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Showing posts from March, 2009

Kid’s Eye View

Five hundred children were packed into the elementary school gymnasium. It was assembly time.I watched little faces, some edged with pre-teen boredom, others gleaming with unmerited enthusiasm.. Some kids obviously took pride in their appearance, others dressed for comfort. Some were part of a cute little clique, others tended to drift alone. Some friends seemed unusual combinations- the almost 6-foot-tall fifth grader and his buddy, who came up a little higher than his elbow. Another was tall solid girl with long natural wavy hair and glasses, chatting happily with a petite blonde with a ponytail and name brand clothes.As I scanned the faces, all shapes, colors, and sizes, I wondered what life was like for them. Surely some are happy-go-lucky, enjoying school, and living in a safe, loving home. Others may give that appearance but really struggle with abuse, self-doubt, or poverty. They each had different reactions to receiving awards. Some were obviously purely excited for the recogn…

Be Yourself

Where can you be yourself?Is that a silly question? Isn’t it healthy to always be yourself?At work, I am not myself. I have to wear dress-up clothes and make-up to look professional. I have to say “good morning!” whether I believe it’s a good morning or not. I have to smile and nod even when someone asks me to do something I don’t want to do or don’t feel is my job to do. I have to bite my tongue when someone at the corporate level says or does something utterly ridiculous. When I say I have to do something, I mean I have to do it in order to keep my job, which happens to be a priority to me at the moment. I do believe everything is a choice in life. At church, I am more myself. I still try to make myself presentable. I feel I can be more sincere in my greetings, because I care more about the people there. I can be a little more honest about my desire or ability to take on new projects, although I hate to say no to anybody. I do struggle to let people know my true feelings…At club, I …

Reflections on Depression

I wrote that last poem almost 10 years ago. I had just had a miscarriage, had failed to keep a church ministry alive, and could not find employment in my chosen career field. I know what depression is. I know what it’s like to feel like there’s no hope, that life hurts too much to continue forward. I know what it’s like thinking that others are better off without you. I had imagined all the ways to end it, but couldn’t find the strength to go through with it. There was also a spark of something within, probably God’s quiet spirit, that wouldn’t allow me to destroy something that He had created, as miserable and wretched as it seemed.This all comes back to me as I read about the life a young man who gave up the fight. From everything his co-workers express, he was bright, funny, warm, and kind. I wish I’d known him. I wish somehow some small voice could have let him know how much his life was cherished, how much he was loved and appreciated by everyone around him, before he made that f…

Fighting Depression

Cold black handsDark, eerie whispersSurround, Confoundthe heartSeeping throughCracksFrustration, IndecisionConfusion… hopelessnessSecret yearnings foranendMalevolent, distasteful, gruesomeYet sweetin thoughtNo more black, no more nightNo more struggle or fightOrChange, Hope, LightA brighter future in sight?Break free, oh heartYour time is nowBurst forth, come outYou will beat onand on.

Heading for…

I finally finished my work at 5:30, an hour and a half later than I had planned to leave the office. I was on my own for dinner. My husband had brilliantly and lovingly offered to take the children to Chuck E. Cheese for the evening. As I slid into the driver’s seat of my minivan and turned the key in the ignition, I tried to decide what to do. Eating at home would require cooking, and possibly grocery shopping. Wendy’s and Popeye’s were nearby, but a little old hat. By now I was pulling out of the parking lot and heading north. By the time I reached the end of the T-intersection, I thought maybe a barbecue sandwich at Dairy Queen would be the ticket. I headed east toward downtown. By the time I came to the first stop sign, I realized I didn’t really want any ice cream. I headed north. Was there an Arby’s on this side of town? No. Too bad. I needed caffeine, and a Jamocha shake would be perfect. Taco Bell always offers cheap, tasty food, and I could get one of those blue Mountain Dews…

Rights and Responsibilities

Andrea Tannouri of http://www.twittertango.com/ says, "Take the word victim off of your person—out of your vocabulary. It reeks with the old energy and does not suit your magnificence.”Now, I’m not sure about old energy or how magnificent I am, but I do agree with trashing the victim mentality. Victimhood results from someone with an overdeveloped sense of rights, and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility.If I believe I have the right to health, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness, yet don’t take responsibility for making it a reality, I will feel victimized. After all, it’s somebody’s responsibility. Who is letting me down? Who is keeping me from being healthy? Who is mis-managing my money? Who is determining my feelings and not giving me what I want?The “rights” we receive are privileges granted by God and our country. We don’t automatically have a right to anything, except what is dictated by laws and social rules. We don’t have a right to housing, or employment, or f…

Dreamin’

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about jobs and careers. I have come to the conclusion that there is no reason a person shouldn’t go after their dream job.One of my friends has been going to school for several years to get her Master’s in counseling, while running her own restaurant at the same time. She started to realize about 10 years ago that she wanted to use her listening ear and life experience to help others in need, and after defining her goal, worked steadily toward it.Another friend would like to be a full-time youth pastor. However, he has to decide whether it’s important enough to him to go back to school. He has been out of work for six months and is trying to figure out how to make a living in the mean time.A third friend is miserable in his current situation- he has to work late hours, has to choose between pleasing his boss and being civil to his clients, and is constantly hounded to do more. His dream job would be coaching college basketball. While he may n…

Teaching Compassion

As a child, I remember fighting with my siblings to get my fair share. In those times, one of my father’s favorite sayings was “It’s not all about you.” While often said with force and intended to end the argument, the underlying message remains. Life is not about self or what you want or what makes you happy. Life is infinitely richer than the narrow framework of self. It involves interacting with and caring for other people.

At the early stages of a child’s life, the parents make a choice to pander to every felt need of that child, or at some point communicate to him that parents are people too. When a toddler is told “no” he begins to realize he is not the center of the universe and is not entitled to have all his desires met. He learns some actions are unsafe and others are not kind.

Compassion is also taught in parental response to their children in times of pain, sadness, or fear. An attentive parent learns to distinguish the types of cries. A child needs to know that her parent …

Cotton Candy

Ever wonder where cotton candy came from?

Whenever you go to the fair, amusement park, or circus, you’re likely to see food vendors with blue and pink fluffy cotton candy, some in packages as large as a young child. The texture is soft, but sticks to the moisture of your fingers or tongue. In your mouth, it melts down to almost nothing, leaving a pure sweetness behind.

Cotton candy has been around for a long time, although not in its current form. The Iranians created a confection called “Pashmak” from sugar and sesame oil, which was probably the predecessor to our modern day cotton candy. Pashmak means “like wool.”

Recipes for spun sugar are found in European cookbooks back to the mid-eighteenth century. Confectioners would go to great lengths to carefully melt sugar and fling the floss like strands into carefully crafted shapes. They would create spun sugar nests for Easter and sugar webs to decorate desserts.

In 1897 William Morrison and John Wharton patented a candy machine that produ…

Survivor's Guilt

NPR dubbed it Economic Survivor’s Guilt. It’s that deep sense of guilt someone experiences when he or she still has a job, when friends or colleagues do not.

It’s not the same as surviving a major event, like the Holocaust or 9/11. After all, these people are still alive. They’re with us every day. They still shop at the grocery store, attend church, and eat at restaurants. They are caring for their children, playing with their dogs, planning trips.

Yet when I go to work every day, they have nowhere to go. When I expect a deposit into my bank account every two weeks, they’re hoping to hear from the unemployment office. As I juggle the demands of my boss and co-workers and my own agenda, they are scanning the classifieds and online listings for something that fits. When I complain about the hours or the stress or the unreasonable expectations, they are trying to fill their hours with meaningful things, struggling with their own identity. When I am wishing for a way out of the …

Poetry in motion

I came across some really old papers today- like almost 20 years old! I found some poetry I had written about 10 years ago. Here’s a taste… let me know if it leaves you hungry for more, or running for the door (that rhymed!)

Crystal cold
Whispers of breath
ascend to the heavens
Dark fingers of trees
against an awakening sky
Violet mountains of clouds
in the distance
Harsh rasp of a dog’s bark
breaks the silence
Windows dark, streets bare
Rubber against pavement
in a steady rhythm
Her body sings with adrenaline
She is awake- she is alive!
In a world that is cold and dead
A quiet victory

Time Travel

They swam in squiggles and lazy circles- gold, pink, speckled. “That one’s fat!” said my daughter. “Look! There’s more over here!” exclaimed my son, pointing to the far area of the koi pond at the front of the Chinese restaurant.

For just a moment, I lost myself in my children’s world, gazing at the large multi-colored fish as they swam through the clear water, gliding past one another in silence, fins moving gracefully back and forth. “I like the blue speckled one,” I said, pointing.

“What’s a speckle?” asked my daughter. I tried to explain and tried to stay in that world as long as possible, looking almost longingly as the carved Chinese men decorating the bridge across the faux mountain range.

As adults we are so anxious and busy, we rarely take time to notice the small delights around us. Sometimes, we even force our children along when they want to enjoy the journey. There may not even be a reason, except we have a never-ending “to-do” list that has taken top importance in ou…
Have you ever wondered what the difference between peer pressure and accountability is? Lately I’ve been doing things I don’t want to do because someone has strongly encouraged me to. I found out that one of my favorite exercise classes at the Y takes place at the same time as my kids’ gymnastics lessons. It’s an incredibly convenient way to get in a good workout. It doesn’t mean I really want to change into my workout clothes and actually do exercise. However, just because an acquaintance mentioned she saw me at the class before and was looking forward to seeing me last night, I made myself go.

Peer pressure or accountability?

In order for something to be accountability, three requirements must be met. First, there has to be permission granted. If I communicate to you that I’m okay with you reminding me of my exercise plans, you are holding me accountable. If you grab my donut from me just because I said I want to lose some weight, you’d better run.

Secondly, there has to be …

Life

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” - Tony Robbins

When someone as beautiful, talented, and blessed as Natasha Richards passes on, we all pause. Our hearts break for young sons, a devoted husband, and other family and friends. We wonder what plans they had for after their ski trip, for next year, for the future. We wonder about the last mundane conversation with her husband was about before she fell.

It makes me wonder… if I died tomorrow… what would people remember about me? Have I made good with the gift of life given to me? Have I used the talents and knowledge developed in my lifetime for the best use? Have I, as Henry David Thoreau said, “...live[d] deep and suck[ed] out all the marrow of life… live[d] so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life… cut a broad swath and shave[d] close… drive[n] life into a corner, and reduce[d] it to its lowest terms...”?

Life is so precious…

Happy Green Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to give you the words of Kermit the Frog (special thanks tohttp://www.guntheranderson.com ):It’s not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like thatIt’s not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over ‘cause you’re
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the skyBut green’s the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a treeWhen green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to beNext time you wish you could be smarter, or taller, or more creative, or faster, or stronger… take a lesson from our little green friend. Even when it’s not easy being who …

Love my GPS!

Pre-Mapquest, for those of you who don’t remember, finding an unknown address relied on memory, hastily written notes on a napkin or scrap of paper, or a hand-drawn map never made to scale. With Mapquest, or Google for you non-traditionalists, you could get step by step directions, and an accurate point by point map. With recent upgrades, you can map out up to 10 locations on one trip. You can avoid certain roads if you know they are under construction, or if you don’t like toll roads.Even with such fantastic technology, it’s still fallible. Mapquest relies on the information that it receives. It doesn’t always know about new roads or closed roads or flooding or changed street names. Sometimes, for one reason or another, it’s just plain wrong. I think the success people experience in life is decided largely by the set of directions they go by. Some people don’t have any direction. They just wander through life, letting detours and the influence of others determine where they wi…

Chicago Part 2

The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 57th Street and Lakeshore Dr. More information can be obtained at 773-684-9844 or http://www.msichicago.org. This museum makes science fun with interactive exhibits and demonstrations. Exhibits include exploring a trip to the future, the Toymaker 3000, and the Whispering Gallery. Kids can engage in real science experiments, or learn about their world at the Omnimax theater.The Field Museum is located at 1400 S. Lakeshore Dr. More information can be obtained at 312-922-9410 or http://www.fieldmuseum.org. This museum explores history, archaeology, and natural science. Exhibits include Sue, the T-rex fossil, DNA exploration, rock and fossil exhibits, learning about mummies, and the history of chocolate. Self-guided tours are available on the website.Chicago’s Children’s Museum is located at 700 E. Grand Ave. More information can be obtained at 312-527-1000 or http://www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org. Three floors of interactive exhibi…

Chicago Part 1

Hey devoted readers!

Have to take a break from new blogs for a couple days… I’m working on a project. Enjoy my article on tourism in Chicago.

As Frank Sinatra sang, “Chicago is my kind of town.” With parks, museums, theaters, and restaurants, Chicago has a lot to offer a vacationing family.

Navy Pier is located at 600 E Grand Ave. More information can be obtained at 800-595-PIER or http://www.navypier.com. It is Chicago’s playground, with a variety of activities and scheduled programs, including Toddlin’ Thursdays for the tiny set and Family Fun Days. Pier Park includes a carousel, a giant ferris wheel, miniature golf, and other activities. Free entertainment is offered year-round, including fireworks displays.

Millennium Park is located at 201 E. Randolph St. More information can be obtained at 317-742-1168 or http://www.millenniumpark.org. This park offers guided nature tours, and is surrounded by unusual architecture and larger than life sculpture, including an interactive fount…

My new love

So I met tom last week. I met him through a friend of mine. He was like no one I had ever met before. He’s incredibly intelligent. He’s got this great voice, and he knows exactly where he’s going. He’s reliable, and he’s helped me through some sticky situations.

I spent a lot of time with tom last week. He went with me almost everywhere I went. He’s helped me through some sticky situations. I trusted him to help me find my way, and was always there for me. He never lied, but always stayed on the straight and narrow.
I don’t know what my life was like before tom. I was lost, alone, and confused. He became a beacon to me, shining the way through the darkness. This past week has opened my eyes to the possibilities. He made me feel safe, and I knew he wouldn’t let me down.

Now, my relationship with tom has been severed. He was with me while my friend was out of town, but now he’s back with her. What am I going to do without him? I feel like I need him in my life. Maybe I can…

With Cheese, Please

So, I’m pulling into the Burger King drive-thru and really wishing that I could have come a half an hour earlier for breakfast. I decide not to get too fancy, so I order a #10 (I think) whatever is a Whopper, Jr. combo meal, with cheese. And onion rings. And a Dr. Pepper.I realized that the amount I was quoted ($6+) was more than the listed price plus tax, but I was in such a good mood (see previous blog) that I didn’t really care too much. I was also distracted by a family friend whose wife works at BK. He asked me what I was doing there in the drive-thru line. I told him I was hungry. He said I should go to McDonald’s. When I threatened to tattle on him to his wife, he said, “Oh, I bring McDonald’s here all the time.” So at the window, the very cheerful but slightly confused worker asks me, “Did you order a double cheeseburger?” I hesitated, because I was actually considering the double cheeseburger before I finally decided on the Whopper, Jr. (with cheese). “No, a Whopper …

Caught!

I was meandering down a windy street, heading for the BK for an early lunch, when I saw blue and red lights flashing from the other side of the street.My initial reaction was something like, “Yes! Uh huh! ‘Bout time. You thought you’d get away with it, then blam!” I was pretty sure the little red sedan had made an illegal right turn in a construction area, and Mr. Policeman was there waiting. Why did I have such a mean-spirited, taunting reaction to the poor gentleman?This had been a legal right turn, and a shorter way to get to the north side of town, before the city decided to rebuild the 6-lane bridge. According to my 8-yr-old, it’s been at least 3 months. So when that no right turn sign went up, I fumed, but I obeyed. I also watched as others slowed to a near halt trying to make the same illegal turn, backing up traffic in the process.It’s nice to see justice once in awhile. It’s nice to know that for once, someone blatantly disobeyed the law and had to pay the price. Hav…

Stabbed in the Back

Nothing is quite like finding out that another person has been saying things about you that not only are untrue, but are mean-spirited and may cost you your job.I rarely cry. I guess I want to believe that most people are basically good, that they wouldn’t go out of their way to hurt another person. I don’t know if it was a lack of sleep, or other little stresses, but the thought of someone who can look me in the face one day and tell me how helpful I was to one of her friends, and the next day, throw me to the wolves… set me over. I couldn’t concentrate on work, and I started to feel nauseous. I went to the bathroom, and the tears started to flow. I prayed for the strength to forgive, to resist giving this person the cold shoulder or telling others what a… kind of person she really is. I did some deep breathing. I was able to tell my husband about it over lunch, which helped. I try not to let things like this affect me so strongly. My boss says I take things too personally. I…

True Beauty

I’ve always heard it said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I always took it as a truism, just like, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” But tonight, I was challenged to think differently.Still in study of “The Truth Project,” God is the originator of creativity. He bestowed various gifts upon humankind to use for His glory. He gave us a desire to use these gifts- to design, to create, to express truths, to create order out of chaos. That is what work is supposed to be, an expression of who God created you to be.So if someone creates something, does that make it beautiful? Is it truly a decision of the beholder whether or not something is beautiful?No. I now believe beauty is a quality in and of itself, like truth, goodness, righteousness, or love. The human body is beautiful, but pornography is ugly. Language is beautiful, but hate is ugly. Music is beautiful, but profanity is ugly.The beauty we are able to see in other people represents God’s handiwork at its …

Demystifying Yoga

I was there. Yoga was some freaky, Eastern religion-type activity reserved for ninjas and hippies. It was the picture of a woman dressed in white, sitting crosslegged with her fingers forming perfect circles, a serene smile on her face while she says, “Ohmmmmmmmmm.”I’ve been a member of the Y for several years, but have never stepped foot in a yoga class. I had no desire to. If I wanted to lose weight, I was going to stick to the cardio machines and the weight room. Yoga wasn’t real exercise. Besides, I have the flexibility of a 2x4. The real yoga people would probably laugh at my weak attempts. And I refuse to wear a leotard.I did buy a DVD on ebay- Yoga Booty Ballet. Those darn infomercials! I don’t think I got through the whole session before I got fed up with “opening your heart to the sun” and other new-agey type talk. Yoga was definitely not for me.Then I met Ann. Ann has been a family friend for many years, but just started caring for my children a few years ago. A…

Playing Dead

It’s Saturday, and I have to go to work. Just a few minutes from home, I see an odd object in the opposite side of the road. It looks like maybe a branch that’s fallen off a nearby tree. I slow as I get closer- as much to see what it is as to comply with the speed limit in a hospital zone.It’s… an animal, an opossum. It’s perfectly still and upright. If it weren’t for the streak of red down the side of it’s face, I would have guessed it was alive. It’s not moving. It must have been flipped up on it’s haunches when it got hit by a car. I feel sorry for it.Then, I wondered. How many of us look like we’re upright and alive, but inside, we’re really dead? What does it mean to be truly alive? Is it having a lot of friends? Is it experiencing nature close up? Is it a script: Be born, go to school, get job, get married, have kids, retire, die? Is it the kind of fear experienced on a roller coaster or the happiness of falling in love?I maintain that life requires growth. When …

Focus

I heard a great illustration at Youth Convention last year. Jarrod Jones was our speaker and he said, “You shouldn’t make God first in your life.” (http://www.jarrodjones.com).What? My whole life I had been trying to make God first in my life. When I was 13, at a youth convention far far away, the speaker asked, “What is most important to you?” My answer was “softball.” “As a Christian, Christ should be the most important thing in your life.” That moment changed my life. I had been living what I thought was a Christian life. I didn’t cheat in school. I was nice to most people. I worked hard at volleyball and basketball and track and softball. I attended church and Sunday school and youth group and even volunteered in the nursery. Ever since then I had striven to make God first. And now this speaker is telling me not to do that? “God should be the focus of your life.” He went on to describe a picture, with a circle labeled “Jesus” as the center. From that circle come rays, …

Hope or Else!

I was proselytized today. It was a little scary, actually. I was driving back to the office from a Chamber networking event, when my gas light came on. So I dutifully stopped at a gas station at a busy intersection. As I watched the electronic display, the numbers went up, up, up…A mini-van pulled up, I thought, to the pump on the opposite side. I nicely dressed, middle-aged lady stepped out. Still in networking mode, I flashed a shiny smile and gave a friendly “hello.” I thought maybe she was from the same event. Then she whipped out a piece of printed paper and told me something about wanting to spread hope in “these times.” She gave me the latest edition of “Watchtower," a publication of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then she got back into the van (the passenger side, I now realize) and the van drove off back into the street.It occurred to me that for someone reason these two people spotted me from behind and pulled up into the gas station, just to talk to me. I felt a litt…

Gotta Have Faith

I was going through my twitterfeed, and two quotes struck me. British prime minister Gordon Brown said in his address to US Congress: "We conquer our fear of the future through our faith in the future." (Reported by NPR's Andrea Seabrook). Author Leonard Sweet said (twittered), "True faith is not our firm hold on certain truths, but trust in God's loving, sure hold on us."

Faith. What is it? Is it looking with blinders on, neither to the right or left, but clinging to what we've always known? Is it boundless hope, caught up in the idea that if we wish hard enough, what we want will come to pass?

As wonderful as Mr. Brown's speech was: "So we must educate our way out of the downturn, invest and invent our way out of the downturn, and re-tool and re-skill our way out of the downturn;" I don't have faith in the future in itself. I pray that God has mercy on our nation and the nations of the world and allows for a less stressful eco…

Fountain of Youth

After our Truth Project study group last night, Gary said to me, “I wish I could figure out a way to take all that energy your son has and bottle it up.”My son is six years old and hops out of bed in the morning and doesn’t stop moving until we strong arm him into bed at night. His blessed kindergarten teacher says he is “kinesthetic.” Even at church he bounds into the fellowship hall, ripping off his coat, making his way to the nearest plaything. I found him after choir practice Sunday morning making hand shadows on the wall. He bounces from Sunday School somewhat like Tigger, bounding after one of his seven cousins. They say youth is wasted on the young, and I always thought that was lame. I guess I was young then. I guess that’s why The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is such an interesting movie. Imagine having the energy of youth and the experience of age. I think we can tap into the Fountain of Youth by taking some time to enjoy the things we enjoyed as kids. We have to t…

It's a Zoo!

As part of our marriage enrichment Sunday School class, we had to take a personality quiz. My husband and I determined that each family member has a different personality. My husband is creative, people-oriented, enjoys being the center of attention, and is a lot of fun. His personality is also considered Yellow, Expressive, Inspirational, or an Otter.My son is relaxed, people-oriented, enjoys acceptance, and is slow to act- especially when getting ready for school! His personality is also considered Green, Amiable, Steady, or a Retriever.My daughter is adventurous, task-oriented, enjoys being in charge, and has a bulldozer mentality- especially with her little brother! Her personality is also considered Red, Driver, Dominant, or a Lion.I am creative, analytical, task-oriented, enjoy things done right (okay perfect), and tend to have a melancholy outlook on things (although I love a good laugh). I am also considered Blue, Analytical, Cautious, or a Beaver. It was actually a hug…

Antidote for Mad Hatter Disease

Did you know where the term "mad as a hatter" came from? Apparently, back in the olden days, hatters would use a mercury compound to make felt hats. Too much mercury exposure led to poisoning. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendencies. So, the Mad Hatter in Alice and Wonderland had good reasons for acting a little well, crazy.

My question is, what is poisoning you in your work? I work in an industry where communication is vital. It's not beneficial to hold a grudge and stop talking to someone. Disagreements must be addressed and resolved quickly. In health care, poor communication can mean everything from irritated family members to death.

Forgiveness is the only way to detoxify your system. When you are angry or frustrated with someone, you allow them to control your feelings, sometimes even your life. If you don't let go of your hurt and allow God to heal, your body turns on you. You might get headaches, acid …