Seriously Syria

January 20, 2014 | Posted in Philosophy | By

I love Facebook. The funny, the serious, the important. The levity, the camaraderie, the learning. To me, it’s like the Great Cosmic Water Cooler where we all stand around and talk about what’s on our mind. As far as I know, no one’s changing anyone’s minds here, but it is enlightening to have civil discourse regarding the really important stuff.

Today I’m watching all the posts regarding guns and how they make the US such a violent nation. Rather than just accept what I was being told, I went to find the statistics on my own and, yes, the internet was filled with countless evidence showing the US as being off the charts with 9.2 deaths per 100,000 citizens. When it comes to gun death violence no one comes close to us. Wow, according to the graphs we really are a violent nation. But the truth is, I find myself saying, “Really? Do these people really think I’m this stupid?” 

syria-crisisLet’s just say I’ve decided I don’t want to live in this God forsaken country where I’m going to get killed by an assault weapon any moment now. If America is really more violent than the rest of the world, where should I live? Show me the statistics for gun related deaths in, say, Syria, a country that doesn’t make the list of the top 100 most violent countries in the world.

I wanted to find out why the Middle East isn’t considered violent when it comes to guns. I wanted the statistics for the countries where only the Assad’s of the world have guns. Guess what? No statistics. I did find one that said, “Cars (not guns) are the biggest killers in the Middle East.” Hmmm. Really? Do these people really think I’m this stupid? Apparently they do.

In my search I did find a map that showed the United States as having the most heavily armed citizens in the world. Eighty-eight guns per 100 citizens. For me it begged the question, “How many mass graves filled with innocent people between my home and downtown Phoenix?” The answer? None. So I expanded my search only to find that mass graves filled with our citizens are actually pretty much few and far between. Mostly east of the Mississippi. Caused by the last REALLY serious fight we had in this country. Slavery. Fortunately the good guys won that battle and we stopped filling mass graves (with names like Gettysburg) a few weeks before a nut case killed Abraham Lincoln. But I digress.

Gun violence is real. Twenty beautiful babies were murdered in Newtown a month ago. Thirteen in Columbine. And in between these two tragedies, a crazy gunman took out 77 teenagers at a camp in Oslo, Norway, a couple of years ago. So Norway and the US are out in my quest to find a new home. Where should I live? How about the Middle East and North Africa? Their population is comparable to ours, 305 million in 2005. No reported statistics for violent gun deaths. None. Only that cars, not guns, are the biggest killers.

I feel like we’re children fighting over a favorite toy.

The reality is we citizens of the U.S. are good people and our argument shouldn’t be about whether or not we should be disarming peaceful citizens. We should be concerned about the unreported statistics regarding our neighbors next door in Syria.

Ours is now a global family. Our politics. Our economies. Our triumphs and our defeats. Here’s the latest gun massacre: http://news.yahoo.com/massacre-syrias-homs-kills-106-monitoring-group-081538555.html.

106 people, women and children, in Homs this past Tuesday. Can we talk about teaching my peaceful friends in Syria to find a way to disarm their belligerent bully (called their president) before we talk about finding a way to disarm me?

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Angels unawares

January 20, 2013 | Posted in Philosophy | By

Life is a continuous journey to get better. Just when I think I’ve got everything under control, I’m challenged.

After a productive business trip to Cancun, I went to the airport yesterday feeling all accomplished and benevolent and pleased with myself. My talents multiplied, job well done kind of thinking.

When I get to the airport, I’m happy to be going home to my sweetheart. I go to the counter and, wham!, I’m told weather is going to make me miss my connecting flight. In that very instant my Mother Teresa sense of benevolence and holier-than-thou-attitude went out the window. My uncharacteristic knee jerk response was evidence that I could still go from Wise to Wicked in two seconds flat. So much for holy.

img_1240With the young man behind the counter I was petulant and obviously very unhappy. I knew better than to take my frustration out on him and yet I still couldn’t reel myself in. Finally I said, “Just put me on the stupid plane! I’ll figure it out on my own! I hate your airline and I’ll never fly you guys again!” (What really embarrassed me is I’ve watched people behave poorly in identical situations and have thought to myself I would never be so self-centered and rude. Hmmm.)

Afterwards, I poked around the airport, grabbed some lunch, and knew I should go back and apologize to the kid at the counter but did I? No. Instead I vowed I wouldn’t take out my frustration over this unfortunate situation on anyone else. That promise holds up until I get to my Ft. Lauderdale Travelocity booked “motel” (vs “hotel”). And darn if I don’t go off again. This time on my husband who booked it for me AND the poor little clerk standing behind the counter at this mean and obvious two star dive establishment.

After stomping off to my room, I realize I’m hungry and if I want to eat I’ve no choice but to risk getting mugged on my way to the on site restaurant. Turns out I’m wrong. The staff is great, the food is wonderful and the patrons are friendly (a bunch of nice people getting ready to hop cruise ships and one very nice if not sweetly inebriated truck driver).

In the middle of my dining experience, one of the busboys walks up to me and smiles and says,

Excuse me. Are you a runway model? I know I’ve seen you on the red carpet before. You are gorgeous!” 

Ok, I’m 55; it’s late; I’ve been annoyed half-the day; I’m in Ft. Lauderdale land-of-God-knows-how-high-humidity and my hair looks like I’ve stuck my finger in an electrical socket … and this CUTE KID is telling me I’m gorgeous. After my exceedingly bad behavior, I’m especially grateful and touched by his kindness and I buy his compliment lock, stock and barrel.

My unexpected and inconvenient 24 layover in Florida has turned out to be a lesson in humility for me. To stop and be reminded that angels are everywhere. To impress upon me to be kind even when I feel entitled to be mean, angry and rude. To stop patting myself on the back and to remember I’m part of a magnificent journey filled with all types of delightful twists and turns and genuinely good people.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the hotel lobby of this magical Rodeway Inn listening to the shuttle driver laugh with the patrons. I’m reading signs over the desk that say, ‘Gift Shop’, ‘Choice Privileges’, ‘Guest Services’ … and realizing, yup, all these things are true. Gifts and Choice and Privilege and Service. Everywhere. All we must do is be open to the possibility.

I’ve hours to go until catching my flight. I’m enjoying the busyness of the lobby and the delicious smells wafting out of the restaurant. I realize this place just might be a little slice of heaven and I can’t help but reflect on one of my favorite biblical passages: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ~ Hebrews 13:2. I look up to see a plethora of colorful wings.

After all this, Sting is in the background singing, “We’ll walk in fields of gold, we’ll walk in fields of gold”. Coincidence? I think not. I now know it’s heaven.

I’m wondering if my hubby would mind if I stayed over one more night …

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There’s something to be said about calm seas.

May 30, 2012 | Posted in Philosophy | By

One of my favorite 20th century philosophers is Robert Fulghum, the author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  He has the most uncanny ability to take ordinary moments in our life and turn them into extraordinary life lessons.  In my own way, I think my stories strive for that same sense of contribution.

My chosen career, that of a professional networker, has lent itself to my desire to be a good communicator through spoken and written words.  I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in front of large rooms of people, speaking and teaching.  I’ve also spent large blocks of time writing business trainings (nothing technical, ever, simply because I’m not nerdy enough).  Regardless of how important the business information, my trainings are  always delivered as a story.  Storytelling that delivers life lessons, over business lessons, appeals to me the most and is actually the reason I started my blog.  You can say, Inside My Head, is my way to pay tribute to Mr. Fulghum, one of my favorite storytellers of all time.

Here’s a story I’ve wanted to share for a long time.

Summer.  1985.  Place.  San Carlos, Mexico.

It was a wonderful day.  We had close family and good friends visiting us in our little slice of heaven.  Clear blue sky.  Warm, cobalt sea.  Mom.  Sis.  Her boyfriend, Sean.  Our friend, Steve.  Our year old daughter.  Hubby.  Me.

We’d spent the day on our boat doing nothing more than basking in the sun and swimming in and water skiing on the Sea of Cortez.  We finished the day by heading out to open water in order to catch the sunset, listen to music, and to ask ourselves the all important question, “Could life, as we know it, get any better than this?!”

We turned off the motor, oohed and ahhhed at the setting sun, and waited with baited breath for that mystical “green flash” as the sun dipped below the horizon.  Privately, over our left shoulder, my husband and I also took note of a dark cloud and obvious storm coming our way.  Well ahead of the incoming storm, we decided to head back to the marina.

One problem.

We found our always trusty cabin cruiser had no power.  Our engine simply would not turn over.  Nothing but the clicking sound a key makes in the ignition.  Hmmm.  What to do?  For those who don’t spend much time boating, conditions in open water can turn bad pretty quickly.  This was one of those times.

As mentioned, it was sunset.  Early twilight.  The wind had ominously picked up.  The storm was now headed directly towards us.  The water beneath us, at 180 feet, was too deep to throw an anchor.  My mother, very reluctant to be on a boat under the best of conditions, was near catatonic even as she pulled out her rosary from heaven know’s were.  I found myself speaking as calmly as possible to my mother as I, without assistance from her, put her into her life jacket.

Looking at my husband, who, at the time was strapping our little girl into her life-jacket while securing her in her car seat, could tell he was calm but very concerned.  When our eyes met, we both knew we were in trouble.  And we knew enough to keep from scaring any of our other-wise-boating-novices about the seriousness of our present condition.

As if on perfect cue, the rain, wind, high seas, and darkness of night, hit our boat all at the same time.  To make matters worse, at a quick rate of speed, it was apparent our distressed boat was headed for a distant out-cropping of rocks.  Dead calm, but with an intense sense of urgency, I could hear my husband on the radio calling our location and saying, “May Day!  May Day!  We’ve lost our engine.  Send help!”  We were headed for disaster and, as if it couldn’t get any worse, it did.  At precisely the same moment, my husband and sister were suddenly over-come by gut-wrenching sea sickness.

In quickly assessing my situation I look around to see:

  1. I’ve got a mother on the floor, paralyzed with fear, rocking and praying, praying and rocking;
  2. I’ve got a wide-eyed baby girl, incredibly calm and quiet, with not one peep as she witnesses the swirling chaos around her;
  3. I’ve got two very sick people throwing up over the side of the boat but doing their best to help;
  4. And, finally, I’ve got two young men, Sean and Steve, both of whom are first timers to Mexico, with little to no boating experience — standing in total silence — wanting to do something but unable to do anything without instruction.

In a comic moment, I find myself thinking, “Funny.  Dying isn’t the way I’d planned for us to end our day.”  

With just milli-seconds to spare until hitting the rocks, my green with sick husband threw an anchor line out from the bow of the boat and, unbelievably, it bit instantly.  Our daughter, still a wide-eyed wonder … my mother still praying … my husband and sis still sick … the only thing going for us at that point was one taut anchor line off the bow and two young men standing at the back of the boat with wooden oars over the stern working heroically [and with great intensity] to keep our boat off the rocks.  With no immediate relief in sight, we had no idea how this dire emergency was going to play out.

As to our May Day?  Well let’s just say there’s no such thing as a Mexican Coast Guard.  Our call for help went unanswered and we were left to fight the forces of nature all on our own.  But, of course, our story doesn’t end here.

As quickly as this storm came upon us, and as dire as our situation, nothing quite explains how we were saved.

Out of nowhere a very bright light was coming towards us.  It was a boat.  White.  With two men.  Wearing white.  One older.  One younger.  The older with white hair and beard.  The younger holding the white light.  The sea was absolutely churning, and these guys never appeared even slightly ruffled.  They weren’t pitching to and fro.  Just completely pleasantly calm.  The older gentleman, driving the boat, expertly maneuvered his boat within 15 feet of us.  I was close enough to feel his uncanny sense of calm.

Unlike any extraordinary moment I’ve ever experienced before or since, as I sat crouched on the bow of our boat, the younger man took a white rope and tossed it to me.  One toss.  In a high sea.  And, I caught the rope.  On the first pass.  Really?  Yes.  Really.

Incredulous, I tied us off (through my own error, I did tie it incorrectly and tore the bow rail off our boat and, miraculously, I did it without doing any harm to my fingers or hands).

Without slowing down and with no hesitation whatsoever, the men who’d come to our rescue, made one minor maneuver, pulled our boat off the rocks while my husband cut the anchor line and, before we knew it, we rag-tag-band-of-seven sat in silence as the answer to our prayers towed us the five miles back to the shelter of the marina.

Surreal happens.

The men deftly arrived at the marina and remarkably pulled us to an open dock end cap, the solitary slip that lies perpendicular to the rest of the dock.  The boys jumped out of the boat and tied us off.  The men who’d just finished rescuing us barely slowed down as they turned their boat around.  Every interaction with them to this point always happened in seconds, and our marina interaction was no different.  I had just enough time to toss their rope back to the young man on the bow before they both smiled at me and nodded their heads as if to acknowledge my gratitude.  And with that, they quickly left the marina and slipped silently into the storm and the black of night.

The most interesting thing of all?  They never said a word to us.  Not one.

They didn’t respond via radio to our distress call.  They said nothing as they rescued us.  They said not a word when our eyes briefly met in the marina.  They showed no interest in slowing down or discussing the situation with us.  They didn’t ask for details about how we got into our predicament.  The didn’t wait to hear us thank them for rescuing us.  They simply smiled.  This all knowing, mystical, wise, calm smile.  And then they were gone.  White boat.  White clothes.  White light.  And all.

As we prepared to leave the marina for the safety of home, we finally looked at the time and were shocked to learn it had been less than two hours since our boat wouldn’t start, since being hit by the storm, since nightfall, since nearly crashing upon the rocks, since being rescued and being towed to our calm harbor.

It’s been 27 years since this experience.  Since then, my husband and I have navigated some very stormy seas.  Financial seas.  Contemplating divorce seas.  Death and dying seas.  And through it all, we remain calm.  We turn our eyes towards the horizon and we look for the bright light.  We know that no matter how bad things look, there’s an inexplicable miracle waiting just outside our reach of understanding, and we wait, knowing a calm sea is headed our way.

To this day, whenever I’m at our home in Mexico, there isn’t a time I don’t search the boats and the faces of the men in the marina in hopes of catching a glimpse of the two that rescued us that night.  I think it’s because I want to believe they were real men and that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened that night.  That said, I’ve yet to lay eyes on them again.  But, the older I get, the memory of these men gains an even tighter hold on me.  Something tells me the Divine Plan is always in place and that legions of angels stand guard over all of us.  Calm, wonderful, competent angels bathed in white, white light.

So, in the tradition of Mr. Fulghum’s ability to take meaningful life lessons from everyday events that come our way, let me say this:

Strap yourself in.  Hold on tight.  Know forces bigger than us are at work.  Miracles happen.  Calm seas ahead.  I promise.

 

Cindy Sameulson Calm SeasSan Carlos. Sunset. Calm seas.

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The care and feeding of a healthy republic.

April 11, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

republic |ri?p?blik|noun. a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch • a community or group with a certain equality between its members.

I had no idea when I was growing up that I would ever possess a love for politics (the art and science of governing people). As I grow more comfortable in my skin, and as I watch the political chaos swirl around me, my thoughts turn continually to what is required to fix this unbelievable political mess we’re in. To that end, I’ve found great solace and courage in the study of one of America’s greatest patriots, John Adams. The brilliant New England scholar [and first cousin to legendary revolutionary, Samuel Adams], John was the intellectual powerhouse behind our Constitution. Statesman and President Adams has since become one of my greatest heroes.

Though I understand human nature is exceedingly complicated, and the maintenance of a republic even more so, here is what biographer, Page Smith, aptly distilled from John Adams thoughts on the subject:

The foundation of a healthy republic is morality and at the heart of morality is self-discipline [emphasis mine]. A people who indulge their appetites without restraint are a people ill suited to govern themselves or to support any orderly and stable government. Adams, bent on the vast and serious enterprise of saving souls and laying the foundations of an unshakably republican government, knew that the American Republic would never survive the erosion of its morals. And of one thing he was certain: “at best, a republican system is not easily sustained. It is the most difficult and demanding, if not the most rewarding, of all forms of government. Without a firm moral foundation, it will not endure.”

As it pertains to living a happy and meaningful life, my coming of age in the 70’s and growing up during the disgrace of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, has exacted of me a long time to fully understand the magnitude of possessing moral virtue, honesty, good character and self-discipline. The current unscrupulousness of our politicians is a mere reflection of the generally held sentiments of our people. Greed abounds not only in those who would govern us, but those who are governed. Adams would be appalled by the rampant moral decay of our society.

For the sake of this discussion, morality, is mutually exclusive of religious beliefs. Quite literally, the issue of morality revolves not around religion but around principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. No religious bible thumping here. Just the facts.

It appears to me we, as Americans, have lost our way in regards to knowing what is right or wrong, good or bad. And, I can’t help but think I’m required to do my part to make things better by engaging the power of self-discipline. To always be a person who does right and good … no matter the personal cost to me or mine. It’s rationale to believe that if I cannot create it in myself, I’ve no right to demand it from my government.

Currently, we’re fighting for our lives.  On all levels.  Economically, physically, mentally, spiritually.  My study of our Founding Fathers has led me to conclude that if my American republic is to stand the test of time and and remain healthy … my government must be a reflection of good and moral principles. That being the case, a democratic republic requires moral self-government from its people. Since that’s the case, in order to keep this sinking ship afloat, the best political action I can take is to daily strive for the holy grail of self-discipline based on moral principles. As always, rather than moan and complain about the circumstances over which I have no control, it’s best to start with those in which I do.

Thank you, President Adams. I remain, your devoted student,

Cindy Samuelson

107-0777_imgThe Lincoln Memorial from the Potomac

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School buses. Broken roads. And Statesmen.

March 29, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

I’ve had a love affair with the written word since before I could read.  It started in my parents Chicago duplex when I was four years old where everyday found me running to the large picture window to witness the arrival of that iconic yellow school bus throwing open its doors to a jumble of laughing children as they spilled out onto the sidewalk, the mere memory of which brings me much happiness.

My father had taken note of my daily ritual and added to my delight by picking me up and telling me, “Someday you’ll be old enough to ride that bus. It will take you to a place where you’ll learn to read. Once you can read, your whole life will change.” It’s the sweetest promise a parent can give their child. The powerful force of something to look forward to combined with the endless allure that accompanies transformation and change.

When my parents enrolled me in first grade, the anticipation to start school was nearly too much for me. Along with my precious school supplies, my first new school dress stands out clearly in my mind. A little black and gray floral number with a black sash that tied in the back, it was the prettiest dress I’d ever seen. It whispered of royalty. It made me feel that something really, really big was in store for me.

Filled with so much excitement for the first day of school, I woke at 4 AM, dressed quickly in my princess dress only to sit patiently on the sofa staring at the clock as it crawled toward ‘the little hand hitting the 7 and the big hand hitting the 12.’ The moment the clock struck 7, I burst out the front door to catch my first bus, the experience of which was everything I’d dreamed! My beloved bus did indeed change my life, and to this day I can’t see one without a sense of deeply felt gratitude.

The moment I learned to read is just as magical a memory for me as that first bus ride. It was a child’s primer, and the word was ‘island’. I’d sounded it out as IS-land before seeing it in the context of the accompanying pictures of sand, beach, ocean and palm trees. The realization that the word was island was monumental as it was the defining moment when I knew nothing would ever be the same. Metaphorically speaking, I was no longer an island unto myself. I could read! The world was mine! My love affair began in earnest.

From that day forward, I was seldom seen without a book in my possession. I can attest to being teased by members of my extended family for being a ‘book worm’ and a ‘teacher’s pet.’ Names where I took no offense as they were music to my ears and something to which I aspired.

In books I’ve found my greatest joys. Imagination. Creativity. Magic. Travel. Heroes. Hope. Prosperity. Virtue. Transformation. In books I’ve also found my greatest solace.

When darkness prevails. When a sense of despair sets in. When I don’t wish to burden another with my troubles, I’ve found undying loyalty and unconditional love, let alone answers, in books. I echo the 1815 sentiments of Thomas Jefferson when I say, “I cannot live without books.” Today I find myself surrounded by a library of treasured books of which several (a dozen or more) are written in my own hand.

I use today’s blog to confess that the last year has been one of personal growth and reflection. Though happiness did not elude my daily activities, I’ve questioned my purpose, my passions, my preferences and prejudices. I’ve flogged myself for my faults. Chastised myself for my failures. Grabbed myself by the scruff of my neck and shaken myself vigorously … all the while turning to my books in search of answers, guidance and inspiration.  Little did I realize the relief I sought would come in the form of books written, not by modern day guru’s like Wayne Dyer, Don Miguel Ruiz, or Deepak Chopra, but in the timeless wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers. Ben Franklin. John Adams. Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln.

Having devoured ‘The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin’, I was steered towards reading about the men who gave birth to our nation. Currently I’m deeply engrossed in ‘John Adams’, by Page Smith. Published in 1962, it’s primarily a collection of letters written to his wife, Abigail. The life stories of Jefferson and Lincoln wait in the wings.

What I’m finding as I read these books is not the mere retelling of the magnificent events that built my beloved country … but the unexpected depth of respect and admiration for our Forefathers, who, despite their daily struggles against their faults, failures, disappointments and frustrations (as well as the physical hardships of the time in which they lived), went on to accomplish great acts, acts which have withstood the test of time.

One particular passage set my hand to writing todays blog. In it I learned

John Adams was convinced that “human nature, with all its infirmities and deprivation,” was “still capable of great things.” Education was the key. “Education,” in Adams’ view, made “a greater difference between man and man than nature has made between man and brute [underscore mine]. The virtues and powers to which men may be trained, by early education and constant discipline, are truly sublime and astonishing.”

He goes on to say, in a letter to his wife, Abigail,

It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them … an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.”

So overcome with emotion from this passage (written 236 years ago!), I could do nothing else but write about it in hopes to pass on the wisdom to those who might be struggling (as am I) with issues great and small. Our choice. Excellence in every capacity … or groveling and creeping. Hmmm.

As powerful as this insight, each page of John Adams life story is filled with his thoughts and reflections, self-flagellations, deepest sorrows and greatest joys. His is a journey that liberates me, gives me hope, and makes me ever grateful to have been given the education required to mold myself into the woman I long to be. I encourage you to read John Adams’ story if what I’ve shared thus far touches a chord.

Far from where I envisioned myself to be when I first rode that school bus, I work daily to make progress towards my idealized self. I struggle and reach. Read, write and reflect. Stumble and get up again. And, I seek solace from trusted friends, one of whom told me as recently as last week, “Your beating a protracted retreat and sucking your thumb doesn’t look too good on you, Cindy.” Tantamount to a good swift kick in the behind, Holli’s words were precisely what I needed to hear (never underestimate the love of a sister!).

It’s my hope that each of us does our part to refrain from groveling in our infancy (and small minded, limited, defeatist thinking) and to reach deep within ourselves ‘in order to elevate our minds and find the courage and ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty and virtue’ made available to us. It’s all that John Adams requires of us for having dedicated his life to creating a country that produces heroes, and statesmen, and philosophers who … at the very least … are capable of changing their lives, if not the world.

Forget about collapsing in front of the incessant gloom and doom of cable news or the sordid tales of Jersey Housewives or the rantings of madmen like Charlie Sheen tonight. Instead, aspire to greatness. Read a great book. Watch an inspiring biography. Call a friend and talk about something that matters.

Today’s question? What will we do, today? … What will we read, today? … Who will we ask, today? … to help us as we fail forward, licking our wounds and/or celebrating the tiniest of successes as we make progress in the direction of our dreams?

In the words of those great philosophers, Rascal Flatts, ‘God bless the broken road, the written word and the yellow school bus that brought me here today’ … the place which prods me to second the motion that:

“Human nature, with all its infirmities and deprivation, is still capable of great things”

and that,

“The virtues and powers to which men may be trained, by early education and constant discipline, are truly sublime and astonishing.”

~ John Adams, Statesman and Second President of the United States of America

These words conjured up the image of that four year old girl in Chicago who waited with baited breath each day just to get sight of her future. I hope President Adams’ wisdom reached across the ages to bring a lightness to your step, a song to your heart, and as overwhelmingly a sense of hope [to you] as it did for me.

Until we meet again … I’ve a bus to catch.

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Left vs right. Lobotomized.

February 3, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

Sunday marks President Reagan’s 100th birthday and I guess it’s as good a time as any to let everyone know I’ve a thing for politics. Always have, always will.

I love that the definition of politics has to do with ‘the art and science of governing people’. What could be more noble than that?! I enjoy studying politics, thinking about politics, debating politics. I also enjoy the simpler pleasures like the little sticker we’re given that says “I voted today”. Makes me proud to live in a country where we’re free to vote … and free not to.

I actually considered running for office on a local level. As a conservative. But the more I thought about it the more I realized how much I dislike the mud-slinging that takes place on both sides of the aisle.  Turns me cold.  The older I get the more I prefer the political posture of, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Until recently I really couldn’t understand how a liberal could be a liberal. It was a tough puzzle for me. We all have access to the same information, the same news sources. You’d think we’d all come to the same conclusions — and we don’t! As to discussing politics in mixed company (that’s mixed as in liberals and conservatives), I’ve watched friends blow up (me included) over the silliest of things. One mention of Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi? Kaboom! Maddening.

Recently a sweet [conservative] friend of mine, Kevin Mullaney, helped me solve my dilemma by saying, “Cindy, the choice to be either liberal or conservative has got to be a right-brain-left-brain issue. You know — we’re born with the tendency to be liberal or conservative? Hard-wired from the get go? Predisposed based on whether our brain is artistically or intellectually inclined?” And, voila!, I knew in my heart Kevin was absolutely right!!! As far as I’m concerned there can be no other explanation!

According to about.com:

The concept of right brain and left brain thinking developed from the research in the late 1960s of an American psychobiologist Roger W Sperry. He discovered that the human brain has two very different ways of thinking. One (the right brain) is visual and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The other (the left brain) is verbal and processes information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together to get the whole. Sperry was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1981, although subsequent research has shown things aren’t quite as polarized as once thought (nor as simple).

(above emphasis, mine)

Whether or not Kevin’s hypothesis is correct, or whether Roger Sperry’s Nobel prize sways you, it really doesn’t matter to me. I’m just thrilled with my new found belief that political inclination is pre-determined based on the organic matter that comprises our individual brains! Whew. It simply makes my world make so much more sense.

I’m now able to see certain groups of people in a whole new light. I can look at my liberal friends with a higher level of understanding, love, patience and respect. It’s as if I’ve saved myself all sorts of aggravation. Prior to this knowledge I’d think, ‘I love them … but dang … for the life of me I can’t understand their thinking when it comes to government and politics!’ I can now look at my sisters (whom I adore!) and appreciate how they and their right-brain thinking has them show up in the world — funny and fun-loving — tenderhearted and liberal! Something worth celebrating for sure.  😉

As to my being conservative, I’ve always been this way. Even when I was young I can remember disagreeing with my father’s liberalism. His right-brain visual perspective didn’t make any sense to my left-brain sense of logic. Though I wouldn’t have been able to adequately verbalize my internal beliefs at the time, the realization that I was conservative occurred as I watched my father have a meltdown in the middle of a heated political argument with his siblings. Whether he was right or wrong on the issue they were debating, I felt his premise was illogical and emotional. I was seven years old.

To state my case further, let me tell you about our daughter, Chelsea. While my husband and I were packing her up for her transition to college, we laughed as we realized she’d been collecting elephants (the iconic symbol of conservatism) her entire life. As she affectionately turned over a favorite piece of her collection in her hands, her father and I made the comment that she must be a conservative because she grew up with conservative parents. So like our daughter, and with a smart grin, she instantaneously shot back with, “Sorry. You can’t take credit. I was BORN conservative.” And, so she was.

The great joy that comes with this realization of left-brain-right-brain sensibilities makes me appreciate on a greater level my friends who love and actively support presidents Clinton and Obama. They are perfect counterbalances to my love and support for Reagan and Bush.

Despite how we voted in the previous elections, we must all agree that all four men, Bush, Clinton, Obama, Reagan have, in one way or another, proven their love for our country (and/or our country’s love for them). Each also possesses (to a high degree) the courage required to serve for the benefit of all. Whether conservative or liberal each of our presidents are forever part of a very exclusive club comprised of only 44 men, all of whom were elected by free people to, arguably, the most powerful position in the world. From George Washington to Barack Obama, we have cause to be proud of them all.

As it pertains to politics, fifty-four years of life has taught me I’ll always be conservative. My sisters and some of my best friends will always be liberal. But now, in the autumn of my life, I can celebrate the joy that comes with embracing my liberal friends without feeling frustrated by their beliefs. This new approach suits my sense of logic and makes it much more fun for me to accept opinions that are diametrically different from mine. Something to be excited about because, despite our differences, I know my liberal friends want peace and prosperity and hope every bit as much as I do.

Finally, we as a nation are facing some very serious and challenging issues. That said, nothing is beyond our ability to solve. There’s tremendous talent stemming from both Right Brained Artists and Left Brained Thinkers. Like Yin and Yang, one cannot exist without the energy of the other. Liberals contribute half-a-brain to our society. Conservatives contribute the other. One sees the big picture, the other sees the pieces. Together, and in a heartbeat, we can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Apart, we’re lobotomized.

It takes both the Left and the Right to make our country great. And, though it might not as simple as it sounds, embracing our unique contributions is certainly less polarizing and can help us be more civil in our dialogue. Maybe, just maybe, if we could spread this belief around about the importance of both left-and-right-right-and-left-brain-thinking, we could make some serious progress in making ours a better country and nation. To do so would be taking a whole-brain rather than a bird-brain approach to governing our country … at which time I’d be more than happy to run for office.  😉

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Happy Birthday, President Reagan. And, President Obama, I want only the best for you and for our country. Know that I think you boys ROCK!  🙂

PS.  Here’s a link to find out if you’re either right brained or left brained:

http://similarminds.com/brain.html

Take the test and let me know if you think we’re on to something that could make a difference!

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I’m still here …

February 2, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

Just wanted you to know I haven’t given up on my blog.  🙂

Truth is, with the unrest going on in Egypt, I’ve written a couple of things I’ve deemed unacceptable to post simply because they’re political in nature (and I don’t think that’s the direction I want to take my blog). So hang in there and sit with me while I think about how to write about important issues without anyone feeling I’ve got an agenda (because, quite frankly, I’m way past the stage where I feel it’s my job to convince anyone of anything!). I’ve learned life’s far too short to argue over politics. 🙂

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. September 2009.

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Backseat angels.

January 25, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

I’ve been a little under the weather the past couple of days and, true to form, I choose times like this to take on major projects around my home. This time happens to be the massive project of getting my library in order. With a couple of thousand books to organize, I’m now starting my third day and I’ve still got a long way to go! The good news is one particular book I came across inspired today’s story.

I’m a big believer in the saying, ‘The book you don’t read won’t help you’. This particular book has saved me a fortune and maybe even kept me from going to jail. No joke. The book? Random Acts of Kindness. I don’t know if you’ve ever read it but it’s very precious. Only takes a couple of hours to read cover to cover and has the ability to transform your life if you let it. Wiki describes the premise of the book this way:

random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual. The phrase may have been coined by Anne Herbert, who claims to have written “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat at a Sausalito restaurant in 1982 or 1983.[1][2] Either spontaneous or planned in advance, random acts of kindness are encouraged by various communities

My first hand experience of this book started when I picked it up in 1993. And learning from Mary Kay Ash (in the decade prior) that if you don’t put something you’ve learned into practice within 24 hours of learning it, it’s as if you wasted the time spent getting the knowledge. Translated this means, use it NOW!, or lose it. On this particular day of using it or losing it, I ended up working especially late and I was running out of time.

As the story goes, I was driving home down the interstate highway at 11:30 PM when I happened to notice a highway patrol car in front of me. I found myself thinking, “I would love to let this officer know how much I appreciate him for all the things he’s done for me. He risks his life to be out here keeping the roads safe. He’s away from his family when he could be home sleeping in a warm bed with his wife. He has a dangerous job and I’m so grateful to him for his dedication. I wish there was a way I could get his attention. Maybe I could flash my headlights at him. Maybe I could pull up next to him, honk and wave him over to the shoulder. Maybe, maybe, maybe … but how can I do this without making a fool of myself? … or getting in big trouble? … or whatever?!! … because I really, really, really want this highway patrolman to know that he is appreciated and respected by me?!!!”

I keep at this thinking for quite a while, but, alas, I couldn’t find a reasonable way to get the job done, so I finally gave up on letting this particular officer be the recipient of my first official random of act of kindness. So … be careful what you ask for … you can only imagine how delighted I was when the patrol car slowed down, dropped to my right, pulled in behind me, and turned his lights on.

Here it is nearly midnight and I’m being pulled over, hip-hip-hooray!!! (For those who know the area, it’s the turn on the Superstition going into Tempe just before the Mill Avenue exit. I still pay homage every time I drive by!) Incredibly happy at my good fortune, as the officer made his way to my car, I reached over to the glove compartment to get my registration and then pulled out my wallet to get my driver’s license.

With me smiling from ear to ear, the officer got to my window and shined his light into my face while saying, “Good evening, ma’am. Do you have any idea why I pulled you over?” to which I responded, “No Officer, but I’m SO glad you did, truly I am!” to which [in a slightly surprised tone of voice due to my being overly chipper to see him] he said, “I pulled you over because you’ve been tail-gating me for the last three miles and tail-gaiting is a very dangerous thing to do.” to which I responded, “Forgive me, Officer! I normally don’t tail-gate but I read Random Acts of Kindness today and I was preoccupied because all I could think about was how much I wanted to pull you over and thank you for all the wonderful things you do for me and for others. I couldn’t figure out how to do it so I finally decided to give up on the idea, which is to say it’s probably why I was tail-gating you.”

At this point, I’d already handed him my registration and license and [as he read my information] without skipping a beat continued with, “I can’t believe my good fortune that you pulled me over and now that you have, thank you for risking your life for me on a daily basis and for keeping our roads safe. I so love and appreciate all the brave men and women of the Highway Patrol! I’m grateful for their families, too, for sharing you with us! I don’t mind that I’m getting pulled over for tail-gating because it’s given me the opportunity to say thank you. So thank you Officer for giving me the opportunity to tell you that I appreciate, respect and admire you!!! I don’t mind getting this ticket. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”

I wish you could have been there. It only took a minute to say but it was one of the most delightfully sublime learning experiences of my life and years later, I’m still tickled to tell you the story. But the best part of the story isn’t what I’ve just relayed, it’s the officer’s reaction!

After my happy little speech, he looked at me and said, “Lady! I’ve heard it all! And this crock

absolutely positively beats anything I’ve ever heard!!” And with that, as well as with a simultaneous flick of his wrist, he literally threw my drivers license and registration back in through my window (I can still see them fluttering down into my lap as if in slow motion!), straightened his back ramrod straight, and while pointing down the road, yelled at me in an overly stern voice, “Get outta here!” As loud as he barked, part of me could still hear the note of disbelief [and genuine gratitude] in his voice.

As I put away my things away and while taking extra precaution getting back onto the highway, I was beyond happy. But it gets better!

The next thing I knew, the officer got back into his patrol car and as he pulled onto the highway behind me, he [briefly and for one instant] turned on his lights and flicked on his siren. And, as he passed me, he made eye contact, saluted me, and smiled as he sped off down the road. Little did I know that this random act of kindness on my part would have him leave behind nothing short of Two Angels that I’ve come to call my Backseat Angels of the Highway Patrol. Angels that are with me anytime I’m on the road.

I’ve traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in the 18 years since that night and I’ve tested them every which way to Sunday and, still, these Angels are always sitting in my back seat. I’m not kidding. Here’s proof.

Though I’m a good driver, I’ve been known to do things that are evidence that I’m not a perfect driver. I’ve been pulled over for excessive speed on long, lonely stretches of desert highway between Wickenburg and Wikieup (doing a 110 in a 70 mph zone is considered excessive by some, go figure) and though I was lectured and threatened to be taken to jail if I got caught doing it again, my Angel of the Highway Patrol didn’t give me a ticket. I did thank him for being my angel and I’ve never once driven 110 again (though it would be interesting to see if he’d keep his promise about hauling me off to jail!).

I once ran out of the house in a hurry and ended up getting pulled over for not having current tags on my plates, not having my drivers license on me, not updating my records after my move, speeding in a residential area and not wearing shoes while driving (yes, 5 separate things!). The officer looked at me and said, “Ma’am it’s Christmas [eve]. Please don’t do this again. Slow down. Get your records changed. Wear shoes. And have a Merry Christmas!” He smiled as I drove away and, yes, I (secretly) thanked him for being my Angel of the Highway Patrol’s Christmas Division.

Years ago I received a beautiful letter from the former head of the Highway Patrol, Chief Joe Albo. He told me that earlier in the day he’d witnessed me driving through the gore (that place between the white stripes leading onto and off the highway), and stated that he knew I was ‘probably in a rush to get to an important meeting, but please don’t do it again’. He told me that his officers use that space in order to do their [already dangerous] work and then reminded me that one of his officers had just been killed as a result of this type of bad driving habit. He told me that he would have given me a ticket had he been able to get through the traffic. Short of that, he felt the issue was important enough to warrant a personal letter. He concluded by thanking me, including his official photography and a couple of stickers with the Highway Patrols emblem. I cried. And, I learned that the Angels of the Highway Patrol have an Archangel and because of him I’ve never once driven through a gore again.

My list of these types of stories is very long including the fact that if I happen to be in the car with you and you get pulled over … I swear, you won’t get a ticket. Time and time again its been tested (my husband will vouch for this fact!). But I’ll conclude today’s story with my favorite story of all.

I got called in for jury duty and it happened to be a case involving a highway patrol officer. As they were sorting out the possible jurors, one of the questions was whether or not we had an opinion about law enforcement officers, highway patrolmen in particular, the DPS and ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation). Several hands went up including mine. Everyone got to speak and, to the letter, everyone said they were biased against the officers.

When the judge came to me, I told her, “Your honor I love the Highway Patrol and if selected I would most definitely be biased in favor of them.” Though she hadn’t asked the others why they opposed these law enforcement officers, for whatever reason, she asked me to explain why I felt this way, and, being the story teller that I am, I told her everything from reading Random Acts of Kindness to running headlong into the Angel I tailgated — flashlight, wrist flicking, lights, siren, salute, Chief Albo, my Back Seat Angels of the Highway Patrol and all. I concluded by nodding towards the officer and saying, “If I’m picked for this jury, there’s no way I’d be able to do anything but be on this officer’s side.” The judge, the officer, the attorneys, the defendant, the bailiff, and the remaining prospective jurors, all laughed, after which the judge pounded her gavel and sairandomactsd we’d take a short break. We were excused to the hall. About 30 minutes later the bailiff stuck his head out the door and told us a plea agreement had been reached and we were all dismissed (seems he winked at me and smiled when he said it). I’d like to think I had something to do with the decision to not go to trial. At the very least, I know I made the officer’s day.

Friends, speaking from experience, the book you won’t read won’t help you. The ones you do and especially the ones you take action on … could make all the difference in making ours a better world.

So go out there and hug the next officer you see. It just might insure your having a couple of Backseat Angels of the Highway Patrol (or Fire Department, or Army, or Navy, or Air Force or Marine Corp) of your own. Now if I could just find a couple of Angels of the Chicken Soup Patrol or the Library Book Patrol, I could get over this cold and put my library back together again …  🙂

 

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Waffle House Wisdom.

January 14, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

Though I’ve deep roots in Phoenix (having arrived in 1968), I’m a bit of a vagabond at heart. As a little girl I knew I wanted to see the world, to wander and explore (founded in great part because the ability to read opened up an entire world of possibilities). With the exception of traveling from the Philippines to America (courtesy of Uncle Sam and the USS Patrick) my parents had very little money for indulging my desires. With five children they only took us on a few trips throughout our entire childhood. All but one of them was limited to visiting family in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. That said, part of the reason I’m so crazy about my husband, Bob, is from the moment we became a couple, travel became part of our lifestyle.

We’ve not seen the world … but we’ve seen an awful lot. Our first major trip was in 1981, our first year together. Tahiti. Heavenly. Especially for my husband who, until falling in love with me, had never thought of travel as something he aspired to doing. Since that incredibly romantic trip, we’ve been to 20 countries and have visited more than 1200 cities (TripAdvisor.com helps you keep track of this type of info!). Athens, Rome, London, Paris, Sydney, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur. The list of cities and countries goes on and on.

I love travel because as Mark Twain says, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” I found that to be true.

Because of travel, I love all types of people, all types of cuisine, all types of cultures. And I’ve learned that no matter where we come from, we all want the same things. Hope. Prosperity. Health. Happiness. Love. Peace. I’ve also learned, in profoundly moving ways, the people of any given country are not messed up. If a country like Iran is a ticking time bomb … it’s not the fault of the citizenry. It’s always the fault of those in charge. Doesn’t matter if it’s a democracy, theocracy, or dictatorship. Those in charge are the ones making a mess of things. But I digress.

An enormous part of why I love travel stems from the fact that it satisfies my near insatiable desire to learn as much as I possibly can. I never come home from a trip that I haven’t expanded my horizons with something significant or life-changing. For instance, the strength and integrity of Japan’s Samurai soldiers impacted me in such a way as to cause me to study them in an attempt to learn the source of their indomitable sense of duty and honor. Walking the Turkish ruins of St. Paul’s, Ephesus (his inspiration for the writing of Ephesisans), created an enormous sense of humility and led me to intently study his inspired contributions to the New Testament. The indescribable generosity of every single person in Australia (from the Gold Coast to Perth!) touched me so deeply and has served to remind me how to treat visitors to my own country. G’day mate!

Over the last few years, my current career path has limited my international traveling to a handful of trips. The upside is it dramatically increased my need to travel throughout America. Though visiting all 50 states had always been on my bucket list, I kept delaying it because I thought I’d get so much more

surprised than me to uncover the amazing wisdom found within our own backyard.

Every city, every town, every state has something incredible to offer. I learned that most people love where they live not only for the fact that they’ve deep roots there, but that there’s genuinely something wonderful to love about their little piece of the universe. But the most important thing I learned is that American people are amazing and, whether it be homespun or sophisticated, have a downright tremendous amount wisdom to share.

As an immigrant to America, I have always loved this country, but even I was taken aback by how amazing we are as a people. Kind. Gracious. Loving. Tender-hearted. Generous. And mostly wise. From San Diego to New Iberia, LA. From New York City to Bayview, ID. From Chicago to Canyon Lake, TX. Doesn’t matter if it’s a major metropolitan city or a quaint one horse town. Good people, great lessons, everywhere.

Honestly? I could easily fill books with what I’ve seen, heard and done these past four years on the road. I’ve literally conducted several hundred events, most of which were in people’s homes (much preferring the intimacy of working with small groups than the gigantic meetings my profession requires me to attend several times per year). Being a guest in someone’s home is always an enormous gift and I walk away a better person for their opening their hearts and hearth to me. Invariably, when I leave, I’m taking part of them with me and my heart always soars forever after. But today’s blog isn’t about covering all of these experiences. Just my attempt to whet your appetite for future stories and to tell you about one of the most profound lessons garnered as I vagabonded around the country.

Late October, 2010. We were at a Waffle House diner in London, Kentucky (somewhere between the major metropolis’s of Bear Branch and Crab Orchard). We were half way through a 6,000 mile trip. On a professional level, and as a result of our fascinating economy, I was searching for solutions to the suffering so many people are currently enduring. On a personal level, I was grappling with what would be the next big step for the direction of my life and was feeling the stress that accompanies big decisions. On a physical level, I was feeling a little worn out (having just completed several months recuperating from a serious injury). Little did I know that the quick decision to have breakfast at this particular diner would help answer so many of the issues pinging around in my head.

As we waited to place our order an overheard comment from the waitress at the next table helped lift an enormous weight off my shoulders. When asked how she was doing, she cheerfully said, “The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is read the obituaries. If my name ain’t there … it’s going to be a great day!”

Wow. Isn’t that profound? London, KY. Population 6,100. Average income per capita, $18,500. The GNP of the entire town of London can’t be what I find here in my above average income suburban neighborhood. Undoubtedly our economy has hit this woman hard. If there’s no disposable income, people eat out less and that means tips are less. She probably had kids to feed. She could have been a single parent. If married, her husband might have been recently laid-off. And, yet, here she was as cheerful as she could be and grateful to be alive to boot.

The weight I’d been carrying simply disappeared.  Poof!

I walked out of that restaurant transformed. If I’d been thinking properly, I would have stopped, turned around, gone back in and had my picture made with this Tibetan monk masquerading as a Waffle House waitress. I would have loved to been able to share her picture with you today. Sadly, having her picture is a missed opportunity for all of us. But if you’re anywhere near London, anytime soon, would you be so kind as to stop by and tell her what she means to me?

On a somber note, yesterday, a casual friend and business acquaintance, woke up to find his name in the obituaries. He leaves behind two little girls.  The saddest part of this news is he took his life.  A permanent solution to a temporary problem. Devastating. Would that he could have gone to London instead.

I didn’t wake up to  find my name in the obituaries today and sure enough it’s been a great day. What say you?

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A beautiful piece of statuary on the patio of the Oasis Restaurant in Austin, TX. With every breath of life, let our souls take flight and let everyday be a GREAT day. God rest your troubled soul, precious David, and may those who love you find peace.

 

 

 

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Turned off.

January 10, 2011 | Posted in Philosophy | By

Of all the things rattling around in my head today, I feel compelled to tell you how much I dislike TV (we’ve got them in our home … but they are NOT my friends). I find the programming inconsequential at best and [devastatingly] destructive at worse. For the last 20+ years I’ve been lobbying against them in my home in great part because my beloved husband is literally addicted to the cable news channels (he’s been taking them intravenously since 1991’s Desert Storm).

Despite my protesting the incessant loop of negative blather, my sweetheart felt it was important to keep the news on in order to ‘stay informed’. No matter how vocal I got, having the news on two to three hours a day remained a reality in my home. Argh! But as Helen Reddy says, I am woman, and I learned long ago how to get what I wanted from my man. Girls, you know how to do it, too. It’s called timing … and timing is everything.

This past year when Bob got around to earnestly asking me what he could give me for Christmas, the timing was right.  “YOU — wrapped in nothing but a big red bow … and an unplugged TV for the next 12 months.” (insert sweet, coy, smile here). What more could the man say but, “Ok”? And, that’s how I ended up getting the best Christmas present ever! Especially now.

Though we don’t have the TV on, I’m still fully aware of last weekend’s tragic Tucson shooting of several innocent people as well as House Representative Gabby Giffords. Horrific. The cold blooded murders continue to assault my senses and make me cry. The continuous loop of a beautiful nine year old girl gunned down by a psychopath. Good men and women clinging to life. The walking [emotionally] wounded that attended the event but escaped life-threatening injuries. The incessant vitriolic rhetoric of the Left vs the Right. The insanity of it all does nothing but make us want to find a dark closet in which to hide. And, this from someone who hasn’t read one single article or watched any of the gruesome details.

First let me say that my heart is completely and utterly heartbroken for everyone who’s lives have been touched by this situation (and that includes you and me). 9/11 proved to us that we as a nation suffer these tragedies together. Sadly the Tucson incident is different in that 9/11 knitted us closer together while this one is being manipulated by the media to drive us apart. I blame TV.

The crazy finger pointing of the radical fringes (both on the right and the left), aided and abetted by a blood thirsty media who fuels the drama by providing a constant regurgitation of every single thing they can get they’re dirty hands on. I’m not watching but I know it’s happening. It’s what they do. It’s what sells. And it’s what’s killing our very hearts and souls.

When I was little TV was very different. The Andy Griffith Show. Leave it to Beaver. Ponderosa. I Love Lucy. Walter Cronkite. Good stuff. Back then, an average minute of programing gave us seven different scene changes. We could easily follow the dialogue between Opie and his father without being over stimulated. As TV has evolved, we’re now seeing our children bombarded with as many as 32 scenes per minute and, as my friend, Andy Waltrip [an expert on these types of statistics] tells me, there’s proof this over-stimulation is one of the main culprits in producing ADD and ADHD in our children!

It takes 25 years for the human brain to become fully mature. The rush of over-stimulation is organically too much for our children’s brains. TV is killing their ability to follow a story line and to stay connected to what’s happening in real life, the life that moves significantly slower in real time. They’ve become like Pavlov’s dog. The hyperactivity of TV means if they’re not being constantly over-stimulated, they’re GONE. Off the edge. Chasing rabbits down endless rabbit holes created for them by the likes of MTV gangsters. All I can say is, “Would you like some milk with your Ritalin, Bobby?” And, by the way, your brain is fully formed and TV isn’t doing you a lick of good either.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It couldn’t be more true than with TV. How can we expect our lives to get better when we constantly over-stimulate it with nothing but the tragic and deeply disturbing things we see on TV? Rather than put on our coat and take a walk with our loved ones; or spend time volunteering at a retirement center; or taking underprivileged children on a field trip to the library, we sit glued to that worthless box and lament the sorry state of our world. I’ve simply had enough. I’ve no choice in the matter but to do my part to wake those I love out of their senseless stupor and encourage them to have 2011 be the year they turn off the TV.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Turning it off (or unplugging it as in our case) is much easier than you think.

My ‘gotta stay informed’ husband, found he didn’t miss the news near as much as he thought he would. And, it didn’t hurt when he turned in the multiple cable boxes to find he’d saved a $1,000 over the course of the next year. That said, he’s still not crazy about playing Scrabble with me every night (he thinks I have an unfair advantage because I know how to spell a lot of seven letter words!), but he’s coming around to the fact that he’s enjoying spending that precious hour with me — rather than with Bill O’Reilly.  😉

Though it took me twenty years to get my way on this issue it was worth the wait. While the strategy rumbled around in my head, I remember being in deep contemplation about how turned off I was to TV as I walked around Walden Pond (in Concord, MA) in 2007. My hero, Henry David Thoreau, spent two years living alone on that pond and then went on to chronicle his experience in his masterpiece, ‘Walden’, one of my favorite books of all time.

‘Walden’. It’s literary genius of the most inspired order. To me, it simply reads like poetry and prose. Stimulating. Pensive. Thought provoking. A real game changer. There’s a particular passage in the book that’s one of my favorites and is in great part why I’m so turned off to TV. Thoreau writes about the worthlessness of reading a daily newspaper (the TV of his time), and here’s what he says:

And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter — we never need to read of another. One is enough.”

This, my friends, is timeless wisdom that I’ve been carrying around in my heart for years. I thought deeply into it while my husband and I walked the beaten path to Thoreau’s cabin. His words are what influenced my daily thinking as I tried to get my husband to understand the need to unplug my nemesis, those horrid looped cable news images of burning houses, murdered children, brutal rapes, genocide, war, and the disgustingly glorified, smarmy piccadillo’s of insignificant-here-today-gone-tomorrow-celebrities … and now, those of a 22 year old deranged killer.  Sickening.

Like Thoreau, I’ve no desire to watch the same house burn or the same murderer kill over and over again. I know, first hand, the heartbreak that everyone is enduring from last weekend’s tragic event. But … wisdom is denied the young and obviously I’m a slower learner than Thoreau. He got it the first time around. I on the other hand had to watch similar scenarios play out 180,000 more times before I could say, “Once is enough!”

In conclusion, in the event this message got your attention, but you’re trying to justify the fact that not all TV is bad, I hear you. Yes, there are a few good programs worth watching. The History and Biography channels for example. But 99.9 percent of TV viewing is of no real value. Sitcoms, fake reality shows, and in-your-face-bad-behavior. It is pure insanity to think that seeing anymore of this negative stuff is going to make our lives (or our children’s lives) one whit better.

For your sake, and for those you love, consider turning it off, if not for a year, then at least a week or two. If neither of these choices work, then consider reading Thoreau’s masterpiece “Walden”. Or better yet, come walk with me on Walden Pond. We’ve so many important things to talk about, so many significant things to accomplish, and so many lives to touch.

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Walden Pond. Admittedly more beautiful today than when Thoreau was alive merely for the fact that he walked its shores innumerable times.

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No bigger than a shed this is an exact replica of the house in which Thoreau lived during his two years on Walden. Nothing to do but think … and leave behind powerful thoughts that will live forever.

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with the song still in them.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

To honor the lives of those who died last week, stop living a life of quiet desperation. Don’t die with your song unsung. Don’t watch American Idol. Rather, do what it takes to become an American Hero. Sing your song. Dance your dance. And, following in Representative Giffords footsteps, be the change you wish to see in the world.

Turn it off.

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