Category: "Uncategorized"

Blog Upgrade

December 24th, 2010

Happy Holidays friends and readers. I'm doing a little blog maintenance today (i.e., upgrading software). You may have difficulty linking to my post from 12/21. If so, you can get to it through the "recently" link on this blog's home page.

I welcome your thoughts on how to improve this blog. I will try to add photos soon. Enter any suggestions in the comment box. Also, please let me know if you experience navigation problems, etc.

Thank you for your readership. I look forward to conversing with you in 2011.

Ruth

When You Are Unable to Establish a Connection...

December 8th, 2010

We are each unique individuals, yet it's still comforting to find someone who shares our passion, ideals or perspective. Like-minded people are refreshing to talk to. You can see it in their eyes and their body language: they understand. You don't need long-winded explanations. You don't need to stand your ground. When you're amongst the right people, life just seems easier.

But comrades can sometimes be hard to find. The saddest part is that we often don't see them standing next to us.

If you look at American history, you'll find that most towns were settled by communities. Many settlers carried out religious endeavors while others partnered against hardships or shared common interests like the gold rush. Regardless, each town was built to fill that community's needs. Their combined manpower and spirit established places that stood time's test, but unfortunately their sense of community did not.

As every inch on America's map filled with a diverse collection of spots, individuals could go elsewhere to get what they needed or wanted. With the exception of the rural towns where bored young adults clamor to "get out," most of us can easily take a physical leap to another place. Some folks can even build a palace so well equipped that they never really need to leave the house. Today, we can easily exist isolated in a crowd -- no community needed.

Meanwhile, the longing to find others who understand us will never go away. Church groups, athletic leagues, coffee dates, book clubs, social parties and family gatherings give us a place to feel included. Life is more complete when we are in the presence of others, where we can read their body language or see what’s behind their eyes.

But what if you don't belong to any “club” or the one you've joined seems meaningless? This year, resolve to build your own community. Start by greeting every stranger as if he or she is a potential member. Say "hello" with sincerity. You might even become the catalyst that propels your town from a disjointed hodgepodge of strangers into one that finds common ground, unity, synergy and efficiency. A real community.

First, we must slow the pace a little so we have time to recognize those standing next to us. We must find contentment in personal connections when they happen. If we go to a book club meeting itching to get home to watch the next Survivor episode, we miss the nuances. "It's the little things," I hear people say. I wholeheartedly agree, but those little things don't scream for attention, we have to be patient and watch for them.

So let's resolve to be with those who share a common interest and a desire to enjoy life. They make things better, we just have to be willing to pull over and talk to them for a while.

The Power of Suggestion

November 30th, 2010

Life is short, and it's getting shorter every minute so it's natural to want to make the most of it. Wouldn't it be great if we could control our thoughts and weed out all the unnecessary junk? "Mind over matter," they say. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our expectations, ideas and conceptions have an immense impact on our brief lives.

Why then, does it seem to be so very easy to think negative thoughts instead of positive ones?

The mind is a powerful thing. For example, last night my husband may very well have been bitten by a spider while he was sleeping. He awoke to an itchy, swollen bump on his leg. From that moment on, I felt as if there were 20 spiders in bed with us, crawling here and there, nibbling the whole time. It was awful. Even if my husband was bitten, the little culprit would have never stuck around for the subsequent thrashing we gave the sheets, but the mere suggestion that a spider was in our bed set my nerves on fire.

This morning I sat at my desk and wondered why I can't turn that mind power around. Good thoughts of success and productivity could motivate my senses towards getting an article published or landing a big project, but all I can think about is rejection letters.

I've heard successful people conclude that they use regular meditation or quiet contemplation to steer their mind towards visions of abundance and happiness. No matter what the method, positive thoughts take a conscious commitment, especially when there are obstacles in life. But when we fritter away on notions like sleeping with spiders (or getting rejected), we miss our chance to soar with the eagles.

How do you keep the negative thoughts away?

Winter Cheer or Holiday Stress?

November 16th, 2010

Ah, it's almost the holidays.

How does that make you feel? Excited like a child or stressed out like a UPS shipping clerk? There is no doubt, different people feel differently about the holidays.

It was so simple when I was young: the holidays brought activity to an otherwise boring life. We'd decorate, bake cookies, visit family, entertain friends and sing songs. And like many Americans, we'd exchange presents and partake in meaningful religious ceremony.

But when I was about seven, I remember hearing for the first time someone say, "I hate the holidays." It came from the mouth of a female shopper waiting in front of me in a long line at the mall. It made me very sad. I found myself thinking, "Even if you feel that way you should keep it to yourself. Stop bringing it down for the rest of us."

Now as an adult, I have to bite my tongue to keep from bringing it down. The thought of all that I have to do in the next month makes me wish we could just skip forward to January. What happened? How did I go from "can't wait until it's here" to "can't wait until it's over?"

I try to remember the child who flinched at the impatient lady's hateful statement, and I realize I can never bring back the excitement of my childhood, but I can block out the self-imposed stress. I can adjust my perspective.

For instance:

• I can either bake cookies because I have to, or I can bake cookies because I want to use the cookie-making supplies in my cabinet to create a cozy kitchen warmed by the smell of melting chocolate.

• I can either clean the house because I'm worried about what visitors think, or I can revel in the joy of home ownership. Like the man who loves to wash his brand new sports car, I can polish and give care to something I've always wanted to own and worked hard to get. I can make it look its best for me and my family, reminding us all how fortunate we are.

• I can either curse the cold, or I can bundle up and go outside to marvel at the stars that shine brighter in clear winter sky.

• I can hate all I must do, or I can cherish the fact that I am able to do it.

The list goes on. The holidays can be especially tough when we feel like all that we do is only for others. One year, for the first time in both our lives, my husband and I decided not to get a Christmas tree. It started when I told him that I was doing all that work just to please him, that I didn't care if we had a tree or not. Over the years, through the entire tree selection, cutting, decorating, and cleaning up process, he acted as if he was only getting a tree for me. So, we spent three Christmases without one. Finally, we had to admit that we BOTH liked having a tree. It was no longer the tree that YOU want; it became the tree that WE wanted. Nothing changed but our attitudes.

Still, thinking back to age seven, I've realized there are other reasons why I changed over the years:

• The more I heard people say, "I hate the holidays," the more I questioned why I loved them, and the more I came around to their way of thinking.

• The more wasteful and gluttonous gift-giving traditions became, the less I cared to partake in any of it.

• The longer retailers stretched out their advertising season, the less I could maintain a holiday-like attitude.

• The more aware I grew about people's discontent over religious tolerance, the quieter I became about offering good wishes to strangers.

• The more I learned about hardship and sadness that others were experiencing, the less I believed in winter miracles.

And so it goes. When I think ahead to the holidays, my shoulders get heavy. But when I envision myself taking a walk among stars on the Winter solstice, bundled up, my gloved hand on the arm of the man I love, I realize that the holidays force me to appreciate the moment and treat myself to a little indulgence in good cheer, wishes for hope, and expressions of love.

Whatever your cultural background, if you live in America, the holiday season is upon you. How do you feel about that?

You Have the Power to Improve Our World.

October 20th, 2010

When looking for a simple solution, it's best to first locate the lowest common denominator. That may be easier in mathematics than in sociology, but the logic still applies.

Society is rife with problems today. Why is the unemployment rate so high? Why do we distrust the nutritional value of our food supply? Why are we still digging for oil? It seems there are more questions than answers, unless you study the pattern.

One common thread is woven through every issue that weighs heavy on my mind today: large-scale commercialism. Time and again, formal and informal discussions point out that big business's quest for profit is at the root of so many problems.

For example, I have spent my entire adult life hoping the country would use solar and wind power to create energy. I've heard rumors of advancements that never came to market due to high costs or disinterest. But now it seems that wind power in particular has gained mainstream popularity. I can buy wind credits through my electricity supplier, and I see wind farms when I drive up the highway. Disheartening though is that turbines have turned into another destructive and senseless way to create power. Some turbines are so large that they actually require power to get spinning, the 300-foot-high mills create pressure zones so low they can cause a bat's blood vessels to explode, and wind farm installation is slicing mountaintop forests into fragments. Why has the iconic farm field windmill turned into a villain? Large-scale industry developments.

Organic farming was always a better way to grow crops, not just for the Earth but also for the consumer. Americans are tired of cancer and have recognized the importance of chemical-free eating. Grocery markets have increased their certified-organic product inventory. But wait. Why is it I'm hearing that we cannot trust the organic certification label? Large-scale supplier lobbyists.

Why are school lunches filled with cheap ingredients? Large-scale manufacturer contracts.

Why is the gulf awash in oil? Large-scale energy development shortcuts.

Why was money lending suddenly halted, bringing our economy to its knees? Large- scale bank controls.

The list goes on, and the thread is obvious. So too is the solution: a transition back to small scale.

We all have the power, and the responsibility, to influence the market and create a world where health and quality of life is paramount to financial endeavors. The local farmer, the neighborhood bank and the community shop owner all need us to pay them fairly for their product so they can survive and thrive.

Of course not all large businesses are corrupt the same as not all politicians are dishonest. But it's safe to say that obtaining a large percentage of a market share requires expensive national advertising and, if the product is government regulated, a large investment in congressional influence.

Small-scale business owners, meanwhile, invest in the development of a good product. They too create jobs, pay taxes and sponsor local causes. They feel the impact of every dollar you give them. They are connected to you, their customer, and therefore more likely to act with a conscious.

The problem is drastic, but the solution is not. I'm not suggesting you sell your car, rip out your oil burner and stuff your money under your mattress. Commerce remains an import aspect of American life. But when your water heater fails, get a local, knowledgeable electrician to replace it with a model powered on-site with renewable energy. When a loan is needed, go to the neighborhood bank. From this point forward, spend as if you are investing in the society you want. And for those of you who have been doing this for years, start sharing what you know with your community.

The lowest common denominator has been revealed. It's up to us to unravel the stitches and remove the faulty thread. It's up to us to just say "no" to large greed and yes to small, scrupulous and local.