Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Open Up the Box!

Here's a thought. God sent Jesus to earth to show us His love. How did He do it? We are somewhat jaded these days with all the wonderful special effect movies that we get to experience regularly. So, imagining how God would send Jesus to earth seems a bit anti-climatic to many. Granted, you can say there was a light show....the Star of the East that guided the Magi and Shepherds. There was a wonderful soundtrack of a choir of Angels in Heaven, for those listening. But who would have written such a scandalous, humble story of a teenage girl getting pregnant before her marriage in a time when a very strict, orthodox Jewish family and fiance would normally ban her for such behavior. And we are to believe she was impregnated by God? Really? OK, that does have strong supernatural plot and may grab the interest of a few that's into those things these days. No vampires, but still not bad.

Can you agree that the story of Jesus' conception and birth is a bit "outside of the box"? Even in that day, King Herod was expecting the birth of our Savior, according to prophecy, but he, along with most, imagined the King of the Jews would arrive in a manner worthy of a king. Most writers would place him with a society girl for a mother, someone with connections, not a humble teenager. She would live in a nice abode, maybe even have servants to take care of her. Her parents would have a perfectly acceptable, and even enviable, story of why their daughter is about to give birth. I'm sure she got pregnant on her wedding night, I mean how much more romantic and perfect could that be? After all, we can't have all our friends talking behind our backs about any behavior that's not considered perfect, can we? And of course when the time came for His arrival, nothing but the best for our new little mother. Either a private room at the local hospital or, better yet, a house call to the manor by the premier ob-gyn of the region.

But that's not the story we got. We got a story that sounds more like an After School Special than something that should be in the Bible. An unwed teenager, shamed by those that did and didn't know her, having to travel in the ninth month, on a donkey no less, and there's a convention in town and not one room is available. We call it a manger, some will call it a cave. But anyway you spin it, it was the barn. Have you spent much time in a barn? They usually aren't the cleanest of places and the smell isn't of Lysol. The animals weren't freshly bathed or groomed, chances are there were bugs and mites everywhere. I mean, most girls I know wouldn't be caught dead in a barn like this for even a few minutes, much less giving birth there. And it was here that God guided those with presents fit for royalty and those with pure hearts. He hid His Son's birth from those like Herod because it didn't fit into His plans. He wrote a story that was, and is, unbelievable.

So, why do we keep Him in a box of our own believable outcomes for our own lives? And you know who's often the worst about doing this? Christians. We have become so boundary and rule-bound by denominational beliefs instead of God's beliefs. We read scripture and say, "See? That's what it says right there" to prove our points but we have often been so brainwashed into believing what others say it says. Are you considering the context of the story or what's being said prior and after the verse you are pointing to? Have you prayed for God's enlightenment on the Book He wrote? Does your belief go against any other commandment or belief? What you believe in one spot cannot work against a belief elsewhere in the Bible. And if it doesn't all basically boil down to love, then it's my opinion, you need to read it again. We all have problems in our lives and we may even pray about them, but we have preconceived ideas about a limited number of ways God can work something out. We are using our human brains and understanding. God's ways are not our ways. God's timing is not our timing. Our understanding is not God's. We may never understand the whys and wherefore's but we DO need to know that God's ways are BEST. Not good, not better, but BEST. And chances are, we never would have imagined how He would work it out. And just think of all the time we usually fret and worry about a situation and wait to see action of some nature. God's ways are often also unseen. They are solutions of the heart first. Save the gray hairs and stomach ulcers and put your trust in Him. This holiday season, take Him out of the box you've kept Him in and give Him permission to stretch and open up your beliefs while He stretches He works in your life. Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Hand Him the pen and see what kind of story He comes up for you and your loved ones.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Unrealized Dreams

I was watching a little show on cable that is all about human interest stories about people and places in Texas, a place I've lived in twice in my life, called "Texas Country Reporter". My husband's family hails from the Texas area before his parents moved away while in the Navy, finally ending in the Kansas City area and later in Wichita, Kansas. My own family lived there during my own kindergarten and first grade years, back in a day that kindergarten wasn't a part of of the school system. I attended a private kindergarten. My father worked as a draftsman in the petroleum plants around the Jefferson area. My husband tapes these shows and we watch them when we have time. It's usually a mix of joy and sorrow to watch these shows as they tell stories of real, incredible people, the kind of people you don't always run across or have the time to get to know in this world of busy schedules and things that aren't nearly as important as getting to know each other. Not usually fancy or famous people. But interesting, quirky and everyday, normal people. And watching these shows always makes us miss Texas very, very much. We were privileged to live there as a couple for three years and have been trying to figure out how we can get back ever since.

The reason I called this post "Unrealized Dreams" is the number of stories that reminds me of a lifestyle that I would have liked, that has eluded me. I am a small town girl, if not a country girl, at heart. I love animals. I have always wanted at last one horse. I love cows, goats, dogs, and many other animals one would find on a number of farms or ranches. But I've always lived in town.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Mom Bone

I love football. I haven't always loved it, but after I got married, I quickly realized if I was going to share and spend time with my husband during the fall months, I had better learn something about the sport. He had grown up playing it at all the different levels, peewee, Jr. high and high school. He loves the game. Now, on the other hand was me. I didn't grow up with brothers, but I loved going to the school football games, not at all because I knew anything about the game, but because of the social aspect of seeing everyone in town at the game. At the ends, I'd have to make a point to look at the scoreboard before heading home so I could tell my parents who won the game, because I often didn't have a clue.

But this afternoon, I sat and watched the Cincinnati University vs. Pittsburgh game and then the Florida vs. Alabama game. I had my favorites and was cheering and holding my breath right along with the best of them. And as their skills would bring forth the winners, I cheered for the teams I had been rooting for. I was so happy for the kids that had worked and scrapped all season long to get to the bowl positions that were due them. And then the strangest thing happened. The television cameras panned to show the teams that lost. The Pittsburgh players were shown one by one, in their own solitude, in their own very large space that belonged only to them in the tunnel. Faces weren't seen, tears were not witnessed, but emotion was so thick you could feel it. And I started crying for them. What the heck is this? I was rooting for the other team! I'm not just feeling sympathetic for them, I'm heartbroken for them. It's the Mom bone.

I'm old enough to be all these boys' mother. I have a son that could be on their team. I've learned through the years just how much emotion, hopes and disappointments ride on things of their lives, like football games. I can feel that disappointment. I know the adrenaline and hopes that are put into a competition that means so much and costs so much. And so I cry for boys I don't didn't even root for, much less know. I know, and hope, they have mothers that will be there to offer the comforting words, hugs, and plan the menu of all his favorites, if not tonight or tomorrow, when they finish finals and head home for Christmas. In the meantime, I hope somewhere, somehow they can know that there are mothers out here that cry for them and want to comfort them in their time of loss. It's one of those moments of motherhood that had someone tried to explain to me years ago, I wouldn't have understood at all. And I hope now that I've told you of my Mom bone, I hope someone else can identify and it's not just me being an overwrought mother.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hope, Joy and Despair

Tis the season of hope and joy. But did you see or hear all the news stories during the Thanksgiving holiday of family tragedies all over the country due to people that have run out of hope and joy? It was shocking to me the number of reports. It's a well-documented fact that a number of suicides that occur, do so during the holiday season. How can a season that is known for extolling the virtues of such hope and joy also be so full of despair?

First, let's look at the reasons for despair. I'm sure a percentage of those that experience despair, anger and hurt are due to mental illness. We have an entire society that is diagnosed with some sort of mental condition or disease. It's common for the common-man to go to therapists these days in attempts to gain tools of dealing with their lives. Whether they simply need the ear of a unbiased third-party or not, it seems that most are prescribed medicines for depression or something more serious. I don't mean to implicate that I don't believe in real mental illnesses, but I do believe we've become much too comfortable with the idea of taking a pill to fix all our ills and we are too ready to let a doctor throw a diagnosis on us. After all, it provides a great reason for the way we are feeling, or a great excuse. We can easily say, "See, it's not my fault, I have a condition."

We have also become a society of people that don't know how to take responsibility for our own actions or lives. Granted, life happens to all of us. Things come along that we didn't ask for. We all have hopes and dreams and many times we fall short of seeing the fruit of those desires. There can be many, many reasons why we fail to achieve, but the negatives in our lives are oh, so much easier to focus on, aren't they? Think back in your life when something wonderful happened. How long did you fly high on that blessing? Now, on the other end of the spectrum, let's think of something bad that has happened, or something good that DIDN'T happen. How long did you hang onto that disappointment? I would venture to say that many of us continue to hold onto those kind of failures. We hold onto them as if they are a fond friend and then we add the next disappointment to it, and the next, and the next till we find ourselves in despair and broken. It's no wonder the phychiatric field is booming so well with people reaching out for something, anything, to make them feel better.

The other side of this story is the hope and joy that the season offers to everyone via bells ringing, carolers singing and the hope of the perfect present from the perfect person. We dream of apologies, forgiveness and loving, functional families. The Christmas season has encompassed the religious and the secular hopes. Again, it's easy to be dazzled by the pretty sounds, glistening sights and wonderful smells of the season. It does become magical. But, again, it's pretty fleeting. How long into January does it usually take to begin feeling the isolation and cold of the winter set into your soul? The hope that the religious celebrate is much, much less attractive to the eyes, ears and nose. It is only attractive to the soul. Many find that grasping hold of a faith and belief in God during this time gives them something more to lean on and learn from and a promise of Someone that loves them. But as is the case in the rest of the world, the church has it's share of hurting, broken people that fall short of living up to someone else's expectations simply because they find them in a church. So church and Christians get a black eye overall for the fact that people naturally look to people for fulfillment and not to God.

We all experience these things. We all hope for things that are likely unrealistic to expect. We all have our failures and disappointments that we can dwell on and hold onto. But not all of us do. Some people seem to just naturally look at the positives in life, not exactly like positive-thinking, just seeing the hope in any situation. Some positive souls have it in their DNA, they come from families that are just more naturally happy and see the silver linings. The rest of us have to work at it. But we have support, if we know who to turn to. God's Word is full of hope and support. When we turn to Him and keep Him close to our hearts, He will teach us. There are also people that are encouragers. Start finding the positive and negative people in your lives. If they like to tear you down only to help themselves feel better then they probably aren't adding anything positive to your life. Some are very crafty or hold positions of authority so it would seem easy to rationalize that their criticisms and suggestions are for our good. Be honest with yourself and if you can't think of times when they extended love, friendship and support, then you need to make some decisions about their influence.

During this holiday season, let's surround ourselves with hope and encouragement without expecting anything materially specific. Our expectations should be in a hope and joy and contentment that flies in opposition to the world we live in these days. The more we seek and find, the more the negative influences this world provides will be attractive, tempting or snagging. Let's look ahead to 2010. Let's make it a year of encouraging, hoping, fulfilling, contentment and lifting up each other. I'd love to hear from all of you about the good reports that I feel is all of ours to claim.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just Stopping In

Hi everyone! I just felt the need to stop in and say howdy! I really have been missing Biscotty's. My NaNoWriMo writing started out with a bang but has dwindled to just a fizzle by now. I haven't given up, though. My story plot and direction didn't have any. I do have some ideas and intend to hit it again in the morning. I have discovered that writing with family around and the weekends is more than challenging. At least, for me.

I was reading a blog this morning by someone that doesn't have children yet about children. Don't you just love people like that? They have definitive opinions about parenthood and how things really should be with children when they don't have children. The subject was public schools serving doughnuts to children for breakfast. Of course, the jest of the blog was that there should be healthier menus for "our" children than fat-laden and sugar-laden doughnuts. Now, I totally understand the extreme obesity problem we are seeing in the American public, much less our children. And I totally understand the lack of nutritional value of the typical doughnut. I should probably say that I LOVE doughnuts and have had my fair share, along with a few other people's fair share of doughnuts through the years. But I am paying for such gluttony, and family genes. I no longer can have gluten, thus doughnuts of any nature is off-limits for me. That said though, I also have to say I have worked in public schools and I know, for a fact, that most schools are much too aware that many of their children's only meals are the ones they get at school. I don't recall offerings of breakfast for students when I was a student, but that was way too long ago to mention. Times have changed. Greatly. Now for the added snafu in this equation.

Here, in Michigan, the state's public education budgets have been cut twice just in the past month or so. Greatly. Entire curriculums and programs have been offed with the signature of a pen in the governor's office. Our schools are down to the bare bones. Teachers have long been using their own money to buy school supplies for their students, as have most schoolteachers across the country. Now, if you consider the hunger issue and how it affects the school students across the nation, what would you want for those that cannot afford to eat at home? Don't consider YOUR child, as we all know that only the best is what you want for your child. We all want healthy options for our children. But we all want our children to have full stomachs so they can stay on-task and not be thinking about the hunger pains and growling stomachs all day. We all have seen the study results that say that hungry children suffer academically. But what do you want for those children in your area that go home everyday and have no meals? Do they even eat at all during the weekends? Have you ever considered that? Are you still so concerned about the nutritional value of what they may be served for breakfast now to protest doughnuts?

We have to be practical enough to realize that offering a breakfast program at all is still a real trick for any school district in these days and economic times. And most of us are educated enough to know that cheap foods and stretched budgets doesn't allow for many healthy options. But isn't a full stomach, which allows a child to get their minds off their tummies and on-task of learning, better than protesting feeding these children doughnuts? Would you personally go into a cafeteria and deprive a child of the last breakfast they may have on Friday morning till they return on Monday because it's not "healthy"? How many meals will you miss during the next two days?

Don't get me wrong. I understand the need to educate and do what we can to change our society's views of food and nutrition. But until we solve the disparity of the haves and have nots and virtually walk in another's shoes, how can we go about protesting that that is fed to children? If you do have the nerve to do so, I suggest you also find ways and solutions to the problem. Work with your local grocers, farmers, coops, mothers groups, church groups, whomever that may donate or spend time and personal money to change the situation in your area. There is never a cut and dried answer to such issues these days. There can be a politically-correct answer but it rarely solves all the needed aspects of a problem. Don't be myopic without considering that for most of us....there but for the grace of God, go us!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

May be M.I.A. for a bit

I've had quite a writing streak lately and have been trying to think of a new subject to blog about. I've gotten where I quite enjoy the process. A friend recently shared with me about NaNoWriMo. Are you blinking and wondering about that like I was when she first mentioned it? Well, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it's an organization that encourages writers, and those that want to be writers, to simply write more. They picked November as a month to encourage all those that love putting together words to completely purge themselves from Nov. 1- Nov. 31. The goal is to write a novel, fiction, consisting of 50,000 words in that one month time. They encourage those to not use previous story lines or partial stories already in the works. It must be from the start of the process to the very end in the month of November.

If you sign up with the organization, you make it more official and it becomes more of a psychological commitment to finish. The website said last year 120,000 signed up and 20,000 completed their 50,000 words. The goal is not an award-winning book. It is simply to put down 50,000 words. It seems that most writers tend to be perfectionists and in our desire for our stories to be good, we tend to obsess on words, grammar, structure, plot, etc., to the point that many never actually finish their stories. Getting past those insipid writing blocks is also a universal issue. So NaNoWriMo encourages that we are not to worry about whether the story is living up to our expectations or think it's good. Even bad, 50,000 words is an accomplishment.

Now, when I heard about NaNoWriMo, I was impressed, but didn't consider doing it myself as I don't write fiction. I have never had much luck at coming up with sustaining plot ideas. I took Journalism all through high school and was the editor in my senior year, so true, fact-filled stories are much more comfortable and easy for me. I even struggled in my college creative writing class. I simply wasn't wordy enough. But yesterday, three days before NaNoWriMo begins, my friend talked enough to have me wondering if this is something I could really do. I decided I would give it a whirl but do it more on my own, and not to expect a 50,000 goal but perhaps 30,000. I could be happy with that. Then I would plan to do it up right next year. But, my friend, being my friend, is pushy. Very, very pushy. So this morning I made if official. Signed up and everything. I still don't know if I have a story in me. And if I do happen to find one, can I stretch it to novel length? I guess we'll all find out. So, if you don't see me during November, you'll know I'm not hanging up my "pen", so to speak. In fact, I really can't imagine not blogging anymore. Surely I'll have something to talk about. And I may need the distraction to get my head out of the great story that I'm obsessing about. Maybe I'll just give everyone an update of how I'm doing, how it's going. Wish me luck, cross your fingers, say a prayer, whatever you feel led to send my way. I'll appreciate it all.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Daddy

I would like to tell you about a very important man in my life. My father, or as I always called him, Daddy. I'm 50 yrs old, so I'm no "little" Daddy's girl but will always be Daddy's girl. I'm convinced there was a whole side to him I didn't know. A side that was part of his younger years, I'm sure. The family name is York. And there are definite personality traits and characteristics that come with that moniker. He had three younger brothers and most of them were quite the storytellers. They grew up in the 50's in a small Missouri town and if half of the stories I heard were true, then the York boys sure were a force of nature to contend with. And that image doesn't really fly with the Daddy I knew. That's how I know there was another side to him. He had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the day. That, alone, had to have come with some expectations that may shock this daughter of his.

One family trait that was bound to have been the cause of a major change in his life was a short fuse and impulsive action while mad. One night, he was playing his trombone in a company band when a director informed the trombone section that their slides must slide in the same direction, like the bows in the violin section. Anyone with any musical knowledge knows that a slide's position goes in coralation with the note being played. If there are two or three trombone parts, then there would be two or three different slide positions, not working in tandem. My father's infamous reactionary anger, packed up his trombone, along with some others and they left to cruise around town for the remainder of the evening. That night they met a carload of girls, one being my mother. After three months of seeing each other nearly nightly, they married, a little tidbit they kept as quiet as possible to their teenage daughter in hopes that she wouldn't think that she could quickly meet and marry. I've never been convinced that my parents were to be each other's life mate, but they stuck it out and made it almost 53 years.

Daddy was a quiet, hard-working man but as stubborn and opinionated as they come, a common trait not only of Yorks but of Missourians. He started out as a draftsman and ended up in the oil industry, drawing plans for many of the huge oil fields around the east and south, as well as in the Virgin Islands. He became an expert in stress analysis and was a go-to guy for many even from other companies. He would often go head-to-head with the "big wigs" because he was right and he knew it. My dad only had an associates degree of schooling but he had more common sense and real-life problem-solving than most people put togethter. And he was kinda proud of himself for it. He ended his career at Boeing. He didn't work on airplanes, he designed buildings, heating/air systems and drainage systems for building that housed thousands and thousands of people. He was a strange combination of working his 8 hrs/day and protecting his personal time as well as anyone can in these times, and truly loving what he did and the respect he had from those in his industry.

Daddy died this past May 7. As with the rest of the family, he struggled with heart problems, but in the end it was cancer that killed him. Around the age of 50, he had his first major heart-attack and had a quadruple-bypass. He was pretty disciplined and changed his diet and started walking religiously. A natural high cholesterol was always working against him. Poor guy, he loved to eat. He used to drive by Dairy Queens and act like the car had a mind of its own and it was turning in against his will. And if he ever did stop, it was nothing less than a banana split. Except for the joy in a typical 5 year old's eyes when eating such treats, no one thoroughly enjoyed such treats like Daddy did.

As far as the kind of father he was for me, he wasn't perfect, as most aren't. As I've mentioned, he grew up the oldest of all boys. He wanted a girl when I came along. And he loved his little girl. He was so proud of me and it showed in his face. I started playing piano at an early age and he wanted me to excel. He didn't always know what to do with a child, much less a girl. When I became a teenager, he became much more awkward toward me. The nightly kiss goodnight ceased. A uncharacteristicly crude joke about girls and their time of the month that embarrassed me to death also created some distance between us. But I was always so much more like my father than my mother. I would spend time with him in the garage handing him tools as he worked on cars and we'd talk about this and that, nothing terribly important. But it kept me out of the kitchen with my mother, which would always end up in some sort of fight in very quick order. Needless to say, I eventually had to teach myself how to cook. And I'm quite the "gearhead" as some of my old friends used to say. Among the very few times I talked to my dad about deep things to me in the moment, I recall him reassuring me that boys "date girls that do but marry those that don't." He also shared with me once that one of the boys that was pursuing me at the time wasn't impressing him in the least either. It seemed the only person he impressed was my mother. After Daddy told me that, I promptly broke up with him.

There is much I cannot put words to about Daddy. He did the best he could at all things and at all times. If he had a real fault in the end, it was that he shouldered everything inside. He had a faith of little words, but showed it in his desire to reach out to co-workers in hard times. He was a strong believer in a home- cooked meal being comforting. He worked hard at avoiding conflict in areas he had no power to change and held on to the hope that God still answers prayer. I think he questioned that a bit in the end, but doubt is an important part of one's faith and I know he was rewarded with his mansion in the sky and I'll see him again there.

"A Climate for Change"

Katharine Hayhoe is a Christian scientist and her husband Andrew Farley is a college professor, linguist and pastor. Together they make a great team in this timely book. Scientists really can be, and many are, Christians. God didn’t make smart, intelligent and scientific minds just for the “other side”. And I am the center target audience for their book, “A Climate for Change”. Growing up in the 70’s, I can still recall the first time I heard the word “recycle” and the beginning of the annual Earth Day observation. This is Christian scientists’ explanation, and look, at a volatile subject these days, global-warming. As they point out, this subject has fallen into a red state vs. blue state arena of politics. And it needs to be de-politicized.

If we are true Christians, we are not afraid to look at all the facts of any given subject. There is always room for doubt. C.S. Lewis said, “Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.” Doubt is very much a part of our faith. Whether we let it manage our faith or our faith manages our doubt, is the question. We are more susceptible to doubt when we stay isolated and uninformed. If we limit ourselves to a mindset without looking at the options we develop wrong perceptions and those will always lead us to wrong conclusions. Hayhoe and Farley do an excellent job of making what could seem like a science class easily understood, complete with graphs and figures, that I’m sure will help those that are more visual learners to understand. They explain the differences between natural occurrences and those created by humans. They are concise and organized in their presentation.

I did not expect to be totally converted in my doubt of this subject by the time I finished reading it, but it did point me to a word we should all be familiar with, Christian or not. Stewardship. God gave us a wonder planet to live on. And we have some very clear evidence, by many that are not bought and paid for by a political party, that it needs some help. Hayhoe and Farley do conclude with some very real and easy solutions that you and I, and our children, can do. The key is to get everyone on board and understand the facts. And this is a great book for understanding those facts. Being open-minded is not a sin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Death by Garlic?

I cannot get a certain stupid story out of my head that I read about yesterday on our local newspaper website. The title made it sound mildly humorous and piqued my interest. I might should add that I have a fairly large streak of enjoying sarcasm and irony. And I don't know if it's just society in general, or just the people in this area I am now living, but it seems like people never cease to amaze me with their idiotic behavior.

This story took place recently in an office in an upscale area of town. It was lunchtime and, for untold reasons, one co-worker had warmed up their lunch and was sitting in their cubicle to eat it. The story does not explain if their usual routine was to eat as they work or not, but for whatever reason, this person chose to eat at their desk. The story also does not say exactly what food or dish this person was about to enjoy. But, apparently, the aroma was offensive to a co-worker whose cubicle was nearby. They had apparently "discussed" their offended nose with this person before and this day's aroma was the hair that broke said nose, I suppose. They were "armed" with a can of aerosol disinfectant and came over, or around, the wall and proceeded to spray this disinfectant in the face of the offender. As I read this little fluff story and was shaking my head at some people's unreasonable intolerance, my eyes fell to some of the comments left by other readers. I was surprised to find that some people seem to feel extremely passionate about some food odors! Apparently, the unglued co-worker is not the only person to be easily angered by foods such as garlic. There were many battle-ready with other commenters on the subject. Interesting, too, that these same people had the time to sit on the website and have comebacks to everyones disapproval of their previous posts and convince everyone just how right they are in their intolerance of someone's lunch. It was their smackdown.

I can't help but wonder at the increase in people that seemingly need to take such vehement stands over such trivial matters as someone else's lunch because it offends them. Apparently, it doesn't take much to offend many these days. I think in some people's attempt to make all things fair and equal, it seems that many are more in it for the fairness as it affects themselves and not others.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"The Search for God and Guinness"

What a privilege it's been to read Stephen Mansfield's "The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World". I was especially intrigued by the title and it was immediately a must read for me. The respect that Mansfield gives the history of the Guinness family is quite apparent as he gives account of the lineage from the first Arthur Guinness through each generation, the apparent heirs along the way and how each made their mark in making the brand "Guinness" into what it is today. He tells the story of the God-given talents given to many in the family that resulted in three main categories of Guinnesses, the Brewing Guinnesses, the Banking Guinnesses and the Guinnesses for God. He also provides a very good overview of how beer was accepted and its purpose through the ages in accordance with religious views of the times.

I truly loved this book. Having grown up in a small denomination that embraced the Prohibition, my own views of alcohol use has evolved slowly, albeit it has evolved. I loved the time travel through religious views through the ages and how beer and alcohol was part of the culture and easily accepted as a healthy choice and necessary choice, in many cases. The religious overview was very helpful and held my attention. The only problem I had in reading this book was keeping straight which generation accomplished which milestones and accomplishments due to family names being passed down from fathers to sons. But I certainly don't blame Mansfield for my confusion.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in history, business practices and how one person's faith and integrity has built a brand and a family that is still highly revered two hundred fifty years later. If you are like I was, open your mind and consider something that is bigger than your box. You'll be so glad you did.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Being Politically Correct Without Getting Dirty

Ok, I have a burr under my saddle this morning. I shouldn't be too surprised at where the current feed-the-hungry campaign "Come Together" came from, but I come on people! Macy's is sponsoring the newest feel-good campaign and it's getting a lot of publicity and boosts from news sources such as "Good Morning America". The idea is to throw nice dinner parties, inviting friends and instead of bringing the guests the usual bottle of wine or hostess gift, donating money by "buying" meals for the hungry. The goal is 10,000,000 meals. Macy's is matching the donations to work toward this goal.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against donating to the hungry, at all. Most of us are only one check away from being in the same predicament as millions of others now. The economic times have been a tragedy for many families. And I have absolutely nothing against Macy's. But let's look quickly at Macy's financial shape right now. In December of 2008 they had 856 stores after purchasing the May's chain. They have closed many so far this year, but they are still strapped with real estate. Their consumers have diminished since the economy has hit hard times. Their clientele has either lost their jobs like many others or they are simply tightening their belts and making the most of less. Their profit margins have sunk into the negative. In December, 2008, their debt totalled $9.8 billion dollars. So the problem Macy's has is how to put their brand in front of the public minus the stigma of a high-end store and look like a community-minded, philanthropic entity with what we perceive them to have. They are appealing to the enlightened shopper.

But what would happen if instead of going to the trouble and expense of throwing a dinner party, sitting down and filling our stomachs with great food that has been peddled by the Food Network's finest, you invited all your guest to meet down at the local food bank or soup kitchen and help serve the same people you are so ready to help with your money donations? Do you think all of your friends would be so ready to do that? Some would. But I'm sure you would get many excuses of other commitments that stand in their way of helping. But you can have their money. Just don't make them get their hands dirty, or spend their time doing things they are uncomfortable facing or with people they don't feel comfortable rubbing shoulders with. Donating money is so much easier and we can pat ourselves on the back for being so helpful.

Again, don't get me wrong. I have shopped at Macy's in the past and I love Macy's. It's been years since shopping there, simply because for us, it's more economical to shop elsewhere. And I love dinner parties with friends where good food and conversation rules the evening. But let's call a spade and spade. Let's not dress up a national tragedy in pretty clothes and throw money at it and then feel like we've done a great thing. If Macy's wants and needs good PR, dress the homeless for interviews or give your employees time off for community service hours. Throw great sales, have special events to bring the customers through your doors. There are still people willing to pay for quality products and excellent service. It just may come in smaller increments for awhile. Sometimes we all have to make the tough decisions to make it through.

As for us, the public, I encourage all of us to get more real and get more involved. Millions of families need our help to get through these hard times. They look just like us. They lived just like us. We don't need gimmicks. And we don't need the pats on our own backs for helping. Let's get in there and work together. Let's feed the hungry, clothe those needing jobs and kids going to school and stop looking for ways to make yourself seem like such a fine person. Just do it and you will seem like a fine person in many eyes that just may not know how to say thank you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Foods are Killing Us in Ways We Don't Even Know About

I grew up in the south on good southern cooking and mid west meat and potatoes. If my parents ever scrimped in their budget, the food budget was the last thing they would take from. The only time it was fancy fare was our annual "birthday dinner" to celebrate all our birthdays at one time, as all three of them spanned less than a month right at Christmas time.

Skip ahead a couple of decades and I have my own family and we all love good food and I like to cook. While living in Wisconsin, a place of the best foods in the world, cheese and frozen custard, I discovered the worst thing in the world. I had become lactose intolerant. Horrors! Unfortunately, I was unable to rein in my desires and occasionally I would still partake, I would just time it where I knew I would be home for a couple of days to suffer in private. Skip ahead another 15 years and we are living in Wisconsin a second time in our marriage but moving to Michigan, a move I was not happy about at all. But it was certainly not our first move, not even our second or third. It was more like our tenth move, so I thought I was taking it all in stride. I've read that some Celiacs or gluten-intolerant people have an event, perhaps traumatic, that becomes the trigger to setting off their sudden intolerances. About 6 months after the move, my lactose intolerance suddenly kicked into a whole new plane of seriousness. And getting more disciplined about staying away from dairy didn't seem to help much. It took several months to figure it all out, but in the end I discovered I had suddenly become intolerant of all things glutenous, rice, eggs, nuts, beans, along with my diary issues. Now, what does that leave me with? You would have thought I'd drop the weight like crazy. I think it counted for about a six pound loss overall. Unfortunately, I still love to eat.

It has been approximately 3 years since all of this transpired. I have not been diagnosed with anything officially. I do a lot of reading online and belong to some discussion forums for Celiacs, a disease that, believe it or not, affects about 1 in 100 people. It is a disease where the glutens in many grains affect people in various and very adverse ways. Many of those are still undiagnosed. We have become a society of digestive issues and not really understanding the foods that we are fed these days, how it's grown and processed and the cross-contaminations that are common practice and has affected our food supply over the past 70 years or so. Celiacs itself, seems to have been rooted mostly in the English Anglo-Saxon genes. I have begun to believe that drastically changing the diet we are so accustomed to is helping people with serious diseases such as Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Many mothers have been trying to gluten-free and casein-free (diary) diets on their ADD/ADHD kids as well as those that are autistic. There's a huge debate in the medical community about whether this can or is really helping these kids and many mothers and saying that it has definitely changed their children's conditions for the best. This is not a post about that debate.

I wish people would start realizing that the digestive problems, mood swings, headaches or whatever nagging health problem bothers them regularly COULD be something like an intolerance to glutens, or possibly they carry the Celiacs gene. And even though living with such a different diet certainly isn't easy these days, if more people knew they have that problem and demand that the restaurant industry and the food companies become more educated themselves and offer things that many of us would buy, the easier and less expensive that lifestyle would quickly become. I've read many people still are poo-pooing the gluten-free diets as fads that will quickly pass. But when you have numbers showing that 1 in 100 have issues due to glutens and that number has increased dramatically just in the past 20 years, I feel safe in saying it is not a fad and will only become more of a necessity. Often even unbenownst to ourselves, these digestive issues that may not even manifest themselves in digestive symptoms, can damage our intestines and cause polyps and lesions, both of which can be precursors to several different kinds of cancers. But even doctors in this country seem to be fairly clueless with this condition and they send their patients on a wild goose chase from test to test to test. Please, let's pull our heads out of the sand and take control over our health a little. Educate yourself, do what's necessary to make yourself feel better and then encourage your doctor to be more knowledgeable in this subject. Then let's cooperate our efforts in encouraging food companies to handle foods better. And let's take that cooperation to your favorite restaurants and learn to play Twenty Questions with the waiters and chefs regarding ingredients and cooking methods and help them realize its our health at stake.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Different Side of Me

I have been experimenting, this morning, with adding things to spruce up my blog. I love to Twitter, so I thought I'd put my Twitter updates on here and add a few pictures. I enjoy the technology of blogs, Twitter and other popular social media sites. But I'm very much self-taught. I trial and error my way to eventual success. But as I was merging my Twitter life with my blogging life, I realized you don't know a very big part of me. I am also known as Musicgirl77.

I began taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I couldn't read the words on the pages so my parents would read what I was suppose to do to me and then I would read the music notes. As with any child, I wanted to stop lessons many times through the years. But I was pretty good and my mother wouldn't let me stop. I did enjoy the notoriety I got when I was to a level I could play piano for the other kids singing in the choir or do a real nice, little solo for talent days. I began teaching a couple of private piano lessons to neighbor kids when I was about 15. It's a skill I got better at and how I made my pocket change while in college. I majored in Music Education, mostly because I wasn't of the level of the performance majors and I couldn't imagine life outside of a school.

When I was in fourth grade, I began playing violin. I had wanted to play the cello, but there was an old fiddle in the family that was free, so violin it was. I enjoyed the community of playing in a group, in an orchestra. I got pretty good at that also. When I was in high school I went back and forth with another girl between first and second chair. She had learned to play via Suzuki style, a style that learned to play more by ear than by reading notes. She played better than I did but I could read notes and play a piece quicker than she could because of that. So she and I spent our high school years challenging each other for that top position. I continued to play throughout college in a very fine orchestra. But when you get to the college level, even great high school players are suddenly confronted with the fact that there are alot of more talented people than themselves. I wasn't THAT good. It was very humbling. But I did get to learn the basics of most instrument groups and had tons of fun doing it.

Backtracking to my high school years again, I also learned to play organ because the organist at our church decided to leave, leaving no organ players. So I learned and had the privilege to play for the funerals of a good friends that died along the way. I also took guitar lessons for a couple of years. I had wanted to play banjo but my mother decided starting with guitar was called for. I don't know why. I wasn't bad at the guitar either, but it wasn't a passion by any stretch of the imagination and I finally quit. I guess quitting after two years showed I wasn't interested and learning banjo was never pursued. I was OK with that by that time. I was getting a bit burned out on lessons.

I never taught in a school system. While they taught us music, they didn't teach how to interview and it wasn't something I came by naturally. I blew the interview in my home area and wasn't ready to leave to pursue jobs in other areas. So I made my living as a secretary and continued to play my violin and piano in church. When my husband's job started transferring us around, I continued playing in our various church homes and teaching private lessons when I could get the students. We now attend a megachurch and the quality level of its musicians are professional-like. Age and nerves have slowed my public performing down to nothing, but I still love playing on my own and accompanying my son when he works up trumpet solos. There's a VERY special joy in doing that!

So, even though you may think of me as a writer because of this blog, I am very much Musicgirl. A moniker I can still be very proud.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Are Hobbies Important in Marriage?

My husband and I have been married for 22 years. We've had a great relationship. Our beliefs and opinions on most things are about the same. Our values are the same. When we married I knew he liked to hunt, fish and camp. All activities I wasn't terribly familiar with but didn't mind and thought I'd enjoy doing a little more myself. As his career took off, he had less and less time to enjoy his hobbies. We began moving and transferring around the country, so his knowledge of lands and friends he trusted well enough to do such activities with grew slim. Plus, being a young family, money was always a concern and he simply decided that it was cheaper to not enjoy his hobbies that much. The time he did have off he chose to spend with his family.

For myself, my hobbies were always much more docile. Reading, window shopping at antique stores, playing my piano and involvement at church was more my speed. Occasionally I would hear or read of something that sounded interesting to try, but as with most things, cost money for lessons and/or materials and being a stay-at-home-mother and homemaker, money was always a concern for me also. Having moved around so much, I usually didn't know anyone well enough to ask or feel comfortable watching my son to take classes so it was usually easier and cheaper to let go of any mild interests I may have in something new.

Skip ahead 20 years later and my husband's interests expanded to kayaking with our son. Now, water has never been my friend except to look at from the shoreline and listen to the gentle lapping of the water on the beach or watching the sun set on the horizon. Having never learned to swim well, being IN it never became comfortable for me. He also pursued his lifelong desire to ride motorcycles. I had always liked to ride if a friend invited me, so I thought this is something I would like to try myself. We signed up for motorcycle safety classes. It wasn't something that came natural for me but I kept at it and was getting better. After a malfunction with the class bike I had, they switched out bikes for me. It was a bigger bike and felt much different. I immediately laid it down on my leg and hurt my ankle to the point of being done with the class. I lived on that ankle for a day before going to the hospital and finding out it was broken. My husband finished his course, got his certificate and bought a nice, used bike to enjoy and ride. He would love nothing more for us to go on rides together, but more than 2 yrs later, I still have a fear of getting back on those things!

So we were having a discussion the other day about our soon-to-be emptynest status and retirement following and what kind of hobbies we should enjoy together. Cue the crickets chirping. Crickets still chirping! I had always heard of couples growing apart through the years and not having anything in common, but I had always assumed they didn't get along about most things. I still think we have a great relationship. We just don't seem to enjoy doing the same things. Is this a problem? Should it be? Do I need to risk life and limb to do the things my husband enjoys doing? Or should he become comatose to enjoy the things I like? I'm sure we aren't the first middle-aged couple with this dilemma. I'm not sure where this subject and discussion will go in the future but any advise anyone may have would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Profile of a Blogger

I went to see the movie "Julie & Julia" yesterday. I had been anticipating it with much excitement as I love Nora Ephron, Amy Adams, Meryl Streep and the whole subject of cooking and what started Julia Childs down the road of being "Julia Childs". She seemed like the most unlikely person in the world to have such a career on television, in my opinion. To a small town Kansas girl, she made the strangest foods and spent so much time getting food I considered "strange" on the table. But I had fun watching her and decided at an early age that if this woman could make the messes she made and dirty every pot and bowl in her kitchen making a meal, then perhaps it was something I was capable of doing. Through the years and exposure to other places besides Kansas, even those strange foods are now considered first class and yummy by this former Kansas girl.

I have always loved writing but haven't worked it and crafted it like I should have through the years. I've had many people say I do it well and should do more of it. So, this year I decided to try my hand at blogging. I knew that I'd probably be talking to myself, but I would still be practicing the art. I have to admit that I felt jealousy that when the character Julie Powell, in the movie, started blogging she quickly became the "3rd most popular blog" on her blogging network, with real live followers. But more than that, I was struck by a comment that her husband made during a big fight. He said that bloggers were self-absorbed individuals. I guess because I consider myself a blogger, even though I only really have two followers, I felt very defensive at this. And I've been wondering since what a truer definition of a blogger would be. defines it as "Someone that keeps a Web log (blog) or publish an online diary." Merriam-Webster's defines it as "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer." I have to admit that both definitions point to a large involvement in "self" by using the words diary, personal and reflections. I don't seem to be helping my cause here at all. I consider alot of the blogs I personally follow and have to admit most have a personal nature or agenda regarding their own personal beliefs on a given subject. Health-related blogs I follow regarding food allergies set out to debunk alot of misinformation that is commonly found. They use advertisers that supports their opinions, as well as provide a living. Granted, much less self-serving but not altogether altruistic.

But, how does that differ from, say, a writer? Is there a difference between a blogger and a full-fledged, bonafide, published writer of, let's say, novels? I know this is just my opinion, but being a self-absorbed blogger, I guess I have that privilege. My belief is no, there are no differences in writing a book versus writing a blog. Considering the arguments that Julie Powell's husband had, both get wrapped up in their writing, in the story, in the characters. For Julie, Julia Childs became her alter ego, her id, her constant companion. She made a very generous gesture at the end of the story by leaving a pound of butter at the Smithsonian exhibit of Julia Childs' kitchen. It was her way of showing her final words of "I love you, Julia" to her muse, her confidante. Because as any real French cook would know, a pound of butter is needed in any great recipe. Writing may be self-absorbed, but its breath to it's creator. It's a physical need as easily as it is a mental need. It's the notes to instrument, the lyrics to the song, the paint on the canvas. And everyone is the better for all the self-absorbed writers in the world.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Are you on Twitter? The closest number I can find of us that are, is somewhere between 12 and 18 million adult users. I notice it differentiates "adult" users. Who knows how many minors on there. I would hope not many, as I seem to attract alot of desired followers in the adult entertainment industry. I'm not sure why. My friend, who is also on Twitter hardly ever gets any invites from them. But I digress.

For those of you that have no idea what Twitter is about, I'll try to explain as well as one of those "Dummy" books. Not for your benefit, but mine. You can classify yourself in one or many different categories, to broaden your exposure to others in the Twitter community. You simply make posts of 140 characters whenever you feel like it, about anything. People in the entertainment (not adult oriented) plug their upcoming shows and where they may be at in their tour dates. Businesses plug their product, sales and services. Most news channels, stations and networks will post the newest breaking news. And plain, 'ol people like me simply post our thoughts of the moment. You can "follow" people you want to keep up with what they have to say. Some people collect followers for the sheer numbers, like it makes them popular or something. Others collect a diverse collection of followers or follow an eclectic group themselves to keep things interesting and educational. Of sorts.

As I was going thru my follow requests (a setting each can choose to use) and blocking the usual two or three adult entertainment ladies, I found myself amused at the diverse group of followers I have collected. My latest is a business of wedding planners. I do know that certain buzz words are keyed into people's search for potential business and "hits". I can't imagine what I may have recently said to call attention to myself to that industry. I also get real estate brokers from all over the world. Want a condo in the Philippines? Sure, just not in typhoon season. And only if I can sell my house in Michigan. Ok, that's not going to happen anytime soon. And what the heck do I say to attract the ladies of the evening? It's not even the men I attract, it's the women. I know things get desperate, but move on, ladies!

Funny thing about Twitter is you start to think of things in approximately 140 character sound-bites. I hear something funny and I immediately start wondering how I can edit it down to size and how I must write it down or I will forget it before I can get online to post it, always ready to dazzle my "public" with humor and insight. I even start to wonder what so-and-so is doing because I haven't seen a 'tweet" from them today. Yes, complete strangers. Twitter is truly an amazing "little" community. It's actually possible to make some new "friends". It certainly gives you every opportunity to venture outside your usual boundaries and interests.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Culture of Anger

Boy, it's been a rough few days around here! Have you noticed that a majority of our "big" headlines lately have centered around people lashing out at someone or something? Everyone is angry about something anymore. In politics, Rep. Joe Wilson yelled "Liar" during President Obama's speech. Speaker of the House Pelosi is demanding retribution in multiple apologies in a cranky mother hen fashion. Private citizens across the country have been protesting angrily the amount of money that Congress has been spending in stimulus money with "Tea Parties", much like the original Boston Tea Party. In sports, Serena Williams unleashed a string of expletives and anger toward line judges during her U.S. Open tennis match. Michael Jordan delivered his Hall of Fame speech with tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and chip-on-shoulders venom. And he has broad shoulders. And most recently, the MVA embarrassment of Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech of Best Female Video of the Year to express his opinion that another's video was better.

Where is all this anger coming from? These are only a few examples that grabbed the national headlines. There are many, many more horrifying examples locally, all over the country of robberies, murders, road rage, drunk driving and gang-related crimes. We all seem to want and need others to see things the way we see them. Have the same opinions we do. And if they don't, we are taking action to show them the error in their ways. Rising up and taking a stand because we have the need to show that we count. Or drown ourselves in our despair. What's going on?

In my opinion, the past ten year of teaching, preaching and evangelizing the new buzz-word "TOLERANCE" is the problem. With the brand of tolerance that is being held up as the example, there is no right or wrong. Everyone has their own views and opinions and no one should be "belittled" into being wrong. I think in the ten years or so of this philosophy we have all seen that there's a huge flaw in this thinking as someone is always in charge of deciding, and judging, the tolerance around them. In other words, not being tolerant of someone's opinion or views. And it seems the ones that preach this brand of tolerance the loudest are the ones that scream intolerance the most. Do they not see the irony in that? But the tolerance and right and wrongness of big issues like politics and human rights has trickled down to the decay of wrongness of smaller things like bullying, entitlement and lack of work ethics. It is my own belief that there needs to be right and wrongs. And not defined in two billion different ways, leaving it to everyone's own definition. One way. I happen to be a person that believes in God and His ways and His rights and wrongs. I think it goes hand-in-hand. But, regardless, I think all this should be food for thought for everyone. We can no longer ignore the ramifications and results we are seeing in everyday life now of just how unrealistic it is for everyone to live and believe in their own set of rules. It's just not working. Sometimes we need to play the adult and make the tough decisions in life. Be true to yourself, in the way you were intended to be. Even those of us that fight in the name of God and His ways are doing so in unacceptable ways. God did not intend for us to become murderers of those we think are doing wrong anymore than those doing wrong in their own name are wrong. Be accountable. We need to realize that some things are simply wrong and punishable. Other things are opinions and allowable. And that there's alot of us! We need to find a way to respect our differences, respect our commonalities and respect ourselves. Hmmm. Maybe we all need to go back to school and learn the definition of respect.

Monday, August 31, 2009

When Passion Meets Economics

It was announced today that the Disney Co. is acquiring Marvel for $4B. My first thought was of my son, who is a huge Marvel Comics fan. He is 19 and planning to become a high school band teacher. He has marched drum corp and sits around envisioning and trying his hand at writing marching drills to his favorite soundtracks. And Marvel movies are at the top of his list of "good music". He was in class today, so I decided to leave him a text informing him of this new business deal for his beloved Marvel. As soon as he was out of class I receive a text that said, "WHAT?!?" and quickly followed by another that said, "THAT'S CRAP!" Did I mention he's 19?

So today was the day that my son's reality was hit hard with economics winning over passion. His own passion for music taught him a long time ago that some jobs and passions just aren't based on the salary one would receive for that job, but for the fulfillment received in doing what is LOVED and trying to impart that passion to the younger generations. But at 19, that passion isn't for sale. And at 19, he really hasn't had to try to live on that passion either. It gets hard to pay the bills at times on low-salaried passions. I tried to point out to him that until the last few years as Marvel has delved into the movie business, they were a simple, little comic book company. Having never been a comic book aficionado myself, I can only guess that there have been plenty of lean times for the company. But with the likes of Spiderman, X-Men and Iron-Man on the big screen, they were suddenly seeing dollar signs like never before. But how fleeting and fickle are Hollywood movies? Only a couple of duds like The Punisher or Daredevil can put the little comic book company back on the map of little comic book companies. So why WOULDN'T they jump at an offer of $4B?

Today my son discovered that everything, heart and soul, is for sale...for some people. I seriously think he still has a shade of arrogance and a sense of superiority along with his naivete. It still seems to be intact. A little beaten up, a lot disappointed, but mostly intact. I have to admit I'm pulling for his naivete. I hope that his passion for his music can withstand the world, the economy, the temptations that will no doubt present themselves between he and his fulfillment. I'd like to think my son's life would be balanced and happy. And I'd like to think that he leaves others in this world with a sense of awe and passion for the simple things of beauty like art and music. And maybe through him, I had just a little to do with that also.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Responsible Capitalism

I was about to make this blog all about the shining star that Whole Foods Markets have become and it's CEO, John Mackey, has the right to voice, write and have opinions that run contrary to our current administration's. I was going to point out that Mr. Mackey is running a company that is a shining example of how responsible captialism is and should be run. And perhaps it is. From all outward evidence, Whole Foods Markets are largely responsible for making us all conscious of organic foods, our environment, what we are eating and feeding our families, and providing high quality produce and hard-to-find items. It seems to be the best of what business should be about and America at it's best.

Capitalism is not evil. But people are corruptable. Systems may be good but they have holes. It doesn't mean we need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Protest the people that become greedy and take advantage of a system. Protest the holes in the system. We don't have to throw out everything that has worked well in the past. The past is not a bad thing. We don't need to be digging up dirt on our nation's founding fathers to prove the whole foundation is corrupt. It seems to me that the people that really didn't appreciate the Right passing moral judgements on behavior and legislation is doing the exact same thing. The Right called war protester Cindy Sheehan "unAmerican". Now the Left is calling those that aren't agreeing with every aspect of the healthcare reform coming from Washington "unAmerican". This country was built on protests, debate, difference in opinions and compromise. It has never been 100% one side or 100% the other side. We have become a country where everyone thinks everything has to be 100% one side or the other, black and white, right and wrong. If you truly consider most issues, there is gray middle ground to some degree. Nothing is clear cut. And what makes that gray matter is our morality. We all have it. We all have opinions about it. We all embrace our own beliefs about that morality.

You may be asking about now, how is all this related to what I started talking about with Whole Foods Markets and John Mackey? Well, as much as I was wanting to extoll his virtue and business accumen with a planet responsible business, I found the story where the FTC is investigating the fact that Mr. Mackey anonymously posted comments and predictions online regarding his competitor, Whole Oats" stock prices and it's future of being acquired by another business. Now, Mr. Mackey is arguing that this activity was innocent and a number of years ago, long before his own Whole Foods recently acquired Wild Oats. I suppose we all make mistakes in the past. He IS only taking $1/yr salary and a total benefit package of only $33K, much less that a majority of Americans make and live on. I choose to take the good that Mr. Mackey is doing and build on it. I suspect that none of us could take a harsh scrutiny of every thought and action throughout our lifetime and come out smelling like a total rose. It takes a little compost to make those roses grow! Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Know me? Then you already know this

Please tell me I'm not alone in this! I was on my way back home today from a week-long vacation following our son's drum corp at the World Championships. More about that soon. But we were in the car, it's a lovely, althought hot, day. I'm gloating that we have a reliable car and air conditioning. In the occasional conversational exchange we get with our 19 year old son, he says something lighthearted and clever. It had something to do with his summer of touring. It immediately struck me as a great subject for me to write about. Something very different from my other things so far. It will be a very easy, just throw it on paper in five minutes kind of subject. Should I write it down to remember it? I decided, na...even I can remember this one. I stress the "even I" portion of this thought because anyone and everyone that knows me in the past few years will attest to the fact that I can't remember squat. I do make lists. I live by lists. I've even done mental exercises to improve my memory and it does work..... as long as I remember to do it.

So, back to my fab blog subject. I'm home now, computer open. I even remember that I have a great subject ready to impress the world with. But then I realize....crap. I don't remember. I go do a couple of small errands to give myself a few minutes to pull it out of my mind. Crap. The only thing I find is the deafening silence of all the crickets chirping into my nothingness. Nothing.

So let this be my lesson to all of you. If you have a great idea....or even just a good one, WRITE IT DOWN! Crap.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Still not understood

I'm going to put it out there. Ready? I'm 50 years old. And I'm a female. There, I said it. Really, I don't feel "old" even though all the "jokes", which by the way are not funny, about how we physically change and all the maladies surprising us all with their sudden appearance complete with all the painful creaks, pops and pain, have reared their ugly heads.

There's alot of real information out there, along with all the jokes, but you know what? A majority of doctors still don't take us seriously. And our husbands still have absolutely no clue what we are really going through. Both subsets of the male species, pass over us. When we do try to express the physical or mental conditions we are going through during this period of life, both glaze over and it passes right over their heads. They say "uh-huh" alot and do everything short of patting us on top of the head to either change the subject or the channel. After twenty-two years of marriage, I HAVE come to understand that men, generally, need to "fix" a problem and if they can't, they don't really want to hear about it. Doctors do have an advantage that husbands don't. It's called a prescription pad. And you know what it is they do to "help"? They conclude that we are simply suffering from one or another form of depression and given one or more meds for anti-depressives, or anxiety, or, or, or. And many times it goes from "or" to "and"! DOes the underwhelming result prove it works? I seriously doubt it. I know a number of ladies my age and a majority of them are on some sort of these kinds of medications and they still suffer from all the same thoughts and moods that I do.

There's one thing that we pre/mid-menopausal ladies do to ourselves, besides buy into the illusion that doctors are really trying to help. We turn on each other. Not turn TO each other, but turn ON each other. Right at a time of life when we need to circle the wagons around one another and be understanding, we emotionally stamp our own foot and take stands against a friend "taking advantage" of us. Admittedly this is a solution that is probably needed somewhere in our lives, but misdirected toward the wrong target. Having meaningful friendships with other women is VERY important for us. But, it's more common that we are isolating ourselves from those friendships because we won't take the time to be understanding and reach outside of ourselves. We are so invested in our families and their needs that it's too easy to excuse our lack of outside relationships. When understanding and compassion is needed for yet one more person in our lives, it's common for women to feel we are being taken advantage of or that person isn't adding anything to our own lives, only sucking it more dry. So we distance and isolate ourselves from those other ladies. It's just easier. After all, we must take care of ourselves and think about ourselves for once. Or so we're told.

I challenge all women to take care of themselves by making sure to add a few meaningful relationships with other women into our daily lives. Not just a couple times a year, but on a regular basis. It's not easy. It's hard. It's work. We have to think outside of ourselves. But it's so worth it! The benefits to our physical being and our mental being is tremendous. We may actually live longer and healthier. Now, isn't that cheaper than taking a bunch of medications we really don't need?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

There are no words for...

Well, Day 11 is ending. It's been quite a ride. A slow, painful, frustrating, infuriating, numbing ride. When I arrived Dad was in the hospital hospice ward. He could get to/from the bathroom with a little assistance and was eating a few bites of solid hospital foods. He could speak, hoarsely, but words were there. Three days after my arrival, I brought him home. Nothing much changed the next day or so, but on the tail end of the second day going into day three, he started heading downhill fast. He suddenly couldn't get to the bathroom on his legs even with my assistance. His appetite, as little as it had been, bottomed out to nothing. He has become mostly unresponsive and taking his meds in liquid form as its the only way to get them in him.

Now, my mother, being one of those mothers that fixes all things with food, simply wasn't grasping the fact that food was no longer an option. But when she was made to understand this fact, it seemed to be the only way she was capable of "helping". She abdicated her mind and has been fuzzy on the business that needs to be taken care, as well as burial arrangements. This mother and father of mine, that had always been ultimately responsible and foresightful, failed to make plans for their eventual demise. Absolutely no plans had been made and they were clueless as to what they were to do. Now, as abdicated as she may be, she still has not relinqueshed the real "power". I my typical get-things-done manner, I have made phone calls, researched, and laid out the options...better yet, the best option. All that is needed is the say so to move forward. But that is not coming. As if I haven't done or said a word on any of the subjects, she will meander her conversations into "plans" that she thinks things should be. And they couldn't be any further from reality, much less a workable option.

In the meantime, neighbors, hospice and local pastors and chaplains have made a steady stream into our home daily since having a hospital bed brought in and simply keeping him "comfortable" is our job. As I watch the ravages that this insipid cancer does to this human body, I don't believe he's truly comfortable at all. But the medicines do keep him in another world. I guess that's something. Again I wonder...why don't we hear more about this out there in the world?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Where is that confidence?

Wow, who was it that said I had come to grips with this and had found a home in my purpose? Surely it wasn't me, because I don't feel anything like that today.

I've been with my parents for 5 days now. My dad has come home from the hospital and we are "managing" his pain. But he is in pain quite often. He still gets around some...very slowly, with a very nervous me standing at his elbow at all times ready with the catcher's mitt. He sleeps alot. In bed and in a chair. He has no voice and is hard to hear and understand a times. But his mind is still very much "on" with the occasional word that plagues us all on the tip of our tongues.

The greatest challenge I have found so far is my own selfishness. This is not "home", the place where I can relax. It's very uncomfortable here, in many, many ways. If I could know my own family and home were just across town or nearby, it would relieve some of the stress I feel. My poor son had to be on the receiving end of my first breakdown (yes, I said first because I highly suspect it was only the beginning) yesterday, via telephone. What started out as a "how was your day, dear?" conversation, turned into a full-blown blubbering mamma apologizing for doing so. It wasn't a pretty sight. Bless his heart, he's still talking to me today...he's a good kid.

I am quickly discovering that there is no relief or respite for the caregiver. At my father's advance stage, I am needed even when he is asleep for such duties as dispensing meds or going to the bathroom. And no one comes to visit. So all three of us are homebound. Day drags to night, night turns to day, day drags to night.....a perpetual swinging of a lone pendulum. Isolation. That's a good word to describe this, isolation. It feels like the whole world has stopped spinning but you can't find the way off the merry-go-round and everyone has gone home...deserted you.

I do know better. In the dead of the night, when I am needing to stay awake for the final medicine dispense, I am surfing my virtual community of friends that I used to chat with, laugh with during my days. Many of them leave me very encouraging words and wishes and let me know how proud they are of me and are praying for me. I wish they'd quit thinking grand things of me, though. I certainly don't see the same traits in myself that they seem to see in me. But I will take all their prayers! Maybe this will become easier and I will find some sort of footing. I really don't want to feel begrudging. My dad deserves the care and if that means some sacrifice or hardship on my part, then I am going to keep trying.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ready, set....

I have come to grips with what is coming. I've had the time to find a "home" inside myself with my place and purpose. I know that there are still alot of unknowns, but I have found something inside me that says I can do this.

My father was placed in the hospital for pain management and they discovered a blot-clot in his leg. The meds used to dissolve and manage his pain finally kicked in and started giving him enough relief that he was resting better and sounded rested. There is a little voice to his hoarseness also. So, I'm hopeful that when I get there, he will be in better spirits and be ready to face the business of making arrangements and talking through everything that needs to be talked through.

My own husband and son have left me alone just the right amount and reassured me that things will happen as they should. I am reminded that even when things aren't done "right", they do get done and "well enough". I will miss some key days and activities with them, but I am also realizing that I can actually grow in many ways, and different ways, closer to them through my time away.

So, here I go.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Being stretched

I am entering into the hardest time of my life, so far. And I'm also realizing that as much as I work at not being a selfish person, that it's that same selfishness that is weighing the heaviest on my heart and causing myself the most pain. So here I am at 50 years old realizing that I'm basically throwing a temper tantrum inside myself. Lovely.

My father is at the end of his battle with cancer. He's a very proud and stubborn, self-sufficient man. Asking for help does not come easily, to say the very least. My mother is not able to live on her own and has not come to the point she can acknowledge that fact. I'm an only child that lives 1000 miles away with my own family. My only child, my son, is about to graduate from high school, march drum corp all summer and begin community college in the fall.

My parents' home is stuffy, stale, quiet, television-free, quiet, negativity you can choke on, stuffy, stale, television-free, negativity...did I say that already? Its just not "home", you know? And I've suddenly realized that not one thing about being there is about me! I mean, seriously, I'm an only child, remember? I'm going to be missing my own family, all of my child's "lasts" of high school and I'm not going to have anyone doing anything for me. No hugs for ME. No thoughts about ME. See? I told you I'm having a temper tantrum inside myself!

I find it ironic, yet very telling, that my epiphany is becoming clear on Easter Sunday. All the emotion of my worry and stress so far came to a head earlier today in tears....and tears....and tears. It was in those tears the thought came to me, how selfish I'm being. And that Jesus gave up His comfy little life here on earth on Friday for me. For you. For everyone. For His Father. Not for Himself. He actually prayed that what He was about to go through would pass over Him. He had a human moment. Probably one of many more that we don't stop to realize. He didn't want to die, to leave His family and friends, to go through the pain and unknown. He was one-up on the rest of us in knowing exactly what is on the other side. But all the rest, He was much like you and me. But He did it for me.

For me. For me. With every "for me", the point is driven home just a bit more in just how selfish I've been and that I have an opportunity to serve. And often service isn't completely comfortable. It's an exercise in stretching. Stretching my knowledge, stretching my patience, stretching my stamina, stretching my compassion, stretching my love, stretching past myself. I can do this with His gentle help. And the love and support of all my wonderful friends and my family is priceless.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More writing!

I have a friend that reminded me that writers write, even when there's nothing inspiring me to write. She said it doesn't have to be topic-driven or well thought out. Just write. So here I am.

Life has suddenly gotten very complicated. Aging parents are at the center of a majority of the angst. I cannot write more about it without going on and on and on and telling all sorts of things that just would not interest anyone else. Add to the severity and degree of their needs at this moment, a sudden health scare of my own, a smaller health issue for my husband and readying our only child for his graduation in two months and summer-long departure soon afterwards...needless to say, my own mind has been whirling non-stop and "inspired" has not been a descriptive I would include.

But upon a short, albeit productive consideration, I have to agree that I need to write. And perhaps right now is the perfect time. I will have alot of thoughts and need to unload them somewhere. Maybe somewhere in it all I will find a release and peace and if someone else reads it and finds a shred of anything that helps them, then "mores the better".

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just a simple reminder that we can ALL help!

I've heard more than once in the last few days about the extreme need that local shelters and food pantries have right now. The number of people needing the assistance has grown way beyond their ability to provide. Alot of people that used to help these places are the same ones in need now. As bleak as the the numbers are, there are an awful lot of us that still have jobs, even though we may be pulling in our spending and conserving for the possibility of hard times ourselves. But most of us have a can or two on our shelves or can grab an extra can as we get what we need to make supper tonight when stopping by the grocery store. Let's all rally together and take care of each other. The organizations that are around for that purpose are tapped out. They need our help because our neighbors need the help. Please see the blessings in your life and take that can you can spare to your local shelter, abused shelter or food pantry today.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Desirable Characteristics

I was watching the news early last week about politicians in the moment and someone hadn’t been honest. I know. What a shocker. So I thought I’d pose the question to my online friends, “What ONE characteristic is the MOST important in people? Not just in a mate/friend/children---ANYONE. I was interested in knowing what everyone looks for in a person to qualify them as “worthy”. After just going through the elections and deciding on officials that are to represent ourselves, I assumed (no jokes) that we all have a characteristic or two that we look for in a person when we make these kinds of decisions. I was quite surprised by the comments I got back to my question, so I decided to open it up to a wider audience and posted it as a poll in the larger community. I used all the characteristics that had made the comments to my original post as the choices for the poll. The poll findings were as follows, out of 53 total votes,

Courage 0%
Confidence 1%
Affection/Kindness 9%
Sense of Humor 11%
Honesty/Integrity 33%
Self-Respect/Respect for others 43%

I am a bit curious about the difference between the top two vote getters. Granted, both are highly important. And with further consideration, I might begin to wonder, or even conclude that respect is inclusive of honesty. Let’s just check the definitions according to


to hold in esteem or honor: I cannot respect a cheat.
to show regard or consideration for: to respect someone's rights.


the quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairness.
truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness.
freedom from deceit or fraud.

Hmmm, I don’t see any similarities really, do you? Respect does not equal honesty. Yet, I see that the word “fairness” is used in one of the definitions of honesty. Wouldn’t fairness equal the “consideration” of respect?

I find it hard to believe that 64% of people polled would prefer other characteristics in a person over honesty and integrity. But it’s kind of telling too. Look around us. Marriages aren’t expected to go the distance. Politicians (that we vote into office) often find themselves “outed” in some sort of scandal during their tenure or are said to be non-progressive and staid old-school.

Notice we seem to like the feel-good characteristics? The ones that make us smile and have warm fuzzy feelings are desirable. The ones that’s not hard to accept or give, the ones that validate with enjoyment. Hearing truth is often coupled with hard news, harsh news, things that don’t make us happy, things that we’d rather not stress over or think about. Truth causes us to make a decision and stand for a cause or belief. And most of the time that puts our beliefs front and center and then we are committed to that belief, for public scrutiny. And in today’s tolerant society, there’s not much tolerance for firm, staunch stands that are rooted in being honest. Being honest, in itself, is usually found to be very intolerant these days. It doesn’t make us feel good. It doesn’t put a smile on our face, make us want a group hug or feel inclined to sing a verse from Kumbaya.

Personally, I would like to see a few more less-agreeable and feel-good people in this world in exchange for some honesty. Some cold, hard truth, tell it like it is and let me know where things stand. I can deal with nearly anything, I have found, if I know the truths involved. As soon as some fact is glossed over or misrepresented, then how I deal with it is not based in a real situation. It’s a flawed situation, thus my solution is flawed. Could we possibly begin to grow a thicker skin again and start dealing with in truths? Man-up, woman-up, cowboy up, grow up. Get real and get honest and start expecting honesty from people. Start demanding honesty from people.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kids and Today's Society

After much thought and consideration, I have concluded that the responsibility of how the youth of today have become, falls in a few different places. It's not a cut/dry issue. But it is definitive of an entire generation. Even the good kids, from good families, exhibit attitudes, if not behaviors, of their peers. And I fully believe it's because it's the world they live in. No amount of parenting can change the far-reaching influences they are bombarded with. We cannot fully shelter them away from the world. Nor, do I think we completely would want to. But that's a completely different subject. I would lay the responsibility at the feet of the following,

•1. Parents
•2. Liberalism
•3. the Church

First, and foremost, the responsibility falls on the parents. Regardless of other influences, parents still need to parent. The kids today have been raised by adults that were latchkey kids. They either had two parents working to pay for a higher level of living than they had growing up, or they had a struggling single parent that was caught in the perpetual merry-go-round of increasing costs of goods and services because business skyrocketed because people expect more and have the money to pay it. The former household wanted to be known as part of the best, the cream of the crop. They want to be seen by their peers as successful and everything in their home and family needs to fit that definition at all costs. The latter worries about paying bills and the guilt of not being able to provide the kids with the now average things most kids have. In both types of households, the parents do not want their kids being left out, being different, causing them to suffer possible self-esteem issues. To finish the perfect picture to these families, their children are also to be seen as successful. When they do something wrong, taking responsibility for their actions is not taught anymore. Responsibility requires admission. Responsibility requires ethics. Responsibilities required contrition. None of these things fit into the mold of providing the picture of a successful family. Look at who our kids look up to as heroes these days. Mostly, it's professional athletes. And many of them have been men that were raised in the current no right or wrong culture and no responsibility and suddenly they are provided a lifestyle of fame and extreme fortune. We would like to think that would give them what they have been lacking and they could live a good and upstanding life. But more often than not, they are getting into legal troubles, much like the poor, urban kids they used to be. When children are not taught to take responsibility, a symptom to that is created, entitlement. Entitlement expects things to be handed over without the worry of failure or judgment. With the outcome not in question, the next casualty of virtue is work ethics. In our attempt to have the best and be perceived as successful, we have become a society that is completely entrenched in celebrities and the manner in which they live. We have become a society of expecting the finer things of life without the sense to realize that all things are not fair in life. The self-absorption into the world of "having" quickly becomes an addiction. One I truly believe is just as gripping and difficult to break. One that has those in its grips completely unaware of and in denial.

Thanks to the socialistic direction that this country has been taking for the past 30 years, we now have two generations that feel all things should be fair, aka evenly distributed. Those without the means should be helped to live in a manner they cannot achieve on their own. Those with the most money should be forced to distribute the money they worked for to people that do not have the education, or even possibly, the desire, to acquire the types of jobs that pay well. In their "perfect" world, a janitor should get to live the same as an engineer. Not that one job is any better than another. Both are equally necessary. But the required time and education it takes for one is out of proportion to the other. It is the major reason for the current economic crash this country, and the entire world, has experienced. Making home ownership more available to the lower-economic rungs was the motivation behind the creation of subprime lending. The same basic philosophy is in the auto industry, it's called leasing. Lower monthly payments and less paying down of a principle, letting those that cannot afford the traditional payment plans to afford to drive nice, new cars and live in bigger, more expensive homes than their salaries would support in traditional loans. In both scenarios the ultimate goals are not to own those items. It is simply to have and use those items. Our current judicial system and government has little by little whittled away at the things that defined various groups of people in this country. They have diluted the line and definition of right and wrong. Those that break the law are allowed to live in such conditions that would be desirable for many households on the outside. They are allowed resources in frivolous court cases, as well as full educations, all at the taxpayers' expense. They have diluted the line between the haves and have not's.

All of this has permeated not only those families not taught morals anymore, but Christian homes. And the Church is failing to secure its place in our current society. For so many decades, the Church has been defined by denominations. Each denomination has their particular list of rules and guidelines that can be defined only by their particular boundaries. Each has interpretations of Scripture to support their teachings. And many have relied on those rules and boundaries as much and more in their teachings, and more importantly, in their measurement and judgment of each other and those outside their walls. They have raised families to look at everyone in judgment. They have raised families to judge themselves not by God's love, but by the rules of the Church. And that can only beget arrogance or self-loathing and guilt. When the Church cannot show that it has relevance in a true and workable application in a culture that prevails today, it shrivels, becomes shallow and does not teach another viewpoint or reason to live any differently than the current culture. In fact, it simply supports an argument for a reason to look elsewhere for happiness. One that is much more self-motivated.

I don't know what will need to happen to turn our society around again. Unfortunately, it often takes catastrophic happenings to change current tides. But, if this is not a time of catastrophic happenings, I would hate to see what more it would need to include. We have come through hard times economically in the past. We have come through hard times politically. And we have come through hard times socially. We are not really in anything new that we haven't been before, but we must stop and ponder and find reasonable priorities for new values, new ethics, new heroes and a much wiser world.