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, and 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.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Get Kids to Love School

"Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the particuliar bent of the genius of each."


I've always taken for granted that my boys had such great public education systems at their disposals. The above quote by Plato rings so true to my core beliefs. Each child is different with unique talents and a social style of his or her own. Each child has hidden potential that his or her teacher has a special opportunity to identify and to unlock. A caring heart and an individualized approach goes so far with a child. Force and harshness shuts a child down and you run the risk of him or her feeling that who they are is a bad thing.

Up until this year I have been blessed to experience the positive side of education. One of Israel's (now ten) best teachers was his third grade teacher, Mrs. Miles. She was cool. She even rode a Harley to work when the weather permitted it. Now, Mrs. Miles understood an individualized approach and how to harness what makes a child unique. She spent the whole first week getting to understand each student and what made him or her special. She identified the leaders, the comedians, the shy ones, and so on. After that week she rearranged the entire classroom to put students next to one another in support of their strengths. When it was conference time her focus was on the positive, where a child excelled. Most of the time I never even realized Israel had any bad marks on his report card because all we heard about were subjects in which he excelled and how they were investing in them and uplifting him more in those areas. My son is a talker; very social. He loves to entertain, be liked, and has a very caring heart. He is passionate about the right things too. Instead of repremanding him for talking out of turn the teachers told him that they couldn't help but notice he had a social gift, and reccommended him for student council. From that point on Israel LOVED school. He was up before the alarm every single day.

Donovan (now five) had a similar experience for preschool and pre-k. Donovan is a very focused child. His teachers understood that he needed to sit and finish his art project to perfection before sitting down for circle time. By telling him something was "good enough" they would have been intruding on his value for excellence. Instead of shutting this down, the teachers allowed him to finish his art projects where he could still be involved with circle time. The individualized approach was held at a higher priority than sticking to a schedule. Donovan and another girl, Isobella, loved to organize and clean. To them, picking up the stations after play time was a reward! It was a special honor held for them each day, and the other children weren't made to do it to be "fair". In fact, allowing the other children to pick up probably would have been punishment for these two because they would just have to go back and fix everything!

Last week my boys started a new school. For Donovan the transition hasn't been difficult. He would have had a new school with new friends regardless of where he went because he is a kindergartener this year. For Israel I expected a diffucult transition. He is in fifth grade now, was in love with his school, and had many friends he left behind. What I didn't expect was for the first week to be as hard on him as it was. Each day he came home with such an attitude and started picking on his little brother. He would complain and cry for hours about how he hated things, and Donovan would tell me it wasn't so bad. I decided I needed to see things for myself. Israel is prone to exaggeration, but one thing was for sure... his little bucket was drained each day he got home, and he promptly began draining ours in a feeble attempt to fill back up.

Today was the start of a new week and my commitment to my son was that I was going to experience what he was experiencing. Today I went to school. I've never done this before and I will be honest, I was really nervous about being a fifth grader again! It wasn't for the entire day, only for lunch, but it was long enough to identify why my son was so miserable.

Israel and Donovan are very different in their personalities. Israel is very touchy-feely. He likes to sit close to you, he needs a hug, he needs to hear he is loved. Israel loves to talk and needs recognition. He tends to interrupt, but not intentionally. He wants to be liked and therefore he hates being left in the dark with what others expect of him. When he is criticized he doesn't take it well and feels very misunderstood. He's more of a visual-spacial learner who conceptualizes quickly and teaches his peers, but has an impatience for details and red tape. Donovan is different. He is quieter and more focused. He appreciates order and structure. He is introverted, a deep thinker. He doesn't take criticism personally, but meets it with questions to improve his performance. He gets bored easily, they both do. They are both competative and both very active. They both are so busy in their heads that they often miss what is being said. 

This new school lacks an individualized approach. It's a breeding ground for analytic thinkers and a prison for intuitive feelers. The world needs both. Everything is about following rules, having order, and maintaining the structure. You are not allowed to touch a friend when you talk. If you interrupt you will write an essay as punishment. Israel loves to write by the way. Now he is having something he sees as positive transformed into something as negative. Talk about confusing. The entire time we were at lunch we were yelled at. I couldn't tell you what the lady said, but she seemed angry. No wonder he always feels like he is in trouble. No one even smiles. To top it off, we were given exactly seven minutes to eat. Ridiculous! No wonder the boys are starving when they get home. I'm just told, "Mom, you pack too much food", when in reality - I don't! They don't pack enough time for these children! And if this isn't enough to state my case try this one on for size. Anyone can be on student council as long as you pay a fee. Really? Politics this early in the game?

Now, I realize I'm not in any position to march into the prinicpal's office (who is sure to be there because I have been in this school on three occassions in six days and he is always in his office) and demand an overhaul with the power of positivity and custom fitting.

What I can do is be involved.

I've taken my children's education for granted and put that burden on the hands of their teachers for too long. This is as much my responsibility as it is theirs. Tomorrow I am going to lunch with Donovan. Later this month I will attend my first ever PTO meeting. My good friend reminded me that sugar catches more flies, and I intend to give this school some sugar. I will make it a point to help my oldest understand why the teachers are behaving the way that they are and I will continue to reinforce his strengths and pour in his bucket every single day.

I beg you to pay attention to your kids. We get so busy, I know. I was very guilty of it prior to this year. Don't wait until fifth grade to join your son or daughter for lunch like I did. Too often we chalk up problems in the education system to funding. What I found is that in this situation it had nothing to do with money and everything to do with a lack of empathy and positive reinforcement from the staff - resulting in a lack of engagement by the students. While there are a lot of thing that are out of our control, our children's education shouldn't be one of them.

Above are my boys getting off the bus the first week of school. After talking with some other parents I was able to help my oldest understand the differences between his two schools. He has been happier with his school now that he understands the whys behind the actions and that I am involved. His biggest hurdle was that he felt he wasn't good enough nor meeting any of the teacher's expectations. With that rectified, both boys are happy and enjoying school more, but I will continue to stay actively involved!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to Discover Your Purpose

"All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don't discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others."
Danny Thomas, Founder of St. Jude Children's Hospital

PURPOSE Such a big word, isn't it? We all spend our lives searching for our purpose; our own interpretations to the meaning of life. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live this life without discovering mine.  I've always had this fire to change the world! Funny, I know. Everyday I look around and see so much potential in everything everywhere I go. Every night I pray that others see this potential too, and that they bring it out. I've learned to filter myself because sometimes I get so passionate about "a better way" that I can be too much to take. I've learned to speak up when my help is asked for. Now, I am second guessing the silence.
One of the things I love the most is my church. Every week the message is influential and is stimulating. Most of all, it's about acting. For a driving personality like myself, this really pushes my buttons in all of the right ways! This week the sermon was all about serving. Our mission statement:  Love God, Love People, Love the City. My biggest takeaway was that I can change the world. I can. All I need to do is find my purpose, and to help others while living it.
Our guest speaker this week said, "You will never change the world with all the money and notariety. You will change the world by serving people. Power and prosperity does not come by what you have. It comes by what you can give."
WHAT YOU CAN GIVE...This, my friends, this is your purpose! So I ask you, what can you give? What can you offer up? It's not about money. It's not about power. It's about talent, skills, passions, and time. What are yours?
I had this "light bulb moment" today as I was digesting the sermon. I went to two services in two days to really take it all in mind you! I know MY purpose! I am not suppose to only pray that others see the potential and bring it out. My purpose IS to bring it out.
I felt silly, really, when it all hit me. You see, for years I have been coaching others to find their purpose and to live in it. Teaching others how to do just that. This is my purpose. I had gotten so confused because I was getting paid to do it, but what I always found was that I did it for free all of the time. Why? Because I wanted to help others. This is how I contribute to my little slice of the "change the world" pie.
So, I say to all of you... find your purpose. Find your talents, passions, and so forth. What are the things that you just love to do? The things that you gravitate towards? The things that make you feel a natural high when you do them? These are the activities you need to offer up to someone in need. Your purpose is to not look at where someone has been, but where they are and where they want to be. Then help them get there by offering up your very best. Change a life and see your life transform. Pay it forward.
Now you think, "So, I know what my talents are... now what?"Tell people. That's right. Tell people. It's not being conceited. It's not bragging. You are simply saying, "This is what I have to give. Who needs me?" Look for the need too. Get involved. Focus on one at a time. Keep it simple. Complete the need. This was a topic in the sermon, and I agree. I think that far too often we try to touch too many people at once and we fail to complete the need. Keep it simple and see it through until the need is met. Completely.
And finally... CALL ME!Seriously. I mean it. This is what I have to offer. What I have to give. If you are struggling to discover your purpose, your talents, your skills, etc., call me. Maybe you know these things and you have a vision, but it's not moving. Call me! I don't care what it is... I'm here. If you need to be uplifted, listened to, led, coached, I'm here! I believe we all have a purpose and that part of my reason for being on this beautiful Earth is to help you discover it and live in it!
This is my all-time favorite quote. I love it so much, it is permanantly inked on my back!