Saturday, October 15, 2011

May your dreams come true

Pouvoir vos rêves se réalisent.  Or in English, may your dreams come true.  Funny, how we grow up believing that phrase.  As Americans we are told we can do whatever we want to do, be whatever we want to be, that is why so many want to come here.  We watch Disney films that tell us to wish upon a star, but don’t tell us where that star to wish on is or how to find the end of the rainbow.  We go to school with the purpose of getting a good job, settling down, and changing the world.  But no one tells us how do it. 

What about those who have no specific dream?  What about those who want to make an impact but don’t know how?  How do their dreams come true?  How do you help them find a purpose?  How do you tell someone to have faith that it will come to them, to take action towards their dreams when they do not know what they are?  What if their dreams change or no longer exist?  Why can’t the dream be to have a dream?  

Americans are great at telling people what they want to hear.  We don’t like causing a fuss because it could stop us on our road of self preservation and selfish desire.  But the reality is, especially in an economy like this one, dreaming is for the fortunate.  By fortunate I mean more than economically.  I mean you are fortunate if you know your purpose in life, if you have a reason to get up every morning.  You are fortunate if you are loved.  Can love. Fortunate is knowing your dreams and way to start towards the amazing path that is you.  

So how do we help those people who are lost?  Who woke up today without a job?  Those who feel alone surrounded by many who love them?  How do we encourage others to dream big and reach for the stars?  Why can’t the stars reach for them?  How do we fix those who feel broken?  

I heard the other day poverty is more than lack of finance, it is lack of dignity.  I have been thinking about what that means.  Can you be a Bill Gates and still be in poverty?  We know money can’t buy you love and at the end of it all, isn’t that what it is all about?  Having loved and being loved in return?  How does one live a full life if they don’t know their dreams and purpose?  At the end of it all, what can we do for them?  

I guess it all comes down to purpose.  What is your purpose?  Family, a job, to make a difference?  How do you find it?  I was thinking today how easy it is for some people to know their passion, purpose.  How easy it is for them to know their skills and desires in life from the beginning. But what about those who go through life never knowing?  God gives us the desires of our hearts, but our heart is deceitful above all things.  So, how do you reconcile that?  Why doesn’t anyone ever ask these questions? 

People always ask me what I am thinking.  Apparently I think more than your average person. I seldom answer because I haven’t figured it out.  Often I think in questions.  Today, that is all I have.  Questions.  Simple, and yet, so complex.  People say I am wise, not sure why.  Wise seems more to be answers, and all I ever seem to come up with are more questions.  I don’t have answers for you or anyone else or me.  I only know one source with answers.  So, I guess what this all boils down to is not Pouvoir vos rêves se réalisent. I pray for you that Dieu révèle vos rêves à vous or in English, God reveals your dreams to you.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Place Uncrowded

I have been thinking lately, and forgive me if this comes across too harsh, but I feel like America needs a wake up call.  This country was founded on principles of hard work, moral values, and responsibility.  I am not saying it always ran well, but the mere idea that doing the right thing and accepting responsibility have been corner keystones in this democracy where WE THE PEOPLE assume responsibility for our actions. 

This thought brought me to the pondering why, then, do we allow mediocrity to thrive?  Why have we said it is ok to push the blame?  You may ask what brought this to my attention.  Knowing my academic background you may think it is the state of the economy or the fact that there are problems in Iran or even the uprisings in Libya and Serbia.  Alas, although those things trouble me, that have not been what has awakened me. 

I was talking with a co-worker earlier this week who informed me her son’s English teacher has come to the conclusion it is ok for students to write essays in text logo as long as they make sense.  Due to the idea that the Obama administration has been pushing math and science as the fields to enter, the English teacher feels writing is a dying practice.  I don’t work in a field where I write a lot, but I work in a field where I correspond with legal officials on a daily basis; moreover, I must write coherently and cohesively when billing to support the bill that is going out.  I have friends who work in law enforcement and others as engineers and they, too, must write to support their ideas.  Which brings me to the question, why text writing, if not ok in a professional field, is alright in an educational one, where we prepare our students for the professional field?  My only conclusion is we have given up and believe that mediocrity is the new star in which to reach.

Further, when talking with an acquaintance who will be attending a Halloween party this year in which the theme is stories, I suggested she read the story from which her character originated.  Most fairy tales as scary (just pick up a Brothers Grimm if you do not believe me), so it is kind of fun to read them again this time of year.  She informed it was too much work because she doesn’t read.  When someone else suggested she start reading more to improve her vocabulary, she simply looked as if that was too much work.  Why have we said it is ok to not challenge ourselves to be better? I believe the answer is because we do not want to take on the responsibility of following through with our actions.

This leads me to my next point. We have gotten so use to mediocrity that when held to the standard of responsibility we shift the blame to others or pretend as though we did not know something.  I think Reliant K said it best when they sang, “The truth is excuses are lame.  Accept the consequence, accept the blame.”  We are not perfect and mistakes happen, but we can not allow ourselves to learn if we shift responsibility, if we say mediocrity is ok. 

America is declining in power because we have changed our moral outlook.  Instead of hard work and responsibility we have allowed ourselves to take the easy road, the path that every one treads, because it is just that…easy.  We cannot expect to pull ourselves out of this mess if we do not first step away from the politics and start being the change in our own lives and circle of friends.  If we do not begin to understand there is more to life this meager road, we doom ourselves to always being second or third best.  We are called to be great.  So let us start living as such.  After all, being great is one of the few places left uncrowded in this world. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Failure...or is it?

I love autumn.  There is something about the leaves turning varieties of orange, red, and yellow with the crisp sent of fresh air that makes my heart light.  The winds of change come through and quite our hearts and remind us of things like the family, rest, and, who can forget the amazing food! 

But something new has been in the air this year.  Aside from the shorter days and cool nights, this year the winds have brought a new sense of life.  Questions of dreams, legacy, and prospects of who and what we are broadcast throughout the nations and the quite restlessness of my heart.  

From Egypt riots to Palestine’s questions of statehood, to the economic crisis that has left even the most stable running for the bank, the world is full of change.  This has called into question ideas of who we are as a nation and for what we stand.  People are quick to pass judgment on how decisions are being made in the political and diplomatic world without seriously considering the processes and consequences of each decision that is made.  Failure seems to be a popular word these days in many circles.  Yet, those same people are much less quick to judge their own decisions and life.  Why?  Because it is scary.

This idea came to me as I was listening to another person complain about the state of the nation.  I thought how easy it is for us to look at the bad and fail to see the good.  But, more so, I thought how easy we switch focus from ourselves to things beyond our own control.  So, I thought I would evaluate my own life and dreams.  

When I was in high school, contrary to what most people believe, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  I thought, much like most people I went to school with, that I would be married by the time I was twenty-five.  I thought I would have seen the world, and with good measure I would have a great job.  If I judged my life by those goals today, I would be a failure (and I will be honest, sometimes it feels that way).  However, I have discovered I have new goals and dreams, many have been informed by the former and I have succeeded at accomplishing those goals.

For me, marriage is not the goal for a couple reasons.  Half of all marriages end in divorce and of the remaining 50% I would say half are unhappy marriages.  Not great prospects.  The reason they end is because they are set upon the societal expectation of marrying.  This is a false hood.  We are not called to get married (not that I have anything against it).  The greatest commandment is not to marry God and the marry others.  Nay, it is to love God and then love others.  So my new goal is simply to love…and hopefully be loved in return.  I believe I have succeeded in that goal ten fold.  

Secondly, though I have traveled and do wish to see all seven continents before I die, I do believe that traveling in and of itself is not worth it.  Just seeing the tourist sites offers much to be desired in the purpose of travel.  One must learn about the culture they visit.  Not only does it help encourage friendship and understanding, but it opens our eyes to a world of difference.  How can we expect to love and be loved if we isolate our understanding of others?  So, my new goal is to travel with purpose.  When I visit a new place I have learned to learn about the culture I visit whether that be domestic travel or international.  Through this process the travel experience has been heightened and my love for others has increased (back to goal one).  

Lastly, every one wants a good job…I think it is innate.  We all desire to work well at something we love.  Though I have yet to find that, I have not given up hope that I will one day.  So, until that particular goal has been fulfilled I have modified it, to be a help not a harm to those I work with and to do so with a joyful heart and gratitude attitude.  After all, I am one of the fortunates who have a job and an income.  Additionally I have the bonus of working by the beach so I get a walk on the beach every day at lunch.  The perk is enough sometimes. 

When you look at these goals (and they are not all my goals), it would be easy to say, “She is a failure.”  After all, I am a single twenty something in a crappy job stuck in California.  And I suppose, with those glasses, I am a failure.  But I see myself as just getting started.  The processes have changed a little and the reality is that my goals have too.  So, am I failure?  Nay!  I am an adapter and fighter.  

I challenge you this week, amidst all the doom and gloom coming from the newspapers and the challenges of making the bills and dealing with that one person at work you would rather shove the pencil through than talk to, that you re-evaluate your own life.  Remember that by the same measure you judge others, so shall you be judged.  And then, when that fails, remind yourself that you are amazing and worth the adaptation of noticing the small gifts of success you truly have achieved.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fates Determination

I stand before a granite door with hinges rusted through
Dwarfed in size, the patterns swore into skies of blue
Hands tremble as I contemplate the choice I have to make
Turn away and life is gay or knock and see my fate

The road behind I know too well is full of broken hearts
The sins of past and heartless acts echo tearing me apart
The dark behind has left me blind to all I can become
The shadows cast eerie apparitions I cannot break away from

Before me stands a fate unknown which stupefies my soul
To walk right through could bring me to a grand celestial pole
Or cast me back into the fulminating adumbrates
Harm intent they hold in hand perfect little bait

My heart cries out for what it knows, my mind is overcome.
Hand reaches high and knows not how, yet sounds upon the drum
Breath does catch as the unknown has now come to unfold
Change is neigh and conscience wry I stand alone and cold

What once was so enveloping has now lost all its pertinence
As shadows slurk and stalk away in irascible discontent
I, paralyzed am struck by Olympian silhouettes
As compelled I am to step forward to possible new threats

What is to be is not yet known, nor can I expect it so
The path is laid before now I just have to go
To take the steps demanded of is only half the battle
Learning from what’s left behind will prove I am no chattel

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Blusterous Hurricane of Life

Sometimes life gets the better of us…or so we think.  As the hurricane of change sweeps across our lives and brings the destruction across our glassy seas of perpetual peace, we find ourselves clinging to the reality that we all live in glass houses and in our obliteration comes a phoenix on the rise. 

Anyone who sees my calendar these days or knows about the perpetual state of change I have found myself in, knows that a hurricane is still blowing here in Southern California.  I have found myself sick in bed these past week as my body rebels against all I have put it through these past few weeks.  From changing roles in relationships as people move away (will miss my long lost brother and sister-in-law…be safe in the rampaged disaster that is the East Coast), friends get married, jobs change and friends battle health problems, we learn who we are and who our real friends are. 

In this tumultuous time I found myself reminded of a long lost friend, Miss Jane Eyre.  Anyone who has known me for any real length of times knows I met Miss Eyre at age ten.  A friend from high school inquired if I had had the privilege of reading this brilliant book, and I fondly remembered my long forgotten amiee. 

As I have been sick in bed, once the book I had been reading was completed I picked up my old friend and began rekindling the fire between us. Within the first few pages I came across a poem about a poor orphan girl and it spoke to me in a new way.  I felt I should share the brilliant words of Miss Bronte with you:

My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;
Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;
Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary
Over the path of the poor orphan child.

Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
Watch o’re the steps of a poor orphan child.

Yet distant and soft the night-breeze is blowing,
Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild,
God, in His mercy, protection is showing,
Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.

Ev’n should I fall o’er the broken bridge passing,
Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled,
Still will my Father, with promise and blessing,
Take to his bosom the poor orphan child.

There is a thought that for strength should avail me,
I hough both of shelter and kindred despoiled;
Heaven is home, and a rest will not fail me;
God is a friend to the poor orphan child.

Never have I felt so weary and sore (both figuratively and literally).  Sometimes we find weariness in change and continuity alike, and right now, I feel this weariness creep into the depths of my bones, giving a chill of exhaustion.  I see the journey to purpose and completion long and tiresome.  And yet, God has brought me comfort and protection through friends and family, through small poems, and grand tableau vivant. 

Looking at the obliteration of Irene and the paralleling swirling sea that has captured my life, I see how true this poem is to even those of us with parents.  For are we not all strangers in this land?  Are we not all in a land lonely and far from our true home?  I am reminded once again, as oft I am, that my Friend and Father will show protection to me in this frenzied and chaotic time, guiding me on the path to Home where rest will encircle and caress these weary eyes. 

I pray those caught in the damage of Irene see the beauty that is around them, the hand of God in the helpful neighbor who helps remove a tree from the road, in the city worker who is helping to clean the streets instead of his home so that the people can begin getting about, in the sheer beauty of the transition of change that may open doors to incredible opportunities never before seen. 

Hurricanes, proverbial or otherwise, teach us of the mighty power of Him who created us; but also of the gentle heart that leads us home.  I pray now that though we sometimes are ungrateful and angry, that our Father will still, with promise and blessing, take to his bosom his ungrateful child.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Richness of Life or Lessons in Sailing

The last year of grad school I learned how to sail a Capri.  For those land lubbers out there, a Capri is a small boat that can seat up to three (very uncomfortably) with two sails.  My instructor always laughed at me because I was so ridged on the boat, I hated when there were strong winds, and I seldom liked the obstacle courses we had to pursue.  She thought it was particularly interesting that my classes were afternoon (in Southern California that is when the wind is usually at its peak).

I had enrolled in the class in hopes of learning a new hobby, and believed it would be more along the lines of the larger sail boats I had been on and worked in the past.  I found out I was wrong.  But, certified sailor that I am now, I learned a lot about life on that small boat.  I learned the basic understanding of how you need to trust your shipmates (both in putting a boat together and once you are on the high seas), the simple courtesy of others in the water, rules of the water ways, etc.  But I also learned something about life.  Life is not the harbor, life is the boat, and in that boat you learn about yourself and others.  You live. You are. You become. 

The first time I had to jibe on a boat it was horrendously blustery outside.  I am an excellent skipper, but captaining had always been a difficult task for me.  I had not been very good at other maneuvers as a captain and by this time in the class (a few months in) had lost faith in my ability. By this point I had actually crashed a Capri into another Capri and, well, let’s just say I had not gotten back on the bike yet mentally speaking. 

I bring this up because this week reminded me of those fateful spring days on the boat.  Work, as usual, was filled with surprising twists and turns that made me feel…well, under appreciated and stuck.  I received the small envelope in regards to a job that I am not only well qualified for, but also really wanted.  I had a friend of mine continue to give the cold shoulder while an old friend tried to reconnect with me (which I am SO excited about).  And my car decided to have a problem with its engine, what is probably oil in the coolant (let’s hope it won’t cost and arm and a leg).  All this happened while I am helping one of my greatest friends prepare for her marriage next week (wedding coordinator to best friend…priceless!)

This week was more than a roller coaster ride for me.  I felt like I had capsized my boat in the middle of the freezing Pacific (which was my final test to be certified), but then my asthma started and I was unable to breath.   My brother asked how I was doing and I told him and his response was, “Things could always be worse.”  What a cliché I thought, until he said, “Did you hear about Somalia?  The Sahara?”  Leave it to big brother to put things in perspective. 

All this, plus one simple statement from an old friend told me something I don’t think I have come to grips with yet, but believe to be true.  I have lost faith in me.  She reminded me, unbeknownst to her, of something Helen Keller once said:

“The richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome.” 

What this translated to for me, all these seemingly unconnected antidotes, is that sometimes we can be our own limitations.  When I look back at the past ten years I know for certain two things.  First, I know that they have been difficult for many reasons; and second, that I have overcome a lot of which I am proud.  But, I also know that much like capsizing a boat, all you see is the mass before you sometimes. 

Lately, I have found myself in the water, asthma started, looking at a large mass of wood praying the only hope for safety does not turtle on me (when the boat goes completely upside down and the mast gets caught in the surface below).  But I have forgotten that on the other side of the wooden mass is someone who can help.  With simple communication, tapping on that wood, I can get the help I need to climb back on the life boat.  This week, my friend in New York, my “bestie” getting married, and my brother have all been that ship mate. 

So, the challenge this week:

Step out of yourself.  You heard right, get out of your own way.  Thank God for the blessings of limitations…even if those limitations are you.  Thank Him that your life is rich because you have limitations to overcome, hurdles to jump, or boat to put right.  Give thanks to those He has given to help you through those limitations, be it with tough or soft love.  I challenge you to renew your strength and rise up on wings like eagles to peruse the purpose and plan that is designed solely for you.  And lastly, I urge you to hold yourself and those in your circle of friends, family, and acquaintances to do the same. 

Salut and Cheers!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Life I Lead

As the old song goes: “I was dreaming when I wrote this, so sue me if it goes astray.”  I went to see the musical Mary Poppins this past week with my little niece and sister-in-law.  It was a welcome distraction in my crazy life, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend with them.  It has become harder and harder to see them as my life gets busier and busier.  I was surprised by some of the show (definitely not like the movie, just a heads up for those of you considering seeing it…the second half is much better than the first).  But I found, as I often do when I watch the movie, I was more entertained by the somber parts of the show. 

Those who know me the closest tend to think I am drawn to the somber, and perhaps part of that is true.  However, in this particular case, I believe the somber in Mary Poppins actually is where the heart of the show is located.  Sure, a spoonful of sugar is fun and tasty, and I love to laugh just as much as the next person, but something about giving topins to an old bird lady or discovering the true meaning behind the life I lead just seems to be a bit more…well, compelling to this chaotically contemplating heart. 

I noticed something in the reprise of Mr. Bank’s Life I Lead piece that I have never noticed before (or perhaps, more accurately, never really had the opportunity to connect to before).  He finds himself summoned to the bank to discover if he is fired or not just as a bunch of strange chimneysweep men dance out of his house.  He opens his contemplations stating:

“A man has dreams of walking with giants
To carve his niche in the edifice of time
Before the mortar of his zeal
Has a chance to congeal
The cup is dashed from his lips
The flame is snuffed aborning
He's brought to rack and ruin in his prime”

I heard this and for the first time connected to it.  I understood the desire to make an impact in the world and feel like the chances you had to do so have been snatched from your hands, now like a broken dream.  I thought of all those unemployed people, all those graduates looking to start a new adventure in the “real world” and finding themselves stuck on a path they neither sought nor wish to remain upon. 

As the actor sang and the orchestra swelled with emotion, I empathized with Mr. Banks.  I couldn’t help but feel that I, too, had my fire snuffed out by the frivolities and trivialities of this world, only to be brought to rack and ruin in my prime.  I thought on this as I drove home, with countless evidence as to why it was an accurate depiction of my life.  Truly, I am Mr. Banks. 

Until a very old and dear friend commented to me in a conversation after the show that I really did make a difference in his life.  He had no idea what I had been contemplating, but what he said struck home.  He had, unwittingly, become my Burt:

“You've got to grind, grind, grind
At that grindstone
Though child'ood slips like sand through a sieve
And all too soon they've up grown
And then they've flown
And it's too late for you to give
Just that spoonful of sugar
To 'elp the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down.”

Wasn’t only a few weeks ago I spoke about not living in vain?  That all it takes is to keep one person from pain?  How quickly I forget my own words.  I have been so focused on grinding at that grindstone I had forgotten how quickly children grow up while we are not looking, how much a person’s “hello” or “glad to see you today” can really make more of an impression in the rocks of someone’s heart, can be more of that slow melting a river can make on the most stubborn of granite. 

Why is it so hard for us to keep focused on the bigger picture?  Why is it so easy for us to focus on our own problems and desires?  I had the most amazing night with my niece (one I will treasure until the day I die), and yet I allowed some thought to damper a part of the night.  For that I am truly sorry.  I wish with every fiber of my being I could turn off my brain sometimes and stop contemplating, just enjoy the moment.  For that I ask for your encouragement and accountability.  But I am thoroughly grateful that I have small reminders and a lot of Burt’s in my life to keep me focused on what matters. 

This week I challenge you to stop worrying about the grindstone and start enjoying the moment.  Seize the day! Seize whatever you can! 


Friday, July 29, 2011

Love. Actually. Is All Around Us

Friendship.  Love. Purpose.  All these things are what create the world around us and make things pleasurable.  Why, then, do we not hold them in higher regard?  Why do we not see we are not alone, even when we feel the most alone?  Why do we cling to what is bad instead of good?  Losing faith in ourselves and others?

This week has been particularly difficult.  Aside from problems at work and in the day to day grind we all somehow create for ourselves, I then dealt with more than the average unforeseen problems in my week.  By mid week I was having trouble sleeping from stress and the feeling that I am stuck.  Stuck at a job I hate.  Stuck in a city, nay state, I wish not to be in.  Stuck in the grind of life that keeps me from the freedom to have fun. 

Just stuck. 

I confessed to a friend that I would not be able to attend an event we had been planning on for some time at the last minuet and then to another I had to decline a further invitation.  Understand, I wanted to attend, but life circumstances sometimes dictates our schedules.  I was shocked when one offered to help in a situation so that my life circumstance would not dictate my fun.  She left me a note, after my battle to accept her help that stated simply, “Just because I love you.”  I don’t like to cry, especially in public, so I was thrilled that I read the note at home, alone.  I literally broke down…which never happens. 

As I am sitting in my room, solitary and quite, processing what just happened, my kid brother (who is serving abroad) happened to IM me. He never had very good timing, but in this case, he out did himself.   He asked how I was, and as usual, I told him.  Not two minuets into my conversation we traded roles.  Usually, I have been the one to encourage him, hold him accountable and uplift him.  But that day, he did that for me.  He reminded me how loved I am, how appreciated and how much I effect other people’s lives for the good.  (I enjoy an accolade like the rest, but please don’t take this as tooting my own horn).  Then he said something I tend to forget, “Just because you don’t get to see everyone all the time, doesn’t mean they do not love you.  Sis, you are loved and one day God is going to open big doors for you and your talents and skills are going to make a big impact.”  When did he become the big brother? 

All this was going through my head when the following day a co-worker brought in a small treat from Starbucks, nothing fancy.  On the top of the carrier box she wrote, “Just because you are wonderful…enjoy a touch of happiness in your stressful day.”  Then today, my little niece called just to say she loves me and ask me to attend a show with her because “I want to be able to sit on your lap.” 

Funny how these little instances of love and friendship can do more than wonders for a soul.  The problems of the week and the struggles we fight through sometimes blind us to the love all around us.  Love really is all around us, whether we are married, in a relationship or single.  Why do we not open our eyes more?

I then thought that perhaps the reason we blind ourselves is because we look into ourselves instead of out towards others.  Our focus is so self centered we turn ourselves into arrogant prats with “Why me?” forever ingrained on our lips. 

The world is so lost and lonely because they have forgotten where to look and how to act.  We look into ourselves.  We act for ourselves.  We endeavor after our own desires.  No wonder the biggest complaint on Americans’ lips is not the economy but how lonely we are.  We are lonely because we do not invest (as I spoke about last week), but we are all the more depressed because we fail to recognize the small touches of love from others daily. 

This week I challenge you all to stop.  Breathe.  Enjoy the sunshine.  And at the end of the night, when you lay in bed going over the events of the day, as you recollect the sorrows, stresses, and inflictions others have placed upon you (as we all do whether we care to admit or not), make a list of all the good things, the small favors, kind words, touches of love that has blessed you throughout the day.  For every bad, I bet there are two good deeds done or words said.  Let’s start changing the world and those sad statistics by changing our focus from inward to outward, seeking the good and savoring those memories instead of clinging to the bad.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Investing Time: The Secret to Ending Lonliness

Ever feel like the world would keep spinning without you, but nothing would get accomplished without you either?  Sometimes I think I live in a world of contradictions, that I am a walking, talking contradiction. 

This past week I did not write as I was out of town playing the role of Maid of Honor to an old friend from college.  I purposely left my computer at home so I could enjoy the slow pace of what is Northern California.  I landed Thursday night with no plans (other than to fix a dress, which turned out needed no fixing), and enjoyed a quite night with my sister’s family and my mother. 

About an hour into my visit, when the hello’s and hi-ya’s ceased, and the baby was enjoying the new freedom of walking, I noticed my companions had pulled out their phones and were working.  I commented that I should pull my own phone out and play a game or something and was told my brother feels the same way, but that they were all still present in the moment, just getting work done.  All of them had work to do. 

Now, I am not saying doing work is not good, as I am the first to say I am a work-a-holic.  However, I have begun to learn that working does not necessarily mean productive, and that there is a time and a place.  At that moment, the selfish part of me, believed working was not the appropriate thing to be doing in my 48 hour turn around visit.  It felt nice to know my kid brother gets bothered by the same thing. 

I thought to myself that at that moment I could have, and should have, been working on an article for the paper, prepping for the auction for our combat human trafficking campaign, and probably over at the church helping with last minute decorations for the wedding the following day (not to mention writing a blog for my six adoring fans!)  But instead, I went up to visit with the intention of investing time with those I love.

Investing time…not spending time.  I felt at that moment I was spending time, shelling out hours. I know my family is excellent at multitasking (after all, they taught me), but I am learning that sometimes multitasking is not what is beneficial. 

My parents just bought this property in the country (literally, well water and no street lights).  I enjoyed the slow pace of the country, and harkened back to a time of simplicity, where books by the fire and conversation over the dinner table were the norm.  Not that I ever lived in that time.  But I thought we are missing something in this day of technology.

Sure, technology allowed my brother-in-law to come visit with me while he was on-call for work.  And technology keeps me in touch with those I love (and sometimes those I would prefer not to be in touch with).  But is this connection really making us more connected?  There is a higher divorce rate, depression and suicide in the age of technology that is suppose to connect us than at any other time in history.  The complaints of loneliness are astounding!  There is something to be said about remembering to stop SPENDING time with people and start INVESTING time with them. 

We invest our money into stock and bank accounts because it gives a higher return rate.  Why do we not carry that same principle into our relationships?  Aren’t relationships why we are on this earth, not money?  If we want a higher return, to feel connected, why not invest?  Why not pour into others instead of ourselves?  Why not listen more than we speak?  Why not comfort more than we complain?  Why not rejoice more than we than we wallow? 

We need to push ourselves to unplug and connect – face to face.  The best memories are made when we are present with each other, not over Facebook, e-mail, or Twitter (although I have an account for all of those).  The strongest connections are made when we turn off the tv, put our phones down, and enjoy the time with the people we are with, otherwise, why are we with them?  Let’s stop checking to see if we have a text message from someone just to prove we are not alone, when in fact, we are not. 

This week, I challenge all of you to turn your phones off when you come home and have dinner with your family, spouse, significant other, or friend, to fast from things like Facebook and Twitter, and enjoy the simplicity of friendship and familial relations as they were intended to be…fully present.  It is a present you will not want to return.    

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Paulo Coehlo, author of The Alchemist and my main man, Tweeted this week, “changes happen when we go against everything we’re used to doing.”  This got me thinking about another saying, “crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (or something along those lines).

Today I finished a car wash to raise money to combat human trafficking and it dawned on me how true those statements are, not just in our personal lives, but in our every day lives.  With wedding season having been kicked off yesterday night for me juxtaposed to the car wash today, the irony of Coehlo’s tweet has not escaped me.  

You see, I have been leading a campaign for nine months to raise $18,000 to provide an attorney to prosecute human trafficking violators.  Over the past months we have raised about one third of the money.  We have tried other fundraisers which have brought in some money, but this one was particularly interesting.

Every first Saturday of the month I get a bunch of youth together to do what we call Project Service.  We go out into the neighborhood or to church members and do odd jobs, or spring clean, one time we helped someone move, and in exchange we ask for nothing but some loose change.  Usually, we get much more than our loose change quota, most people tend to write a check.  I like this project because it teaches youth the true meaning of service while uniting our community’s multiple generations (something more communities need to do, in my opinion).

However, having done this a few months now, I have noticed fewer people needing help, or wanting to utilize the kids.  I know it has nothing to do with their service, as those who have utilized us have come back multiple times or raved and recommended us to others.  But we still are not getting the kind of response we had hoped.  So this Project Service we held a car wash instead…the response was almost overwhelming!  When we may just bring in $100 or so each service project, the response to this event was exponentially more than we had hoped.  

We all had to step out of our comfort zones to serve people in the hot sun, often fighting exhaustion and the uncanny ability of youth to want to move like molasses (a battle against time if you do not want water spots on your car).  Some of the kids had to do things they did not want to (like hold signs or Armarol tires), they had to go against what they were used to doing in a Project Service.  The outcome could not have been better. 

When I went to the wedding last night I found myself watching the bride with her family and realized that she and her new husband, though close to their families already, were going to have to expect changes.  They were going to have to try new things and figure out new holiday schedules. I then looked across the table and saw four couples sharing in a meal with me.  All friends.  As I watched them interact I realized they were all heading into a whirl wind of change, one moving across country, one getting married, one just starting a new job, and another dealing with the post-graduation now-what mentality.  

I thought to myself how silly we all are as kids thinking that life is never going to change, that things will always be as they always were.  Coehlo was right.  Changes happen when we go against everything we’re used to.  

You see, life may be, as Mr. Gump says, like a box of chocolates, but it is so much more than the chocolate covered macadamia nut.  For life is not the box, or even the chocolates, life is the reaction to the chocolate.  Do we run for cover when we get the nuts we are allergic to, or do we learn how to see and avoid them?  Do we show our dislike on our faces when a bitter dark chocolate comes up, or do we learn to appreciate even the bitterness?  

We cannot expect change to happen in our lives, to run towards our goals, to share them with people when we continue on the known path.  We cannot expect change to happen when we cling to the past and barely see the present.  We must learn from our past, taking that knowledge of what works and does not, and incorporate it into something much more magnificent than our past.  For it is our future that we run towards, leaving the past behind us, lest we weigh ourselves down. 

We cannot hope to move forward if we do not go against what we are used to, if we do not fight to break free from our comfort zones.  Change is life.  Therefore, we must set our goals, go against ourselves and fight through our comfort until we find that we are uncomfortable, for in that discomfort we find not only what we want, but who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Shall Not Live In Vain

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

-          Emily Dickenson

When did we stop living like this?  When did we begin to say to ourselves, “It is not my problem” or “Sounds like a personal problem to me?”  When did we begin to shut our eyes to injustice and harden our hearts to mercy?  At what point do we stop ourselves and begin to see that one life is worth the making?

This week I talked to an old friend from college who had started to read my blog and thought I was unhappy in my singledom.  Let me squelch this for you all, for I am quite content with my singleness.  I love that I can live to my schedule and do and eat what I like to do and eat.  I enjoy getting to know who I am without the influence of others trying to pull me their direction.  I love the freedom.  I love the possibility.  But knowing this, I am not so naïve as to think a fulfilling life is lived alone.  For, as the great poet says, man is not an island, and I must add neither is woman (no matter how much we try to fool ourselves).

This conversation was juxtaposed to another I had with a friend whose family has been dealt what she thinks an injustice.  Her heart was breaking, and having watched my family go through a similar situation, my heart was hardened to her protest.  How cruel I was.  I took my arrogant stance and voiced my opinion, which was contrary to hers.  Unbeknownst to me, I offended her by “just being myself” (her words).  In her pain she inflicted pain on me, unbeknownst to her. 

This small injustice we did each other comingled with the idea of singledom and contentedness turned my mind toward grander things.  I thought of the poverty that runs rampant in America, which I can see even here in Orange County.  I thought of the 27 million humans trafficked every day into slavery in the $32 billion dollar sex and slave trade.  I thought of thousands of Muslims who have been poorly treated because of events they did not control.  I thought of the children in my friend’s classroom who are bullied by a broken hearted child. 

We are so blind and selfish. We see only what we want to see and do only what we want to do.  We react and seldom act, we fight for self-centered causes and act as conceited prats to most.  We believe that if we cannot see it, it must not exist.  When did we stop paying attention?  We did begin to believe that this ok? 

Last week I talked about guarding your heart, and contrary to my friend who thinks I am not content with my lot as a single, I think the guarding your heart is only part of the problem.  When we limit ourselves to our social order, or circle of friends, we limit our ability to meet angels and mend a broken hearted world.  There is so much potential for good in this world if only we will stop fooling ourselves into thinking we are good people and do good things.  We are nothing if we do not act, we have nothing if we do not love. 

I pray I leave a legacy like Ms. Dickenson’s poem.  I pray my legacy in one that mends the broken hearted, eases life’s aching for another, cools pain in another.  I pray that I see the end of the slave trade in America. I pray that I see the end of stony hearts brandishing their blessing in faces of the less fortunate. I pray that one day I will hear how thankful the rest of the world is for watching our model of humility, dignity, grace, and charity.  I pray that one day we will go back to our roots and remember that we are not now, nor ever will be, perfect.  And it is because of our imperfection we are able to empathize with those who suffer at the hands of the unjust. 

After all, as Edmund Burke reminds us, “All it takes for evil to prevail, is for a good man to do nothing.”  Remember that this Independence Day as you sit beneath those colorful fire works displayed in remembrance of the injustice we fought to become this great nation.  Remember as you sit with your friends and family around that BBQ what this holiday is truly about…justice prevailing against a greedy tyrant. Remember that so that those good and faithful will not have died in vain for our self centered arrogance.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Price of Seizing The Day

When we were born our hearts were pure, innocent, unshielded.  We laughed, cried, and lived life with abandonment.  Somewhere along the line, however, most of us find that abandonment brings hurt, pain, brokenness.  If we are lucky, we learn from our mistakes and move forward, still with abandon, but wiser for our decisions.  Some of us fight that brokenness and hide behind the shields of drugs or sex, while others hide behind rules and guidelines.  Yet it seems easier to build a wall, a shield of impenetrable steel around our hearts, learning that keeping the bad out protects us from things like broken hearts, tortured souls, and longing unceasing.  But is that really a life worth living?

This week I have been examining my own life, my own walls, my own stubbornness in my relationships with good friends, family, and those potentials.  I found myself asking a friend this week what she thought was the one thing I could work on in my relationships and her response was letting my guard down.  I read a note on my facebook page that was also about letting my guard down, and unexpectedly found more urging to let my guard down in a book I am reading.  Being the slow one I can be, I thought after the third mention of letting my guard down, that perhaps there was something I was suppose to learn from all this.  This has been what my conclusions have come to thus far in my quest.

You see, I believe the guard was posted for protection, but I think I posted a dunce, because he does not let the good in while keeping the bad out.  There is much more damage done with this guard than good as he keeps friends and family at bay; worse for this single, he keeps potential suitors at bay…which could be a good thing if you are one of my brothers reading this, I am sure it brings a smile to your face.  However, this guard keeps me from living a fulfilling life, in which I can share joy, sorrow, hope, and despair with those who want so desperately to know and love me.  

So, how do I fire a dunce?  I have tried many a times, but just like a ignorant ass he is, he simply does not get that he has been fired.  I liken the situation to the quite stapler obsessed man in the movie The Office who has been fired but still comes to work for years.  And, just like that man, perhaps he secretly wants to set me on fire?  Terrible thought.  But, can one ever move forward if they keep the incompetent employed in such a vital position?  I argue no.

“The only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself,” so the Weepies argue.  Perhaps they are half right.  I cannot move forward in living a fulfilling life until I break the walls and fire the guard.  But, alternately, if I allow no one into my life, if I allow myself to depend solely on myself and not allow others to help when they ask and can, then I not only plateau on my life stairway, but hinder those who love me from becoming what they truly are and displaying it for me.  I hurt them, in my unintentional way. 

I suppose, like my wise eldest brother argues, I ought to stop trying and just do it.  Fire the imbecile, demolish the walls, and create a path to my heart (perhaps not without some booby-traps) and allow myself to be hurt.  The most precious thing in life is to be loved and to love in return.  I cannot love others if I do not first allow them to love me for I will not truly know their character.  So, here is to learning to love, even when it hurts, to dancing when asked, at the risk of stepping on my partner’s toes, to being the goof ball and being ok with the fact that not everyone will like me, much less love me, but that those who do will love me for me, not because I look like Cindy Crawford (yeah, right).  

So, here is to taking chances, learning lessons, and living life to its fullest.  Here is to “seizing the day, for life slips away just like hour glass sand” (Carolyne Arndes).  Carpe Diem every one!  

Friday, June 17, 2011

An Unencumbered Heart: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

An Unencumbered Heart:  The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Let’s talk about the difference between girls and guys.  That is not quite accurate, let’s talk about the difference between me and guys. 

I have recently been more and more aware of the difference between myself and the male population that surrounds my life.  In normal situations, according to the Hollywood world and the vast amounts of books I read, the girl is suppose to be the naïve, emotional, selfish, and aloof person.  However, if my experience the guys in my life fit that role much better than I.

When did it become offense to a guy to be direct, straight to the point, and honest?  Growing up that is what guys always complained about…the games girls play.  But when we are direct you take it personally and act like a child.  I should not be made to feel bad because I was direct in a situation, and did not waste time with trivialities.  Moreover, I should not be made to feel bad because I am competent, self assured, and confident.  There is nothing that looks worse than for a gentleman to get offended when a woman treats them like a man.  It just makes them look, well, immature and unappealing.

But, that is not to say that women have it right, or that I do for that matter.  I suppose I could just as easily baby them into a conversation of trivialities before I get to the real reason I am calling/texting.  But why waste time and energy that could be directed at something else?  I could be less direct, play the games the say they hate so much, but there really is not a point to that either when the truth will come out eventually. 

In my opinion, and that is all it is, more women should be direct.  The games people play are useless, they cause more drama than it is worth, and they do more damage than good.  So, why not skip the dice roll and just pass go and collect your $200? 

Granted, there is a difference between blunt and rude.  Perhaps I sometimes cross that line, and if I have I sincerely ask for forgiveness.  I have learned that truth and bluntness without grace and love do more damage than good.  This is a lesson I tend to have to re-learn, so I suppose I do not truly learn it.  But I dare say that I have something this politically correct culture has lost.  This culture that values sex over relationship, half truths over reality, and reality TV shows over actual reality of life has lost the incredible beauty of honesty and the immense amount of good, change, and prosperity that can come only from being H.O.T. (honest, open and transparent). 

When we play games with each other instead of being open and honest we close wonderful doors of opportunity, we limit our potential to do amazing things because we are cowards in our own skin.  We must shed the darkness of betrayal to ourselves, the skin we hid our true essence behind and let the new skin of who we really are shine through with the amazing beauty that is our spirit.  Only then can we hope to find the person who does actually match us; only then can we be comfortable in who we are and know exactly what we want.  Let’s stop limiting ourselves and push through to the wonderful path that awaits an unencumbered heart.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. 

I think in this day and age it is really easy to get discouraged.  Everywhere young adults look they are told they need to be in a meaningful relationship pursuing their career goals.  Just this week a co-worker of mine told me just that, and that I need to be having babies.  Forget the fact that I do not really have a desire for such things.  I found myself in a dead end job that is far from fulfilling, surrounded by people who do not wish to be there just as much as myself, and attending the blessed traditions of bridal showers and graduation ceremonies.  Strange how the winds of change seem to blow for all at the same time. 

Surprisingly, I found myself discouraged.  Not because I am single, but because I find that perhaps I lack a purpose in my life at the moment.  It has been brought to my attention on multiple occasions that I am a very passionate person.  Without purpose in career or relationship, it is easy to get discouraged and feel as if the world is rising and I am sinking to a slow death march. 

Then, I heard this song by the Glee Cast.  “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some times, you just might find you get what you need.”  Interesting words to a discouraged young adult in the city.  After a year of job searching, I have found the rejections make it easy to want to give in and give up.  But then, I forget how little I know about what I need. 

I know I want a good job, where there is purpose and change, and eventually some one to share that with.  However, just because that is what I want, it may not be what I need, at least at this point in time.  “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.  I have to hold fast to the faith that I have in He who sent me.  He knows my future and the desires of my heart and He will provide for both in ways that supersede my wildest dreams. 

But the honest to goodness truth is that without really trying, I limit my possibilities to succeed and thrive in life.  It is like voting, you can’t complain about the decisions of elected officials if you did not participate in choosing them.  I cannot expect to succeed if I do not actively try.  So, I increase the quality and quantity of job applications, I open my heart up a little bit with friends and challenge myself to meet new individuals.  If I want to thrive and enjoy life, I must live it.  Life is about risk taking, jumping off the preverbal high dive, singing in the rain and dancing in the streets.  If I challenge myself, whether the outcome is success of failure, I will succeed if I give my all throughout the journey. 

So, here is to my own transition and change in the wind.  For whenever it occurs, whether I anticipate it or not, I know for sure one thing…I will be fulfilled and cherished, and cherish others.  How blest I am to find simple reminders in the least likely of places of how loved I am.  Cheers to waiting till I find what I need!  Bottoms up to you and yours this weekend! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Jealous Factor

“He that is not jealous is not in love.”  St. Augustine
I heard something interesting this week, through a crime solving television show…Bones.  The main character finds herself evaluating her idea of marriage and love, which she finds an antiquated tradition and irrational.  For some years now, I have agreed with her.  I think that is why I have not been able to make relationships work, I can’t let my guard down far enough to make any head way.  So, I rationalize that love is irrational and as a rational being, romantic love is unnecessary. 

I found myself re-evaluating my ideas on love after hearing her admit she was jealous of those around her, who open themselves up and take life by the moment. To most of you out there, you probably are saying to yourselves, “Duh, where has this girl been?”  But believe me; I think I may have been under a proverbial rock. 

I have learned watching some of my best friends find their special someone that my ideas on the subject are not only wrong, but limit my possibilities.  I see them and am actually jealous of them.  Not because they have someone special, like I am sure most of you are thinking, but because they have the ability to take risk.  Without risk, one cannot truly experience love, the greatest gift of all. 

I have spent my life believing that love for friends and family is enough for a single person…and for some that may be true.  However, risk is what brings adventure into the world; risk unites us through fear, excitement, joy, and enthusiasm.  I think I have learned this week that life without risk is not worth living at all. 

Think of it this way, when I moved to Southern California I left everything behind.  I left my family, friends, support system.  I moved to a place where I did not know streets, where the grocery store was, I did not know a single person…which is scary, I don’t care who you are.  I began an endeavor greater than any I had ever attempted…my graduate degree.  I took a risk that I would meet people, they would like me (I was like a kindergartener on the first day of school), and that I would succeed at all academically.  Risk.  Those years were some of the most trying, difficult, and frustrating times of my life…but I would not replace them for anything. 

I had a genuine adventure.  I met some amazing people, who will be in my life forever.  I learned to open up a bit.  But that lesson of risk did not teach me enough.  Since that time I have hardened my heart to the opposite sex, not out of hate, but out of rationality and fear (I know that is a contradiction). 

Last week I talked about watching my friends get married, which I am so glad I get to do.  But, this week I realize that watching them is hard not because I do not believe in love, but because I am jealous.  St. Augustine was wrong when he said “He that is not jealous is not in love.”  Sorry, but he is.  For I am not in love, but I am jealous of those who are.  I am jealous of those who can take the biggest risk possible and open themselves to being hurt, loved, and cherished.  One day, I pray, I will cease being jealous and begin the greatest adventure of all – loving someone and being loved in return.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

I'm Not Settling

 “There is only one real sin and that is to convince yourself that second best is anything but second best.” – Doirs Lessing

This week have been grappling with the idea of settling.  People my age are all either married or preparing to walk down the aisle and in their matrimonial happiness have decided this is the most appropriate time to discuss my standards in the opposite sex.  So, being the good friend I am, I have taken their advice under consideration. 

You see, my friends concern is that my standards are too high, that there is no way there is a human on the planet who can live up to them.  On the surface, when one looks at my qualifications for spending the rest of my life tide to another (that includes their good and bad, their smart and stupid decisions) one might tend to agree with them.  After all, the chances that a man has the same faith and education level is hard enough, but into this the fact that I want to be physically attracted to him, that he makes me laugh, and challenges me to be better tomorrow than I am today…well, the evidence speaks for itself. 

Then I came across this quote by Doris Lessing and the more rational side of my head staeted speaking up.  There are billions of people on this earth, billions!  People find their spouses well into their 60s.  While I do hope to find mine before my libido ceases to work, I am encouraged with each of my friends weddings.  It may be that I don’t meet Mr. Right right now, but I have hope that I will. 

You see, I don’t want to settle.  Why would I?  I know what does not work, so why waste time?  If it is not going to work out, why take a date with someone?  Settling only leads to people thinking they are better than their partner.  Don’t fool yourself for one minuet that will come to bite you later when pride begins to destroy the relationship.  It leads to dissatisfaction with yourself and your partner.  Settling is nothing more than taking second best out of desperation and discouragement.  Neither of which I think are helpful in any way, shape, or form. 

So, next time you find yourself considering the possibility of taking a quite jog down the path of second best, remind yourself that you are uniquely and wonderfully made.  You have incredible qualities that create something genuine and extraordinary in this world.  If you are so special, shouldn’t your partner be as well?  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life's Productivity

Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being productive.  

Or, at least that is what I have been learning in this past year.  Here is hoping the lesson sticks.  But, this may be moving too fast.  Let me introduce myself.

I graduated with my masters of arts in the art of double speak and bull sh**.  That is what we call, political science.  The intention was to go on and do something amazing in the world, like be the first woman president or start an organization that ends human trafficking.  However, I learned that politics is just a way to waste time when decisions actually need to be made.  So, currently, I work for an orthopedic surgeon…something I don’t enjoy but at least it pays the bills. 

I also was engaged for four years…yes, I said four.  And now have been single for almost three.  In these past three years I have learned to hate men and what they do and stand for, but then came full circle to realize how amazing they can be as friends, brothers, and just all around good guys.  So, for those of you hoping this will be a blog from a radical feminist, sorry to disappoint. 

So, being busy does not mean being productive.

I have learned that single people like to keep themselves busy so as not to appear desperate and lonely to the outside world.  Well, I can say in my experience, that idea about life only hurts you and develops feelings of insecurity more.  When those lights go out at night and all you have to show for it is the eight hours you spent at a dead end job you do not like and the excuses of work that came home with you, you are still alone.  What is worse, you are purposeless. 

Life is about relationship, not tasks.  It is about the give and take, the laughs, the cries, sometimes the hurting, and often the healing.  If you pour yourself into the things this world values (career) you limit your potential at finding and developing great friends and family relations.  Life is not about the job, but who you go home to when it is over.  Life is about sharing who you are, letting some walls down, and being willing to take risks. 

So, if you truly want to be productive, how about taking the next five minuets and call that friend or sibling who you miss and have not talked to in awhile.  Or maybe, invite someone out for a soft serve ice cream and walk on the beach.  Don’t wait for others to ask, take a chance.  Develop relationships – not obligations.

And that is life according to this happy single.