Archive | November 2012

Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff

RowhomesinPhila_sh-231x239I read my friend Jane’s blog this morning and had to chuckle at the situation which triggered fear and trepidation in her heart. She had been playing with her cousins and ran into the wrong house to escape their capture. It reminded me of a similar experience I had.

Growing up, we lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but all of our relatives continued to live in Roxborough. Though on the fringes, Roxborough is still considered part of the city. Though only around age 4 or 5, I loved going out front to play because in this row-homed community, they had sidewalks. Evidently it was quite safe in those days because my mother let me out there by myself. That said, all of the houses looked alike. I did not think that I had traveled far, but evidently I lost my bearings because when nature called, I went to the front door of what I thought was my relative’s house and tried to get in. Though the screen door was open and you could see the people inside, the door was locked. When I asked to be let in, they emphatically said, “No.”

These people did not look familiar to me, but neither did some of my family members because we did not see them often, so I did not think that part strange.  Thinking they wanted me to go to the back door because I was a kid, I told them my need and insisted they let me in due to the urgent nature of my business. Their response was the same. Realizing I had made a mistake in going to the wrong house, I promptly returned to the sidewalk and cried for my mother. She came out of the house next door and expressed her disdain for my carrying on. I was mortified. I, like Jane, was also afraid the people would call the police, but evidently they chalked it up to a mere annoyance.

Today, I look back to the situation and laugh. I cannot believe how naïve I was to think I would end up in jail for a minor mistake. It makes me wonder how in years to come I will view circumstances that I now perceive to be horrendous. As I look back, I may not find them humorous, but this I do know. I will have realized that they had limits. The situation was much smaller than I had initially imagined, and an end came to the problem. Something else soon moved into it’s place. Hopefully too, I will have learned some valuable lesson or experienced a measure of growth. If nothing else, I can realize that there is always hope, and life’s too short to sweat the small stuff.

Shopping for gifts in the cold?

In the northern areas of the US, winter is here. Maybe in some areas it’s here with a vengeance, but not yet where I live. Here it’s just cold with a dusting of snow – just enough to remind you that the season has now crossed over regardless of the date on the calendar. For some like my grandson, visions of snowboards, snowmobiles and hot chocolate dance through their heads, but for me, it’s layering just to keep warm. Then there’s the sense of overwhelming that comes with so many things to be done for the holidays. If I let it, it could really get me down.

Should this combination cause your spirit to plummet, just bundle up and go outdoors after dark to see the first tokens of Christmas. The bright and colorful lights are cheery and inviting. If you need a broader smile or even a hearty Ho, Ho, Ho, keep looking. Some people really go all out covering every inch of their home and yard with Christmas memorabilia. Whether you think such displays are way too much or if they bring you great pleasure, either perspective will benefit from these demonstrations. Music is also a fantastic mood changer. Renowned to sooth the savage beast, music is a fantastic and easy-to-access resource to pull you back on track. If you don’t have your own iTunes, you can always fall back to the radio’s Christmas collection. Sing along to obtain the full benefit. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? Just make a joyful noise and watch your spirit perk.

Although these suggestions may seem simplistic, outward acts in the right direction often pave the way for making a real attitude change. It’s kind of like paying it forward to you. Once your mood shifts from reverse or neutral and begins to move in a more positive direction, you’ll feel better and be better equipped to impact others. For some who may be facing more serious issues because of health, family or finances, their problems are often heightened by cold and the onset of the holidays. Sometimes they need a helping hand and sometimes just a listening ear. Either way you can’t do anything to relieve the situation if you’re down in the dumps. Even if you’re battling any of these things yourself, your positive attitude will provide hope you can share with others as you refocus on the real reason for the season and give a gift of you.

Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Busy, busy, busy …

Can you believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the official launch of the holiday season? Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was putting away the Christmas 2011 decorations, and now, at least at the local stores, they’re in full display for the 2012 season.

Although the merchandisers are skipping right over Thanksgiving, the rest of us – at least those of us who are cooking – are thinking about this upcoming holiday. Big time. In fact the aromas of pumpkin pies may already be wafting through the air. And our to-do list for Thanksgiving alone mimics Santa’s in length. There are only hours left to shop, chop and perform a myriad of tasks to put a meal on the table. Ironically, it takes about 30 times longer to prepare the meal than to consume it. But who are we kidding? We love it all, and at the end of the day when we put up our feet and breathe a relaxing sigh, we’re glad we did it.

Since we’re still in the pre-Thanksgiving mode and working like crazy to get so much done, I’m going to try a different approach this year. As I pare, cut, simmer and bake, rather than thinking of the task itself, I’m going to try to focus on the person(s) who will enjoy it most. Be honest. Whether it’s dark meat or light, cranberry sauce or relish, apple or pumpkin pie, everybody has their favorites. That’s why we kill ourselves to provide so many options. But if I’m making an apple pie for Paul or chilling a can of cranberry sauce for Sarah, I want to think about each of them personally. I’m thinking that this just might make the tasks less tedious and help prepare my heart for the real meaning of Thanksgiving – being thankful to God for His many blessings.

What kind of day was it?

How was my day? I woke up this morning though the night’s darkness lingered for a short while. As it began to fade, the sun remained hidden behind clouds of rain. I didn’t much feel like smiling. I had much to do and little time to do it. I had to go out, and the raw wind stung my face as I crossed the parking lot to attend a meeting. When I came out again, pin-sized balls of frozen ice pelted my raincoat as I rushed for my car. Was this going to be like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Should I move to Australia?*

I said I didn’t feel like smiling, but I chose to let a few cross my lips, and others, with hurts deeper than my own, smiled back. It made a difference. If only I could remember to do that every day. It could make a huge impact. I could also include thoughtful acts of kindness or even a bigger effort to help the less fortunate.

And if I did it another day and another? I might make the dash between the day I was born and the day I die really worthwhile. Click here to view the poem, The Dash. It might encourage you as much as it did me. By the way, the sun actually peeked through about three in the afternoon. I canceled my flight to Australia.

 

*Judith Vorst’s Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Moving on with cars, drugs and toilet paper

The election is over and the political ads will cease, at least for a little while. Whew! Now we can move on to ads with higher value.

Venturing into the holiday season, we won’t skip a beat to move from flags, stars and stripes to bows, Santa and snowflakes. These ads are innocuous. In fact, they just ask me to picture myself driving through a snow covered mountain road flanked in white dusted pines at the wheel of their new Escalade. They’re so anxious to see me in their car, they play their ad frequently. I agree. I would look good in it, so I don’t take offense.

Oh, and if I my cholesterol rises, no worries. I just need to ask my doctor if one of the statin drugs advertised is right for me. I don’t need to concern myself with the probable side effects that they list in their auditory fine print. They’ll likely not impact me. They happen to other people. But, I cannot forget the import of the brand of toilet paper I choose. Yes, I’m “talking about what happens in the bathroom.” After all, “everyone goes” – remind me again why I discouraged my children from potty humor?

Rarely do I consider these TV ads aggressive or arrogant. They’re just part of doing business. I want my favorite programs to remain on the air, and that requires money. I understand they need me and others to buy-into their brands so that when it’s time to make our choice, we’ll purchase their products. Program sponsors often play their ads back to back, yet they evoke little passion. In fact, many times I find them entertaining and adopt their slogans into my daily jargon. Whatever happened to, “You deserve a break today?” I could use one.

Why should political ads be considered anything but a necessary evil like those of other branded goods? Some product claims are true and some have been proven to be hype. We don’t take offense with them, yet many do when it comes to political ads. Some link politics and religion together as taboo topics for discussion. Why is that? Likely there are personal preferences on both sides, and we don’t like these challenged. Yet truth will stand and prove itself, regardless of who wins an election. So what’s the deal?

I like these ads because I understand the stakes are higher than the toilet paper I select. They make a difference beyond me and have potential to impact generations to come. And if I think through their message and question what they say, it helps me to confirm what I believe or reveal holes in my perspective. I lean toward naivety, but understand its dangers, so these ads are good for me.

Will I enjoy the respite from the political rhetoric? Sure, but in the meantime, I will thank God we still have the freedom to promote our views whether political, religious or other personal preferences. In some countries, they don’t have this privilege.

One more chance to get it right

On this Election Day 2012, the question in the minds of most of us is who will be the next President, Congressman, Senator or other State and local officials?  Hopefully by this point we’ve studied the issues, made our selections and have already voted or plan to do so before the polls close today. It is important, if not critical.

We’re told that elections are all about hearing the voice of the people and knowing how they think. Our chosen representatives are supposed to listen to our voices and stand up for our choices when they create and enforce legislation. That’s what our forefathers intended, but reality demonstrates something else coming out of Washington these days. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are one nation under God. Our currency bears the inscription, “In God we trust,” but neither appears to be evident. What changed?

Perhaps it’s we the people. Have we become so proud that we’ve placed our trust in men’s ideas instead of God’s wisdom? Are we so arrogant that we value prosperity above righteousness? Do we value convenience and comfort above human life?

Are we looking at this election the way God sees it? I’m just saying, our nation is in need of help in so many areas, and He says if we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land. I’m praying for one more chance to get it right.

History is about to change. Are you ready?

While waiting in a doctor’s office, I picked up a copy of the local newspaper. I’m always interested in people and their viewpoints, so I headed to the “Opinion” column. One person wrote in about a TV ad that obviously went against his candidate. Perhaps you’ve seen it also. This person opined the depiction of a young mom running to vent her frustration at her 2008 vote for Obama’s slogan of “Change.”

Rather than listen to the content of the message, the writer criticized the quality of this mom’s jogging stroller and the clothing of both her running attire and that of her little girl. Has this man never heard of grandparents or eBay? He also noted that he’d watched the ad several times to see if the woman was actually wearing a wedding ring. He carefully noted that he did not detect one meaning that he could not see it, but he did not offer a reason why. Were his eyes too dim? Did she not have one on? And if that was the case was it because she had just finished washing dishes and forgot, she needed to hock it for cash, the financial pressures of her husband being out of work caused a riff in their marriage resulting in divorce; etc.? Were her hands hidden? Was the picture too small to see it even if it were there? We don’t know and neither did he, but you can guess his implication.

Here’s my point. If you have nothing better to do than rip campaign ads to shreds, and you have an analytical or critical spirit, go for it. Right now you’ve got plenty to look at on both sides of the spectrum. But if you’re trying to persuade voters to choose your candidate, you have certainly lost my vote.

Let’s deal with the real issues facing us today and determine if we’re better off before or after the Obama administration.

  • How about our economy?
  • Are you doing better or worse, are you richer or poorer? (Sounds like wedding vows, but we’re not married to Obama.)
  • What do you think about the increase in the national debt?
  • Why are many medical professionals throwing in the towel because of Obamacare?
  • How do the candidates stand on issues that impact your personal values?

Do you know?

I heard about a young man who was not sure if he would vote in this election. This would be his first opportunity. He said he wanted to be an informed voter, and as of the Sunday prior to the election, he did not know where the candidates stood. Fair enough. As we saw from the above comments on TV ads, the sound bites may not be clear. If that’s your stand, then check out FRC Action’s (Family Research Council) voter’s guide. It’s downloadable so that you can share it or carry it with you on Election Day.

History is about to change, but we all need to do our part and vote. Are you ready?