Saturday, May 3, 2014

What Makes You Perfect?

Below is a short, poetic story to answer the question "What makes you perfect?" 
I had just found a thread online where people were answering this question. As I was thinking about it the experience described below took place and I really felt that it was contextually relevant.

My personal philosophy has always been "don't let perfect stand in the way of better." Something 'perfect' about me is my conviction that we should each focus on and offer up our strengths to one another in order to complement each other. It's a philosophy that I've applied to how I raise my children, to my career, and in the advise I offer up to others... 

and so, the story begins... 

Sitting on the porch
My husband and I enjoy a nice, cool breeze.

Suddenly the dogs begin to bark and
We hear a young girl's voice shakily speaking softly,

"Excuse me
my chain fell off my bike. Can you help me?"

I turn and see a young girl with such hidden beauty. 
Her eyes were sweet and her smile was strong from what was probably years of fighting 
through ridicule and "everyone is picking on me."

I quickly scanned her, trying not to let it show.
I didn't want her to know
I was curious how she had gotten burned alive from head to toe. 

I caught her eyes, smiled, and extended a hand full of love.
To help her, we were happy
I asked "what's your name?"
She replied "Gabby"
"I'm Sarah"
She let out a breath of relief.

The chain had only slipped
A very simple fix
Showing her there's good in this world was well worth getting my hands dirty.

She began to leave and the bike was working well
Suddenly she turned asking,
"Do you know Israel?"

Warmth head to toe had begun
Holding tears I said, "yes, he's our son."
I've seen children burned and all sorts of grief
yet something about this girl was hitting me hard.
Hard to explain, hard to put into words... Such sadness & pain...
It was like I could see she was in some cycle of someone intentionally inflicting burns to her
Physically
Emotionally and
Spiritually...

Glowing, she says "he's my friend. Thank you. Israel is a friend of mine."

Gabby rode away
Enjoying life and a beautiful Spring day.

Emotionally I sat down, looked at my husband and said with resound
"Hearing Israel is her friend is such a relief."

Raising an 11 year old boy
no stranger to popularity
antithesis of bully
poster child for empathy 

This is a measurement of perfection for me. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Harmony and Conflict

It's such a strange predicament
to be both adverse to
yet attracted to
conflict.

I don't mean to create it intentionally.
When I find myself in the midst of it
the greater purpose is to achieve
harmony.

We don't say what we think
because we don't want to cause conflict...
We don't want to cause a stink
and yet in turn our need to keep the peace results in
conflict. 

Misperceptions abound
and conspiracy theories are born.
This is when I tend to step in and
see that all of our masks are torn.

You see, we all have these animalistic
instinctual needs.
When our subconsious is hungry
it triggers us that it's time to feed. 

There's something inside each of us 
that is toxic for one another.
Understanding these hidden needs and
desires can help us to see the value of each other.

When our tensions flare up
this is our internal button going off to check in.
Instead of thinking the behavior is about us
try to put yourself in the other person's skin. 

There is a hidden instinctual need
that isn't being fed.
Are you starving someone you care about
by what you have done or by what you have said?

The next time you find yourself having conflict with one another
I encourage you not to stay silent or to run, but
rather to sit down with each other.

Look at the big picture and read between the lines.
Sure, at first it's uncomfortable, but 
I promise you that no one with die and
you will both be fine.

After you have broken through 
the conflict that has been the elephant in the room
for far too long between the two of you
what you will finally see 
is that uncomfortable internal conflict
is the bridge we cross to find
harmony.


 



Sunday, March 9, 2014

Life is a Complicated, Hot Mess!

I've always started the labyrinth at the end to not hit roadblocks. 


I'd win at pool:  not because I got all my balls in, but because I studied my opponent and would line the balls up so he'd sink the 8-Ball. 


I did well on multiple choice tests. Not because I knew the answers, but because I'm a great guesser and could deduce what the answer wasn't.  


I couldn't tell you the name of the strategy to implement for proper change management and performance excellence. I can flip your company upside down and execute it without batting a lash, just don't ask me what that strategy is called. 


I get so passionate and frustrated when I see others in power make hasty choices. I feel powerless when I can't stop it. I battle feelings to decide if I should trudge on, making do with the pieces, or throw in the towel & shut down. 


I love people, yet I'm socially awkward.


I want to lead, yet I don't wish to be noticed. 


I want rest, yet I don't want to shut my mind off to sleep.


I love the sun and I love music, yet I have an aversion to anything too bright... Or too noisy... 


I'm vegetarian yet sometimes I even feel sad for broccoli if I eat it. 


I praise others for their uniqueness and imperfections. I remind others that low expectations are the secret to happiness. Secretly I'm a closet perfectionist and cry if I don't exceed my own high expectations. Always aware I'm not delivering my full potential.


I know I have purpose here, yet feel lost.


Why does life have to be a complicated hot mess?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Life Lesson #1: Smurfs are Evil!

One of my earliest childhood memories was at Hanna Barbara Land. I have no idea how old I was at the time. I don't recall any sound. This is one of few memories I have without it, which leads me to believe the memory is before '85.

I remember the rainbow as we entered the gate and children everywhere, smiling. My mother had given us the okay to watch the Smurfs perform live. This was a BIG deal! 

You see... our church proclaimed that the Smurfs were little devils, and they were evil. We were forbidden to watch them at home and had to sneak episodes in the basements of friends. 

Today was special. We were on holiday and today we would watch the Smurfs perform live!

I sat knock-kneed on a cold bleacher in the hot humid air. The Smurfs took stage-much larger than I had expected. 

I don't remember the performance, but I remember the balls of lint on their arms. I had similar balls of lint on my sweaters at home. This baffled me. 

How did their skin have lint balls? Did they wear blue sweaters in the heat? Odd creatures:  Smurfs.

The performance ended and the Smurfs made their way into the croud. They greeted parents and patted the heads of children like politicians. I wasn't interested in meeting any of them. Actually, they creeped me out a little. 

My interest:  ice cream. After the performance my mother made good on her promise to treat us to Smurf ice cream. I could hardly wait!

The concoction that the worker scooped out was blue and sparkled in the sun. I imagined that the ice cream had magical powers, like berry juice on the Gummy Bears! It would empower me to leap across high buildings and halt evil doers with a single bounce! Perhaps it would change my size like in Alice in Wonderland. Would I be small like the Smurfs on TV or huge like the ones that lived in Hanna Barbara Land? Or, maybe... just maybe... it would turn my tongue blue! That would STILL be amazing!

I remember that first scoop of ice cream as it hit my mouth. Blueberries. The best, most amazing blueberries you could ever imagine. 

More! Faster! 
BRAINFREEZE!
Damn, brainfreeze. 
Perhaps a little too fast? 

I squeezed my head with my right hand trying to stop the pain. Squinting through my eye lid with my left eye, I examined my left hand as my spoon dangled out of my lips. 
Was it larger? No. 
Smaller? No. 
My eye caught the corner of the metal side of the ice cream cart. I could catch my reflection.

I darted over to the cart without a care in the world. My heart felt like it was in the Indy 500 as it raced with excitement and anticipation. Catching my reflection on the corner of the cart I stuck my tongue out and squinted to examine what was in front of me. 

Blue! My tongue was blue. SCORE! Suddenly the brainfreeze no longer mattered.

I paced myself to finish my ice cream. I managed to stick my tongue out at each and every person who walked past. Finally, the last bite. I savored it. 

My eye caught the bottom of the bowl. There were words. I recognized the letters; however, I was still too young to read. I could feel my heart rev up again with excitement. 

Did I win a prize? I must have! I won a prize! What could it possibly be? The checkered flag was waving.

Mom. I needed Mom. Mom can read and she will tell me exactly what I've won. Quickly I put one foot in front of the other, darted towards my mother, and pushed every obstacle out of my way. I cornered like a dream and was first to the finish line.

"Mom. I won! What did I win? What's my prize?" I jumped up and down waving the bowl and spoon in front of my mother's face. Splatters of blue were flying everywhere.

Mom grabbed my arm, and the bowl along with it. She read the manuscript diligently.

Her face. I knew that face. I had seen it before and it wasn't a positive thing:  eyes big with a look of concern, lips puckered trying to form the right words, eyebrows close together creating that bubble you get when deep in thought, and she had her head cocked to the left anticipating my reaction. Right was empathetic. Left was judgement. Hers was left.

Mom put her hand on her hip and pushed the bowl into my face. She was moving it in front of me as if to show me the words. I watched her lips and the world froze in time. What was she going to say to me? I was ready to read their motion. 

"Sarah, you didn't win a prize, see." She waved more. 

This is the first memory I have of feeling patronized. If I could read you wouldn't have the bowl in the first place, now would you? 

"It's not a prize." She scoffed. "It's a warning. For parents." The dramatic pause.
"It says to not be alarmed when it turns your pee and poop blue."

Oh my ___. My chest. I can't breathe. I can't even read yet and I'm having my first panic attack. Who does that? What type of people, things, do that to you? Lure me in with ice cream and promises of magical things and than this? No control. It's too late. I already am deathly afraid of going to the bathroom. I'd not pee for three days if I had anything to say about it. But to turn my pee and poop blue? Sadistic!

I could see my little sister laughing in the corner of my eye. I shot her a look that would kill, and she stopped. Oh, yah. I could do that already. These green eyes can turn into a monster like that. *snap. Stupid baby.

Mom always moved past things quickly. She was ready to hit the next area of the park yesterday, and I was still trying to understand what had just happened. Mom snatched my wrist and pulled me out of the arena. As she dragged me away my head was turned back. My eyes glarred at Papa Smurf with the death gaze. I know he felt me. I never would watch the Smurfs again.

That was the point in my life that I knew for certain that Smurfs were evil. The church was right. 

As I've grown older and lived my life I still encounter a Smurf now and then. The only difference is that they don't always wear the blue sweater, but they are out there...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Who Am I?

Category
Label
Role

Role
Label
Category

Society places these upon us.
Why do we allow them to define who we are expected to be?

I've never been comfortable in a box.
Claustrophobic.
I can't breathe.
The sides feel like they are closing in all around & I can't see.
Too many expectations.
What does this all mean?
What's society's perception of,
of...
me?

Ethnocentric points of view.
The world is guilty of using them to reference each of you.
The fertile ground where bullies are bred.
A dark, isolated place inside an ignorant head.

The world places these categories,
these labels,
these roles,
on the things seen as different than thee.
The sweet little lie is justified with false belief
that it helps us
understand one another?

But how does a
category, label, role...
How does this give you the slightest glimpse into my complicated soul?

Imagine for a moment that you had to spend an entire day
describing one another
without
categories,
without labels,
without roles.

What would you say?

Would it force you to look at people differently?
Would it force you to see individuality?

The absence of
categories,
labels,
roles.

And what about yourself?
Would you then see your value?
Would you recognize your wealth?

No longer permitted to cling to
your category,
your label,
your role.

Or is yours a more frightening fate?
Left wondering: Who the HELL am I?
Standing there lost & confused in an anxious state.

You aren't a category.
You aren't a label.
You aren't a role.

You are unique.
You are special.
You are an individual.
You are all of this in spite of what names for you society may call.

You are not a category.
Republican, Democrat, Christian, Atheist.
You are a person.
Unique.

You are not a label.
Gay, Straight, Bi.
You are a person.
Special.

You are not a role.
Husband. Wife. Daughter. Son.
You are a person.
Individual.

Can you go for just one day?
No identification tied to
categories,
to labels,
to roles?

"Tell me a little bit about yourself..."

What will you say?




Double Edged Sword

We are all talented people.
Our talents are both a blessing and a curse.
Double edged swords
sharpened and refined.
Blessing and
curse.

I love being around people,
BUT
I take them home with me.
Not literally, don't be silly
(although... at times I have tried, TRUST me)!

Empathy is a funny talent.
It's really not a skill you can learn.
You are either born with it, or you aren't.
You either watch the fire
OR
you can actually FEEL it burn!

I'm deeply impacted by other people's emotions.
I feel the tightness of their shoes.
I feel his flat feet and her high arches.
When you win, I am surged with adrenaline.
When you fall, my knees are also skinned and bruised.

I'm like a bug attracted to light
when others want to share their plight.
A listening ear, a shoulder to catch a tear.
Giving understanding because I too feel so misunderstood and
I know how to make your life so clear.

You see, I love the fact that I can empathize with people
but I hate the fact I can't pull out my #2, flip it over, and erase all the pain.
I couldn't imagine living in isolation away from the world,
but I also can imagine living life without it:
isolation.

Tug of war.
Push and pull.
Needing to be involved.
Needing to be detached.
Wishing all of my talents could learn
how to interact
with one another.

Intuition.
I have this too.
So strong that at times my intuition is on overdrive in my dreams.
Oblivious to my surroundings by day because I'm so deep in thought.
Processing subconsciously everything my conscious missed at night;
forecasting the future in my sleep while my thoughts are at rest.
Awareness that all is never what it seems.

Intuition is a wonderful thing when you learn to trust your gut.
On the flip side it makes you prone to conspiracy theories and
you can distrust to a point where you get stuck in a negative rut.

I want to help.
I'm skeptical about helping.
Blessing.
Curse.
Tug
of
War.

I'm an idealist to the core.
I always have a hunger for something more.
I believe utopia is in sight.
Then reality takes a nasty bite.
Looking at the world I see how perfect things could be.
I want to teach everyone how to live in harmony.
*insert Coke commercial here*

It makes me want to drop all of my responsibilities.
Nomad. Running loose.
A redhead on the run searching to make this existence a better place for you, for me.
It's not that easy.
Bills to pay.
I'm raising a family.
Why can't I get paid for being a redhead on the run,
making the world a better place?

Push.
Pull.
Non-stop tug of war.
Heart pulls this way.
Logic from my mind pushes me down.

These are the battles that wage in my mind
when I'm daydreaming all of the time.
How can I find that balance?
How can I use this sword so that it cuts away the clutter of every day
and doesn't cut you or cut me?
What we have as we?
Double edged sword.

Unsettled.
On the outside I'm cool, I'm calm,
I'm collected.
Inside, I'm
(deep breath)
unsettled.

Something more.
My life is meant for so much more.
I know it. I feel it.
How do I obtain it?

I guess it starts with me.
I need to figure out how to use this myriad of unique talents
in perfectly synchronized unity.

Until then I play of tug of war.
Push. Pull.
Both blessing and a curse.
Eventually I will win this game we call life
and know what my purpose here is for.


BROKEN

We are all broken people.
You are no more broken than me.
Some can hide it,
wear masks.
They think that no one out there can see.

She puts on her lipstick, red.
Polished heels, sharp suit.
She enters the world holding up her head.
Inside she is tormented.
Mistakes present and from the past.
A lost and lonely soul.
Broken.

He stands in front of his congregation.
A pulpit, a pedestal, preaching to the crowd.
He strives to lead with perfection.
Inside his expectations make him drown.
Practice what you preach.
The mantra plays like a broken record, round & round.
Broken.

She sits nervous over coffee.
Wanting him to like everything he sees.
This is the first time they will meet.
Being single at age 40 isn't where she ever thought she'd be.
Inside her gut she carries baggage of a broken heart and being lonely.
Outside she twiddles her bracelet and covers up the charm from her past love.
He left her.
Broken.

He is always so funny.
He makes all of his friends laugh.
Years ago he was bullied.
Now he covers the wounds.
Bandaged up with smiles and deflection
from topics too painful to sound
into words about a broken youth.
Broken.

She sits with her toys.
Wishing to get away from life's noise.
Insignificance is a monster.
It torments her from under her bed.
She cuts pictures from magazines mapping out the day she will wed.
Even at her young age
she doesn't see how she alone will ever be enough.
Her parents are too busy yelling at one another to see
she is...
Broken.

He lost it all
with one unpredicted fall.
He stands with his cup
asking for just a buck.
People pass by, they don't look.
He stands and wonders, "when did I become just another character in life's book?"
Under a bridge his daughter waits.
No guarantee of dinner on their metaphorical plates.
Strangers assume he chose this fate.
He cries out, "I'm no different than you!"
Broken.

Appearances are never what they seem.
We all have a past and we all dream.
Everyone has a story.
Everyone has been hurt.
Everyone is broken.
Broken.

While the world is full of broken people,
all hope should not be lost.
Our brokenness makes us special.
Unique.
Perfectly
broken.

Life is about community.
Relationships with one another.
If we weren't broken, why would we need one another?
Take off your mask.
Honestly is a sunlight you will love to sit and bask.
Until your weaknesses you reveal
you can never move forward and heal.
You will remain
broken.

We are all broken people.
You are no more broken than me.
Some can hide it,
wear masks.
They think that no one out there can see.

The world is full of people...
Broken...



Saturday, December 1, 2012

No Expectations

I'm back from a month-long blogging hiatus! Things have been a whirlwind recently. On a few occasions I thought about putting my thoughts to key regarding what has taken place recently so I sincerely hope tonight's blog has been worth the wait!

I've always had this personal theory about how God speaks to us and about how God expects us to act. To me this all happens swiftly and with urgency. That "gut feeling" that I get: God. I believe that God has an expectation that we fall with our eyes blindfolded and with arms wide open in full trust that He will be there to catch us.

I've always believed in the old adage that what goes around comes back around; i.e., karma! I believe that if you focus on blessing others, with your heart right, that the blessings will come back to you. It's that whole "heart right" part that I have struggled with for so long.

There is no denying on my part that one of my biggest growth opportunities has been to give and to love without expectations. I have struggled with this. I've wanted to learn how to do this and to give and to love with the right heart. This month God really tested me and my new found strength in this skill of no expectations! (If you know me you probably cannot imagine me even forming the sentence: have no expectations!!! Ha, ha!)

On the third Sunday in November my family and I joined up with our Waters Edge Rider's family out at a homeless shelter for Veterans to cook a Thanksgiving meal. It was an awesome experience for us! While we were out there we were introduced to a woman.

This woman, Missy, was not a Vet, but she and her husband had been displaced and this particular shelter had room for them so they allowed them to stay. Missy was in tears talking about how they had ended up in Louisiana from Chicago and her tale was full of traumatic events. She shared that she was pregnant and the baby was eleven days overdue. She had nothing for the little boy that was soon to be in the world, no money until the third of the month, and she feared that she would lose her son.

I'm generally a cynic so when God tugged on my heart saying, "help them", logic immediately set in and said... "Really? She is 44, she doesn't look pregnant. Her story is a bit far fetched." But God said, "help them." So, I listened. I chose not to run my mouth with conspiracy theories and I decided to help them.

I wasn't sure where to begin. I didn't have the funds to provide for a baby in a day. Shoot, I have a baby coming in March and I think we have gotten so much as a onesie!! "OK, God. I'm closing my eyes and going to fall back now. Catch me, OK?"

Social Networking is a pretty cool thing. I put a couple posts on a few different pages and the donations came pouring in. I was in awe of the hearts of the people within our community. In 24 hours I was able to see God provide for a family with nothing. He took her from nothing to having more than enough for a newborn baby boy. Truly amazing!

When I first moved to Louisiana I wanted very badly to work for a local non-profit that was devoted to connecting people with the right resources and to helping people with the right life skills to get on their feet. It would have been awesome, had this non-profit actually existed. It didn't. I thought for a long time that maybe there wasn't the need here like other places I have lived. Boy, did these past two weeks teach me otherwise.

As we were taking in donations for Missy and her husband, Terry, people were asking about other donations. Could we take anything else for people in need? My husband and I both agreed, yes. Why not? We have a huge shop that's just sitting here, over half empty, and we have the room. The experience put us into touch with so many other activists within our community who were dedicated to serving the city and who had different resources and talents. The network was falling into place.

Our landlord was so excited about the new venture. Next thing we knew he had blessed us with all of the wood needed to house the shop with shelving units. People came forward to donate time and labor. Shelves went up and donations poured in. Friends joined in as we sorted, organized, and awed. This all happened in less than a week!

Days had gone by and I stayed in touch with Missy and Terry. God was pulling on my heart telling me that my place wasn't to just dump these gifts on them and to run. God was telling me that the need was bigger than that. It hadn't been met yet.

By the Sunday following the dinner both Missy and Terry were being moved into a room in a house, away from the shelter, where their dogs could roam free and they could have a little more independence. They could have a little more normality. Once again the amazing hearts of those around me shone through, but God kept pulling on me, telling me that the need hadn't been met yet.

My husband and I started to reach out to the couple more. The closer we got the more we understood how dysfunctional their relationship was. Our concern for the well-being of Missy and for her unborn child were growing stronger.

During this time we constantly had an influx of donations and needs. The shop was hopping! It felt wonderful to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Daily I would ask Missy to go to the hospital. Daily she would tell me she was going to go later. This was an enigma to me. I couldn't understand why she just wouldn't go to get checked out. I had mentally decided that only one of three things could be happening: 1) she isn't really pregnant and has been living a lie even to her husband, 2) the test results may show that he is NOT the father, or 3) she is an addict fearing what her UA may show when she goes into the hospital. My husband and I felt frustration, but it was from a different place then where it normally would be from. We weren't concerned about all the stuff we got for her. We were concerned because we didn't know how to best help her. It just didn't add up.

Yesterday I took Missy to Wal-Mart to get some basic things, like underwear. The things that I take for granted. I was standing in line at the check-out waiting for the blow of the total: $87 and change. Not too bad, but definitely wasn't in the budget this month. It's amazing how God knows our steps and the state of our heart even before we do. When we got home that evening I had an unexpected check in the mail for $90!

Today comes and the phone rings. It was Missy and she was begging me to come pick her up. She had drama with Terry again and was again rambling on about how she had to leave him. The logic of the whole situation didn't really make sense. My "gut" was telling me she was pushing him away. People do funny things when they get scared. Missy is an insecure woman and I could totally see how her actions answered every question I had about the baby enigma.

My husband and I told her that we would be happy to pick her up, but that she was going to the hospital. No more excuses. No more resistance. Missy agreed with hesitation. Her husband was ecstatic because each time he begged her to go she diverted the situation with accusations that put him on the defense.

We took our time getting out there and when we arrived she had finally come clean. She wasn't pregnant. Missy had a miscarriage earlier in the pregnancy and her insecurities got in the way of her honesty. Terry had always wanted a child and she feared he would leave her if she couldn't give him one. Her insecurities and her fear of rejection had caused her to create an environment in which he would just leave her or she could justify leaving. This way she would never have to come clean to him face to face. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if we hadn't been connected to this couple. Would this honest moment ever have happened? Would they have been separated?

Missy was so scared to tell us the truth that we already knew. I don't think she has ever experienced authentic love before. She only knew love with strings attached and love with expectations. The reality was that I had so much empathy for her situation even though I didn't agree with what she did. I understood it.

With all of that said and done we still refused to whisk her away. This time there was no running. These two needed to communicate. They needed to figure out where they wanted to be now that they both had an honest awakening of where they are.

Without even thinking and without hesitation I said something to the couple that even surprised myself. I told them that the baby stuff they had been given was theirs and it was up to their discretion what they do with it. I shared with them that there were several needs for baby boys in the community who were recently born or who were about to be born that we had been made aware of. I put the ball in their court to decide if they would like to bless another family with what they had been given. If they did, we were here to connect the right people to the items. If they didn't, fine. We would be in touch.

Then we left. We left and we went about our day. I had so much peace. A year ago, hell even six months ago, I wouldn't have had any peace at all. I would have been pissed to say the least. My perception would have been that we had been taken advantage of. I would have steamed about where the items could have gone and I would have taken them with me today when I left. My heart would have grown a little harder and my mind a little more skeptic. I would always wonder who was "really" in need. I was nearly giddy that this didn't happen.

I did it. I finally did it. I gave, I loved with no strings attached. No expectations. It felt really good! I sincerely believe that our steps are ordered before we take them and that people are put into our paths for a reason.

I cannot wait to see where God takes this new venture of our over the course of the next few years. If you want to learn more about what we are doing in our community or to learn how you can get involved, visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SCRAPSlc today!







Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Think Therefore I Am

I have always been a positive person. I guess I was just born that way. My glass is always half full. There is always a silver lining. I'm always bopping around to theme music in my mind.

One thing that has been a facination for me is the human psyche. I'm always facinated by people's stories of hardship or depression. I'm obsessed with helping shift the perception that people have of their situations, to helping them see the potential within their reach, to stimulaing them to make the change! I love helping others to become happy, to believe in themselves, and to see a brighter tomorrow.

This month was a stressful month for us. It started off with a cancer scare with my husband and the joys of "hurry and wait" that comes along with all of the testing. Immediately after getting through that I'm admitted into the hospital for almost a week. I get out and then one of my husband's best friends who rides with us is in a motorcycle accident, air lifted in critical condition.

My husband's tests came back clear. I'm healthy, home, and feeling great. Our dear friend went from critical condition to being sent home with staples and a broken hand within hours.

My husband shot me a text today to pray for him because his nerves were shot. He didn't even know how he would function today at work.

My response? Glad you asked:

"The mind is such an amazing thing, and the power we give our thoughts over us. It's always astounding when you take a step back and realize how we let a simple thing, a thought, consume us. We stress, we fixate, and we physically suffer. Then... a simple shift of perception... and that stressful weight lifts off of our shoulders. We laugh. What you see as a brush with death for you, for your wife, and for your best friend... it could be a reminder of all the blessings we have in life. A reminder of how much we love... are loved. A reminder of how we shouldn't waste a second of this precious life worrying about what horrible thing could have happened. Now, quit stressing because at the end of the day... you don't get that time back! My nerves are gold, are you kidding?! In my book we were just blessed with three miracles in three weeks! Smile, Baby, I love you!"

Moral of the story:  Your situation is always as good, or as bad, as you think it is!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Death and Living

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, "The only thing certain in life is death (and taxes)."  We all know that one day we will pass, and yet this logic doesn't make losing a loved one any easier.

Over the course of the past week I have had several people in my life lose an elderly parent. It's funny how death always takes us by surprise even though we know it's a part of life.

I remember when I lost my father. It was sudden and unexpected and there was so much I wished we had the opportunity to do, that I wished we had the opportunity to say...  I remember learning my daddy had passed. I was pregnant with my oldest son and it was Good Friday. I will never forget that call. I remember my sister, Melissa, on the line asking me to sit down and to remain calm. My gut fell and I just knew, I just knew my daddy was gone.  I had gotten a glimpse of the caller ID blinking that the Boone County Hospital had left a message. No words were needed. I knew.

That holiday was a blur to me. I prayed it wasn't real, I prayed that he too would rise on Easter morning. My daddy didn't rise. It wasn't fair. He was too young. He had a young son at home. He was too healthy. It was too sudden. It wasn't fair!

My sisters and I made photo collages of his life. That silly red Fiat convertible that never ran. Those rediculous tube socks he always wore. The lame jokes that we missed hearing. His writings. His voice. His wit. His charm. His humor. His fried egg sandwiches on Sunday mornings. His love for vintage military t-shirts. Our sadness he never got that bull dog. Our grief he would never see his grandbabies.

A couple of years ago my grandmother passed. I was particularly close with Grandma Love.

When she passed she had experienced her fair share of dementia, gerry chairs, and nursing homes. For years she hadn't been the granny I remembered. Alzheimer's had taken hold of her mind and her body. I KNEW she was in a better place. I KNEW she had gone home.

My granny was ill. Her body was shutting down and it was a matter of time before she would be gone and with God. I will never forget that call. I was in Manhattan with some co-workers on a beautiful July 13 evening. We were enjoying wine and tapas. My cell buzzed and I flushed. Once again, it was Melissa. She told me my granny had taken her last breath. I had been on edge for days waiting for this call, but it didn't matter how "prepared" I was.

I started bawling in that Manhattan restaurant with a table full of executives just staring at me. I walked for hours that night, dangerously I'm sure, crying on the phone and wandering Central Park.

Once again I found myself with my sisters making photo collages of her life. The kids she loved and nannied over the years. Her trip to Israel. Her undying love for our grandfather. Her home that was always open to anyone. Her love for her church. Her crazy diets. The time she was so mad at me that she wet her pants! Her Christmas card she signed, "Love, Crack Granny."

This past year I lost my daddy's sister, my aunt Peg. She had fought a long and hard battle with cancer. My aunt Joyce had emailed me and told me that Peg was in the hospital. It wasn't looking good. This time I was the one who called Melissa and Becky. There was no question, we were going to Memphis. We made it to see Peg one last time before she passed.

Aunt Peg was in pain and we knew she was ready. It didn't matter. We bawled in the hallway together with family. We sat in the parking lot and in the lobby talking with my aunts and my cousins telling rediculous stories of my aunt Peg's crazy adventures! RVing, holidays in New York, her horible sense of direction!

It wasn't long after returning home that we each got the text from our cousin Don. Aunt Peg had passed. We cried. We bartered with God. We hurt because of all the lost time. For months we knew death was close. For days we knew it was even closer. It didn't matter how "prepared" we were.

It's funny. No matter what we do (or don't) accomplish in life, in the end we have love and we have memories.

It's funny. No matter how "prepared" we are to lose a loved one it's not easy. It's sad. No matter how "ready" that loved one is to go home, we still hurt.

And yet, I remember deperately convincing myself that it was OKAY to be sad that my granny and my auntie Peg had passed. I felt guilty for it. I felt selfish. Why do we do this to ourselves?

What we have to remember is that tomorrow is never promised. Live each day to the fullest. Live each day like the last. Create some memories that will evoke a smile and a happy tear once you have taken your last breath. Live your life for something.

Should you lose someone close to you, no matter the cause, it is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to lose it and to break down. It is okay to be rediculous, to scream, and to laugh!

We only get one shot at living. Make it count.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Organized Chaos!

This week I went to my first city council meeting for my little town of Westlake, population 4600. It reminded me of my first experience flying Southwest Airlines:  organized chaos!

Let me elaborate for those of you that haven't had the priveledge of flying Southwest. There are no assigned seats, only pre-assigned groupings. You huddle in a mass and board the plane and seats are first come first serve. The entire process leaves me anxiety ridden and everything is a mere blur, but somehow you get to where you intended on going. You get wooed into flying with them again by free snacks and no carry-on fees, but the experience leaves much to be desired. Oh, and did I mention you won't find their flights on any of the fancy discount websites? Another note:  good luck finding a direct flight. Everything has a layover here and a transfer there.

My local government is a Southwest flight.

It's not just the wonderful city of Westlake either. I started writing this post on Monday evening and had to postphone my blogging. On Tuesday my boss frantically got off his conference call. He placed the phone down and looked at me with a panic look and muttered two words, "Organized chaos!"

Now, I laugh because this is a topic that had been heavily on my mind since Monday evening. What are the odds? Then, at that moment, I realize that there is organized chaos all around us:  traffic, schools, work, government, volunteer groups... it's everywhere! Why do we do this to ourselves?

One of my favorite Franklin Covey quotes is, "Fail to plan and you plan to fail."  The leaders of this organized chaos have to know the anxiety level of those who are trying to follow them. I mean, can't they feel it?

I really do value spontaneity, but it has it's place. I just don't think passing an ordinance to allow RV Parks within city limits is that place. This is something that requires thoughtful planning and regulations. You don't just pass an ordinance and then say, "Well, the good news is we have 30 days to figure this out!" But it happens, doesn't it?

What I can tell you is that I am going to do my part to put a stop to the organized chaos! If I jump into something it won't be with my eyes wide shut! I will do my part to lessen the anxiety level of those around me versus raise it!

If you are ever in charge of leading a meeting, I have some words of advice from my personal leadership experiences:

1) Have an agenda.
Now, this can be taken two ways and you should take it both ways! First, what do you want to accomplish? What is the end result? We all come together for a purpose, so what is it? Figure that out well ahead of time, and tell us at the start of the meeting exactly what that agenda is! Afterall, we are all aware that you have one. This takes the guesswork out and allows us to really focus during the meeting! Second, take it literally. Put an agenda together! During the meeting, how are we going to accomplish the goal you have set? What topic will be discussed? What can I expect? I'm investing my time to meet with you so please make it worthwhile. Make sure you invest some time to plan the conversation for each topic. Even if the meeting is intractive you must be prepared to steer the conversation in the direction you need to go.

2) Stick to the agenda.
If you have an expressive group that tends to bounce topics or to get off track use the agenda to stay on focus. Ask for ideas to be jotted down. Better yet, pass the agenda out early and ask people to come prepared to share their top two ideas when that topic is discussed! If a discussion point comes up that is not part of the agenda table it for the next meeting. It's okay to expect any discussion topics to be submitted prior to the meeting to incorporate them into the agenda. This should be an expectation!

3) Delegate and follow up.
Never end a meeting without a clear call to action of who committed to what and when you will follow up or will expect there to be follow up. Always have a plan regarding who you will assign responsibilities to in the event you do not have a volunteer. Sometimes people need to be voluntold! Send out a recap of meeting notes. Actually follow up!

I envision that one of these days we will have a world delicately balanced by both organization and chaos... but no longer the intermingled organized chaos! Until that day happens I will keep my antacid and my anxiety meds within arms reach!!!



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Love is a Skill

I adore those moments when what you have always known suddenly culminates into words; those moments when your thoughts that you have been trying to project make linguistic magic. Tonight I experienced one of those moments. Some may call it reaching a higher level of learning or understanding. Others may call it an epiphany. Either way, I call it just plain damn exciting!

Tonight in my small group from church we dissected an old familiar verse:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NIV

As we picked apart verse by verse, I had visions of myself and statements I would make in coaching conversations during my past life or of topics from my previous blogs. A smile came across my lips when it all simplified into one phrase for me:

LOVE IS A SKILL! 

A skill, simply put, is a behavior. This behavior is refined over time with knowledge and experience. To be really good at it we need to practice it. We need to make mistakes. We need to learn from them. 

No one is born knowing how to perfectly love. Love isn't a talent we inherently have. We learn it. We practice it. We get better at it. It becomes a strength. 

I've been working on refining my ability to love for a few years now. I should say, I have had a heightened  awareness of my skill level and my desire to improve it. 

All of my life I battled this perception of me that I was manipulative and that I was selfish. Now, I (of course) did not share this perception. To others I always had a motive. I always had an agenda. Nothing was ever face value. It made it difficult for others to fully trust me because trust evokes having someone else's best interest in mind. The best interest in mind was always my own, or so others thought. 

What I learned, in time, was that those other people were right. I didn't even see it. You see, I have high expectations. High expectations for myself and for those around me. Without realizing it I was always giving with an expectation of gaining something back. Maybe it was performance. Maybe it was time. Maybe it was taking my side in an argument. I allowed other people to disappoint me and leave me feeling taken advantage of. I wasn't acting in love. 

For years I practiced giving without expectations. I would look every day for an opportunity to help someone who didn't have the means to help me back. Strangers seemed to work the best for this! The more I did it the better I got at it. It was such an inconvenience at times, but that's why it was so rewarding. I chose to make the act a priority and in turn acted selflessly versus selfishly!

When it came to my co-workers, my friends, and my family I found that day by day it became easier to give without expectations. I finally was able to shake of that manipulative perception others had of me, but it took time and it took skill. I changed. 

Each and every day we come into contact with people who aren't as skilled as what we may be at loving, and that's how we need to look at it. We need to stop letting animosity breed in our hearts, in our minds, and in our mouths. We need to understand that these individuals need some practice, and maybe a mentor. These are our opportunities to show them what the behavior of love really looks like. 

The Golden Rule, "Treat others the way you would wish to be treated."

This really means we need to put ourselves in other people's shoes. If we were them, how would we want to be treated? This isn't literally treat everyone in a way that pleases you. Where is the selfless act in that?

Remember. It doesn't matter how smart you are, how accomplished, or what you say. If you don't have love you have nothing. It's a balance! It's a skill we all need to start perfecting today!




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Perception: Pt 2

When I was in college I worked as an aide in a nursing home for while. We had a resident there, I will call her Rosie.

Rosie suffered from what we called "sundowners". It was a form of dementia that sets in the evenings, around the time that the sun goes down.

Each evening after dinner Rosie would regress to her childhood. She would become anxious and concerned that her mother would be looking for her. She needed to get home. Rosie would fight with the other aides that tried to push her wheelchair down the hall to her room. They would badger her and tell her, "Rosie, your mom is dead. You are 89 and you are in a nursing home."

I watched as Rosie threw her head in her hands and hopelessly wailed as she was forced down the hall in her chair. She would cry out in confusion. She would get violent at times. My heart ached for her.

I cannot imagine what that moment must have felt like for Rosie. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to have the world as she knew it shattered by one heartless statement: "Your mom is dead." Her perception; her reality, all shattering into pieces underneath the wheels of her chair.

Rosie had to endure this emotional and psychological trauma every single day. I wondered how long it had gone on? It didn't seem right.

I stayed up for what seemed to be an eternity one night drawing, coloring, and cutting out bills that looked like money. I was determined to help my coworkers understand that for Rosie, we needed to share her perception and her reality versus forcing her into ours.

I went to work the next day and put a game plan into play. At the end of dinner I walked up to Rosie with a big grin on my face and asked her if she was ready to go home. Like clockwork Rosie responded, "Oh, no. I can't. My mother will worry and I must wait for her to come and get me."

I sat next to Rosie and leaned in. "Rosie, my name is Sarah. Your mother hired me to take you home. She said she was going to be out of town tonight and she is paying a few of us to see that you get tucked into bed. Look, she put money in your bag to pay us." I pointed to the satchel on the chair. Rosie looked inside, saw the money, and grinned.

"Now, Rosie. We must hurry. Your mother is going to be calling you at home to see that you made it back safely," I said.

Rosie agreed. I was ecstatic. We exchanged conversation up the hall and she told me about her dance that evening and the boy she met who would become her husband one day. She pointed out the window naming constellations, and shared hopes of camping one day soon.

We strolled past the nurses station and I gave a nod to the nurse. As we cornered into her room, her phone began to ring. It was the nurse posing as Rosie's mom. I saw Rosie grinning and laughing. She was so happy. I don't think I ever saw her this way before. She was so excited to talk to her "mom" and she was an absolute delight up until the second she fell asleep that evening... and every evening after that until the day she passed away.

My experience with Rosie has really helped me to re-evaluate the times in life that my perception may not be the same as someone else's. Watching Rosie that evening: her pain, her confusion, made me realize something. I don't have to be right all of the time. Sometimes it serves no good.

I mean, why did the aide HAVE to argue with Rosie? Because, the aide was right and Rosie was wrong, right? But, for what purpose did it serve? So, you are right, and now Rosie knows it. Do you feel better? Is there some radical good that will come of it?

The answer is no.

The next time you see that someone is wrong and you so quickly want to correct them, I ask you: what good will come of it? Will it help them? Or hurt them? How with shattering their perception, their reality, make them feel?

I leave you with a story I also used many times in my former career. The author is unknown:

A woman is in an airport, hungry! She dashes into the gift shop, buys some cookies, and stuffs them into her carryon. She exits, scans the waiting area, and chooses a seat next to a business man who looks too busy on email to bother talking to her.

The woman pulls out her book and begins to read. Hunger pangs her tummy. She reaches over and grabs a cookie out of the bag and eats it.

The businessman stops typing and smiles over at the woman. He looks at the cookies, reaches down, takes one, and eats it.

Heat flashes the woman's face. "The nerve," she thinks. She takes another cookie and eats it.

The business man smiles, looks at the cookies, reaches down, takes one, and eats it.

Now, the woman is heated. She forces her hand down in disbelief and takes another cookie.

Back and forth the two go. She takes a cookie, he smiles, he takes a cookie, and back to her.

One cookie left.

The businessman's flight gets called. He stands up, smiles, lifts the bag with the one cookie, and offers it up to the woman.

"The nerve of this man," the woman thinks, "Offering me my last cookie. MY cookies that he had no problem eating. Smug, ungrateful, pompous..."

She takes the cookie and rolls her eyes. She can't decide if she should say something, smack him, or bite her tongue. Regardless, by the time she looks back up, the man has vanished into the crowd. Names continue to roll through her mind of all the unworthy things to call him.

Her flight gets called. The woman stands up to head to the gate. As she stuffs her book into her carryon she hears a familiar sound of foil and paper.

She stops. Her heart jumps into her throat. Her face turns beat red. "NO," she thinks, "NO, NO, NO!"

The woman reaches into her bag and pulls out a bag of cookies. She scans the waiting area, the gates. The man is gone.

In that instant she realized she had been eating the businessman's cookies the entire time!

That's what it feels like to have your perception shifted. To have your reality change.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Perception Pt. 1

PERCEPTION IS REALITY.

In my previous career I led a lot of meetings. A lot of them. Along with these meetings were a lot of ice breakers and grabbers. There was one in particular that really stood out to me:

Everyone gets a sheet of paper. On the sheet of paper. I am going to say four different words. For each word I say, draw a picture of what comes to mind. When we are finished, everyone will share what they sketched.
Play... Open... Safe... Funky

I would ask the each person, "What did you draw for the word play?"
Some would draw theatre masks, others a ball and a bat...

"And open?"... minds, arms, heart, doors...

"Safe?"... the literal:  a safe, an arm's embrace, a home...

"Funky?"... a hippie, music, a chicken...

The point... yes, they are all the same words, but we all have different life experiences. When you put the two together, you get perception. While your reality of safe is a cold locked box, to me it might be an arm's embrace. Misunderstanding and our lack of validating the perception others have of us leads to conflict and to broken trust...

How many times have you said, "That's not what I meant by that." A lot a bet.

Regardless of how you meant it, that's how it was translated, and that's what you said.

Be willing to take feedback and to be warm when others are disgruntled with you. Is it always your problem? Yes, it is. There is always a way to prevent internal conflict! The best place to start is by treating everyone the way THEY want to be treated, not how YOU want to be treated!

Abraham Lincoln says it best:  "I don't like him. I need to get to know him better!"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

America Needs an Intervention

"I once saw a snake having sex with a vulture, and I thought, it's just business as usual in Washington D.C."
Jarod Kintz - The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They're Over

POLITICS have gotten so jacked up in America. I am absolutely floored by the number of people who say, "I don't know who I'm going to vote for this year or even if I want to vote. I don't like either candidate." Republicans and Democrats alike have gone too far. And they aren't the only ones to blame. We, the voting citizens, need to take some ownership of this crisis too. Afterall, we are the ones falling for all of the crap we see in the media, aren't we? We are the ones who buy what they're selling and enable them to continue their antics.

When I was younger I wanted so badly to be in politics. I was going to fight for the people and I was going to make a difference. I remember the first office I ran for in High School:  Future Homemakers of America Iowa District 12 President. (Don't laugh!) From there is was a state office. Now, FHA had some requirements to run for a state office. You needed to actually volunteer and be a contributing part of your community outside of school to even put your name in. It was so much fun running at the convention in Des Moines. When all of the officers were elected we sat in a room, learned about all the different responsibilities, and decided which role we wanted to take on. My choice was to be the Public Relations Officer for Iowa. I had the opportunity to attend education conventions, to speak at school board meetings, and to meet with Iowa governement officials. It was so much fun educating the public about our organization and writing all of the state newsletters. My junior year in high school I was chosen for the American Legion Auxillary Girls' State. We stayed in dorms at the University of Northern Iowa, and each floor was a community. We learned about government, received an understanding of politics, and ran for offices. There were political campaigns, town hall meetings, and senate votes. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

I entered college bright-eyed with a political science major and law school aspirations. Maybe I would be a governor. Maybe I would become a lobbyist. Whatever I did I was going to be happy, wealthy, and convicted. Yeah, right! Little did I know that didn't exist. In politics you can't have wealth and integrity. In today's politics you don't have power and noteriety without compromising your values. It's sad, really. I didn't know what I was going to do. Who was I going to be? When I realized all of this, I was almost finished with my junior year. I didn't want to be another sell-out pretending to fight for the people. I didn't know who I was. I dropped out of school. To this day I can't say that I regret doing it. I was spending money on a degree that I didn't even know if I wanted. I needed to take some time to find myself. I was too young for this shit.

I packed up and moved to Jersey City, about a mile off the Hudson River. After a couple of years of self-discovery I moved back to Iowa and entered the retail world. I went back to school, not for politics, but for sociology and for marketing. I worked my way up the corporate ladder to a position as an Account Executive for the largest prestige cosmetics company in the world. What I learned quickly was this:  retail was not much different. D.C. Politics were there too and my schooling and my experiences helped me get far in my career.

I covered 23 stores as an Account Executive and over the years I saw a major shift in the retail world. Store leadership was changing. These past two years have been very exciting to be a part of. You see, when a company, organization, or person hits rock bottom they start to evaluate who they are compared to who they want to be. They finally have the gumption and the motivation to do something about it. Dirty managers were weeded out. Bad employees were let go. New talent, fresh talent was brought in. Stores got face lifts. The retail world has become a better place. Business has never been better!

The retail world that I have been a part of has "gotten something" that our American Politics has not.:
The old ways of doing things won't work any longer.

We need leaders who serve the people and that don't just blow smoke. We need leaders who aren't afraid of the real issues and who aren't going to pad problems with fluff. We need someone who isn't afraid to tell their campaign head to shove it, and will stand firm on being transparent. We need platforms run on positivity versus mudslinging.

I am sick and tired of politics as usual. Since when does every Republican HAVE to agree that same sex couples should not be married? Since when does every Democrat HAVE to agree that gun control is a good thing? It's like we are forced to pick a side and commit to all of these labels that come along with it. Then, we stand and point our finger at everything different, negative, and wrong with the opposing person. Well, I have news for you... that could take forever with any one of us! We ALL have issues. We ALL have faults. Who cares? Doesn't that make us human? No one is perfect.

One of my favorite professors taught religion and he was Jewish. It doesn't mean I love Jesus any less. It means he was an amazing and influential public speaker who engaged me and challenged my beliefs. If I ran for President, someone would say I was anti-Christian. One time I sat with my legs crossed and called it sitting "Indian style". It doesn't mean I am a racist or a biggot. It means that's what I had been taught and heard my entire life and I didn't even realize it was offensive until a friend told me. She knew I was simply uneducated and she helped me. If I ran for President I would be all of those negative names.

It's amazing how things like the above get so easily spun in politics. Take one phrase and you can make it into one thing on Fox News and another on MSNBC. We are so good at manipulating the truth and taking things out of context. I'm always amazed when someone takes everything they have learned in the media to form their opinions and to make their voting decisions. Political campaign leaders really rely on our gullibility as a nation and our ADD to woo us. They use shiny distractions like racism, hatred, patriotism, and religion to divert us from the nation's real issues and what the candidates really stand for. Big money backs the future leaders of our nation, and it's time to end it. Nothing comes without a price.
"Need money? I have money. What can you do for me? At what cost does your soul come? And don't worry. We have a great marketing department. Everyone will be so busy focusing on the fact that he is or isn't X,Y,and Z that they will never even see you are doing it..."

Sad, isn't it?
 I imagine the whole selling of the soul happens gradually. Like drug addictions. No one wakes up and says, "I think I'm going to smoke crack today." It always starts with a gateway drug. One that isn't really recognized as bad even though everyone knows it's wrong. "It's just weed." But then, it's exciting and rebellious. You want more. Little by little it builds up. I mean, why can't you take money from this company and do a favor... you did it for him, right? Next thing you know you are sleeping on a church stoop with no teeth and all of this potential.

America needs an INTERVENTION. That intervention starts with US. Next time you get upset and emotionally charged for what a candidate does or does not stand for don't bitch about it, do something. You want to see the education system change? GO TO A PTO MEETING. You want to see the streets cleaned up? GET THE NEIGHBORHOOD TO PLANT SOME FLOWERS. We need to shake off the ideology that the President changes America. He or she is our ambassador, yes. But does the President really change America? NO. WE DO!

Am I telling you not to vote this year? No, DO vote, but don't cast your ballot uninformed and based off of what you see or hear via the propaganda of the media, church, or wherever you may be. Do your research and get informed. Decide what issues are important to YOU. Decide where our country needs the most help and focus. Find out where each candidate stands on each issue, and from a variety of credible and reliable sources. Don't be afraid to cross party lines, remember:  only you are in the booth when you cast your ballot. A party is simply a label, it's not everything a person is. Look past the dog and pony show and really look at who somebody is inside. Before you cast stones publicly take a moment to make sure you don't deserve the same stone too. Grow up.

As the generations change in politics I wholeheartedly feel that we will see a change and an uproar in America, and one for the better. We have hit rock bottom, and we will only go up from here. As Gen Y and X ages into politics we will see some new fresh talent and prespective. Old traditional ways of doing things and "business as usual" won't produce results and won't get us anywhere. It's time for the "doers" of a new generation to lead our nation into a better future. Until then:  strap in, roll up your sleeves, and do something to fix what you can right here today.






Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Parasites Play Victim the Best

"If you don't like being a doormat then get off the floor." 
Al Anon

I've never done well around people with a victim mentality. I'm sure you all have experience with someone like this in your life:  those individuals who are ALWAYS being taken advantage of!

In a job interview I was asked once, "what is your biggest weakness?" Without hesitation I chimed in with, "I'm impatient." This is very VERY true, and I have zero tolerance for doormats. When I hear the complaints the first time, I'm empathetic. When a pattern is established I am at my limit and always seem to find myself saying, "so do something about it then!"

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there are some people in this world that get off on being a victim. They love the drama. They love the pity. They have some bizarre symbiotic relationship with this blood sucking person, and they are in denial. These people DRAIN me!!! I wish they would just wake up and realize... Person A (you) needs to be used. Person B (user) needs to use someone. You are perfect for each other so just shut up and quit trying to justify your socially taboo relationship to everyone!

I have been so much happier since I distanced myself from my doormat "friends". It was such a difficult thing to do. I hit a wall where everytime I would talk to these friends I would feel empty inside, like I gave them everything I had in me trying to problem solve their situation with them. In the end, they never did anything to rectify their "problem".

Why? Because there was no problem. I realized that they were so worried about being judged that they acted like there was a problem! They assumed my viewpoint when in reality I was just reacting to how I thought they felt!

I believe wholeheartedly that there are two types of people in this world:  1) people who are victims and 2) people who are owners. Victims and owners don't mesh well together. Owners, by default, will always try to get a victim to own their actions, choices, and results. Sometimes the victim comes around. Often times the victim does not. If the latter is the case, the victim must be cut off before the owner falls prey to a victim's paracite tendencies.

I urge you to assess the relationships in your life. Who you choose to spend your time with should be individuals who contribute positively to your well-being. Stand up for yourself. Be vocal. Set boundaries.

When someone is constantly draining you with the same issues with the same person or situation there is nothing wrong with putting your stake in the ground and saying, "If you don't like being a doormat then get off the floor. If you choose to stay there, I don't want to hear about it anymore because then it's your choice. If you need help getting up because you are ready to put a stop to this, then I'm here. Either way I love you, but I can't do this anymore." It might just be the wakeup call they need...

So, which are you:  victim or owner?

And if you don't know which you are I'm here to tell you that you are a victim.

Now, what are you going to do about it?


"Definition of a victim:  a person to whom life happens." Peter McWilliams


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Calling Bullshit on "Religion"

I've had this vision to write a book or to have a blog for a very long time. In my mind It's a journey of self-discovery, of figuring out this place we call World, and of understanding my place in it.

I'm really good at procrastination, call it a gift, but I've finally decided to take this journey. My disclaimer to this blog is that these are my thoughts, my opinions, my enlightenments, etc. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, I hope you all don't. When there is some disagreement it forces us all to think a little more about our beliefs and about our personal interpretations of reality. Working through our differences helps us be to be understood.

One value I hold very highly is that of HONESTY. I've never been that good at sugar-coating my words. Those of you who know me well know that if I am in a situation that requires dipping my words in honey... I don't say anything at all! What I am going to talk about today is a touchy subject and may hit close to home for some of you. If you can't handle that, please stop reading now! My goal isn't to hurt any feelings. My goal is to talk out my personal mind chatter in my journey to become closer to God.


"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned."
Author Unkown

That quote is so true, isn't it? I think that every single one of us has questioned our faith at some point. Silently, I'm sure, because if we were ever to admit it or to talk about it we were shunned for doubting God. Fear was instilled in us at a young age. We are directed to take the preacher's interpretation of The Word as The Word, and to march blindly into existence. Why? Because if we question or doubt we are accused for lacking trust in our leaders and in God.

I call bullshit.

That's right. I said bullshit in a blog about religion.

I grew up in the church at a very young age. I remember asking Jesus into my heart. I remember making the choice to become baptized in water. I remembered making all of these decisions and knowing that there was something so right about God, but feeling like there was something so unsettling with what I was being taught. I was scared into becoming a Christian. Hell sounded horrific, especially at the age of five! I didn't want to go there and I was told that all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart, publicly, in front of hundreds of people. So I did it.

I knew God was real. At the age of seven I prayed for nights to win a Nintendo at my school raffle. I bought three tickets when my classmates bought tens, and I won! And when that game became an idol for me the lord intervened through my Grandmother. After a night of binge gaming she fried my Nintendo at 4am during a game of Tetris. There was also the matter of my hearing, or lack of. None of my memories have sound in them until the age of five or so. After some prayer and a lot of faith, I was able to hear. To this day I still read lips!

As I grew older I began to question the interpretations of the Word more and more. I remember one night in a youth small group we were all delegated topics. The objective was to find a coorelating verse in the Bible that supported the topic we were given, and to speak about it the next week. My topic:  "Homosexuality is WRONG."

I remember searching for days trying to find something that specifically aligned with this belief. I asked for help. The direction I had been given was to quote verses that to me seemed to have nothing to do with homosexuality at all. It seemed metaphorical and I was met with anger when I challenged to take the bigger message or context or timeframe into consideration. It was at that point that I realized how much of The Bible was left up to interpretation. 

I know now that this was a life changing moment for me. I had such a negative viewpoint on everything my church did. When we were in need and I suggested going to the church my mother told me no, they wouldn't help us. That upset me. When they called "names" to the front and prayed over people during service, I saw it as a production. When we were denied membership to a church because my father smoked, my heart was broken. When the altar calls took twenty minutes and people were influenced to the front by way of fear I saw it as manipulative. When people were shunned for what they wore, what they had been through in life, or what they believed I judged the church as judgemental. When we were promised prosperity and checks in the mail, fundraised for a bigger building, sat through half hour tithe and offering fear messages, and let people starve who were in that very body I accused the church of being self-serving. When my sister was going through a tragic event we were forced to stay silent because we didn't want people in the church talking... I spit on the idea and said if they talk instead of love and help, they aren't a church at all.

I know now, in my older years, that this was a part of me trying to understand. I believe wholeheartedly that God was on my heels and in my heart. I believe I was feeling convicted and passionate for what was right. Jesus didn't change the world by acting in hate, inflicting fear, and judging those who didn't walk a perfect path. He changed the world by acting in love and forgiving the unforgivable. He didn't scare the unbelievers and he wasn't scared by them. He walked with them, washed their feet, and died for them.

There are far too many "Christians" out there today who push non-believers and believers alike further away from Church. My experiences pushed me to take a ten year hiatus from attending church, and my heart was always feeling pulled. I continued to study His Word. I continued to do my best to live a life like Jesus. Did I backslide, of course, but I always got back up.

I do feel that being plugged into a church is a neccessity. I am so happy that God has led me to where I am in my life and to where I currently attend church. Each week I feel recharged and energized. Each week I want to make a difference. I'm proud of my church and the eclectic body that attends. We are in desperate need of a new building as we are at max capacity with three services. Do we have a building fund? Yes, well, we try to. Last year we chose to give over $400,000 back to the community in serving the city. If someone comes to the door in need they will never hear, "we don't have the funds." If someone smokes they will never be told, "you cannot be a member." If someone walks through the door with a lifestyle different than Jesus' no one will ever turn away, but hug and embrace them like everyone else. That's a church to me.

Don't be afraid to ever question what you are being taught. If I were a minister, I would be pleased to have someone seek me out with questions about what I am teaching in my ministry. It's not a lack of trust. It's a desire to strengthen trust. Don't let your mind-chatter cause your heart to grow cold and hard. Give your leaders an opportunity to open your heart and your mind to understanding and getting your questions answered. And if your curiousity is met with aggression, a lack of empathy, and an impatience for understanding, maybe it's time to find a different church.