Thursday, August 30, 2012

Adolescence in crisis: part II

The pathetic nature of the teenage and young adult population grows with each days morning newspaper. Are the editors at the USA Today trying to paint a picture of a dim witted, incapable generation unable to navigate the world as we know it? Or maybe the facts just speak for themselves and journalists are simply relaying the information to the general public. Given the nature of the articles I'm beginning to believe the latter. You can't make this stuff up. And it really is for the safety of all America that the truth be told.
So, today's eye opening realization about teenagers/young adults? Apparently they can't walk very successfully. While other segments of the young population (ie. toddlers, children) have seen reduced numbers in pedestrian accidents, the teenage population has seen a stark rise in incidents. The young kids seem to be picking up on the "don't walk in front of a moving vehicle" rule of law. Their incident rate has dropped 16%. Snaps for the little kids! But boo to the teenagers. They have a rise in incident.
A huge rise actually: a shocking 25%.
Researches are blaming cell phone usage. Teenagers are so distracted by their cell phones that they forget how to walk, see cars, hear horns and use a cross walk. Instead they are busying "lol"-ing and probably sending pictures that are borderline inappropriate to their friends instead of focusing on the MAC truck barreling down the highway with limited quick stopping power. Now, not only do drivers have to worry about fellow drivers texting but add into the mix texting walkers and the world just became a very scary place to operate a motor vehicle!
My concern goes beyond matters on the road. This whole teenage generation has me a bit worried for the future of our country. Just the other day we learned that students entering college can't figure out how to do their own laundry or clean up a dorm room. That was shocking enough - and highly pathetic. On top of that, they can't safely cross the road. Does anyone else see a problem here? The next generation is unable to function in society! How in the world will they ever lead a country, manage international affairs or delegate workers for a successful business? No foreign leader will welcome in a US delegate who hasn't washed their clothes since their Mom last came to visit. And who would insure the leading of a nation to someone who shouldn't be entrusted with the leading of children across a busy street? To be able to tackle the big tasks, first the simple, common sense routines of life have to be mastered. Somehow an entire generation (statistically speaking) has missed this principle.
But do not fear, for I once again have a solution for this epidemic that is threatening the future of our nation and the safety of all innocent driving peoples. I propose a nation wide shut off of all cell phones operated by teenagers. I'm not talking a forever and ever amen powering down, just a temporary return to the days of old when all ten years old didn't have to be in constant communication with each other via mobile device. For a brief time we could show teenagers that life does go on even if the phone is powered down. I propose that this cell phone moratorium would last roughly three days. I'm not trying to kill these kids, just teach them a valuable lesson. During the three days they could still use a land line phone or borrow Mom's cell phone to call a friend. But the 24/7 phone in hand, sending 100+ texts a day would come to a halt for a brief 72 hours. Can you just imagine it? Can your mind even comprehend the peace of a buzz free dinner with the family? Just picture the eyes of your beloved teenager actually looking up and forward, instead down into their laps at a glowing screen that is probably causing radiation damage and eye blindness (who knows what kind of negative effects all this technology is having on us)? The world would seem like a different place!
For three days the number of pedestrians hit by cars would drastically decline! Car accidents would be less frequent. The brakes in your car wouldn't be slammed as often, as your young driver wouldn't be almost rear ending the car in front of them as they casually glance down to see if Johnny has sent yet another text, continuing on the four hour long conversation. Life as we know it would be entirely different.
This sounds like too good to be truth. This proposition is so appealing that I'm considering starting a petition to make it a reality! I could get the country behind me and we could take this one all the way to the top! When I picture the teenage population pried away from their cell phones it is almost too good to be true. A girl can dream though can't she?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back to school days!

It's that time of year: back to school.
All over the country students are gearing up for the new school year. Backpacks are filled with new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils. New outfits are purchased with the scrutiny of a Catholic nun (although instead of reviewing for modesty the goal is more along the lines of fashion and style). Lunch money is gathered from parents and alarm clocks are set for hours that were once spent in peaceful slummer only a few short days ago. Now the freedom of summer, sleeping in and no homework is over and the drugery of five minutes between classes, heavy books and early morning bus rides is back in session.
For thousands of students this time of year isn't just a return to high school but a whole change in life: going away to college. This requires a whole new shopping list and brings about changes far beyond the 6:30 AM wake up call. Teens who go away to college buy extra long bedding, snacks, mini refrigerators, closet hangers, storage containers, and calling cards (okay, so maybe not calling cards anymore but you get the point). They stock up in preparation for life away from the comfort of the nest. Months of planning, anticipating and maybe even some stressing lead up to the moment when Mom and Dad pull away, leaving their teen to their own devices to fend for themselves in a bubble called college life.
Parents gone, comforts of home miles away and dormitory life as the new normal brings about other changes too (ie, doing your laundry at the end of hall, making your own bed, feeding yourself, cleaning up after yourself once you've completed the feeding task). All the basic necessaties of life that I once assumed were common practice among teens. Surely, I figured by the time a kid goes to college they understand the two buttons they need to push on a washing machine to get it to run? Wouldn't it be common sense that when you get hungry you feed yourself with food provided at the cafeteria or local grocery store, fast food joint or gas station? Then, I would also assume a person would know they have to throw away their empty food containers and, someday, empty the trash that their Mom stuck next to the desk? All of these things seem like no brain-rs if you ask me. But according to the USA Today I am sorely mistaken.

Apparently, many students embark on college life not knowing how to do any of these basic tasks. Are you serious? You send your student off to college at a good, credible school that costs a small fortune yet the kid can't even fold their own underwear? America, we have a problem.
When asked why these students aren't doing the basic tasks of life such as laundry, one Mom said, "Basically, what it boils down to is, college students are lazy."Well, at least she's honest. Shouldn't basic life skills be a requirement for college? Are we so concerned with GPA, SATs, ACTs, fulfilling community services hours and making sports team rosters that we have forgotten to cover the most fundamental of life sustaining requirements? Mom and Dads across this country have apparently given their kids a "get out of the house without lifting one pinky finger" card. Do they know that they are actually harming their child in the process? They are setting their kids up to be smelly, messy, and, according to the newspapers quoted mother, "lazy" individuals. Well done parents.
I'm not claiming that my parents were slave drivers by any means. My Mom cooked all my meals and, yes, packed my lunch for high school every day. Thanks Mom - I will never forget the chicken wraps and occasional slice of chocolate cake. Her home packed lunches were delicious - sorry but tater tots aren't my thing and mystery meat has never tickled my fancy. But just because my Mom packed my lunch never meant she didn't expect me to be able to take care of myself if the need arose. I did my own laundry before I went away to college. I know, I'm impressive. I put the dirty clothing in the round shaped opening and even added laundry detergent. Then - get ready for this one - I hit the start button. Whew! What talent! And to top it all off I would even switch it over to the dryer myself. Maybe I was simply ahead of my time or maybe the rest of the world has just gone nuts with justifying ridiculous sums of slothfulness!

After reading the article and hearing about all the students across America who can't seem to function without the aid of parents or hired services to help them complete day to day life activies I have determined one thing: this is the problem with men. Aha! I have found it! By the time you reach your 20's you assume that you will be among other 20-something MEN yet you will be mistaken. No, the 20-something male is still very much a boy who doesn't understand the concept of a laundry basket or detergent. The 20-something male still throws his socks in the middle of the floor and hasn't emptied his trash since it was last condemned by health services for possible bacterial overgrowth. This is the age of young adult males and it is frighteningly pathetic. You may think that this is only the males at party schools or the guys who are barely making a C average in their classes. But no. These are students at Cornell, University of Texas, George Washington University and countless others.

Laziness in college students is an epidemic and it knows no boundaries. But have no fear because I have a solution to this debilitating social issue! College requirements. Yes, that's right. Under my new plan you will first display the ability to make a bed, run the washing machine (and dryer), take out the trash, put dirty clothing in a hamper and order food in a line style cafeteria before a college or university even looks at your backpack full of recommendations, transcripts and application forms. This process will be scrutinized for accuracy and timed, just to add a bit of seriousness to the whole matter. This system will put priorities back in place. If you can't clean and feed yourself who cares if you know macro economics and bio mechanics? It is irrevelant if you stink to high heaven and don't have a clean shirt to wear.
Let's face it, who wants to hire a shirtless dude who smells like a dumpster? Take a shower, put on some freshly washed attire and then worry about pumping your brain with more knowledge. First things first. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pause for thanksgiving (everyday)

I'm as guilty as the next person. It is part of being human, I suppose. At least that is how it feels since most everyone seems to fall into the same trap. We are quick to be thankful for the big things and the monumental moments but fail to acknowledge gratitude for the little things.
Think about it: we pray for traveling mercies when we are flying across the ocean but neglect to be thankful for a safe and successful trip to the grocery store. We sing praises of thanksgiving after a successful surgery but barely even mention health when nothing is causing us pain or discomfort. We thank our neighbors when they bake us a cake but never thank them for the way they so thoughtfully take care of their yard, making it a show piece not only for themselves but for all the neighborhood. We thank people for gifts on birthdays but don't thank them for the important part they play in our lives the other 364 days of the year. We give thanks when it seems like the dutiful response. But what about giving thanks when it isn't prompted? Couldn't we use a bit more spontaneous thanksgiving?

You rarely hear people spewing off thanks for tough situations, broken plans or a mess of a day. It is kind of like a rainy day: everyone complains except those select few who need the rain for crops. They are thanking God for a good dousing of the land while the rest of us are complaining about our hair and giving them odd looks. In life, that is how most of us see the tough stuff or the less than ideal stuff. We see what is wrong with it and then proceed to complain. Those who don't follow suit are given a raised eyebrow and suspicious glance. But really, it is the thankful few who are onto something.

I'm not saying we need to be the person walking around smiling and singing loudly a tune of thanks because our car broke down and we had to walk five miles to get to the nearest pay phone because our cell phone couldn't get service. It may seem a little absurd to be thankful in a situation like that and it is probably asking a bit much to be appreciative of such a circumstance. Let's just start with being thankful for the little things - the day to day blessings that pass us by without so much as a second glance.

When I was younger, maybe in middle school or so, my Dad once told me that when he was thinking negatively he would try this little mental exercise: stop, clear your mind, and think of three things at that very moment to be thankful for. Now, I'm not sure if my Dad actually does this because sometimes he seems to be grumpy for extended periods of time, but the advice is worth paying attention to no matter what our mood may be. As we go through our day we should always be taking time to pause and take note of what there is to be thankful for (trust me, there will always be something).

My first year at college I remembered this advice one day as I was walking across campus. I remember that my day wasn't going as planned. I don't recall the specifics of what had gone wrong and why I wasn't enjoying the blue, cloudless sky day I was surrounded by but I was in a funk, nonetheless. I remember I was walking towards the student union when I remembered my Dad's advice: three things to be thankful for, right now, in this very moment. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked around. The first thing I saw was a little squirrel who, it appeared, was putting on a show. He was running and jumping in an acrobatic fashion as is often the case with squirrels - such show offs. I have always loved squirrels and their tree jumping skills. I've probably admired them because my own gymnastics ability is quite limited, to put it gently. I thanked God for creating a creature so enjoyable to watch.
Next, I looked up and saw the sky. Up until that point in the day I don't think I had noticed that there was not a single cloud in the sky. I thanked God for that, too. I don't remember the third thing I took note of but I do remember the feeling I had right after I finished my pause for thanksgiving: I felt refreshed. The whole world looked brighter and cheerier. Had anything around me changed? Not a bit. Had the circumstances of my day suddenly turned around? Nope. All that had changed was my perception. I had stopped focusing on all that was wrong and started seeing the abundance of what was right.

Every day we have the choice: focus on what we have to be thankful for or neglect to see the blessings that surround us. What we have to be thankful for might seem insignificant or small. The problems might seem to outweigh the positives. Don't fall into the trap of letting the difficulties cloud your view of all the wonderful gifts that you are given. Don't let a day go by where you neglect to give thanks for your multitude of blessings.
Don't just thank God for the big things. Don't just thank God when you have been given a gift or are prompted by circumstance. Thank God in the midst of all things! Whether your day is just going along its normal routine, is filled with unplanned turn of events, is going along swimmingly or is just one rough patch after another: take a moment, clear your mind and give a brief praise of thanksgiving. Trust me, there is always something (actually, many somethings) to be thankful for.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The prayer chain can be a source of immense blessing and spiritual breakthrough. Prayer group on a Wednesday night may bring about healing and intervention that can only be explained by the almighty power of God. Getting on our knees is essential. Prayer is the key that unlocks the door to speaking with our heavenly Father.
Yet, so often, we get prayer all wrong. Prayer becomes the adult equivalent of a child's Christmas list to Santa. It fills up quickly with the things we want and think we "need." We end up completely missing the point of a prayer life. We hone in on the blessings side of prayer and miss the communication and relationship side that God is longing for us to embrace. Prayer is our conversation with God, it is our sharing with Him and His sharing with us. It is a two-way communication. It is this give and take - this intimacy - that we miss when we focus solely on asking for the next thing on the list.
In this life we are guaranteed to have needs and it is only natural and right that we seek God and talk to Him about those things. In the Bible we are instructed to call on the Lord and we are promised that He hears us. Psalm 148:18 says, "The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth." When we have a need, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, God wants us to seek Him and His face. He wants us to bring our cares and burdens to Him so that He can carry them. Does that mean He is going to give us the answer we want with the snap of His fingers and the click of our heels? Not a chance. God's timing and ways are not ours. Just because we carry everything to Him in prayer does not mean we will get everything we want, the way we want it.
And therein lies the deeper, true purpose of prayer. It is not to get what we want and the outcome we want. It is to get to know God better. It is to become so entwined and connected to Him that we abandon our own wants and desires and rest in His ways, His plan and His will for our lives. Prayer provides the avenue that we must traverse on the road to surrendering our human ways. It is only when we have become one with God that we truly lay down our right to ourselves and our flawed perspective of how our lives should be. Through prayer, we get to know the one who has the perfect plan and who knows what we need long before we ever think to ask for it. At the same time, God knows what we don't need and what would actually be detrimental to our well being. In those times, we can be spared the difficulty and despair of the wrong road taken if we are so connected with Christ that we lay down our ways and allow God to work out His plan. In the end, His way is always best.

Our prayer life is not meant to be a laundry list of the things we hope God will give us or things we would like Him to change about our circumstances. Prayer is the intimate relationship we have with God. It is our opportunity to talk with Him and get to know who He is. Scripture tells us a lot about the character of God but having an intimate, personal relationship takes more then reading scriptures. It takes one-on-one time. We see this clearly with our earthly relationships. Husbands and wives marry after they have gotten to know one another. Entering into marriage they vow to take on the responsibility of overcoming problems and difficulties which will undoubtedly include discussions and take time and attention. Sometimes we overlook these same principles when it comes to our relationship with God. We want all the good that comes from the marriage yet we don't put in the time. How can we expect to know and understand God without communing with Him and truly listening? Not just rattling off our frustrations but listening in to hear from Him. The same care that we give to our earthly relationships needs to apply to our most important relationship of all: the one with our creator and father.
If we truly engage in this kind of prayer life we will see that the whole dynamic of what we pray for changes. The list is shortened. The desires are different. The wants are replaced with praise. Instead of seeking more for our own lives we start seeking out more of God's face, more of His character and more of His will. When we truly enter into a true intimate, personal, deep relationship with God we want more of Him and less of the things of this earth. The desires for physical comforts, healing, possessions and success take a back seat to the overwhelming passion to become more Christ-like and see more of God's greatness.
Will life always be butterflies and roses when you enter into this type of communing with God? Certainly not. God never promises us a smooth, easy ride here in this life. In fact, He forewarns us that this life is going to have its struggles and difficulties. He has given us fair warning. But He has also provided endless support, comfort and peace for those struggles. When we are resting in Him we will find that even the daunting, trying times of life can be filled with peace and contentment. When we are resting in God we don't need earthly comforts - we have the one true comfort.
Jesus gave us the blueprint for prayer. He laid out just how we are to pray and He put it into action throughout the scriptures. God desires a relationship with us that goes beyond a wish list - He wants to talk with us, get to know us and reveal more of Himself to us in the process. By following Christ's example and truly seeking God through prayer, we can know Him in extraordinary ways and experience the joy, comfort and peace He promises to lavish on us abundantly when we ask.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gift giving

Health is not a given, it is a gift.

Each day that you wake up with working muscles in your legs it is a gift.
Each day you step out of bed on your own and walk to the kitchen to make yourself breakfast - or just grab a glass of water - it is a gift.
Every time you can go for a walk is a gift.
When you take a breath without thinking about it - that is a gift.
Every day spent without pain in your bones and aching in your joints is a gift.
Every time you properly digest food is a gift.
When you can open your eyes and see the world around you (even if it may be a bit blurry) you are experiencing a marvelous gift.
When you smile the muscles in your face are used and the message from your brain is telling them to fire up. That, too, is a gift.
A steady hand and clear speech is a gift.
The ability to speak at all is a precious gift.
Your ability to hold a cup, grasp a pencil or steering wheel of a car is a gift....

Every day we go through the motions and expect that our bodies will go along, too. What we fail to recognize is the brilliant design and immense blessing we are experiencing each time that goes as planned. We take it for granted. We assume our bodies will do as we want them to. But sometimes they won't and for some people they never will. Some people live with constant pain or the inability to perform the most basic of tasks. Are they being cheated? Aren't we all supposed to have health in the same plentiful abundance? I believe the answer is no. Some people have the gift of perfect health and others don't have that gift. They have a different gift.
Having ill health or limited health opens the door for other blessings - like the blessing of having the world slowed down and God's voice turned up. Sometimes God uses the people with the worst of health to convey the most fundamental messages to people here on earth. They become ambassadors and speakers for Christ through what they lack, not the strength they have. God tells us that he works in our weakness and he meant more then emotional or spiritual weakness. God works straight through our physical weakness.

Maybe those of us who are physically weak or failing should be thanking God. He said he works best when we are weak. Our own strength could stand in the way of God's great power. The health I have is a gift but the weakness I have is a gift as well. God showers me with blessings each morning as I wake up and experience the joy of a new day that he has created. He showers me with blessings in my weakness by revealing more of himself to me and opening my eyes to more and more of his wonderful truth.
Nothing is wasted. It is all a precious, magnificent gift.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More then ounces and pounds

High speed internet.
Fast food chains.
Drive-thru dry cleaning.
Call ahead waiting at restaurants.
3G, 4G....5G?
Cars that go from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds.
Interstates and freeways.
Express checkout lines at the grocery store.
"Rush delivery".

We are a country with a deadline and the patience of a two year old. We want what we want when we want it - which was five minutes ago. Our tolerance for the word "waiting" is minimal at best. We have other, better, things to do then sit around and kill time while the internet fires up or the restaurant cooks a burger made of real, honest to goodness animal meat.
The human mentality, at least in America, is to be in a hurry for the next thing. Results are the goal and we want them quickly and in rapid fire succession. Progress is key. Waiting means there is something wrong: either with the situation, circumstances, factors at play or person running the show. If something isn't happening in a positive direction and in the direction in which we desire, then something is flawed.
Everything about our society points to this mentality. Just look at the way people hit the gas with furry the millisecond a traffic light turns green. Look at the foot tapping at the impatience of the women in the express lane at the grocery store. Count the number of cars at the McDonald's drive thru on a Monday at noon. We are a people in a hurry. We are a people who don't want to delay the satisfaction gained by completing the task at hand
And what is the purpose of completing the thing in front of them? To be able to move on to the next thing. In our limited human scope, this is all we see. Complete this thing so that we can move onto the next thing. Soaking up the moment is a foreign concept. Movement, progress - that's where it's at.

For the past two years God has been working on me to slow down, stop striving for the next "thing", and simply rest in the here and now. Don't worry so much about what will come next. Don't concern yourself with the wait. Just live in this moment. That means accepting that progress might be slow, or at times non-existent. There will be days when everything feels like wheels stuck in ten feet of mud. You may not see movement. You may not feel productive. You may not understand how the routine motions of life are accomplishing anything. Be patient; hold tight and accept the time of waiting set before you. That is my message from God. He has been speaking it loud and clear for years now, just waiting for me to get the memo and heed it's command.
The message is coming in loud and clear. I can't force my body to gain weight at rapid speed or coerce it to have endless bounds of energy. Healing is a slow process that isn't always steady and, without patience, can be extremely agonizing. Yet, with patience, even waiting can be joyful and peaceful. The time between where you are and where you're going doesn't have to be filled with tension, stress and long, drawn out sighs. This time (the time in the desert place, as I like to call it) can actually be enjoyable.
That may be hard to believe. Our culture doesn't like to preach this sort of logic. It wants us to believe that we must be striving for something to be accomplishing anything. But that isn't the least bit Biblical. Actually, it is 100% man-made, human reasoning. The mentality of "do-do-do" takes away from the fundamental principle of allowing God to work, direct and guide. When we are only concerned with our next step we run the high risk of completely missing the steps (or pauses) God is trying to show us on His road map.
Human living is concerned with the power to make things happen. In my case that has come in the power to bring healing to my body. Countless people have prayed countless prayers for my body to receive healing and for my health to be restored. I am thankful to each and every one of those people, yet there is something bigger at work in my body and life then healing the physical body. Alistair Begg, one of my favorite preachers, wrote, "Although our contemporary preoccupation is with the power to heal, we err by failing to understand the miracle of God's grace in granting the power necessary for endurance and patience." I love this principle. We want to see results yet God is showing His power in the interim. He is proving himself great and mighty when there is no earthly "progress". There is power in the endurance He provides and the sustaining He gives to those who seek Him and rely upon His greatness.
When we don't see something happening it is human nature to throw up our hands in frustration, proclaiming stagnation and failure. We become exasperated. We throw in the towel. But, if we measure "progress" in God's terms we will find that the earthly scale doesn't fit. We can't calculate how far we have come, results or progress by what we see. Sometimes, the greatest progressions forward happen when there is nothing to show for it: no pay check, no pounds gained or lost, no physical, outward change. God isn't limited to what can be seen. He works from the inside-out. When we look only to what can be seen by the naked eye, we miss God's best.

On my own human scale I've watched it creep up slowly over the past month with numbers that would make anyone cringe (they are so severely low I won't get into specifics). One ounce here, a few ounces there. If my spirit was sustained by this type of progress I would be beaten down and discouraged. The pounds are so slow in coming that it makes you wonder how anything significant will ever come about in regards to my weight. Yet, I can proclaim with the utmost confidence that I am not tired of waiting and I am filled with hope for the future. If God makes me wait for another year to see another ounce that statement will still hold true because my hope isn't found in what number comes up on the scale. My hope is found in the glory of God's goodness and His unfailing power to do wonderful things in my life in His perfect timing (key word: HIS). There will be times He wants to grow patience and endurance in me instead of weight. He uses those times to strengthen my faith and obedience. Not a moment is wasted. In fact, some of the periods that look completely idle are the periods of greatest progress. Those are the times when faith is stretched, challenged and grown. When things are moving along at a rapid clip it is too easy to miss the spiritual growth. God likes to slow things down to get our attention.

Some people might look at my condition and proclaim that I am being foolish to wait this long for weight to come back on. I'm sure there are people who would call me downright irresponsible or stupid. Let them have their opinion. There words don't hurt or offend me. They are entitled to their opinions, no matter how much I may disagree with them. What they are missing is the work God is doing right here, right now, apart from the scale and apart from what size pants I wear. He may not be adding weight to my body but he is adding strength to my soul and Godly understanding to my spirit. He is building my body in ways food and pounds couldn't ever accomplish. He is building me into the women of God He created me to be.
I would take that kind of growth over twenty pounds and my ideal weight, hands down, any day of the week.

Friday, August 10, 2012

And the VP is....

Who will he pick? It is the great mystery of the political news world and morning talk shows. The evening prime time news line up can't seem to talk about anything else. News paper articles and talking heads are a buzz. When will Mitt Romney reveal his running mate and, more importantly, who will it be?
There is good reason to be so concerned about this decision. It is critical for this election. The election of my lifetime - and possibly yours, too. The future of our country and its success lies in the balance as we wait for the results of the November 2nd general election. There is no room for error on either side of the fence when it comes to running their campaigns. Both sides want to win with a burning passion. And both side want the opposing to lose with a passion that burns just as intensely.
What we are all looking for is a successful nation. The difference is how we define success. Some see success as how many are on government funded health care or receiving food stamps. Higher numbers mean we are doing something right in the eyes of the bigger is better government mentality. Then there are others who believe that high production within our country and low lines at the welfare office mean we are a country on the right track. The less the government is controlling the better.
With this election we have two sides that are diametrically opposed to one another. One wants to see the government grow and the other wants it to shrink. It doesn't get much different then that. The citizens of our nation have a choice to make, and whichever side you choose puts on a very different side of a very large fence.
And that is the problem.
The fence.
We are a country divided by a Berlin Wall that, although not made of bricks and mortar, is just as impenetrable. The United States of America are far from united. Instead, we are taken back to the days of the Civil War without the guns and freezing cold battles, yet the ideology is the same. This war is of the minds and of the principles of how a country should be run. It has brought brother against brother and sister against sister.
The way you see these particular issues cuts to the core of basic human beliefs and morals. Issues such as the right to life, the death penalty, war, welfare, immigration and education are not small matters. They hit people at fundamental levels. They put people on the side of heartless or sympathetic, giving or greedy. A simple yes to the death penalty can make you into a blood thirsty murderer to some while a pro-choice vote makes you a baby killer. The issues that face our country aren't of the friendly conversation nature. They are the issues of heated debate, broken relationships and riots.
So, what importance could a vice president possibly play in such a colossal problem? Some might argue that this is far too great a divide to be bridged by one person and one decision on a political ticket. I see their point. One person can only do so much. They are limited in their influence and responsibility. Can we really expect one person to bring a country together? That is asking a lot. Yet, this decision - who will be on the republican ticket below Mitt Romney - speaks volumes to the direction Romney wants to take our country.
The VP on the republican ticket can be one of two people: one who unites or one who divides.
We don't need another divider. We have one of those in the oval office. He has used lies, rhetoric, broken promises and divisive language to tear apart our country. He has driven a wedge into the foundation of our nation. He is making quick progress eroding the fundamental principles that have made the United States the great country that it is. We've seen what a divider in the office of president will do - and it is utterly destructive.
What we need is someone who wants to bring our country back together. We need a president and a government with the desire to see the states and the citizens of those states truly united.
The name on the ticket with Romney will show us what kind of republican we are voting for. Romney has the chance to show us who he is and where he wants to take our country, not in terms of economics or health care but in terms of fundamental principles and values. If he chooses someone with a bombastic attitude and argumentative streak we are only adding bricks to the wall. But, if Romney chooses someone who is respectful, calm, level-headed and likable, then we take steps to demolish the wall.
The next few weeks are crucial for this election and symbolic of the direction of our country. We, as a people, don't need a thicker wall dividing us from one another. What we need is a return to the country as it was founded: united.
My prayer is that Mitt Romney truly wants to restore our nation to its greatness. Its true greatness was about more then a good GDP, oil production or well maintained roads. This country was and is great because of the freedom is provides. Unlike anywhere else in the world, you are free if you are an American. In November we have the opportunity to choose whether or not we want to uphold that freedom or if we want to give it to a government that is too big, too involved, and too powerful - and only getting more so. Will we further the divide or make steps to close it?
Americans have the freedom to vote. I hope they vote to restore America. And I hope the second name they vote for on that ticket is someone who wants to serve this country as a uniting force for freedom, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Relationship Hunting

My guilty pleasure TV of choice goes in phases. There are enough channels for lots of phases.
Phase one is Comical Sitcom Phase. Everything that Seinfeld says is the funniest thing ever! Everybody Loves Raymond gets me laughing during every scene. And I can't stop myself from watching re-run after re-run of The Office. I have a true love for Jim and Pam. Their romance has had me hooked from day one. Don't tell me they are fictional. I'm plugging my ears.
Phase two is Reality TV Phase. This phase is shorter. Say Yes to the Dress can only hold my attention for so long. After a while those bridezillas really get to me. How many woman can you watch complain about their bridesmaid and cry because their Mom didn't have a meltdown at the sight of her first born daughter in "the" wedding gown. At some point I have to change the channel. To more reality TV. Such as Little People, Big World and The Little Couple. I love both of these families. They are so normal and real... beside the fact that there is a camera crew in their house. But that is beside the point. They would act the exact same way that they do with cameras rolling, right? I think so....really I do!
After Reality TV Phase comes Food Network Phase. This could go on awhile. I love the Food Network - not that I ever cook any of the recipes I watch them whip up. I like more of the fast paced, competition shows. Iron Chef America is among my favorites. The intensity level is so absurd it's addictive. Don't ask me to explain the appeal. They cook with crazy ingredients like cow liver. I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole let alone eat it. But I'll watch someone cook with it super fast! And then someone else eat it and judge it. I don't even understand my fascination. Chopped has a similar effect and a similar concept. I'll stay awake till the very end to see who gets on the chopping block. Hands down my favorite Food Network guilty pleasure is Worst Chef in America. I see myself in these amateur chef-wannabes. I fell for their inability to brown the perfect chicken breast and use a knife like Bobby Flay. And their plating presentations? So terrible. Just like mine. I sympathize, chef failures.
The phase I find myself in at the present time is HGTV Phase. This is possibly my favorite phase of all. I can't get enough of watching average home owners and renters search for their first place or a vacation home in a foreign country. Couples decorating a space together really has me all tuned in. Will they agree on paint color? Who's opinion will win in the battle of house 1 vs. house 2? And no they did not just pick that couch!
You can learn so much from HGTV. And I'm not just talking about decorating.
I'm talking relationship 101.
House Hunters is perfect for the relationship critique viewing. I couldn't care less about an episode that features a single looking for a new pad but I can't get enough of episodes with couples. Newly- weds are really the creme de la creme. I believe that you can determine the odds of marriage success by how the episode of house hunting progresses.
Example one we will call Steve and Angela. Steve wants nothing more than to live on the golf course. He isn't hung up on paint colors or square footage. But if the condo isn't 4.5 steps from the tee box he ain't biting. Angela on the other hand wants to have the ability to walk out her door and onto the sandy beach in about 3.2 seconds. No beach? No go. The whole episode is the back and forth banter of two people who want two totally different things. He gave a smirk after every house that didn't have a golf course and made rude remarks about how his opinion reigned supreme. She rolled her eyes. What a cute couple!
The wedding will be a blast. Did I mention that? The wedding date was still a month away. I think their honeymoon phase went on its own honeymoon and forgot to bring along this couple. In the end the house was on the golf course and Angela wore a forced smile. Good luck folks!
Example number 2: we shall call these two love birds Brad and Rachel. Match made in Heaven. I could tell from the foyer of house number 1. Rachel wanted a house with charm. Brad wanted a short commute to work. The sellers wanted $302,498,109 plus a kidney for a small bungalow that needed another $190,999,013 worth of renovations to be even close to appealing. Each house was sadder than the one before. The first house was a short sale, which equals big risk and big wait time. House two was covered in wood paneling and shag carpeting. House three was a million miles away from Brad's work. This looked like a losing proposition. I was worried Brad and Rachel would snap at each other under the pressure. I had such high hopes for their relationship. But they didn't let me down. They held hands at the signing for the house with the short sale. And the good news? They got the house! Yeah!
Those two are going to go the distance. I see a golden anniversary in their future. And I bet they will still be holding hands.
HGTV has so much to teach its viewers, like grouping decor accents in threes and how to introduce color to a bland space with simple design elements such as throw pillows and art work. What you didn't know is that you can learn what to avoid in a mate: like a man who has to be on the golf course and doesn't give a darn about your desire to be on the beach.

Baby Steps

Brushing your hair in the morning is probably part of your daily routine. 
Congratulations. You exhibit good grooming skills. Snaps for you.

Now, time for a little admission on my part: for the past month my hair brushing has been hit or miss, to put it nicely. I know - eww. I wake up, run my fingers through my hair so it doesn't resemble a fully constructed bird's nest (I prefer for it to be in the foundation laying stages, before drywall and shingles go on) and throw it into a low pony-tail because my hair is currently too short to do anything more exciting. I then take a couple of bobby pins and cement the crazy flyaway pieces to the side of my head.
As you can tell, this is less then stylish and not what you would call "attractive". It fits more under the headings of "pathetic" and "lazy". It is sad to admit that this has been my go-to look for, er, at least a month. Possibly longer.
I blame feeling like crud for weeks on end and being frustrated with my appearance in general for the lack of interest in beauty practices. I weigh practically nothing and am totally not into trying to look "good". When I get dressed I'm more focused on covering up protruding bones and transparent flesh. My goal in fashion is to not look like a walking skeleton. This is a different goal then most fashion-istas, I assume. Most girls wants to flaunt what they've got and cover up the areas that have an extra 5 (10...20...) pounds. My guess is most people aren't worried about getting awkward stares because they are shockingly thin. This is part of the burden I carry from this health battle that I can't hide from the world. Wearing baggy clothes makes me look like an ant. Wearing tight fitting clothes makes the sticking-out bones and lack of any body fat dramatically apparent. I can't win. I try to hit a balance but it is nearly impossible.
With this frustration has come a complete lack of motivation to look attractive. The other parts of style, apart from clothing selection, have completely fallen off my radar screen. I cover up skin imperfections and throw on some mascara every day. That is a far cry from the makeup precision I used to strive for daily, no matter what I had planned or where I was going. Now, if I'm not going out I'm not getting dressed up or "made up". I used to care even when I was at home by myself. Now, not so much. Like I said before, hair went down the tubes with this, too.
Until today.
Today is a new day and I broke out a new brush. The other day at TJ Maxx I had the sudden urge to buy one of those large round brushes by "Ceramic". Catchy name; spiffy brush. I had been thinking over the past few days that maybe I should tend to my (sort-of) golden locks. (okay, they aren't really golden, but a girl can dream can't she?) When I saw this brush I decided to take the plunge back into hair and beauty maintenance. This was one small purchase for TJ maxx, but one giant leap for my self esteem and confidence.
Today, I awoke and brushed my hair. You may call it routine but for me it is symbolic: I'm back!
I hope I don't become an appearance obsessed, made-up bimbo who won't be seen without her "face on" but I do want to be conscious of how I appear to the outside world and want to be attractive. I don't want people to look on me with pity and "aww, that poor little ragamuffin". I want people to look at me and think that I look like a modest, presentable human with nice looks and good taste. I think that starts with combing my hair.
My days of not caring about how I look are behind me. I put on eye liner today, too, after being inspired by the brushing ritual. Crazy - I know!

It has been over two years since my struggle to stay and be healthy began. It has been a mystery and frustration for most of that time. But today I turned a corner. I'm thanking God for each step in the right direction and every improvement, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

Like Bob Wiley says, "Baby steps."