wanted to be a gang maker. I asked him to repeat that and explain to me what he meant. He said you know, like video games, I want to invent video games. I blushed at the mistaken conclusion I had reached.

The time I was there was filled with the lively boisterous eagerness of second graders. They were wiggly, bursting with excitement, and had a hard time sitting still or taking turns. It didn’t take more than a gentle reminder, but we also had their teacher, who clearly was worn out, yell and threaten them about every two minutes. I wanted to tell her I was okay with the kids and she could go take a well-deserved break -- that I had it under control, but I also didn’t know anything about these children and what may trigger a problem. I didn’t want to be overly arrogant in my ability to keep the program rolling smoothly, so I deferred to her iron fist. Meanwhile the sleepyhead continued to sleep. After about an hour, the teacher called his mother and told her to come get him, but I had already discerned enough to know that the mother wasn’t coming and the boy would keep sleeping.

At one point the teacher and I had a moment to talk adult to adult and she just said, the stories of these kids would break your heart. I looked at her face and realized that her veteran teaching heart had been broken a thousand times and that it had become hardened. Her job was to keep chaos from ruling, maybe instill some respect and pride, and get through each day, one minute at a time. I didn’t fault her in the least. I had three hours with these kids, I knew nothing about them other than they were excited I was there and wanted to know what I could teach them.

I wonder if it was an asset that I didn’t know anything about these children or their lives and I only saw eager faces. Almost every child at some point in time came over and wrapped their little arms around my legs as they barely reached my ribs. They worked pretty well together for their group project and seemed to have a good time. There were class leaders, shy kids, clumsy kids, and sweethearts. All in all, to my unjaded eyes, they were just a fun group of kids. I loved my morning.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it must be like for someone who deals with it every day and the kids who have seen more in their seven years than most of us ever will see. I hated to think that statistically, only about half those children will even finish high school. I hated to think of the violence and crime that surrounds their world, as I only have to look on the front page of our local paper for proof. I hated to realize that my hopeful game maker, with a few bad influences, could indeed become a gang maker instead.

I want to keep the faith. I want to believe we can make a difference. I think it takes the naïve enthusiasm from someone who hasn’t lost their hope, whose spirit hasn’t been dampened from leaks. I want to think about a building that is solid from the inside out, where leaks aren’t ignored by bickering about where to cast blame. We can stop the chaos one leaky drop at a time. 

January 30, 2011

Five Hours

I spent my morning at a soup kitchen today. It was a service project on a checklist of things we do as part of a group I belong to. We do the soup kitchen as a group. We arrive, cook the food, serve it, bus the tables and clean up. Pretty simple, I've done my share of fundraising dinners, family celebrations, and other assorted open houses where I cook, serve, and clean up after. This is right up my alley, I thought with a bit of smugness. Five hours. We started cooking at  9 AM, served lunch from noon to one, then cleaned up. Very straightforward.

We arrived in the tidy church kitchen, greeted by industrial sized cans of green beans and fruit cocktail. I tried not to cringe at the thought and instead focused on the 20 pounds of thawed ground beef that needed to be browned and mixed with the vats of Sloppy Joe sauce. Rummaging through the cabinets of an unfamiliar kitchen, filled with equipment not designed to entertain but rather to feed the masses, I decided to make the best of it. I looked at the shelf of dried up, outdated seasoning and thought maybe some dehydrated onion and seasoned salt would improve the beef.

My kitchen cooking partner got cauldrons of water set up to make the macaroni and cheese food. We had two vats of bright orange cheese in a can and a massive gas stove that sometimes turned on immediately, but often had us fearing asphyxiation or explosions. We set about our task; to cook lots of food to fill the tummies of hungry people. I tried not to focus too much on it, but I admit I couldn't resist voicing a time or two, "I never eat like this."

It gnawed at me as I cooked. I wanted to treat the diners with the same hospitality and courtesy I would show any guest if I were the hostess. I wanted to fold fancy napkins, set a centerpiece, and put out fine tableware. Instead we set paper place mats on the vinyl table coverings. I took a dead poinsettia off the old piano, deciding it was just too depressing. I set it on a stack of 1940s hymnals in a storage area.

I put on a smiling face as the security guard arrived to explain how the lunch would work. There was another security guard at the entrance, handing out tickets. We were to take the tickets as they walked into the lunch hall and then they would receive one plate of food. My job was to bus the tables and take the dessert cart around. Busing is a fancy description for throwing out the Styrofoam and plastic and paper, then wiping the vinyl table covering. I watched the coffee table and watched the guests.

I wheeled around the dining area, offering cookies, wishing I could give hope. Some folks lit up, others wouldn't make eye contact. One lady asked me very politely if there was anyway I could get her another serving of fruit cocktail, that it just really tasted good that day. I had to check.

Back in the kitchen, a discussion ensued if it were okay to give her another bowl of fruit cocktail because the sign clearly said, one serving to ensure everyone who came would get served. I understood, but my heart was breaking. I've never thought one bowl of canned fruit cocktail would taste good, let alone seconds. Finally we decided to quietly give her another bowl as we reiterated to ourselves that there were no seconds on the main dishes. I guess that's why the security guard was there. To ensure there was no over serving of the fruit cocktail.

As I mingled around the tables another man was covered in mud, as if a passing car had splashed him. He apologized for getting our folding chair dirty but thanked me for the food. A young couple came in. They were clean, but bundled up. Their young fresh faces stood out because honestly, the pungent aroma of homelessness filled the air.

I didn't linger at any table long enough to really eavesdrop, but I caught bits and pieces of their conversations. Many of the folks knew each other by name. I overheard an elderly lady telling her friend that even though she was done eating, she was going to enjoy sitting a little longer, because she knew she'd not be guaranteed a place to sit the rest of the day. That was when I lost it.

I quickly walked back to the kitchen, my eyes welled with tears, trying to regain my composure. Something about the biggest luxury of a person's day being having a folding metal chair to sit on just hit me hard. Wiping my eyes, I headed back to the tables. A gentleman asked me if we served lunch daily. I answered that I didn't think so but would find out. I apologized and said, "This is my first day on the job." I learned that the kitchen I was at just served Sunday lunch but that a church down the road served everyday. I shared the information with him and he thanked me.

While some of the diners couldn't meet my eyes, others seemed to want to visit. I tried to respect everyone who sat in the space. As they left, I cheerfully told them to enjoy the rest of the day even though I felt ridiculous. I had no idea where they were heading after their hour at the soup kitchen, but I was pretty certain it wasn't going to be like the rest of my day. Some of them clutched a car key and I assume that was their home. Others knew they may not have a place to sit the rest of the day, and still another man just sang and stared off into space the entire time he was in at his table.

The hour drew to a close and we served 53 diners. We had plated 57 plates of food and the servings got progressively more generous as the hour drew close to being over. We had to throw out four plates of food and even that broke my heart, thinking of my friend so grateful for her clandestine extra serving of fruit cocktail. I wished I could have wrapped those plates of food and maybe a folding chair as a care package. We never left a dinner at Grandma's without a care package. I wanted to treat our diners as guests not part of an assembly line.

We had two big bags of trash to carry to the dumpster after our guests left the kitchen. Styrofoam, paper, plastic and maybe some remnants of hope. I just don't know how people manage to keep it. I don't know what their stories were or why they were eating at a free soup kitchen on this cold January day. I don't know where they went after they left or how the got there. I don't know anything other than what five hours of my life revealed.

I headed back home in my car. When I was about 2 miles down the road, I saw the same young couple I had served an hour earlier walking on the berm, trudging through the snow. I slowed down not to get them muddy like the other patron and wondered how much further they had to go. But my shift had ended and I didn't want to embarrass them. I wrestled for another half mile that maybe I ought to turn around and give them a ride wherever they were headed. I think I was afraid that the answer would be anywhere we can find a chair or maybe some more fruit cocktail.

I'm not sure. I didn't stop.
But for the rest of the day, I paused.


If you have clean clothing, a full tummy, and a place to sit and rest, give thanks. I met at least 53 folks who don't.

January 11, 2011

Standing Together

I really didn't intend to write about this as I'm of the opinion that giving something distasteful any mention, even if bad, is to give it undeserved attention. However, my fingers have taken over my resolve and are forcing me to type something about the tragedy in Arizona over the weekend. Blame the fingers, they have a mind of their own.

I realize the gunman acted alone (and no I will not name him and bring more notoriety to his actions). To say he acted over the line of what passes for dialogue is a gross understatement. But we have prominent media figures regularly enforcing that discussion is akin to Arguing with Idiots or Stupid White Men. We are encouraged to "take back our country" (to what? from who? are we under siege? why didn't anyone tell ME?). We avoid civil exchanges and discussion believing that the folks who disagree are enemies and encouraging us to stand courageously and brave and if necessary, with guns or weapons to protect ourselves from our enemy.

When we listen to idiots, we become idiots. I wholly endorse freedom of speech and if someone wants to "target", "lock 'n load", or "take 'em out", they are entitled to say as much. I could also say the moon is made of cheese.

The problem is when such Idiocracy is heard and embraced. (if you've not seen the movie, it was probably the stupidest, funniest, and scariest thing I've ever seen... esp. because right after watching the DVD, we watched New Year's Eve at Times Square). That was when the movie became a horror show with eerily prophetic commentary. One of the people with a microphone tried to get someone to spell the name of the guy behind Wikileaks... and chortled at A-S-S... I just cringed. The movie wasn't fiction, it was a documentary.

When someone in prominence publishes a map of targets and encourages people to be ready to fight it furthers a divide that really doesn't exist. Let's face it, we all love our country, even if we don't agree on the best way to express that love. We are not enemies, we simply disagree. That is SUPPOSED to be what is wonderful about our nation. We should not be taking guns to each otherthrowing bricks at rallies or shaking angry fists. We should not be calling each other nasty names. When violent rhetoric and imagery is used by either side, those who listen to it and then repeat it are the true guilty parties.

Alarmist and conspiracy theorists have us running around terrified of each other. Maybe that means that the terrorists have won, they have us fighting so much against each other that we're our own worst enemies. I had to endure a nasty shunning from a friend after seeing I "liked" our president on my FB page. Yes, I like our president. There are many ways he's disappointed me but many politicians do. But because I am not spouting vitriolic hatred and anger, I'm un-American? Where in the world does that come from?

What I'm talking about today is not about placing blame anywhere but ourselves. We are buying into the hysteria and fear. We are turning against each other. We need each other. We do not need to dilute our power.

"...every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." (Matthew 12:25)

It is time to stand together and say a prayer for those who died on Saturday, January 8, 2011.

U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63
Dorthy Murray, 76
Dorwin Stoddard, 76
Christina Greene, 9
Phyllis Scheck, 79
Gabe Zimmerman, 30


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...