Use Your Brain to Use Your Vote

Voting-Quote-7Politics. While national politics is always a loud, name calling, insane state of affairs; during the months leading up to the presidential election it escalates to a fevered pitch.  This post is not about my personal political leanings, instead it is about the process of this political season and what it should mean.

While the candidates and their rhetoric, back stabbing and flip flopping are enough to make my head hurt, it is more the mass of uninformed voters that make me crazy…and frankly a bit fearful for our future.

The privilege of living in a country where all of its citizens have the right to vote is a true blessing and should be taken seriously. Instead, many just don’t bother or they do not make researched, well thought out decisions.  These politicians will not only be representing you and your county but they will have a hand in the laws that we all live under and abide by.  Would it not be in your best interest to study the platforms and policies of each candidate and fully understand what each brings to the position they will be elected to? To do research on other countries or periods in history that had leaders who used similar policies?

This is not to imply in any way that one candidate is innately better than another. That is for the voter to decide.  As a voter, however, your job is to be well informed.  If you back candidate A, it should be a reasonable expectation for you to be able to explain why.  Don’t you think so? If you are so riled up that you need to scream and yell and protest Candidate B, you should be able to explain why when asked.  I am not talking blanket terms here. No, words like ‘Liar’, ‘Bigot’, ‘Radical’, ’Elitist’, ’Crony’, ‘Obstructionist’, ‘Fringe’, ‘Establishment’, ‘Crook’, ‘Bleeding Heart’, and ‘Blowhard’. I mean show that you know what you are talking about.  We all see it every day don’t we?

Why are you protesting Candidate A?

“Because he/she is a _____!!”

What makes you say that? How do you feel about his/her stance on the economy/healthcare/foreign policy?

“He/She is a ______! “

Why are you voting for Candidate B?

“Because Candidate A is a ______!” or “Because he/she is great!”

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Sorry, that does not fly with me. How can you call yourself an American if you do not at least try to learn as much as you can and choose your leaders wisely?  How can you call yourself an American if you try and prevent others from doing the same?  The same goes for those who vote by party lines. It does not matter who the candidate is as long as he/she is a Democrat or Republican.  So ridiculous!

Consider this, during the primaries the candidates of the SAME party debate and bicker and slam each other’s platform and policies. The SAME party! It is the individual who takes office.  Yes, of course the party will have say (or sway) in what actually gets done….but to a large degree it is the individual who puts forth what is considered.

Another point to think about is those who focus solely on one aspect of a candidate’s platform without knowing or caring about the rest. Then they are shocked and dismayed when “their” candidate “betrays” them and does exactly what they said they would during the campaign.

Please people, please…listen, read, learn. Knowledge is a powerful thing. Treat the privilege of being able to vote with the seriousness and thought it deserves.

polyCompare and contrast ALL of the candidates. Learn what the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Socialist, and Green (etc.) parties stand for. What current or past governments have been run under these particular styles of leadership? How did they do? Look at our own history. Educate yourself.  Don’t surrender your voice…vote, but vote with knowledge!  Our future depends on it.

33 Things

33 Things I want my children to know as they navigate through life(in no particular order):

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  1. If you don’t like your situation, CHANGE IT.
  2. Make it your goal to be healthy… not society’s current idea of body perfection.
  3. Don’t look to a man/woman or to me or to any other human to give you a sense of worth. Find your sense of worth within you.
  4. Try new things as often as possible, even if you’re scared.
  5. Be humble but confident.
  6. Never apologize or give excuses for saying NO. Just say it and own it.
  7. Always cheer for the underdog
  8. Trust your gut…it is trying to tell you things. Listen.
  9. Go be you, we will love you whether you are two feet , or 20,000 miles away.
  10. If you choose a man/woman, choose one who treats the people in their life well, who works hard, who is not afraid to show emotions, who makes you laugh, who supports you and finds your ‘crazy’ endearing.
  11. Don’t worry about being popular, just be you
  12. Know that you are always loved and thus never alone.
  13. Believe in yourself, no matter what.
  14. Never settle.
  15. Take care of yourself, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
  16. Choose your friends wisely, you may be judged by their actions.
  17. Save for a rainy day
  18. Never, ever stop learning new things
  19. Find something to be passionate about
  20. Find something you find calming and relaxing
  21. Keep your word…so be sure before you give it
  22. Say what you mean and mean what you say
  23. Positivity always pays off.
  24. Nothing is as bad as it seems. Nothing.
  25. You are capable of handling far more than you think.
  26. The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing.
  27. You can’t love another fully until you love yourself
  28. Own and embrace your imperfections, then they cannot be used against you.
  29. Change is necessary.
  30. Worry is the biggest enemy of the present moment.
  31. In almost every case, nothing is stopping you… nothing is holding you back but your own thoughts about yourself – your perception of the way life is.
  32. The more you give, the more you get.
  33. You are responsible for your own life.

 

Why Prayer?

prayerquotes.gifWe know that Jesus teaches us it is necessary to ask before we receive, seek before we find, knock before the door will be opened.  Basically, God wants us to pray.

Let me tell you what I know about prayer….

Prayer is simply a conversation with God. It’s asking Him to meet your need or someone else’s. It’s praising Him and thanking Him. Prayer doesn’t have to be long, loud, or eloquent. It does not require you to be on your knees or have your hands folded or head bowed. There is no required method of prayer. It is simply spending time with God. Prayer is talking to Him sincerely and honestly.  This is your time with God, yours alone. Prayer, in its purest form is communication with God.  Prayer can come from a joyous, repentant, forlorn, downtrodden, anxious, forgiving, or broken heart. It can be a simple thought, a spoken free form or traditional prayer, a song, or a question.

When we pray, we open the door for God to come into our problems and situations and work on them.

Prayer unleashes within us a deeper communion with God. It strengthens and enriches our faith in Him and that in turn helps motivate us to live our lives in service to Him and others.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you must pray in a particular way. Your relationship with God is between you and Him.  Communicate with and praise Him in any way that brings you closer to Him.pray.jpg

With all of that being said, prayer is something that I continue to work on in my own life. I fully understand and appreciate the significance and importance of prayer in my life. Yet I often struggle with it. I struggle with opening up my heart and my mind and letting my feelings and thoughts flow freely.  I struggle to quiet my thoughts and listen to God’s voice.   I am always working on improving my relationship with God.  I talk to Him often, but for me not often enough.  I get angry at myself when I begin to pray in earnest, but then my mind wanders and life creeps in.  I feel bad that my attention drifted from such an important conversation.  I want to have easy, familiar conversation with God.  He is my Holy Father after all!  I am always, always working on this.  Practice makes perfect.

I feel guilt too.  I know that God isn’t a wish-granting genie, yet I often feel that I beseech Him to intercede way too often. I know that He is okay with this. I know He knows my heart and my intentions. But still….

I will always strive to make prayer a regular and consistent part of my daily life. I will always try to improve my prayer life and my relationship with God.

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PC is not for me

America is a country that prides it’s self on its freedoms. Yet in today’s climate of hypersensitivity and political correctness we are eroding away at that basic right.  While I may or may not agree with what you have to say, I do agree that you have the right to say it.  Political correctness is also making people afraid to speak up, afraid to say what they really think and feel.  You can say what you want, that is your right, but I have the right to walk away, disagree or lawfully protest.  I do not have the right to cause you physical harm, cause vandalism, prevent you from speaking, or in any other way break our laws.quote-i-disapprove-of-what-you-say-but-will-defend-to-the-death-your-right-to-say-it-voltaire-334856.jpg

People need to just stop. Stop looking for reasons to be insulted. Stop looking for intentions that may or may not even be there. Stop being overly sensitive and overly hostile to those who think or speak differently than they do. The term ‘micro-aggression’ makes me crazy. When you use that word you are putting your perceived slight or insult on someone else who has no idea what you are talking about.

Can words hurt? Yes! Of course.  I am by no means saying you should accept someone verbal or emotionally abusing you.  We should, however, try and take into account the intent behind the words.  Think about who is saying it and why.  Age, sex, upbringing as well as regional and cultural differences can significantly alter a person’s choice of words and the intent and meaning of those words.

I also think that part of being a part of a nation known as the “melting pot” means that we all need to just calm down.  We need to be accepting of others and that includes being accepting of thoughts, words and opinions that we don’t agree with or that we find insulting.   I love the term “melting pot” because it is so apt.  All of the different ingredients in a melting pot combine their various flavors (yet maintain some of what makes them unique) to create something amazing, new and better.

Banning words and condemning freedom of speech and expression is a slippery slope. Who decides what is or is not permissible? Barzun-political-correctness.jpg Hilter burned books he thought were unacceptable…was he right?  No?  What makes it any different?

Perhaps we should filter our thoughts and words through a filter of kindness?  Perhaps that would take care of a lot of these problems?

It’s cool to be kind

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Kindness. It is a simple premise really.  Yet so many people do not practice it in their day to day life.  Why is that?  Why is it so hard to be kind?

 

kind·ness     ˈkīn(d)nəs/

noun: kindness

the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

Is kindness something you just have (or don’t) or is it more like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly to grow strong? I believe it is much more the later.

 

“All your words and actions define the world you want to live in.” ~ Thaddeus Golas

 

In order to be kind, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us. As we notice more things and help others, we get a glimpse of other ways of looking at things.

In society today being coarse, forcefully competitive, aggressive and even mean are seen as a form of, or a path to, success or popularity. Criticism and cynicism are taken as signs of powerful intelligence and success. Being kind is often seen as a weakness.   Being kind does not mean you are a doormat however.

To me, being kind takes a lot of courage. This is especially true in today’s world.  Consider this, what if being mean or unkind is a form of self-protection?  What if a person who feels weak and fears exposure for that weakness will keep others at bay by treating them badly?

There is courage in being kind and open and generous in the face of a culture of cynicism and criticism.  Society often casts suspicion on someone who offers uncompensated and unsolicited kindness. There are plenty of people who believe that others are only kind to them when they want something.  There is a risk to being kind, as you can open yourself up to being hurt or taken advantage of.

We are as whole, social beings. We seek out interactions with each other. Being in a permanent state of mistrust and fear is exhausting, and doesn’t help us at all.  How much better our life (and the lives of those around us) would be if we practiced kindness and empathy and generosity and humility?

When a person performs an act of kindness the brain produces dopamine, associated with positive thinking. It is believed that when a person does an act of kindness they feel good on a chemical level. Being kind is good for you!

When you are kind to others, the impact of your action doesn’t stop there. Kindness spreads.  It softens hearts and makes people more aware of the needs of those around them. kindness-1.jpg

I am a huge believer in the “Random Acts of Kindness” movement. Doing something kind and unexpected is a great idea. Those who then pay it forward to someone else spread kindness like ripples in a pond. Maybe we should use the word spontaneous instead of random.  How about ‘randomly spontaneous’ or ‘spontaneously random’?

It is that moment when you see someone struggling to load groceries into their car and you stop to help, or you mow a neighbor’s lawn without being asked because they are sick, or you have a cup of tea and a chat with an elderly or lonely friend. All it takes is ACTING on the nice thoughts that I know pop into your head. lama kindness It takes times, often it takes patience.

It takes you putting yourself out there and doing something!

 

Give / Give

I-DO-Marriage-Series.jpg   Marriage.   This is such an immensely important word to me.  My husband and I have been married 27 years and we can both honestly say that we love and respect each other more today than when we wed.

We feel that marriage is a sacred thing. It is not to be taken lightly. We are far from perfect. We both have our annoying habits, our disagreements, our disappointments, our struggles.  The one thing that never changes is our love for one another.

Marriage is not a give and take. It is not a 50/50 agreement. It is not simple or easy.

Marriage is give and GIVE. Each of you needs to give 100% to the other without expecting anything in return.  The OTHER person’s happiness is of the utmost importance to you. You will sacrifice freely for your spouse. You have each other’s backs and support and cheer each other on.  Marriage is a lifetime of ‘I dos’ and ‘I wills’. It is waking up each morning and choosing your spouse again and again.

You love each other fiercely and gently as needed. You are open. You are honest. You are intimate.

You need to do these things when you are tired and don’t feel like it.

When you are angry.

When you are upset.

When you are stressed out.

Always.

As a married couple you should put your marriage first. Protect it. Keep it safe and nourished. Show the world you are a united front. Speak well of each other at all times. Keep God in your marriage and seek His guidance in all things.

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In future blog posts I will discuss my thoughts in depth on marriage, husbands and wives. For this post, however, I was just thinking about marriage in a general way and wanted to talk about it. Guess what? That means you get to listen!  I have had too many conversations of late that make me worried and sad about what marriage has become. It is seen as disposable, transient.  People get married and call it their 1st marriage…what does that imply? I notice that when many couples fight they threaten divorce.  Divorce is a word that should be taboo in your marriage. It plants a seed.  I am by no means saying that there are not serious reasons that would make seperation or divorce the right choice.  However, a large percentage of couples separate or divorce simply because they are not willing to bend, or fight for, or sacrifice, or work at it.  So why marry in the first place?  I struggle to understand.  I don’t honestly know if I ever will.

For me there is no greater joy, comfort or peace than to share my life with the man that I love.  Facing life together, hand in hand.

 

 

Who am I?

I am on the backside of forty. I am in the downhill slide into being fifty years old and I am okay with that.  I feel that the older I get the more in touch I am with the ‘real’ me.

I think that is partly because I care less about what others think and more about what I think. I care less if people like me and more if I like them. That may sound self-centered but it is a true statement.

I am no longer afraid to say no to things I don’t want to do and I don’t even feel compelled to give an explanation or excuse. I am okay with no being no.  I have become much less sensitive to criticism. I have become more complex.  I have really started to explore my thoughts and turn them over and over in my head to be sure they are honestly MY thoughts.  I have discovered that I have talked about and defended things in the past that were adopted or absorbed by me.  Somehow I believed that they were my own. Upon reflection I knew that was not so.  When I sat there and tried to explain or defend why I felt the way I did about certain things I realized that I did not know.  Maybe I did not know enough about the topic to make an informed decision, and maybe I did not care enough about the topic to even bother to learn.  Maybe someone in my life felt so passionately about it that I did too, just to feel close to them.  I am not sure exactly.  I am glad that I am working through it all and finding my way back to me.

My feelings toward many things have changed with my age or experiences.  I guess that is not surprising.  At least it shouldn’t be.  I am not the same person I was yesterday, let alone a year (or a decade) ago.  I love that don’t you?who-am-i.jpg  I am fascinated by the woman I am and am so curious about the woman I will become.   I am beginning to pursue my interests and my dreams. I am trying new things and just seeing how it goes. I am enjoying the journey in its own right.

So who am I? Well I have no idea but I am having a darn good time figuring it out!

Reason 1,936,242

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It is totally normal to brag about your children isn’t it? I mean all parents do whether the kids deserve it or not. The new age ‘participation trophy’ mentality that is plaguing parents now-a-days takes parental bragging rights to a whole new level.

I will say though, sometimes you do look at your progeny and smile. Damn, they really turned into fine human beings that contribute to society. At least that is our hope, right?   As a parent of grown adult ‘children’ there are a lot of new things to learn. Such as, you can give advice to your adult offspring but they do not have to take it. Or perhaps, that it is often better to let them come to you with a question or problem then for you to offer answers without being asked.  Or even discovering they know more about a subject than you do and you can go to them with a question.

It is also when you find out, in a sense, how you did with the whole parenting thing. Did your children turn into kind, smart, well rounded, well adjusted, compassionate individuals?  Do they help others and try to make the world a better place?

mrk-on-individuality What I wanted to talk about in this post though is reason number 1,936,242 of why I am particularly proud of my children.

Individuality.

I am the mother to four grown children.  I am extremely proud of the people that they have become. They are all very different in many ways.  I think that is fantastic.  As parents we encouraged them to ask questions, read, investigate, and imagine. In fact “look it up” or “google it” is a mantra in our home.  If my husband or I do not know the answer to what they want to know we look it up together, and we both learn something new.

I love that they think for themselves, debate their opinions and beliefs, and know that even if we disagree with them -we support them. We did not want clones of ourselves (though that would be easier sometimes!).  We wanted them to think their own thoughts, follow their own interests, to dream their own dreams and not to be afraid of new things.  To think outside the box. To be thinkers AND doers. Our children all have very distinct opinions on social issues, politics, education, law, ethics, and so on.  It is very satisfying to hear them have intelligent, informed discussions about worldly matters as well as trivial ones.  I am in awe sometimes.  How could these people debating so well in the other room be my babies?  When did this happen? Recently someone pointed out to me that all four of them chose careers that help people in some way.  Wow.  They did.

I am happy to say, that these young adults really are prepared to go forth and make a difference. As a matter of fact, they already have.

A World of Words

 

Vocabulary. Simply put, one of the crucial building blocks to thinking is the depth and breadth of one’s vocabulary.  The more words that you know, the more eloquently you will be able to communicate your ideas to people. This will help you in all aspects of your life.

The understanding and use of a vast vocabulary allows a person to be able to think in a more concise way and to express themselves more clearly. With a large vocabulary you will notice that you can communicate more effectively, improve people’s perception of you, increase your self-esteem, and add sophistication to your speech.

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When a child first learns to talk, they do it first by listening. Adults, especially parents, should seek to create an environment that is rich in both print and the spoken word. This is critical to a child’s language development and in the long run their ability to think.  Most of the time adults do this naturally. When a child utters the word “kitty” most adults will expand upon that by saying something like “Yes that is a kitty, the kitty says meow. The kitty is soft and has a long tail.” You have just expanded that child’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around her.  As parents, it is incumbent upon us to expand that base knowledge of words. The more a child hears the better. Think aloud, describe what you are seeing or doing, read aloud, talk to them even if all you get back is baby babble.  This is how your child makes connections and builds their vocabulary. Using new words in familiar situations helps them to grow in their ability to understand and use language more precisely.

Don’t think any words are ‘beyond’ their understanding. If you use the word ‘saturated’ instead of wet or soaked …your child will understand what you meant on a basic, generalized level and then it is up to you to reinforce that. “See it is very, very wet. It is saturated.”

Children (and adults!) can expand their world of words by reading. Reading things you love, and things that challenge you will exponentially expand your understanding of words and language.

I try extremely hard not to restrict or steer my children in any particular direction with the books they choose to read. I know, I know…what if they read something that is too mature or disturbing for them? Yes, that could happen. Usually kids are pretty self-regulating but if they do, be there to have that discussion or answer their questions. Let them work through it and watch their mind open up and the learning take hold.  When you see them reading, ask about it. Get a dialog going.  Whether they are reading something way above their reading level or below…if they are enjoying it and getting something out of it, that is all that matters.  They are not just learning about the subject matter of the story, but they are also absorbing the way words fit together to evoke emotion, or perhaps get a point across to the reader.  They are lucky to live in an age where they not only have their parents or teacher but they have the internet readily available if the come across a word they do not understand.

 

I love writing, so words and vocabulary are important to me. I LOVE coming across a word that I don’t know.  I think it is exciting. I always try to use the context of the sentence or story to figure it out, then look it up and see if I am right!  Have you read the ‘Book Thief’?  In the story the young girl does not know how to read, so as she learns if there is a word she does not know she writes it on the wall of the basement.  The wall is like her vocabulary book.  It is a visual expression of her expanding knowledge of words.  She begins to use her new words to beautifully and creatively describe the outside world to her friend Max.  I love this so much.  I want everyone to have that ability. To see and feel something and then to be able to use their words to tell others, in such a way, that they can see and feel it too.

It is never too late. Challenge yourself. Learn. Grow.  Always.

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No is not a 4 letter word

 

As a mom, you want to give your children everything, protect them from all hurts – physical, emotional, real or imagined. You want to give them the world. You just want to keep them happy at all costs

Don’t you?

I am not so sure. In order to become productive, independent, compassionate adults who contribute positively to the world, maybe you should not do that  Maybe, instead, we need to teach them that they are not in fact the center of the universe. Maybe, just maybe, we need to show them that they need to work for things, that failure is not the end of the world, and that not everyone gets a trophy.oppositional-defiance-and-young-kids-is-it-odd-or-just-bratty-behavior_Article

I am opposed to the trend in parenting and child rearing that treats children like little gods. When did adults start deferring to their child’s wishes?  Disappointment and hurts are a part of life. Childhood is the time to practice how to deal with, process and bounce back…all while being in a safe place with Mom and Dad as a backup if you need them.  A backup, not a first line of defense.

I know, I know…you want them to be happy and safe. No matter what.  But I have a secret for you. Move in close and I will share.  I will speak slowly and clearly so you don’t miss any of this.  Here goes……………

By letting your kids run your house and your life and giving into every single whim, you are making them (yourself and your family) miserable in the end. You really are!

But little Timmy was just soooooo upset, I don’t like to see him like that.

So what your saying is you did not do it solely to make little Timmy happy. You mostly did it to make yourself feel better and because it’s just easier to give in.

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Step back and think about this. Yes, it is easier in the now, in the short term.  In the long run however, you are making everyone’s life harder.  You will regret it long term.  Yes it shuts them up and makes them happy and when in public it gets people to stop looking at you.  Here is the thing though; you have just given your small child power.  Power that they are not old enough to handle.  You have also given them knowledge.  You have taught them some important things about yourself, and none of them are flattering.  You have given them the knowledge that there is a large crack in your armor and you have exposed yourself as being weak and easily manipulated.  Great impression huh?  The thought that the one person who is supposed to defend and protect them is weak, is in many ways frightening for a child.  Listen, kids fight the system now and then, but if past experience has taught them that they can outwit and outlast you, they will fight that system all the time with everything they’ve got.  Welcome to Tiny Tyrants.

 

Unfortunately this trend has presented us with an abundance of whiney, self-centered, easily offended young adults and teens. They struggle more than they should with how to handle bad grades, making hard choices, not winning, bullying, and all sorts of ‘real life’ woes.  They have never practiced. Parents (and especially it seems mothers) have a difficult time tolerating their child’s disappointment.  Is that because the child is hurt or sad or because that parent wants to do ‘a good job’?  Probably it’s a combination of both. Again, I totally understand the concept and the feeling behind it.  Seriously though, don’t you want a kid who knows you are there for them AND who knows they can handle things themselves?  Don’t you want them to have self-confidence and strength and adaptability?

My children were stunned and dismayed when they went to college and realized that a large majority of college freshman don’t know how to do laundry, shop for groceries, cook, find their way around, get a prescription when sick, or speak to a professor when then have a problem. How sad is that?  I watched many times when parents would arrive on campus for a visit and proceed to clean their child’s dorm room, bring enough food (which they carefully put away for them), returned clothes washed and folded that they had brought back from home. Parents who call to wake up their son or daughter to get to class on time or call to make sure they have done their homework! These are 19, 20 and 21 year old ADULTS!

Sorry but no.

Why would you want your child to be like this? Why would you inflict this helpless, narcissistic, entitled person on the world?

Children need to learn how to delay gratification. To wait. To work toward something and achieve it. To save up and earn it. To put in blood and sweat and tears and finally accomplish something.  You know that feeling right?  I DID IT!  Look mommy I did it all by myself!

Why in the heck would you deprive your child of that feeling of personal pride?

What about respecting themselves, you and others? What a concept, right?

Let’s all be actual parents…not peers or pals or buddies. Model good behavior and let them see how people should act. Let them see you and others performing acts of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, mercy and love.  Teach them to put others before themselves. Teach them sacrifice for their beliefs.  Teach them to think for themselves.  To get up and brush themselves off and start again when they fail or fall.  Teach them that there are consequences for every action and decision – both good and bad. Make them make decisions and choices and live with those consequences.

To put a spin on Gandhi’s words – TEACH the change you want to see in the world.