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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bringing The Light

not to believe in the possibility of permanent peace is to disbelieve in the godliness of human nature - Mahatma Gandhi

I'd like to qualify this post with a few thoughts.  The first is that my goal is to write a new post about once a month(ish) from now on.  I'm totally honored that anyone even takes the time to read this blog in the first place.  I'm afraid that more than one post per month could lead to reader burn-out, and the last thing I want to do is jeopardize my fan base of six loyal followers.  The second qualifier is that I'd like to apologize in advance if this post sounds a little bit like a poorly-written presidential speech or a crappy nondenominational sermon.  I'm a little extra heady these days so bear with me.

The third and final qualifier to this post is that I was torn when choosing the topic. In the wake of the recent Boston Marathon bombings it seems frivolous to write about anything else, but it is also such a delicate, emotionally charged and painful topic that I was reluctant to write about it at all. In the end I decided to write about the marathon events in an indirect way. I decided to focus on the question everyone seems to keep asking themselves in the wake of all this sadness. That question is 'What the hell is wrong with people these days anyway?'

9/11, Newtown CT, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Virginia Tech massacre and now the Boston Marathon bombings - just to name a few.  Sigh.  Let's all move to The Netherlands right?  We can't accept the idea that there is just no good reason for all this insanity, so we start looking for answers.  What's wrong with society?  What's wrong with our laws or law makers?  What's wrong with our family values?  What's wrong with the media? Where are we missing the mark as a country and as a human race that such unthinkable events keep taking place? 

Of course everyone has their theories.  A close family member of mine says the Internet is the problem (clearly, this family member is over the age of sixty).  She argues in the "old days" if you were insane/crazy/evil you had to sit in your house and be crazy all by yourself.  It was just you, possibly your family, and your crazy.  Maybe, if you were lucky, you could hook up with someone else in your travels who was the same brand of crazy as you, and the two of you could be crazy together.  Today however, you can just hop online and find a whole community full of people who, (as luck would have it) are your exact same brand of crazy.  They will talk crazy with you, make you feel justified in your craziness and even give you new and exciting ideas on how to execute your crazy desires.  You can join a forum and talk crazy all day long with crazies form all around the world - what fun.  While I get her point I'm not sure the Internet is entirely to blame. 

Other folks say it is the need for stricter gun control, stronger religious foundations, banning violent video games, reducing the use of prescription drugs, more traditional family structures, the list goes on.  I'm going to wimp-out and take the opinion of not having an opinion.  I have some ideas of course, but I'm going to defer to an earlier post about opinions and shoving them down the throats of others - in other words, I'm going to keep my opinions to myself on this one.  We are all entitled to our own thoughts and feelings about the world we live in and the reasons why such unthinkable things take place in it. You go ahead and have your opinions - I'm sure they're great, and I'm sure there is lots of solid logic and good reasoning behind them.  Sadly, even if we knew for certain the "why?" it wouldn't change the past.  It couldn't undo what happened, and it couldn't bring back the sweet little eight year old boy who lost his life on Monday or heal the hundreds of people who were injured.  It starts to feel overwhelming and hopeless - as though the problem is too big to solve.  What the hell is wrong with these people is all we can say - as though "these people" are everywhere and the bad outweigh the good.

A popular quote that went viral throughout the course of the last week came from an unlikely source. It came from comedian Patton Oswalt who wrote the following in the days after the marathon bombing - he said:  "I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, 'Well, I've had it with humanity.' But I was wrong. This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness. But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago. So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.' "

He's no Maya Angelou or Dalai Lama, but after reading that quote I thought 'You know what buddy? You're right'.  The good absolutely do outnumber the bad in this world and each one of us sees evidence of that every day.  These dark acts are just in such sharp contrast to a world filled with mostly light that it is easy to get confused into thinking evil has become the norm - when it absolutely hasn't.  So it seems our job as citizens of this planet is to bring The Light as hard and as strong as we can.  To help one another through physical and mental illness, to support those who are suffering financially or otherwise, to treat our children and our elderly with the respect they deserve, and to keep the best interest of the species - not the self, in mind.

Our responsibility is to make the path of peace so wide and so obvious that only a fool wouldn't choose it.  To teach peace to our children so they will continue to widen the road, until one day the path of hatred and intolerance becomes so small and so narrow, that anyone who takes it will immediately realize they have lost their way.  This IS happening.  It is happening right now, all the time, every day.  Human rights are expanding, environmental awareness is spreading, the emphasis on physical health is increasing, spiritual enlightenment is becoming a topic of everyday conversation.  We are getting better not worse.  We are realizing the only way to take care of future generations is to take better care of ourselves and each other now.

A girlfriend of mine from high-school who ran on Monday had her two children waiting for her at the finish line.  They were less than 200 feet from the explosions when the bombs went off and it took her half an hour to learn they were safe.  The outpouring of support and love for her family has been far reaching and obvious.  Much of that support and encouragement has happened over the very same Internet that allows the crazies to get together and chat (so I guess there goes that theory).  People from across the country and around the world have brought The Light to Boston in the aftermath of such a dark event.  I will close with a little more stolen Internet wisdom.  This quote is from my girlfriend Jill who posted the following on Facebook earlier this week: "Take care of each other. Not just today and tomorrow. Everyday. All the time."  Way to bring The Light you smart girl.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Queen of Corn

After my last oh-so-scandalous post that mentioned - well, unmentionables, I have decided to make this post (and all future posts) suitable for audiences of all ages.  Well, the guarantee about future posts may be a stretch, but at the very least this one promises to be Rated G.  And what says wholesome and middle-America quite like a post about corn and friendship?  Not much.  So here is a nice cold glass of Organic Whole Milk (in a cyber sippy cup) to chase that naughty shot of Cuervo that was my last post.  So sit back, relax and feel free to enjoy with the whole family.


There is no easy way to say this so I'll just come right out and say it.  One of my all-time favorite movies is "Hope Floats" starring Sandra Bullock.  You can feel free to go ahead and judge, but the movie is sweet, charming and unexpectedly full of fabulous one-liners and little tidbits of wisdom.  It's also full of Harry Connick Jr. in a cowboy hat and jeans, and well, that's good enough for me.  Case and point:

What was I talking about again?  Oh right.  The movie is full of smart little life anecdotes, and in this post I will zero-in on my favorite.

*A little back story on the movie so the quote will have a frame of reference*:

Birdie (who names their kid that?), who is the Mom and lead character (played by Sandra Bullock) grew up in the rural town of Smithville, Texas.  She was apparently something pretty special back in high school because her beauty, personality and popularity ultimately earned her a crown and the title "Queen of Corn" in the Smithville annual parade.  Birdie entered womanhood with a charmed life, a handsome husband and the confidence that comes with having been a big fish in a small pond. 

The movie opens with Birdie sitting on a Dr. Phil-type daytime talk show stage.  Rather than getting the personal makeover she had been expecting, Birdie instead ends up finding out her lifelong best friend and her husband have been having an affair for some time.  They are in love and plan to be together.  This news leaves Birdie alone, not to mention shocked, embarrassed and broken.  The rest of the movie tells the story of this newly single mom trying to put the pieces of her life back together while trying to figure out what kind of a female role model she wants to be for her daughter, Bernice.

One day little Bernice asks Birdie about her early days in Smithville and her prestigious reign as the "Cream of Corn" (a cute and understandable mistake).  Birdie tells her daughter the following:  "When I was growing up, I thought I was going to be a special person, but I'm not.  I'm just an ordinary person, and that's okay - because you make me special." 

This line stuck with me and replayed in my mind many times throughout the course of my 20's.  Every time I felt as though I had been wronged in some way or life was turning out to be more difficult than I expected I would remind myself to get over it...and to get used to the idea that I didn't deserve it any better than anyone else.  To stop acting like I was the Queen of Corn

In an effort to have realistic life expectations (and maybe to keep myself humble), I spent a good part of my younger years reminding myself just how not special I was.  I was no different, no more interesting, no more beautiful, no more talented and no more intelligent than everyone else.  I spent many years practicing the art of humility and convincing myself that I had nothing distinctive or particularly unique to offer the world. 

Then I turned 34. 

I started to notice how amazing and talented my girlfriends are - all these women with such fabulous and unique gifts.  I have friends who teach school and friends who teach yoga.  I know women who can plant a garden and turn the results into a meal that would make Emeril blush.  I have friends who run marathons and friends that run the PTA.  Women who are raising their children while helping to raise other people's children.  I know women who make jewelry, or make furniture - and some that simply know how to make the sale.  I have friends who have a talent for painting or photographing life in such a way you didn't know it could be that beautiful. 

I look around me at these women who are killin' it every day in the office, or in the home (or both) for themselves and for their families.  These ladies are so versatile and multi-talented I couldn't easily pick the thing they do best - because most of them seem to do it all.  I'm starting to see that maybe we aren't special for the reasons we thought we were - but each of us are absolutely special just the same.  Maybe as we mature we become a woman who bears only a small resemblance to the girl we started out as, and most of the time that is a good thing.  There is a strength in knowing the things that make us special today (not twenty years ago) - and celebrating them.

I will close by saying that this community of talented women I am lucky enough to call my friends surprise me every day with all they are capable of doing.  And that from where I sit, each one of us looks like the Queen of Corn to me.