Category archive: Lifestyle
I took a work trip to Basel Switzerland back in March 2020 before the world turned upside down. While riding the tram daily to my place of work, I would take down notes for a blog I had every intention of writing and releasing before I made my way back home to the USA. However, my trip was cut short due to a frantic scramble to obtain passage back to the states before the borders were closed. Securing my flights along the way (I could only get one flight at a time to another country with no guarantee I could even find a connection to the next stop or ultimately to the US) was nothing short of an epic adventure in itself so by the time I buckled my seat belt on my final flight to America, my frazzled mind understandably put the blog on a back burner. I am just now remembering I still have those notes. So rather than rework the tense to reflect the past, let me go ahead and release it as it was originally intended – in the present tense while still strolling around the beautiful and welcoming city of Basel, Switzerland.
10 things Basel is trying to tell me:
1. I need hair service. Badly. There are multiple coiffure shops in every block. Literally every block! Yet no one here appears to look like they’ve had their tresses tended to. I would expect to see some spectacularly crafted hairstyles everywhere I look, but people on the street look just as mundane and bedraggled as people on American streets. What the heck are they getting done to their hair? What unseen service is being performed? But thank you(?) for reminding me on every corner that I must dash in for it.
2. I need to know what time it is. It is Switzerland after all so this is not entirely unexpected. Time is serious business to the Swiss. But like coiffure shops, the watch shops are in extreme overabundance. How many time pieces do people buy here? Do they lose watches at an astronomical rate? How do all these competing watch shops stay in business?
3. I do NOT need another knife. (Well, ok that may be true but…) The Swiss are also renowned for their knives but there is an eerie lack of knife shops in Basel – as in almost NONE at all. Really, I hunted for a whole day and only found one teeny tiny cobbler’s shop which also cut keys and had a less than arousing selection of plain old Victornox knives. I guess having something (still not sure what) done to your hair and stacking wrist watches up to your elbows are way higher priorities than carrying one quality, unique pocketknife.
4. I’m in great need of something gold. As in real gold. Right now! The number of jewelry stores hawking GOLD is only rivaled by the coiffure industry trying to intimate that hair service is immediately and often required. Surely the Swiss are not this vain. Are they? They don’t look like they dress extravagantly (or colorfully) or put on showy displays of any sort. No one appears to be dripping in gold chains, rings, and bracelets. Where do they put all those golden trinkets? Who is buying all this jewelry?
5. Surely, I need something from the drugstore and grocery. As plentiful as the hair salons, jewelry stores, and watch shops, are the bazillion apothecary shops and little grocery stores. I appreciate continual access to the grocery with their fresh produce and quality foods, really, I do, but this is extreme overkill. And the drug stores! How often do people need to purchase drug store type stuff? Is there some secret item I’m missing from my toiletries? Am I less than civilized for not knowing?
6. I need more exercise and fresh air. (Again, this may be true but….) Even if you don’t ride a bicycle (seems like everyone does) and you mostly ride the public transportation, you get lots of good walking in. Cars are in the vast minority and there’s hardly a place to park them or get gas if you had one. Everyone is trim and healthy looking. They eat at the outdoor seating at cafes no matter how cold or rainy. No one seems to spend any time indoors for very long. It’s a very physically active and outdoorsy society.
7. I only need American taste in music. Clearly not true, but I swear to God the soundtrack to Swiss life is rock and roll, Americana, jazz, big band, or country, with a little pop music occasionally – all in English. And music is EVERYWHERE (indoors and out). Even the busker at the train station was playing old Amercan pop songs on his accordion – ACCORDION!! I’m smack dab in the middle the land of polka and world class yodeling and is it too much to ask for a little waltzy tempo on that squeezebox and a yodeleeho sprinkled in here or there?? Come ON! However, I found a fun channel on the TV called FOLX. And THEY play the greatest (and kookiest) folk, polka and yodeling videos. I’m in heaven. Neel would hate me right now if he had to be in the room with me. I pretty much leave the TV on that channel whenever I’m in my hotel room.
8. I need to smoke a lot more cigarettes. As in ANY because I don’t smoke. But seriously these Swiss can suck down some cancer sticks on an epic scale!! As I was climbing the hillside steps from my work (like Heidi ascending the Alps), I was inhaling the fresh air and dared to muse that even the air is better in Basel because everything is so clean here. And shortly after reaching the street — as if on cue — I was abruptly assaulted with a nasty, nicotine, drenched cloud. How can such eco and health conscious people think this is a good habit??
9. I need to smile less. And be less friendly, and not make jokes, and stop attempting to make small talk. People on the street in Basel are superbly stoic and distant. No emotion is the name of the game if you want to fit in here. Forget all my efforts to dress in the distinctly bland-colored, scarfed, skinny panted, euro uniform. Or as I call it, the “I’m-not-American-camouflage”. My friendly “smile and nod” gives me away as a dopey American every time. The more I try to keep a straight face in public the harder I find it to keep from busting out laughing from the effort. Note to self. . . Never play poker with the Swiss!
10. I need to carry a backpack. OK this one is true… at least while in Basel. Because most people rely on public transit, walking, or cycling, having a quality backpack to put all your shopping, stash your layers as you peel them off, or carry your bazillion watches and apothecary supplies is a must! There is literally NO ONE unadorned by a wearable bag of some description. So when in Rome…. Yep I got one:
In case I’ve given you the mistaken impression that I was less than enamored with my stay in Basel, let me set the record straight. I LOVED each and every minute there. I could easily pick up stakes and happily relocate to Basel. In A HEARTBEAT!! It’s a beautiful, welcoming, safe, temperate, and historic city with lots of things to see and do.
But the evidence staring me down from shiny store fronts with brightly colored signs and eye-catching window displays tells me I’m apparently an American hick, ignorant of the social graces required to exist in such Euro sophistication. I’m doing my best to pretend I fit in, but who am I fooling?
Life back in the US will surely find me:
- with my hair unsuspectingly uncoiffed and uncolored
- curled up in my comfy chair indoors (no matter how nice the weather)
- running out of toiletries and eating stale crumbs from the cupboard because I’m too lazy to take my ginormous, full-size, gas-guzzling, truck 2 long miles to the nearest stores
- oblivious of the passing of time
- indifferent to my lack of gold trinkets
- wildly waving, smiling and calling out to my neighbors and strangers on the street
- and gazing lovingly at my vast, shiny knife collection . . .
- . . . all while listening to the Bill Flynn Polka Show and wishing I could yodel like my dad!
Watch the video below for a slideshow of my adventure set to the super hot yodeling vocals of Melanie Oesch:Details
Not long ago, I found myself face to face with a terrifying dilemma. I had been running as hard and as fast as I could to avoid accepting reality and I had run out of road. There was nothing in front of me except a tall cliff and turbulent waters below. Behind me was a monster of my own making, barrelling down on me like a freight train. I furtively glanced over my shoulder and with no more evasive maneuvers available, I naturally made the only choice an action hero could make – – I hurtled myself over the edge, plummeting through the air with arms flailing wildly, and plunged into the icy waters below.
OK, quitting my day job may not have been as dramatic as all that and perhaps it doesn’t qualify as an Indiana Jones worthy, life-and-death-hanging-in-the-balance, kind of adventure, but it has certainly been filled with thrills, pitfalls, obstacles, and ultimately – redemption. Giving up a regular income and the predictable way of life my husband and I had become accustomed to was a gargantuan risk, no doubt, and it was also the most exhilarating stunt I’ve pulled off in a long time. It was exactly what was required in this instance to restore balance to my life . . . and I should have done it years ago.
Come on, admit it, you know there have been times when a sweeping overhaul of your life was long overdue. But have you done anything about it, or have you simply allowed yourself to languish for years with no end in sight to the daily drudgery? Even when we recognize the need to adjust our sails and set a new course, how do we get up the gumption to break the monotony and implement a plan of action? Ideally, we would objectively plan for the future and play the waiting game ever so skillfully until it’s the perfect time to strike. But more often than not we suffer stoically through our miserable circumstances, hopelessly mired in self-doubt, guilt, and apathy. We become hostages to fear of the unknown, sabotaged by the what ifs.
The thought of turning in my resignation and all that it entailed paralyzed me with fear but the thought of staying put left me feeling hopelessly dejected. As established by my long-suffering passivity, clearly, I wasn’t willing to make a major life change while enveloped in a safe (albeit stagnant) environment, so what was I to do? Waiting for the monstrous flood waters to inevitably envelop me was far less palatable than diving in with grit and abandon on my own terms. Could it be that that No Plan was cleverly disguised as a GREAT PLAN?
Now and again you just have to embody the spirit of adventure à la Indiana Jones:
With much trepidation and a vise-like knot clenching at my guts,
I closed my eyes and leapt . . . Off the quitter’s cliff I flew!
The initial impact of the cold water was shocking, but as my stunned body struggled to overcome the jolt, self-preservation seized me and I defiantly swam upward. Gasping for air as my head broke the surface, I felt the warm sun on my face and my spirit soared. I didn’t die!! Filled with the exhilaration of survival, I realized that jumping to what seemed like certain death was, in reality, my very salvation.
Leaving an unfulfilling job behind, I was suddenly freed from chains I was only marginally aware I’d been sporting. At long last, I had found the time to reassess my goals, take inventory of my skills, get reacquainted with my inner voice, and restore a modicum of peace to my soul. As I navigate the Between Employment River with steady, deliberate strokes I’ve been using the time constructively so that when I’m ready to step back on dry land, I can re-engage the work world with a renewed passion and healthy mindset. Paddling along day by day, I’ve gained an enormous amount of clarity and discovered that I can swim farther, and my lungs can hold more air than I ever thought possible. It’s been a positive, reality-checking, time of self-discovery!
By reconnecting with former co-workers and good friends I’ve been reminded that I add value to the world and that once upon a time I used to enjoy contributing my unique talents to the workplace. In reviewing my resume and digging deep into my past job experiences I have been able to identify what my talents are and where my interests lie. Utilizing resources like LinkedIn, recruiter websites, and other online tools has proven invaluable in successfully navigating the modern, murky waters of digital-age employment seeking. And just allowing myself time to decompress and recover from years of apathy has given me a fresh perspective on life in general.
Make no mistake, I fully understand that life is filled with good days and bad days. No job is going to fulfill all my needs, no workplace is perfect, and no amount of leaping off cliff after cliff will solve all my problems. But taking stock in who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I want to go, is a valuable exercise which my self-imposed break has afforded me. I may be middle-aged, but I’ve got my whole life ahead of me!
While you may not be ready to pull a full-on Butch and Sundance like I did, you ought to at least consider where your areas of stagnation lie. A well thought-out plan is awesome if you can execute it, but sometimes testing your mettle is worth the heart-pounding dive! Drumming up the courage to jump is the most difficult part and adversity is surely promised, but it’s in surviving that reveals what you’re made of and determines your future character! How will you ever attain those dreams if you aren’t venturesome enough to take a risk, knowing that sustaining a few bruises is part of the badge of honor you’ll wear proudly when you succeed? If you’re willing to embrace the unknown, humble enough to accept assistance, and resolute in pressing on to wherever the current takes you, you’ll withstand the fall and rise up with purpose.
Sometimes calling it quits is the winning move!Details
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Now there’s a question guaranteed to stop me dead in my tracks – E V E R Y T I M E. I marvel at folks who have always been able to answer that question with certainty. Me? I’ve always wondered why a response required that I must choose just one occupation – why can’t I be everything that appeals to me – an astronaut, a ballerina, a rodeo rider, an artist, a waitress, a rockstar, or a Hollywood stuntman? Why must I be pigeonholed into a single defining vocation before I’d even had my first kindergarten nap? With endless opportunities before me, answering that question seemed impossible as a child and now that I’m an adult, I have no more clarity than I ever have.
Perhaps the better question is, “WHO do you want to be when you grow up?”. Now THAT is an approach which requires introspection and allows us to ponder a CHARACTER path instead of a CAREER path. And let’s be honest – aren’t we all more interested in surrounding ourselves with people of good character rather than simply hiring or befriending a mere body possessing a detached set of skills? We all know that the person of quality character is always the better choice to employ or otherwise engage with.
In my life, I’ve been many things – a rodeo rider (yes for real!), an actress, a farm girl, a bench jeweler, a mother, a widow, and so much more in addition to my varied job titles. I’ve stepped in more manure figuratively and quite literally than I can count. I’ve fallen, dusted myself off, and gotten back up with determination and grit befitting a prize fighter. I’ve kissed away pain and consoled broken hearts. My own heart has nearly burst with pride while I’ve been quietly content to give wings to others so they may soar to their highest heights. I’ve counted it joy to collaborate with a team to make a collective dream come true. But I’m not defined by any single one of those things or attributes or positions. My character so far is the result of the melding of all my experiences and choices.
And I’m far from being a finished product. I’m still exploring the possibilities of who I might become. I look forward to adding to my skill-set and achievements throughout my life so that when I’m done here, I can say I had become the “who” of my dreams rather than the “what” of my dreams.
Being the proverbial Jack of All Trades, I’ve picked up a few traits which transcend any job description, and which are translatable to any position. Some of these qualities which I embody, value, and may be of interest to potential employers are (in no particular order):
- Thrives in a virtual/remote environment
- Coordinates projects, sets priorities, and meets deadlines with minimal direction
- Uses initiative and independent judgment within established policy & procedural guidelines
- Resourceful, reliable & manages time effectively
- Completes tasks with accuracy and efficiency using task reminder tools
- Designs creative ways to refine and improve processes to enhance workflow
- Swift learner with outstanding problem-solving skills
- Adept at compiling and analyzing data utilizing various databases, spreadsheets, sources, and tools
- Strong attention to detail and outstanding organizational skills
- Well-versed in standard office administrative practices and procedures
- Communicates effectively with co-workers, subordinates, superiors, and the public
- Maintains strictest confidentiality with honesty and integrity
- Listens with empathy to overcome objections and resolve conflicts
- Flexible and adaptable to new/changing environments
So, if you asked me WHO I want to be, instead of WHAT I want to be, I’d tell you this:
I want to be the BEST version of me I can possibly be. I want to be a team player who makes valuable contributions to a worthy goal. I want to be known for being kind, generous, caring, funny, creative, meticulous, responsive, and thorough. I want YOU to be a better person for having known me.
And I want to be valued.
Who do YOU want to be when you grow up?Details
WARNING – this post may trigger some of you to put on your God-police badge, don your God-judge robe, and be ready to swing your God-executioner ax across my scrawny neck – all in the name of love I’m sure – but I urge you to stop right now, take a deep breath (or several) and prepare to simply read with an objective, peaceful, frame of mind. My thoughts may or may not align with yours, but that doesn’t make me less of a compassionate human for thinking them.
God is real. I really believe that! But finding Him and figuring out which sources to trust while seeking Him is a daunting task. Throughout my life I’ve attended many churches, researched written texts, reviewed archaeological findings, and listened to personal testimony all in an attempt to put down a concrete foundation which proves His existence in a way I can settle the matter once and for all. Along the way, through all my “discoveries”, I’ve found myself waffling between being firmly convinced of His accessibility to being utterly disappointed in His apparent lack of engagement. Yet, I still haven’t given up my intrinsic belief in the Almighty God’s existence and I continue to seek Him.
Everyone has their own world view which is in part based upon their past experiences, education, hand-me-down opinions, fantasies, and pure blind faith. What shapes one person’s view in such a way that helps them make sense of the world around them may be so completely foreign to another person that the two find themselves at irreconcilable odds. On the surface and viewed objectively – knowing that people are willing to kill (and die) to defend their personal belief in a particular way of life (and way of after-life) – the very idea of a God-seeking humanity seems utterly absurd. Yet people vehemently stand by their belief systems and still no one I’ve come across seems to be able to provide proof positive that their way is THE way. Because I was raised in a Christian home and Christian community, my world view and belief system has always been, and probably always will be, skewed towards filtering things through my Christian lens.
But I’ve often wondered how I can be SURE that I am on the right path to the one true God and His calling in my life. And who hasn’t pondered the reason for man’s existence and the wondered about what the afterlife looks like? Are there really eternal implications of how we conduct our lives in the here and now? If only I could ask someone – someone with the authority to answer – you know – like God himself.
As a small child, my pea brain churned over these thoughts and sometimes I would ask the trusted adults around me if they knew the answers. They gave me kind, loving responses indicating that God had it all worked out and I don’t need to worry, which placated me at the time but left a gnawing feeling that something was missing. How could I know– and not just believe on faith? Where exactly is God anyway so I can ask him directly?
Lots of silence was the answer to that.
Once I could read, libraries were my favorite place to hang out and dig a little deeper on my own– but the going was slow; the materials were limited and often outdated.
As I grew older I spent time in counsel with church members and leaders trying to get their take on the matter, but they didn’t seem any more convinced than I was as to His exact whereabouts when I pressed them with challenging questions.
Insert droning, audible silence.
I’ve read countless versions and translations of the Bible and studied with fervor both in groups and in solitary.
What was that sound? Oh, it’s silence.
The advent of the internet with its growing instant availability to articles, documents, opinions, and other materials along with its access to actual people in other countries and their cultures, has expanded my knowledge base considerably regarding how other people view life, God, and the hereafter. Of course, we have to be extra discerning in this digital age considering any wacko can self-publish anything on the internet (you’re reading MY blog, aren’t you?) but, I think that with enough cross examination and objectivity one can scrounge up “reputable enough” internet sources to be content with their veracity. All I got for my efforts was…
Mind numbing silence.
I’ve prayed to, sung to, talked with, yelled at, argued with, and wept with the God I believe is in power. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been heard, but not answered – not really.
Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence.
I’ve come up short on answers thus far but I’m not giving up. I still really just want to go to the top (God) with my questions but I’m at a loss as to how to get there. One thing I have learned through all my research and reasoning, is that surely God – THE God – must be known to other cultures and peoples which coexist across this globe who are outside of the sphere of Christian influence. To place limits on God’s presence, activity, and preferred ways of communication is to limit God Himself. And lets face it, a limited God is nothing more than a god (small g – man’s delusion) and is not the one true God who created the heavens and earth and all things in them. So, let’s talk about God (big G). Not WHO He is – I don’t question His existence – but rather WHERE He is.
If you have to ask then you don’t know.
God is with me – just a prayer away I’m pretty sure. But sometimes His presence feels elusive, like He’s just out of reach, hiding around the corner. There are times though, when His whereabouts are utterly unknown to me and I feel like I’m all alone living in a void. Yet at other times, it feels like he’s right next to me chatting like an old friend and hugging me close. And on some rare nights He visits me briefly in vivid dreams which leaves a long-lasting impression of a thought I need to embrace or an action I ought to take. So how do I reconcile this alternating sense of His divine, loving presence with apparent icy, cold aloofness? Does He actually leave me like it sometimes feels? Or, could He really be there all the time and I’m simply blindly unaware of His presence? Is it my own sin that separates me from recognizing Him, as I have read in the Bible and been taught by many a pastor? If that were the case, then I would most likely never feel His blessed companionship, for nary a day goes by that I don’t commit one sin or another – either unintentionally or (gasp) in full awareness. And I suspect that the rest of humanity (including all the dedicated pew fillers) is not too unlike me in that regard – most of the time we try to avoid sinning but we just can’t seem to keep from stepping in the steaming piles of poo we have blatantly squirted in our own paths. And if Jesus died to save me from my sin (all of my sin – not just the sin I committed before accepting his gift of saving grace), then He surely knew my sinful nature is pervasive and not something I can easily or completely control. No, my sin alone cannot be the thing that separates me from an awareness of God’s presence at times. Honestly, I do feel like He’s with me most of the time, but if he does take a Colleen break… where does He go?
He’s probably at church, right?
Let’s focus on Christianity here for a moment and say that I want to seek God out in a place of worship when I feel the need to put Him back into my personal space. Which church is the one true church – the one actually condoned and endorsed by God Himself? They all claim to have a corner on that market, yet there are so many differences between them – pretty darn big differences I might add. As I examine various paths of Christendom: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, or even Mormonism, each branch would say they are following His one true calling and His one true religion. They can’t all be right. Or can they? Could it be that God wants to show us that He can be reached through a variety of methods and that He’s less concerned about the nuts and bolts of daily life than He is with the big picture? The big picture being, that as Christians, we are to recognize Jesus as our savior, forsaking all other gods, and share His Gospel with others. But what if you’re not a Christian? If God is capable of endorsing all of the Christian sects as legitimate (I’m not saying He does), then couldn’t He also allow many other forms of worship and religious expression to be valid as well? Or, perhaps He doesn’t hang out in any place of worship at all since everybody insists with all of their “divinely inspired” piety that He’s exclusively at their place alone and people who claim otherwise are going straight to hell. However, there is no authority, past or present, which can validate with one hundred percent assurance the legitimacy of anyone’s claims of ownership of the one true God. Perhaps God is bigger than a place and form of worship…
Doesn’t the Bible have the answer?
OK, focusing again on Christianity here, this brings me to another sticking point. There is NO WAY the “Bible” has all the answers, because which Bible are we talking about anyway? Why are certain books included in the Bibles of some Christian denominations and yet considered Gnostic by others and therefore excluded, (and to be honest, downright vilified)? Still other texts exist (supposedly written at the same time as the original scriptures) which are written off as fantasy and heresy and are not included in any Bible anywhere. Such weighty decisions – the inclusion of texts deemed to be holy scripture inspired by God himself and the exclusion of texts determined to be of purely man-made origin – I’m told, were made by men long ago as a result of divine inspiration and we have no business questioning them. But why wouldn’t the Spirit (God himself) allow the men in charge to be consistent in their knowledge of which scriptures are the legitimate ones? Why are His people worshiping over here in one building allowed to affirm only certain books as Holy and other people in a different building right next door allowed to peruse bonus books? Each denomination’s Bible of choice, and the various accepted translations of it, is paraded within their communities as the only true Bible. Yet that cannot be the case. If we allow that Catholics and Methodists are children of the same God, why isn’t there more unity in what we consider to be the holy word of the Lord? Perhaps we should examine all scripture (sanctioned or not) and ask God to enlighten us as to what He wants us to believe or toss to the curb. Regardless of your opinion of the man, Martin Luther may have been right about giving the people access to the scriptures instead of relying on clergy to disseminate it. I’m a firm believer in doing one’s own research and one cannot possibly be satisfied with information passed down from a singular source (or collection of sources from the same segment of society). And then of course we haven’t even broached the topic of what is written about (and by?) God and passed on in other cultures and religions around the world. So far, I’m not convinced God lives between the covers of a book…
Ah, God is in your heart then…
Logically it seems to follow, that if God cannot reliably be found in a particular place of worship, or by reading a particular “approved” scripture, then he must reside in the hearts (figuratively speaking) of mankind alone. But is the heart of mankind to be trusted? From social media alone, it is evident that people all have different notions as to what constitutes the truth and they have different comfort levels in, and aptitudes for, telling lies. Ask every person you know about God and you’ll get wildly varying testimonies of His existence or non-existence. So, if I’m unsure that God keeps an apartment in your heart, how can I trust that my own little blood pumper isn’t uninhabited as well? I’ll tell you this – I KNOW my heart cannot be trusted! Some things I dearly believed in my heart to be true at one time turned out later to be a compete falsehood and fabrication in my own mind (Santa Clause anyone?). And who of you hasn’t been severely disappointed by something or someone which, upon reflection, have come to realize that YOU are to blame for your own reaction. YOU expected more out of a job, a relationship, a vehicle, (or whatever) than it was ever capable of providing. You gave that other person, thing, or situation qualities they never possessed and when they didn’t live up to your expectations, you were devastated. But it was your own heart that misled you into believing all those false expectations which you, yourself, created. And it’s the realization of knowing that we cannot trust our own hearts – which, by the way, is among the most sobering moments in life – that makes me doubt how God could ever want to dwell such a deceitful, fickle, organ as the human heart – figuratively or otherwise.
If you’re still reading, you may think I have come to the conclusion that God cannot possibly exist because I’ve shot down any confidence in establishing His whereabouts. Au contraire – I still believe in the existence of the Almighty Lord with all of my poor, pitiful heart, deceitful as it may be. I see His handiwork all around me. I cannot find it within my logical brain to embrace the idea that every living thing and its supporting ecosystems is simply a random assembly of atoms and cells which combined without any divine direction whatsoever to form the world as we know it. I’m pretty sure God’s divinity is bigger than what any book, building, or body part can hold. Certainly, I have more questions than answers and like all of mankind before me, I will die with these questions unanswered. Not unlike most of you, I hope to find a glorious future in the afterlife, but I’m not sure how to ascertain it in advance with complete assurance. But, despite my unending quest for answers, there are some things I DO know already:
- I know that forgiveness is a powerful tool. I employ it often and enjoy the peace it brings.
- I know that living in the moment is a gift. I try to stay out of the past, and hope today’s actions help bring a better future.
- I know that my thoughts and actions are my own. I don’t hold other people responsible for my choices.
- I know that love is comes in many forms. Even when you think it’s gone, there’s always more love to give.
- I know that as long as I can draw breath, I will get up off the ground and get my ass back in the saddle.
And I know that God, and the truth, is out there.
If you have answers, or even more questions, please share them with me here. I’d love to entertain your thoughts!Details
I hope you continually:
Chip away at the obstacles that prevent you from doing what you love
Add to the myriad of layers that make you unique and interesting
Ignore how society attempts to define you
Seek counsel from others
Spend quality time with old folks
Listen to everyone’s opinions and then formulate your own
Learn from the negative experiences in your life as they will shape you as much as the positive ones
Embrace grief and pain but don’t let it mire you in depression
Tell and show people often how much you care about them
Roll with the changes
Let go of the past
Find new tribes
Try new things
Eat weird foods
Take care of your body
Experiment with your hair
Do things that frighten you
Expand the borders of your comfort zone
Acknowledge your fear but don’t let it confine you
Recognize that life is short; breathe each breath as if it were your last
Live in the moment and find contentment in the now
Look for beauty in the mundane
Connect with nature
Laugh at yourself
Laugh a lot
Take a stand
Defend your choices
Admit when you’re wrong
Find joy in bargain hunting
Permit yourself to spend some of that savings
Know that you are a work in progress until the day you die
Smile even when it hurts – it’s more for you than other people
Recognize when you’re not gifted in the thing you have passion for
Find passion for the things you are gifted in
Share your gifts and talents
Say NO when it’s warranted
Say YES because you can
Ask for help
Be brave and courageous
Allow yourself to make mistakes
Show kindness, mercy, and compassion
Grant others grace when they’ve screwed up
Allow yourself to ugly cry once in a while
Choose honesty over deception
Don’t let others take advantage of you
Build a reputation for being a person of your word
Give your very best effort in everything you do
Ignore both flattery and criticism
Desire to keep learning
Believe in your own worth
Build a relationship with God
Live YOUR life
And finally, a word from my dad for when that horse bucks you off and you get the wind knocked out of you:
Get up out of the dirt, brush away your tears, and
Get your ass back in that saddle!
#adaywithoutwomen #adaywithoutawoman #nothingwasanydifferent
Congratulations feminist “activists” – hijacking International Women’s Day for your political objective was a resounding flop. I mean on an epic scale. The floppiest flop to every have flopped. The 1980’s called, they want their floppies (discs) back.
From my limited vantage point (my social media feed, TV news coverage, and personal interaction) I saw absolutely no change or effect from this supposed massive strike designed to bring the world crashing to its knees because of the lack of women in the workforce. Zero. Zip. Nada.
NO ONE WAS AFFECTED
Oh sure some of you wore red in solidarity – that took real guts and showed them who’s boss. (Oh, and because women need another excuse to wear red. Can you see my eyes rolling?)
But what really happened, was that every single woman in my news feed went to work and conducted business without even a hitch to her giddyup and without any ill effect to her male counterparts, or to her immediate circle, or to the world at large. I didn’t see a single post in my feed from any woman who did NOT go to work. In fact, I saw LOTS of women hash-tagging #adaywithoutwomen” furiously while making their excuses as to why they had to, or needed to, (or best yet) why it was a “defiant” move to, ACTUALLY GO TO WORK. As incredulous as it seems, they purposefully hash-tagged #adaywithoutwomen in the same post telling the world they were working. LOTS of them too; not just one or two FB friends. My FB feed was FULL of these posts. I didn’t hear a peep on the news about how soooo many businesses were negatively impacted by the day’s strike to the point of begging their women workforce to come back and never leave them again. Or about how the men in their lives just melted into puddles of tears over the realization that they can’t live without a woman for a day. I just saw lots of media coverage, emoji high fives, and lip service, but NO REAL PROTESTING and NO REAL EFFECT.
WHAT IN THE WORLD….??? Have y’all lost sight of what “protesting” is? In reality I mean. Ho hum, I guess we live in a virtual world now and protesting can be done from our safe, virtual platform, sipping our Starbucks without any need to get uncomfortable, or sacrifice something, or just freakin’ DO anything.
Did you see the episode of Portlandia in which the characters were posting about protesting and then finally decided to actually protest something but they got so caught up in the act of preparing that they didn’t end up doing anything? Oh do watch it, it’s an hilarious and spot-on commentary about yesterday’s non-event:
In light of women’s ineptitude at following through on a simple concept of striking to “show-the-world-that-women-are-such-massive-contributors-to-society-that-society-can’t-function-without-them-for-just-one-day”, I propose that MEN strike for a day. What if, ALL men, ALL OVER THE WORLD, just stopped doing everything and anything for a whole day? Think about THAT! #adaywithoutmen
At least half, if not a significantly higher percentage, of our mechanics (got car trouble?), plumbers (pipes sprung a leak?), firefighters (house on fire?), police officers (domestic assault?), security officers (need someone to walk you to your car in a sketchy parking garage?), doctors (headed to the ER?), pilots (flying home for a dying loved one?) and on and on and on, are MEN. I think a true strike by men would be a reality check for all women who like to pretend they are strong, empowered, warriors, blah, blah, blah and don’t need no stinkin’ men in their lives.
But the truth is, women can be all those things (strong, empowered, warriors, and more) AND need men too.
Can we just admit we need EACH OTHER and celebrate EVERYONE, EVERYDAY? How much better could we make this world if we focused on encouraging all the people we meet in a day – regardless of their gender and regardless of past damage done to us by a particular person of a particular gender. Instead of an “I’ll show you what it’s like without me” mentality, we could show the world by example what incredible contributions we are making by stepping up our game. We could all (regardless of gender) inspire others to be their best because we choose to always be OUR best – even (or especially) in the face of adversity! And in case you haven’t learned yet, forgiveness is a powerful tool and can be a motivation for change – in ourselves and in others.
The future starts NOW. Let’s go out there and be good examples and positive role models for everyone.
And if a protest IS in order, by God, get off your ass and actually protest.Details
Have we recently become a two-faced society or have we always been that way?
Is this my real face?
Or is this?
Years of online interaction has yielded discoveries about my world and shattered my illusions about what I used to think about myself, other people, and the accepted norms of what it means to be a member of society.
From the dawn of civilization until only a few years ago, we could (would?) only divulge those parts of ourselves we deemed worthy of sharing, mostly through our “in person” associations and to some extent our written correspondence. Fortunately for us, fading memories serve us well when we have unwittingly shared the worst. For the most part though, we were more guarded with our innermost thoughts and feelings, cared very much about how others viewed us, and took great measures to protect our reputations and relationships.
Not so much these days.
For better or worse, by willingly participating in social media, we have unintentionally revealed ourselves in unflattering ways and have shaped and changed the definition of “community” for future generations. These days, it’s far too easy to hide behind a computer. Like alcohol, our magic box gives us a sense of liberation from our inhibitions and unfortunately, many people use their devices unwisely, wielding keyboards like swords. With our screens shielding us from the outside world, we feel much freer to bully, create a pretend life, justify our actions and condemn others, brag incessantly, etc. But I call this, “hiding in plain sight.” Everything we post reveals a little something about our nature regardless of the content of what we post, but astute observers will see the “you” that you don’t even know you’re projecting.
For many of us, our online persona doesn’t align with the impression we present in person. You know what I’m talking about: The mousy girl who smiles politely and practically hides in a public setting, but then incessantly rants negatively on her Facebook page and calls shame on the “terrible” people she observes (and assumes she knows their intentions), or the crusty curmudgeon of a guy (get off my lawn!) with whom you’d go out of your way to avoid if you see, but who only posts pictures and links about saving puppies and kittens on his Facebook page because he’s really a big softy.
As it turns out, I don’t really know the people I’ve known in real life. Their pages, comments and messages show a side I was previously unaware of. Some online relationships have uncovered a kinder, more thoughtful person than I ever imagined existed and I’ve developed a stronger bond with them than I thought possible. And I’ve sadly had to let go of others due to their negativity and/or hostility in their online life. It’s rather crushing to find out that a schoolmate with whom we have shared many a playground laugh now has diametrically opposed values to our own.
Both sides of the revelation spectrum begs this question though: “Is it me or is it them?”
- Is it me who has been too self-absorbed in my own life that I’ve failed to elucidate their true nature or have they always been this way?
- Is it me who has dug in my heels in opposition to their values or have they resolutely refused to acknowledge my point of view?
- Have they, through their life experiences, evolved into the person I’m seeing now or has my perspective towards them changed based upon my own experiences?
If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is a combination of all of the above.
But there’s more to navigating this online world of social media than evaluating the true (and sometimes depressing) nature of our existing acquaintances. There’s a plethora of people we’ve never met and it’s only because of the interwoven web of friends of friends that we catch glimpses of who those people are and, if we’re adventurous enough, connect with.
Willing to see the best in people, I have been daring enough to seek out and accept total strangers into my online world and have uncovered a bevy of virtual (and literal) strangers with whom I share a great deal of commonality and have come to count among the closest of allies. We’ve found our way together via mutual friends or interests and would have never crossed paths if we were to rely solely on an in-person rendezvous (either accidental or intentional). Most of these online-only friends of mine are hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of miles away; some are in far off lands which I doubt I will ever visit in my lifetime. However, some are right in my own back yard and I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with them and getting to know both their online projection of themselves as well as the in-person self-portrait they’ve chosen to paint.
Ours is a great, big, marvelous world with continents of uncharted territory of man’s inner workings, and multitudes of dusty corners hiding untold fortunes of man’s immeasurable ability to find common ground with others regardless of culture, ethnicity, place of birth and current place of residence. I am continually intrigued, delighted, surprised and yes, even disappointed at times, by the people who co-inhabit this planet with me.
By observing how social media has changed my perspective of what I thought I knew, I’ve come to realize that I have bigger goals in mind when I choose to commune with my fellow man than simply abstractedly scrolling through online posts or putting in obligatory time at public gatherings.
With every interaction:
- I hope to continue learning about the world through all of my varied relationships,
- I hope to grow in knowledge about who I am and who I want to be,
- I hope to use my presence to emit a source of positive (or at least entertaining) energy in your life,
I hope to mend my own fractured portrait and present a united
(and honest) face to the world.
There are no shortages of clichés regarding the passage of time. Some center on how fleeting it is and others ask us to patiently wait for it to pass. Human beings spend a lot of it just trying to understand it. When did it begin? How does it work? Can we travel across it? Perceiving time is as simple as watching the ticking of the second hand but understanding its complexity is beyond comprehension. Perhaps the key to utilizing it well in our reality lies somewhere in the middle of those clichéd phrases and not in trying to harness it. We ought to be willing to put in time doing something productive in small increments over the long haul while knowing it’s evaporating with every breath we take.
But try telling that to the eager, starry-eyed kid who just bought his first beat up Strat asking his guitar teacher how to play Cliffs of Dover in his first lesson. Or to the student who thinks getting their college degree will yield the same results as spending 10 years working in their desired field. Or to the middle-aged mom who spent years allowing their body to get out of shape and expects miraculous results in only weeks from the latest slimming fad. Wanting to be immediately adept at something new is no different for anyone with dreams of achievement. But asking people to put in the work and be satisfied with modest yet measurable gains over a long period of time is a tough sell to the majority of people in any endeavor. In a world where instant gratification is available and expected these days, there’s one commodity that just cannot be bought, sold, borrowed, lent, ransomed, given, stored, stopped, or manipulated in any manner – time.
How can I teach someone to do what I do? I learned it over the course of years by accumulating knowledge and adding new skills to those I already had. My position was built, not taught.
That’s how my mom puts it.
Did you ever have a boss ask you to teach another co-worker how to do your job? Or have you ever had a pupil or admirer of your talents ask you to show them how to do what you do? My mom is right. To attempt to quantify, condense, and disseminate your expertise into a quickie training seminar after having the luxury of building upon your skill-set and honing your talent over the course of time is ludicrous. It would be overwhelming and discouraging to dump all of your years of knowledge on someone’s plate and expect them to remember it and become as proficient as you without granting them the benefit of time to learn. Yet this is what is often asked of us and what we ask of others.
The concept of apprenticeships seems to have fallen by the wayside in our 21st century charge towards instant fulfillment. We ought to be teaching our youth to accept that there are no shortcuts to greatness – in anything: work, music, art, relationships, etc. And if we’re honest, we need to come to grips with that fact ourselves. Too easily we get caught up in the magical thinking that one day we’ll be who we want to be, where we want to be, with the skills we want to have, through no investment of our own. It will just “happen.” But hard work is only part of the equation. Time is a critical factor that is seldom talked about. It takes time for skills to become fluid and second nature. It takes time for your brain to be ready to accept additional training. And it takes time to build a past that you can reflect upon.
Time is a resource that will be used – one way or another. No one knows how much of it they have been allotted. Am I spending my precious ration of it on activities which serve to advance me closer to my goals while patiently waiting for the fruits of my labor to ripen? Or am I only wishing for the unattainable while frittering away my days and years with meaningless actions, frustrated that a short-term investment hasn’t fulfilled my lifelong goals?
Time. What are you doing with yours?Details
Yes its a Dickens reference. You probably hated that book. I loved it. But that’s all I’m going to say about that. You’ll see where this is going if you stick with me long enough.
When I was a child I had Friends. Yes with a capital “F.” My mom must have told me that’s who they were because that’s all I remember calling them. They were my collection of stuffed animals and dolls which I imagined had feelings and loved me as much as I loved them. Among them were Big Donkey (Eeyore, but I didn’t know that’s who it was), Little Donkey (a beanbag critter than in no way resembled a donkey), Big bunny, Big dolly, Little Doll (are you seeing a pattern here?), Sweet Tears, Mrs. Beasley, and on and on. My brother had his own set of Friends – Schroeder and Biff were two standouts I remember fondly. Together we would gather our friends and play all kinds of games and make up stories. When we were at odds, my brother would tease me mercilessly by holding one of my friends hostage. I’m sure my mom still has exasperated nightmares of me running around the house crying, “Maaaaaa, Craig’s got Tiffany!!!”
At bedtime, I would gather my Friends around me and place them in an order of the most beloved closest to me and the ones I was least attached to out at the fringes. Sometimes I would take stock in this arrangement and feel guilty that some got more love than others so I would rearrange the sleeping order to give the fringe Friends some quality “me” time. Rarely would anyone have to sleep on the floor; it broke my heart to think that any one of them was too far away from my loving protection. If they were relegated to the floor for whatever reason, they were lovingly wrapped up in blankets and given a friend of their own so they wouldn’t be lonely. Then the very next day I would cry and hug them and beg them to forgive me – making a very special point to include them in my life so they wouldn’t feel alone and outcast.
Being a less-than-healthy child – I recall spending a lot of time in bed listening to my brother and cousins playing outside my window on summer afternoons. Without the plethora of electronic devices and scads of toys kids have today, I depended upon my Friends to play with me in my sick bed. I read to them, colored and drew with them, organized games and playtime with them, scolded them when they were bad, cried over them when I thought I was too harsh, and hugged them close – as much for my own emotional needs as theirs. We shared a lot of love, conversations and adventures, my friends and me. No matter the lineup, if I was confined to bed, I was always buried under a pile of Friends.
While our house was on fire in 1976 my brother and I paced around our Grandfather’s house waiting for news regarding the damage and we consoled ourselves by telling each other that maybe only the middle of the house was on fire and that our bedroom and porch playroom was spared. We absolutely did not want to think of our Friends burning up in the fire and we were beside ourselves thinking about how scared and in pain they must be. Later that evening we were told the house was gutted, all was lost, and that we only had the clothes on our backs remaining. More than anything else, losing my Friends was, to me, the most catastrophic loss in that house fire. My devastation and grief was immense – these weren’t just playthings, they were my babies, and they were real – just like the Skin Horse and Velveteen Rabbit.
Now that I’m grown up, a few interesting observations about my childhood Friends occurs to me. I didn’t choose them (they all arrived in my care as gifts) and yet I loved them ALL as if I gave birth to them myself. Some naturally rose to the top as the most beloved and others were relegated to less than top status for reasons I’m not even sure of. I interacted with them as differently as I do with my animals and children and yet I loved them all “the same.” But the most interesting thing of all is that they were inanimate objects incapable of feeling or acting, yet I can still vividly recall their distinct personalities and our imaginary adventures as if they were real. However, we know with certainty of course, they embodied only the personalities and emotions I gave to them, and our adventures were fantastic tales I made up in my own mind. Other than their physical bodies, all of their attributes were 100% fabrications of my own choosing.
This got me thinking about my real-life relationships with the people I call my friends. Not everyone I know is a Friend with a capital F but I call even fringe acquaintances my friends. This is obviously a carry-over from early childhood in which anyone I knew who wasn’t family must have been a friend – I didn’t know strangers after all and I definitely didn’t have any enemies. The biggest difference I can see between the real-life people I call friends and my stuffed animal Friends, is that one group is completely under my control and the other is not. Follow me here. For my (stuffed) Friends – I created their back-stories, emotions, personalities, and thoughts; and I orchestrated their interactions, playtimes, adventures, reactions, and living arrangements. For my people friends, I have had very little to do with any of those things. On some level, if we are close enough, I can claim a little responsibility for shaping their lives, emotions, and reactions but overall, they are independent thinkers and doers.
This may seem like a ridiculously obvious and unimportant comparison to you, but let me try to show you why I think it’s relevant. I believe my experience with my childhood Friends and real-life friends is not unique to me and my brother. Even the social media giant, Facebook deems anyone we connect with a “friend.” I wonder if when we transitioned from childhood (and only having friends we created ourselves) to going out into the real world (and making real-life friends) if we didn’t drag along some of our preconceived notions about who those friends are (or should be) along with us. Have we given other people attributes of our own creation without telling them? Do they experience emotions and react in the way we expect them to? Do they do anything according to the way we imagined them to? Are we guilty of having Great (or unrealistic) Expectations of other people? (See, I told you I’d get there eventually.)
I think, if we’re honest, we will see that we expect other people should be who WE THINK they should be instead of the individuals they really are.
In a social media world in which friends are “unfriending” people left and right simply for sharing their differing views and expressing their opposing opinions, I think I see a little shred of evidence that I may be on to something. Perhaps we need to take an honest look at our “friends” and remember that they aren’t made of sawdust and polyester fur, whose feelings can’t really be hurt. They neither offered to love us unconditionally, nor did they promise to always hold the same values and opinions as our own, but for some reason, when we met, we chose to be friends. After sharing some common ground and perhaps good times, do we really want to relegate them to the status of stranger – or worse – enemy? Maybe we need to take a step back, examine our own motives and see if we are projecting too much of ourselves onto other people. Perhaps our disappointment in them is unwarranted because we have never taken enough time to get to know the person they REALLY are versus the person we created them to be in our own minds. Differences should cause us to strive to learn and understand instead of immediately putting up walls of opposition. Originality is to be celebrated! Our friends might actually help shape US into better human beings if we let them. Why be so quick to dismiss a fellow human being over an offense to an inaccurate presupposition?
Going back to my original musings; even though my inclination is to ignore who people tell me they are, I think my preschool self did have something right. Even my “fringe Friends” slept on the bed with me if at all possible.
Friends don’t let Friends sleep on the floor alone.Details
I love the company of my fellow Earth dwellers. What a privilege it is to share in their unique journey through life; it always gives me a feeling of immense connectedness. I think we all long to be connected to someone. No matter how much we claim to be independent and self-sufficient, we are not meant to be solitary creatures. Often we just need a single other being to call a best friend – someone who will commiserate with our hurts, fears, failures, disappointments, and sorrows as well as someone who will share in our joys, achievements, laughter, pride, and contentment. That person doesn’t even have to be a “person” – for many folks, that “best friend” void can be filled by a beloved animal companion. God surely fills that void on so many levels, but I’m not talking about spiritual fulfillment. People also NEED a living, tangible, someone they can touch and be touched by.
In addition to a wide array of loving family and friends, I’m fortunate to have (for the second time in my life) the most amazing life partner/soul mate anyone could ask for. I know not everyone is in that position even once in their lives much less twice, but I think most folks can relate to the idea of an exchange of mutual love. Not the gushy butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of feeling, but REAL love – the kind of love where you know that you’d give your life for someone without a second’s hesitation and you know that they would do the same. If you’ve ever looked into your dog’s eyes while you rub his ears or seen your kitty smile while scratching her neck you’ve experienced that warm fuzzy feeling for which there are not enough (or the right) words in your lexicon. (If you truly have never known any kind of love, then my heart is burdened for you and I want you know that I am moved to pray for your heartache.)
As you’ve suspected, I love interacting my friends, family and animals. They each have so much to teach me and I’m a sponge when it comes to learning. Even if you think you’re not offering anything of substance, I’m soaking it all up and formulating ideas about who you are and what brought you to where you are at this particular juncture of your life. A casual conversation about your trip to the grocery store on your way home can yield a plethora of intriguing information you have no idea you were imparting to me. By the way, nonverbal communication is perhaps more important than all the words thrown down. For instance, the way my horse nuzzles me while I groom her or shows her backside to me after I haven’t visited in far too long tells me volumes about her mood and needs. I love paying attention to what the creatures around me are trying to communicate.
BUT despite being drawn to people like a moth to candlelight, I’m also very much a loner. For the most part I honestly prefer my own company and am satisfied with my own thoughts for conversation. There are many times I’d rather withdraw into a cocoon and wish the world would quit knocking on my door. My mom can attest to the many times I would seclude myself in my room for 3 days at a time and requested that she “hold my calls” – even the calls from my best friend whom I had no reason not to talk to. Nothing much has changed in that respect. I think there’s a certain bi-polar nature to creatives. We (creatives) are either on fire and immersed in our pursuits or we are in re-charge mode. There’s no compromise for either. I have come to grips with the fact that I am either “on” or “off” and I have finally come to know when I need to flip the switch for my own health and sanity. Being “off” means I don’t even have the energy to think or verbalize. Nothing. It’s a blank slate up there – for real. For a Chatty Cathy like me (as my public personality would suggest) it may be hard for you to imagine that I can go for days without uttering a single solitary sound or thinking substantive thoughts but it’s true.
Unfortunately the timing of my on and off modes don’t always coincide with the needs or expectations of others. So I do my best to work within the realm of reality while conserving my precious downtime as much as possible. It can be disconcerting to others when I’m secluded and non-communicative. I’ve learned that people tend to interpret my walled off times as an affront to them when in fact it never (or rarely) has anything to do with anyone else. It can seem like I’m mad or put out, but I’m just on re-charge mode. Not everyone “gets” my modes or knows what to do with them. So I have learned to live with that and I try to be overly extroverted in situations where I would otherwise isolate myself if I had my choice. When I’ve had to exert more energy to be social than I really have on tap, I simply must find time for a deeper re-charge, leading to an extended “people vacation.”
My husband, Neel, and I were just talking about how we were “peopled out” after last weekend’s flurry of social activities. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the moments of flitting around rooms, making friends and enjoying stimulating conversations, but after 3 days and nights of non-stop social events, we were spent. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, we sat silently and limply in our favorite chairs, our critters in various stages of repose around us, and beverages of choice in our hands with the afternoon football games on TV. At one point, he looked over at me after an hour or more of no conversation and said, “I love our life together,” and reached his hand across to mine. I looked over into his eyes, smiled, said “me too,” and stretched my fingertips out to meet his for a brief loving touch. Then we turned away from each other and sank back into our quiet reverie with no misgivings about what we could be saying, or could be doing. Just being in each other’s presence was enough. Having someone in my life who gets the dichotomy of my needing to be a super social butterfly (and performer) but also needs an equal amount of “off” time and doesn’t get offended or take it personally is priceless.Details