Monday, June 28, 2010

Lance's Legacy

My grandfather passed away in 1998.  During the last moments of his funeral, at the graveside, a hawk swooped down over us, a fitting image for Grandpa, who was an avid outdoorsman.  Ever since then, when I see a hawk gliding gently on the currents above me, I like to think that maybe it's him up there, floating and watching over me. 

I am not sure that I really knew my grandpa all that well; my impressions of him are limited to what little girls notice about their grandpas, like the way his eyes twinkled when he laughed and how his cap was always just a bit cock-eyed on his head.  I do know, from my own memories and from listening to my family speak of him, that he was a feisty one.  He spoke up when he had a strong opinion and was never afraid to pound his fist if he had a point to make.  If he felt like someone was trying to push him around, he just pushed back.  These qualities may be even more vivid to me because I see them in my own dad.  When I see a hawk swooping in the wind, I can feel the strong-willed integrity that connects me to my father and to my grandfather, and it makes me proud to be part of that family tree.

Life has held some challenges for me lately.  I reached out to my family to help pull me through, to help me with the right decision that was oh, so very difficult to make.  I held on especially tightly to my father's strong will and his belief in what is right.  I didn't have faith in myself to be strong enough to do it on my own.

And now that I am on the other side, now that I am breathing a bit easier and seeing a bit clearer, something occurs to me.  It's like a fist that was clenching my chest has suddenly loosened.  In weak moments, I thought I was only strong enough to make a change if someone helped me.  I now see that I was only able to reach out for help because I am strong, strong and proud and feisty, like Grandpa.  I am surviving, and I am fighting for the happiness I deserve partly because of the legacy that my grandpa gave to my dad and my dad gave to me.  Hey, you know what?  If someone pushes me, I will push back, too.  Lance was a feisty one, and so am I.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Intelligent Response to Mindless Talking Points

I usually don’t forward things like this, even if I agree with the content, because I find email forwards to generally be a waste of time. But for some reason, I kept thinking about this one, and the fact that it is inherently racist and egomaniacal, and I could not resist providing a point-by-point response.

You’ll find my responses bulleted below. Stop reading here if you can’t handle intelligent response to mindless talking points.

Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al:

We have stuck together since the late 1950's for the sake of the kids, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.

  • Oh, thank goodness, we totally agree. We were trying to make it work for the sake of the country (because, of course, you remember what happened the last time we tested out the idea of secession), but we don’t think we can stand one more decade of your intolerance.
Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

  • Yes, because who on Earth would want to live in a society that encourages and promotes healthy debate of differing opinions so that we could create a more perfect union? That’s crazy, Thomas-Jefferson talk.
Here is a model separation agreement:

Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a similar portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.

1. We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them.

  • Yes, we’ll take those, because it’s true; we’d rather not place the highest tax burden on the people who make the least amount of money. So sue us.
2. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU.

  • Both of which defend the Bill of Rights, the very definition of our democracy and what it truly means to be an American. So, great, we’ll take those.
3. Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.
  • Ok, but can we make a few suggestions? You may want to try providing funding and support to the military; things like body armor, not requiring troops to complete three or more tours of duty in 5 years, and providing quality health care to returning veterans are pesky details, but may help contribute to your overall success.
  • And are you sure that ALL of the soldiers and police officers would want to come with you? In the spirit of a fair custody discussion, you may want to discuss that with members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War or the Civilian-Soldier Alliance.
4. We'll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel.

  • Excellent. We’re sure that we will need clean air and water while we survive the trauma of this divorce.
5. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them).

  • Oh, we get it, because they are all really fat. Ha, what an original joke. Luckily for them, we value a person’s intelligence and genuine desire to make the world a better place; so sure, we’ll keep them, too.
6. We'll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved lifelong welfare dwellers, food stamps, homeless, homeboys, hippies, druggies and illegal aliens.

  • Agreed. Good luck building a successful society whose members only worry about how to achieve the highest profit at the greatest risk to the health and well-being of the economy. We, with the bleeding hearts, will happily take the struggling working moms and those darn peace-loving hippies.
7. We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks.

  • Yes, please, please, PLEASE take Sarah Palin, PLEASE. You can also have Ted Nugent, Toby Keith, and Tony Hayward. (Although now that I think of it, Tony Hayward is British. Hmm, let’s see, then, you had better take Carly Fiorina.)
8. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood.

  • While the Bible would be a useful reference tool, we don’t feel that being a Christian means you must follow it word-for-word (you know, since it was actually written by humans, and not Jesus or God.) And sure, we’ll take NBC and Hollywood; we know you’re not much into the arts and developing the creative side of the brain, so they would probably be happier with us anyway.
9. You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.

  • Yes, try your “hammering” theory, and let us know if that helps to keep your enemies from threatening your security. We are going to continue to try that crazy socialist idea of “diplomacy” and follow the silly Christian value called “loving thy neighbor as yourself,” just to see if that helps with feelings of animosity.
10. We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness and Shirley McClain.

  • We guess that means we will just have to get better at practicing religious tolerance; it’s funny, we seem to remember another country that was founded by people seeking religious freedom…
11. We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find.

  • Yes, yes, we get it. You like to guzzle gas. I thought we already covered that we would take bio-diesel and natural gas, anyway. And besides, those Suburu’s have lots of cargo space.
12. You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors. We'll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right.

  • A luxury, huh? Gee, I sure hope none of your middle-class grandkids get sick. But not to worry, we already determined that we were taking all those poor people (and their poor, sick drain-on-the-economy children), so you won’t have to be bothered by their annoying insistence that they be given the option of healthcare they can afford. We are going to keep working on the ideal that when you live in the richest country in the world, you should be able to receive healthcare without having to declare bankruptcy.
13. We'll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute Imagine, I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing, Kum Ba Ya or We Are the World.

  • Actually, yes, we are happy with those songs.
    • “Imagine all the people, sharing life in peace.” (Ok, good.)
    • Kum By Ya, a song translated to mean “Come by me, Lord,” communicating a wish for spiritual unity. (Yep, that one sounds good to us, too.
    • “It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me.” (Really, you don’t want that song? Sounds nice to us.)
14. We'll practice trickle down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.

  • We are not so much concerned with things trickling up or down; we are mostly going to try to close the Grand-Canyon-sized gap that has opened between upper and lower classes. Please note that you will still need some grunt laborers over there in your Utopic society, and we are pretty sure they won’t want to work two jobs for pay that won’t pay their bills or for their health insurance. (You know, if you allow them to have any health insurance.)
15. Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.

  • Ok, if you must. It’s our experience that the people who make the biggest point of waving the flag or wearing its likeness on their lapels are the ones that value the ideals of the Constitution the least, anyway.
Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you answer which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.


John J. Wall

Law Student and an American

P. S. Also, please take Ted Turner, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Barbara Streisand, & Jane Fonda with you.

  • Yes, we had better. We don’t think they would like living with you, anyway. You’re not very much fun.
P. S. S. And you won't have to press 1 for English when you call our country.

  • Can’t think of any reason we would need to call, but thanks for letting us know.

Friday, March 5, 2010

TGIF? What does that stand for again?

I have noticed something happening lately, something that my 10-year-old self (or even my 20-something-year-old self) would find very confusing and kind of sad.  It seems as though the day of the week has become irrelevant to me.  Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday really all feel the same.  (Well, maybe not Monday; no day feels worse than a Monday, unless it's Labor Day.)  My week progresses, but mostly I mark the time by the different things I have to accomplish on those days.  I map out which days will be laundry days, I contemplate squeezing a Saturday task in on a Friday night so that my Sunday is less stressful.  I know which days I am designating time at the gym, which days I need to worry about changing bed sheets, and which day I should make my obligatory Target/Wal-Mart run.

So today is Friday, and I know that means I should feel excited (or at least relieved) because the work week is done and the weekend is just hours away.  Except I don't feel that way.  I am already plotting how much I can get done tomorrow (or even tonight) so that I can squeeze in some fun and have time for a nap on Sunday afternoon.  Wow!  What happens to us when we become grownups?

Remember what a Friday felt like when you were in grade school?  Friday was the best day of the week.  School felt better, because Fridays were always the days you got to watch a video or play games, and weekend homework was always light and easy.  Lunch was better, because Fridays were the days you were most likely to have pizza or chicken nuggets.  (Yum...)  Everyone seemed to be in a better mood, because there were Friday night sleepovers and Saturday morning cartoons to look forward to.  On any given Friday afternoon, you felt downright giddy thinking about staying up late, sleeping in, and doing things just for the fun of it.  There was possibility and anticipation in the air...

Now, it's just another day, more hours I feel compelled to make as productive as possible.  The ironic thing is that I work really hard to get things done early, to try to get ahead, so that I can enjoy some free time later.  Except when I get to the designated free time, I find myself thinking of things I could be getting done so I will have free time later in the week.  Geez, that's just sick!  As is my usual pattern, I fret so much about finding time to relax that I forget to appreciate the time when it comes.  I have stolen Fridays from myself by trying to be too darn efficient.

Let's take back our Fridays!  Let's feel excited about weekends and opportunities, and let ourselves off the hook once in awhile.  It's ok, in fact, it's healthy, to rest, recharge, kick back, or kick it up.  Let's stop feeling like fun is something that we have to wedge into our schedule somewhere between the dishes and running errands.  Say it with me, class: Fun isn't something you have to do, it's something you want to do. 

So I am starting my first weekly tradition with this blog, and I am hoping that when you read it, you'll join in with me.  Every Friday, I am going to make a Friday Fun List.  It's a chance to count blessings and to tap into those Gleeful moments I am so fond of.

Friday Fun List for March 5, 2010
  1. I have had to wear my sunglasses in the morning and the evening every day this week.  This indicates two very fun things.  First, the days are getting longer and I am not leaving work in the dark any more.  (Insert fist pump.)  Second, spring is almost here! Only 15 days away, as a matter of fact.  Plus, don't you just feel like one of the cool kids when you're wearing your sunglasses?  I do.
  2. Tomorrow is the first Saturday morning since the New Year that I have totally free.  Oh, yes, there will be sleeping-in and pajama-wearing-until-10-am going on at my house.  
  3. My boyfriend is taking me on a real date tomorrow night.  And since we have been good kids all week, eating our veggies, exercising, and drinking lots of water, we get to eat small portions of real food (with butter), drink cocktails, and maybe even have dessert!  Also, I get to get a little dressed up and wear fun girly shoes!
  4. I love my dog.  Ok, so this is not a feeling I reserve only for Fridays, but the weekends mean I get more time to play with her and snuggle with her.  Before you think I am one of those crazy people who thinks of her dog as her child (which I am), keep in mind that owning a pet is one of the best ways to reduce stress in your life.  She is pure love and joy to me, and the more time I spend with her, the happier and more youthful I feel.  
  5. Summer is closer and closer every day, which means I am closer and closer to sunny days on the deck of the houseboat, just chilling out.  (Sigh.  Cold drink in my hand, nowhere to rush off to.  Close your eyes and come along to this happy place, won't you?)  Add into this the knowledge that all my hard work in the gym right now will have hopefully paid off by then, and suddenly the idea of wearing a swimsuit does not make me feel nauseous.  First time ever for that!
  6. I have some great new tunes on my iPod, and I am going to sing and be silly in the car all the way home tonight...while wearing my sunglasses, of course.
  7. Tomorrow is my dad's birtday.  Happy Birthday, Daddy-o!  Love you so much!
It's finally Friday, people!  Get pumped up!  Do something this weekend just for the fun of it, or better yet, do something silly that you know will make someone laugh.  We work for these weekends, so make the most of it.  Your busy life is trying to steal Friday Fun from you, so steal it right back!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

That performance does not tell me who you are, dog.

So one of the many, many side effects of watching too many competition reality TV shows is that you start to feel a little "Plain Jane", like a boring bystander.  (As a side note, let me clarify that I primarily watch reality shows where the participants are required to have some kind of developed skill or God-given talent in order to be filmed.  I rarely feel inadequate when compared to cast members of VH1's Rock of Love.)

The Top Chefs, the Project Runwayers, even the American Idol's, are taking their talents they have been blessed with or the skills that they have honed over years of hard work and laying them on the line.  And while I realize that they are at least partially motivated by the exposure to temporary fame, I also think they are brave enough to fail miserably in front of an audience.  How many of us have a love or talent that we so believe in that we would risk public humuliation and criticism?  I am not even sure what reality show I could star on.  Let's see.  Top Laundry Sorters?  Project Multi-Tasking?  Amazing Race to Finish All Your Responsibilities in One Day?

But putting my feelings of inadequacy aside, there is another factor about these so-called reality shows that I envy.  (It mostly comes from the my evil twin, Overachiever.)  These contestants get assigned challenges designed to display their particular gifts to their utmost.  And while they may or may not rise to this challenge, they are given a reserved time and space to do their very best.  When the time is up, they present their results to a panel of experts and are told whether they have made the grade. 

This panel, the judges, provide specific and enlightened feedback.  They ask searching questions.  They want to know whether there is a point of view or a general philosophy.  They want to know the back story.  They review and critique the flaws and the perfections.  They decide if all of the right choices were made throughout the process.  In the end, the judges are looking to see something that honestly and truly represents its creator, and they want to see something special.

I do and create quite a few things throughout my day; I check off many tasks.  None of these things are really my passion; none of them move me closer to great achievements.  If a judging panel asked me right now what my point of view was, I really could not answer them, because I have no idea. 

I don't particularly want to have a row of stern faces judging the actions and choices I make in my life; I am not that much of a masochist.  But what if, while we were checking off all of the tasks of our day, even the menial ones, we thought to ourselves, am I doing the best I can?  Is this everything I have to offer?  I know that I do a few too many things half-assed with a bad attitude; I figure that no one cares besides me anyway, so why stress? 

That's probably the wrong approach.  Sure, I am not going to be discovered as the best sock whitener in the country and whisked off to a life of fame and fortune.  Maybe no one else at work will quite appreciate the time and attention I put into building a spreadsheet or designing a way to keep my whole department organized, but it will at least make my life easier.  I will know I did my best and that my final product made a difference. 

Instead of just getting through it, of slogging onward, let's think to ourselves, "This is it.  This is what I am doing, and it should be great, because it's what I am contributing to my life and the lives of my family and friends."  We don't get the chance to compete before millions of people to prove our excellence and superiority, but that does not mean we should stop caring that what we do is a direct reflection of who we are.

Is this my life's point of view?  That's a question for the judges, I guess.  It might work...for now at least.