We Have a Problem to Solve – Not Every Vote Is Equal

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Each dot represents a block of voters with red dots for Trump votes and blue for Clinton. In most states, each dot represents 10,000 votes, however due to the size of some states and the total number of voters, in some states a dot represents 20K, 25K or 50K votes. This is uniform within states in order to keep the proportions.

 

Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength. It is a color associated with wisdom, dignity, creativity and independence. It is the color our nation has chosen to indicate bravery.

I have seen too many gloating posts, proclaiming that the voters have spoken, that we have a consensus, that we have a clear winner. Besides being insensitive and unsportsmanlike, these claims are simply not true.

Those of you who are proclaiming that your candidate won and you are in the majority, take another look. Putting aside that the losing party in this election won the popular vote, the votes were largely split across almost every state. In only 16 states did one candidate get 60% or more of the vote. In many states, it was close to a tie. In one state, only 2732 votes separated the candidates. That is less than half the population of my very small town. Looking at maps at the county level, the voting result in many cases was even closer. Shading one county or state red or blue based on a simple majority can discount up to half of the population.

I understand the concept of the Electoral College and why it was put in place. It makes sense to not give all the power to one or a couple states. But in a way, isn’t that exactly what the system has done? Much of our country believed that their vote didn’t count. I heard many people in non-swing states say that no matter how they voted, the outcome was already known, their state’s candidate was decided even without a vote.

The Electoral College does not accurately reflect the will of the people.  We all saw the map, which made it look like the country had overwhelmingly voted for one person. This is not the first time the popular vote has not matched the electoral vote and even when it has, this visual has been skewed, making it appear that everyone in a state agrees on a single candidate. Perhaps this has contributed to some of the unrest that has festered silently for years and is now spilling out and dividing our nation. I question the wisdom in giving all the electoral votes in a state to one candidate. If these votes were divided between candidates in all states, how close would it be? Who would win? When you look at the popular vote, even within states, the results were extremely close.

I am not arguing the results of this election. I believe in our democracy and accept that we won’t always agree. We have rules and procedures in place and need to work within the framework we have. But I believe that is is time for this to change. I also believe that when change is necessary, it needs to come about through the proper channels and unfortunately this is usually a slow and sometimes painful process.

If nothing else, we are now certain that our country is broken. Without a doubt, there are many changes ahead. If we are going to remain United States, we have  to work together. Our government relies on compromise in order for our system to work. We need to look past the labels to ensure that the changes are good not for just the red side or the blue side, but for everyone.

Personally, I think purple is a fine color.

 

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Today I Am Wondering, Is This a Test?

sunset-1591599_1280There is a saying, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.”

This is something I have lived by. When things get dark and scary, I remind myself of this. Of course there have been days I have looked to the heavens and said, “You put way too much faith in me.”

But guess what? He has always been right.

Last night I went to bed, just before the election was called, reasonably certain of the results.  This morning I woke up to what I have expected for weeks: Discord and anger. Facebook is still being monopolized by politics and the election. As the vote was split pretty evenly, half of our country is disappointed by the results. Because of the way the votes ultimately swung, many are also frightened.

I am proud to live in a diverse community. I feel blessed that my kids went to school with people of many faiths and ethnic heritages. My children have friends whom they consider family with ethnic heritages very unlike our own primarily Irish and British roots.These kids have been welcome guests in my home. My kids have helped them celebrated their religious ceremonies and have been accepted into their families as they have been into ours.

This morning, my children are worried about their friends. They are all adults, so it is not in an abstract, childish way. They have seen racism, sexism and homophobia. They see the fear in their friends’ eyes. They have witnessed bullying and harassment. They have seen how some people treat others as “less than” due to superficial differences.

I worry about this too. I have from the time my children were small. But I know that worry doesn’t inspire change. But prayer does. Speaking up does. Acting on one’s belief does. Practicing all three magnifies the impact.

If this year taught us anything, it is that we need to teach love. We need to fight the darkness. We need to be an example to our children of how to make a difference in the world, in a positive way. We need to watch over those who can’t fight for themselves and make sure that they receive the care and respect they deserve. To effectively do these things, we have to work together. We have to extend a hand to those who have disagreed with us and agree to work toward a common goal. (Without a doubt, we have some common goals.) This won’t necessarily be easy, but things worth fighting for rarely are.

Today the challenge looks daunting, but a group of people working for good can accomplish amazing things. We have seen this over and over again throughout history. We need to keep the faith. He wouldn’t have given us this challenge if we couldn’t succeed.

The Absolute Uncertainly of an Unsettled World

torn flag and barbed wireAbsolute uncertainty. This perfectly describes the upcoming election for U.S. President.

The outcome is uncertain. The acceptance of the outcome is uncertain. The future of the country I love is uncertain.

These are uncertain times. Never before have I felt so unsure of the future. Never before have I been seriously concerned about the world my children and their children will inhabit. No matter which candidate wins the election, the country will be in turmoil. If Trump wins, I worry that we will take many steps back. Many individual rights are threatened by Trump’s stated goals. Of course, many of the things he promised cannot be fulfilled, at least not with the system as it is currently set up. But I worry that even that is uncertain. If Clinton wins, Trump has indicated that he will challenge the results; that he will not concede. Either way, a large portion of the population will feel that they have lost after this election and I am not sure how or even if we will be able to feel united again.

When a major political party, the party who years ago pushed for family values, elects as their representative a man who lies and cheats and then says he “never said that” (in an era when everything public figures say and do is recorded and reported on), I believe we can be certain of nothing. When people then defend these statements and say that his opponent is crooked and parrot his soundbites, instead of doing their research to determine what is true, I am confused and question my long-held belief that truth and goodness will always prevail.

I am baffled by the argument: “He is a good businessman and will surround himself with good people to get the job done.” I have seen no evidence of that. If anything, I think his judgement is getting worse. A good businessman knows how to handle himself in public, he is respectful, he encourages, not disparages. A good businessman listens to others, especially when they don’t agree with him. A good businessman puts together cohesive, intelligent arguments, he doesn’t stomp his feet and call names when someone disagrees with him. A good businessman takes pride in what he does and encourages press coverage, he doesn’t banish those who may write negatively about him. A good businessman doesn’t regularly insult more than half the population.

Conspiracy theorists have been given an abundance of fuel as well. Trump has left little tidbits in his wake at almost every appearance. Though this is nothing new, his paranoia of the establishment has fueled more fear and hatred than I have ever seen. Yes government has its flaws, but his suggestions that everything is rigged will only polarize people more. Is it possible that the system our forefathers put in place, with multiple checks and balances, could have gotten so corrupt that it is possible to rig everything? I don’t think so.

Politicians promise things they can’t deliver. Election seasons are full of lofty goals and visions of an ideal world. Our political system is set up in such a way that people must work together to make anything happen. This is of course the great flaw in our system, since today people can’t even agree to talk about making a decision, let alone work to find a solution that will benefit all, even a little.

We are living in a time of absolute uncertainty. We are becoming a nation of us and them. We are not listening to each other, but are reacting to what we think others are saying. The future is always unknown, but up until recently, I believed that it could always be made better. I now worry that we may be going a direction that cannot be reversed. I am absolutely uncertain of anything except that if we could all set aside our differences and find a way to work together, that maybe, just maybe, we can save our country from ourselves.

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There IS a Dish Fairy, and Other Lies I Have Convinced My Family Are True

little-girl-626114_1280Sometimes one can do a job too well. Since I quit my full time job to stay home with my kids, I have seen most household responsibilities as part of my job. Taking care of their health and well being has been my top priority, but the everyday maintenance that comes along with living in a house with a group of people is also part of what I do. Since I accepted these responsibilities, it is perhaps unrealistic of me to expect others to take them on, just because they see that they need doing. (Although that has been part of the problem, they too often do NOT see that these things need doing.) Over time, they have come to see these things as my responsibility, but I also have inadvertently convinced them that certain things are true.

There is a dish fairy

Unless you are willing to spend extra money on disposables and contribute to filling landfills, you have dishes. Dishes need to be washed, generally after each use. (And let’s not forget the pots and pans used before you put the food on the dishes.) With a family of six, the sink fills up. Sometimes I have other, more pressing things to attend to, and the pile sits. I have taken to casually mentioning that we really need the “dish fairy” to show up. This is usually met with a chuckle and life’s busyness goes on. At some point, I empty and fill the dishwasher (which seems to take less time than when anyone else attempts it) and the problem is solved.

Now, I could have started when the kids were little and insisted they do the dishes. In my husband’s family, each child had a dish night; in mine, my sister and I would trade off – one did the dishes and the other the pots. Instead, once my children were tall enough to reach the sink, they also had a crushing amount of homework. Doing well in school is important, so I made the decision that school is their “job” and they could help with dishes and other chores on occasion. They are expected to get their dishes to the sink, but for the most part, their responsibility ends there. (I do have the rule that no food is allowed in bedrooms, so I thankfully have avoided needing a “dish collection fairy” as well.)

I guess this makes ME the dish fairy. (Honestly, most days I don’t mind as the window over the sink provides entertainment with the variety of birds that frequent our birdbath, I just wish sometimes the dish fairy would visit before I get there).

I have nothing to do with my time

Once all the kids were in school, I arranged my daily routine around the school day. They would leave, I would run errands, do household chores, make phone calls, plan events, and hopefully squeeze in some “me time,” like meeting a friend for lunch (and usually running errands before or after). When they got home, I was available to hear about their day, help with homework, and drive them places. After dinner, I tried to minimize personal obligations that did not directly impact my family. Weekends were likewise set aside for kid-centric events or whatever someone else in the family needed or wanted to do.

I realize now that by doing this, I have made it look like I don’t have anything important to do. When they are around, I am there, for whatever is needed at the time. They don’t see all the mundane things I regularly get done while they are away from home. Even when they hear about my day, they have no true concept of how much time it takes up. On unscheduled days off, I have heard complaints that I am “too busy.” Well, that is my “job,” every day.

I have their schedules committed to memory

I have always had a mind for dates and times. I am frequently the go-to person when someone needs the date for a birthday or anniversary. I have four children, spanning ten years, with different interests. The family calendar is color coded, by individual and sometimes by activity. Thanks to the way my brain functions, for the most part, I could keep track of all the comings and goings without too much difficulty. Since kids often need it, I made a habit of providing a warning that “soon” we had somewhere to go.

As they got older, I realized they could be responsible for keeping track of these things themselves. I stopped giving warnings and they managed just fine. Since I no longer had this responsibility, I wasn’t paying as much attention to their calendars and sometimes would forget they had anywhere to be at all. When I showed surprise that they were leaving, or that it was time for me to take them somewhere, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I was supposed to remember these things. After all, isn’t that Mom’s job?

I know where everything is

This, I know, is a common mom phenomenon. Almost every family I know looks to Mom when something is missing, whether it be keys, library books, or shin guards. It is reinforced when, more often than not, she tells you where these items are (usually where you left them). When I am scattered myself, and don’t have the answer, I get a strange look and, “But you’re supposed to know, you’re the mom.”

I know when they are out of anything

Things run out, like shampoo, deodorant, clean underwear. I am expected to know when these things are close to running out and make sure a replacement is at hand. This, unfortunately, is something that I have mostly been very good at over the years. I notice details and have a strange sense of when things should be purchased again. I don’t keep written notes (if I did I would likely put them in that elusive “safe” place), sometimes it is as simple as a bottle falls over and I notice it feels light, or I am making a list or looking at coupons and remember to ask, just before something is needed.

On occasion, I have messed this one up, and there is whining and gnashing of teeth. I protest that it is not my job, that one should know when they are using the last ____ , and to let me know so it can be replenished. This is something that they all got better at, especially once they got to college.

Clean clothes magically appear

Laundry is one of those dirty words (pun fully intended). This is one of the chores that is NEVER complete. Again, I have taken this task on, of my own free will. Everyone in my house knows how to do laundry – how to sort it, and how the washer and dryer work. They also know that complaints about something not being clean will result in them being told to do it themselves. Therefore, they have also learned to not complain and to do without.

Like the others, this is a chore I chose. Yes, I could make each child do their own laundry, but then I would lose control of the washing machine. My main argument is that if everyone did their own, we would use more energy as we would be doing more partially full loads each week. This is true, but my hidden agenda is that by letting them all use the washer and dryer, it will likely be full when I want to use it. I really don’t want to have a laundry schedule, where everyone would have assigned times. I don’t want to manage such a schedule, and I want to use my machines when it is convenient for me.

Some people have told me that I let my kids off too easy, that they should have had more responsibilities around the house, starting at a younger age. There may be some truth in this, but I think we are all doing okay. They know how to care for themselves (even though they sometimes pretend they don’t) and are well on their way to becoming productive members of society. I am fortunate to have been in a position where I could do these things and possibly reduce the amount of stress in all their lives. They know that everyone has to pitch in to make society work and are among the first to volunteer when they see a need.

To be fair, my family takes care of me as well. Several years ago, when I sprained my foot, badly, they wouldn’t let me get out of my favorite comfy chair except to go to the dining room table, the bathroom, or to bed for four days. That is how I learned how well the human body can heal itself, if you let it. (I have had not a twinge from it since.) More recent illnesses have also had them stepping up and taking care of the most important, basic needs (the stuff they KNOW I do), while insisting that I rest and get better. At these times, I know that what I do every day is noticed and appreciated. Once I am again healthy, though, taking care of the house and them, well, that is my job.

 

This article first appeared on Parent.co: There IS a Dish Fairy, and Other Lies I Have Convinced My Family Are True

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Each Year I Feel the Horror

img_7120I awoke this morning and decided to turn on the television, to try to catch up on current events. I have been too busy with other things to pay much attention to what is going on in the world (and have been avoiding the constant coverage of politics). Since it was early, and I had not yet had my coffee, I had forgotten the date (which to be honest, I hardly pay attention to anymore).  I was quickly reminded.

Today is a tough day. It has been for the past 15 years. Though no one I knew was lost that day, I have not gotten through an anniversary of the day without tears. I remember the morning clearly and now understand the question “Where were you when…?” For my parents’ generation, it was the day was Kennedy was shot. For mine and my kids, it was September 11. No year is needed, it is simply September 11.

I remember (and relive each year) the emotions of that day. My older kids were off to school, I had just showered and put the TV on for some light entertainment, yet it wasn’t Regis and Kelly I saw on the screen, but an image of New York, with smoke coming from one of the towers. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were discussing breaking news: apparently a commuter plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Moments later, a plane flew on to the screen and crashed into the other. I felt sick. It was obvious that this was intentional and the reports began – we were under attack. Then they went to DC were an explosion had rocked the Pentagon and then were reports of another plane going down in central PA.

Now we know what happened, but at the time, one could only speculate. I was afraid. The hows, the whys, even the who was unknown. I couldn’t step away from the television. I watched the World Trade Center smolder. I had been there on multiple occasions. Like many tourists, I stood at the top and viewed the city below; I had been to the restaurant at the top, celebrating an anniversary. That morning, I called my husband, multiple times. I asked him if the tower would fall over. He reassured me, no, it was built to withstand just about anything.  Then, just seconds later, the towers crumbled.  I couldn’t breathe.

Then I had the uncontrollable urge to collect everyone I loved and get them close. I called the elementary school and told the secretary there (which whom I had developed a relationship) that I was going to pick my kids up (from three schools). She convinced me that they were safe there and it would be best for them to stay. I contacted family members throughout the country, ensuring they were all safe. Though I could not reach those in New York, other family members were able to and assured me they were safe.

I continued to watch the coverage. At this point, my three year old was wondering where Mommy was and came looking. This is what finally pulled me away. No child should watch that. When the older kids got home, I didn’t have to tell them what was happening. They had heard about it in school (and despite a news blackout ordered by the administration, one had seen some of it on TV).

I felt helpless. I didn’t know if anyone I knew was involved and felt guilty that all my loved ones were accounted for. So many others could not say the same. Then the stories started coming out. Stories of loss and of heroism. They all made me cry. Though the kids knew what had happened, they couldn’t understand why. How do you explain this kind of evil to a child? Our church announced a prayer service and Mass that night. No one else in my family wanted to go, but I had to. I was too emotional to stay for it all, but going helped me.

The days that followed were also difficult. One of the kids spent time building block towers and knocking them down with a pretend airplane. I tried to not talk about it around them and limit the television to kid-friendly channels, but they needed to talk as well. It was eerily quiet. The lack of air traffic was a dramatic difference since there were several airstrips nearby. When a military plane flew over, we all jumped in fear.

As the first anniversary approached, I planned to avoid media altogether. It was too much. I couldn’t handle my emotions. I understand why we memorialize these things, but there is no danger that I will ever forget. Our community lost a few people and there are ceremonies each year. My children attend; I still can’t. I wonder if I ever will.

Cleaning in the Buff? Maybe Grandma Was On To Something

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This is the only hat I own with a feather in it. I may or may not have been wearing it this morning.

Warning: If the idea of midlife nudity scares you, you might want to turn back now.

Maybe it’s because I am now 50, but I find myself thinking about my female ancestors quite a bit lately. I come from a long line of strong women, and most of them, I am not ashamed to say, were quite the characters in their time. Today my thoughts are going to my great-great grandmother, who lived a long and interesting life. Family lore tells that she had a gift for knowing the future, but that is a story for another time. Today my thoughts are going to her housecleaning habits.

I am told that on cleaning day, she went about her chores, in the buff, except for a hat with a feather in it. This story has always amused me and I have been impressed by her confidence. As I turned 50, my mom referred to me as “Feisty.” I’ll take it. I commented that the same could be said about her and our foremothers. I also wondered if they were always as feisty as they were when she and I knew them. From the brief history I know, I doubt it. I think that these women likely hit a certain age and decided to do things their way from that point forward.

Back to Great Great Grandma. Of course I would wonder about her strange cleaning habits and wonder why.  Here are some of my theories:

She was just a little eccentric. We all have our own little quirks and ways of doing things. This was just her way of demonstrating her individuality.

She was guaranteed to get (almost) everyone out of the house. (I suppose her husband may have stuck around.) No one wants to see Mom or Grandma in that state and anyone who has tried to keep a house clean knows that it is much easier when there is no one there to make messes where you just cleaned or to have to shoo out of the way.

She hated to do laundry. It is a part of the process to get dirty when you clean, thus creating more laundry. Washing a body takes less time than washing clothes. Or maybe she just wanted that one moment of knowing that all the clothes were clean.

She was always hot. So. Freaking. Hot. (Those of you in the area of 50 know what I am talking about.) Cleaning is a physical, sweat-inducing process, especially when you hate it and want it done fast. This morning, I went to clean the kids’ bathroom. Now this is usually their task, but we have company coming and I was pretty sure it was not up to my standards – I was right and the task took more time and energy than I expected. And I was overheating. When I finished that one and went on to my bathroom, I couldn’t stand how gross I felt anymore and stripped down, since I was getting in the shower when I was done anyway. Hmm, maybe she was on to something. Naked cleaning is surprisingly refreshing.

Family stories are fun to listen to and wonderful to share. Sometimes we find that we have things in common with distant ancestors, whether it be physical attributes, common talents, skills or interests, or even similar mannerisms. I love knowing that so many strong women came before me. Women who were not afraid to speak their mind and buck conventions. I am proud to be their daughter, granddaughter, and niece and to look at the next generation and see the seeds of feistyness there as well.

 

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Midlife Revelations Found in the Wilderness

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Last week I had a much needed break from everyday life.  We spent three rejuvenating nights camping in Shenandoah National Park, where my cell phone got only spotty service, and the questions of the day included where to hike and where to go for dinner (we didn’t completely “rough it”). We hiked a bit each day, but there was plenty of time to relax and ponder. Though I did spend some time thinking about and taking notes for an upcoming project, I had time to contemplate life in general and came to some conclusions about an upcoming birthday.

I knew from an early age that I wanted to have a family young and especially now am happy with this choice. While I was too busy with life to even consider the relevance of previous milestone birthdays, I am looking at 50 with anticipation. Yes, it is a big number, but I look around and see how much opportunity still exists, as long as I slow down and pay attention. This camping trip reminded me how important it is and will be to regularly unplug and just be. While doing just this, I realized that this birthday really is different.

For my entire adult life, I have been a mom. I have looked at things through a mom’s eyes. Everything I did had a potential impact on my children. Now, my actions cause barely a ripple in their lives. I am confident that they don’t need me, at least not in the way they once did. Now my role is more to observe and advise them and to discover what else the world has to offer. Spending a few unscheduled days gave me the opportunity to think about life and to gain a new perspective.

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I noticed more bounce in my step last week, a newfound sense of freedom. While one might expect me to be more cautious than when I was young, instead I feel more adventurous. I gleefully climbed among boulders on cliff sides, seeking the best view on each hike we took (and making my husband nervous in the process). Each step made me want to take another, to see and experience more. This is not a crisis; there is no rashness to my actions. I am well aware of my physical limitation. In fact this encourages me to get in better shape so that next time I can go further and do more.

Along with this sense of adventure comes a refusal to listen to those who say I can’t. I’m not going to listen to those who may tell me to act my age, to buy into the “shoulds.” I am going to live my life even if it goes against the norm. Up until this point,  I have followed the rules, now it is time for me to make them for myself. I skipped over the party years; I was mommying in my twenties, not out at bars, staying until “last call” and dancing on tables. I’m not saying I will do that now (though I’ll leave the option open, if I find the moment is appropriate), but I don’t really care what people would say if I did. Again, this is not a crisis – I have no desire to go back in time. I am quite content here at (almost) 50. I have the wisdom and the confidence to know that age is just a number, that it does not limit what one can do. And I am finding that there is quite a lot that I want to do.

Another side effect of my half-century status:  I now have zero tolerance for bullshit. Though I believe I still have many years ahead of me, I acknowledge that there is an end. At this point in life, I don’t want to waste time on things that don’t matter. I don’t want to spend time on petty issues that divide people. I don’t have time for hidden agendas or playing games with emotions. I will always strive to be kind, but there is no need to read between the lines with me. If you want to know what I think, ask me; don’t try to divine my thoughts based on my actions (or lack thereof). If I have offended you, tell me. Since there is much I want to do, I can get hyper-focused and be rather direct in my dealings with people.  Sometimes people make things much more complicated than they are. I don’t want to waste time with misunderstandings.

As the generations below me are adding members, I am also thinking of the strong women who came before me, those who showed me that a woman can do and be anything she wants. I am thinking of the example I want to be to my children and hopefully to their children. Though I know there are still must-dos in my future, I am looking ahead to a great many more opportunities to do what I want to do. I am looking at 50 as a new beginning, a time to discover new dreams and work to meet new goals. I am looking forward to seeing how much I can do.

Letting Go of Hate Helps You Love

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Watching the news would lead us to believe that hate and anger are a constant in the world today. (I know many people who no longer watch the news for exactly this reason.) There are stories of love and goodness out there, but they don’t get the same reaction. Sure, they make people smile and momentarily feel good, but they don’t elicit the desire to take action. The positive stories may be told to close friends, you may tap the like (or love) button on Facebook, you may even share some of them, but the stories about hate, well they bring out the activist in us all. Those are the stories that get shared, along with accompanying rants, over and over again. Those are the stories that cause people to get involved, to let people know what you think, to get angry about.

Hatred and anger spread faster than love. It shouldn’t be this way, but it seems to be easier than spreading good news. For some inexplicable reason, it is somehow more accepted to express negative feelings, but it shouldn’t be. We would all be happier without hatred in our lives. Look at the antonyms for hate: respect, praise, fondness, blessing, pleasure, kindness, happiness, friendship, delight, honor and of course, love. Aren’t these the things we want in our lives? Can’t we work to have them?

Letting go hatred and the feelings of anger that often accompany it is hard.

Loving our neighbors is sometimes hard. Like all habits, giving up something that has become ingrained is difficult and requires effort.  But the rewards of doing so are great and the penalty for holding on to these feelings is harsh.

In the past, I have experienced hatred and realized I was suffering because of it. I noted that holding on to negativity made me feel worse, not better. I had good reasons for my anger: the words and behavior of someone I knew were hateful and mean-spirited. Not having another way to deal with it (and it being someone I could only ignore up to a point) I responded to this with anger and hatred. I knew I had a problem when I got to the point of wishing for evil outcomes. I took a hard look at myself and realized that hatred had made me someone I disliked. Hatred is evil. It makes one do and say things that are mean and hurtful. This is not who I wanted to be, so I made a decision: I was going to get rid of it.

When I had hatred in my life, I found that it tended to even creep into parts of my life that were unrelated to the actions or even the person that prompted the feeling. Finding joy became difficult. A darkness had crept into my life, without my even realizing it. I was unhappy.

Hatred is tough to give up. Once it has settled inside you, it sets up house and makes itself comfortable.  It consumes your thoughts and emotions. It can in fact wield as much power as love does. Being nice and loving again is difficult. When you are justified in your anger, it is difficult to give it up, but I realized that fighting this emotion was necessary, for my own well being.

I thought it was too hard to do alone, so I prayed. For weeks, I asked God to help me rid myself of this hatred. I thought of hatred as a black spot on my soul. It was eating me away from the inside. I also recognized that I was being hurt more than the person I hated. What was worse, I was responsible for it all; I was doing this to myself. I know that prayer would not be the path to a solution for everyone, but it helped me. Logically speaking, I knew I had to let my feeling go, but I didn’t feel able to do it on my own, so I turned to the most powerful being I know.

Maybe you don’t have a strong faith. Maybe you have no faith. Yet putting aside how hatred harms your soul, you have to admit that it is also damaging physically. When you hate, your body is tense. Feelings of anger and anxiety often accompany hatred and both are frequently cited as being responsible for a number of physical ailments, including headaches, digestive problems, teeth grinding and muscle tension. It can cause you to lose sleep, which in turn can cause even more issues. It can make chronic health issues worse. Hatred also affects your relationships. When you are tense and anxious so much of the time, it is difficult for others to be around you. You are simply not fun. Your happiness diminishes as it has a tough time coexisting with hate.

Our hate-based actions tend to silence our conscience, to give ourselves license to behave badly, to act in a way that is harmful or destructive to others, in a physical or emotional way.  As a result, everyone loses. When you hate, you lose a part of yourself. You lose a bit of the person you were. You may lose a relationship (which may then lead to the loss of another, and so on) and you may be so preoccupied with hating that you miss out on other opportunities for love.

Several years ago, I read a book about anger that suggested that persistent anger could be seen as giving another person control over you. There is some truth in this. Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” I would say that this is true of many other emotions as well.  Hating someone is relinquishing control. Using up precious time and energy to be angry makes no sense. We get to choose what we use our emotional energy on, and sometimes we have to make tough choices. Hatred comes from within. It is something that we can learn to control and even eliminate in our lives. Many wise people have pointed out that the opposite of hate is not love, it is apathy or indifference.  These feelings do less harm.

The current climate in society is doing nothing to improve our lives.

In fact, I would say that all the negativity is making our lives worse. Though it may look otherwise, we are not helpless, our fate is not determined. We can make a difference, if we choose to do so. We can choose to not hastily react to bad news, we can choose to not spread rumors, we can choose to look for the good in people and situations. Though we live in a world where the answer to most questions is “Google it,” we have to accept that we will not always get instant answers and sometimes we will not get answers at all. We cannot know all that is going on in someone else’s life, never mind what thoughts and feelings motivate their behaviors. We can stop and think before we act. We can pause before we judge. We can choose to act out of love and to give people the benefit of the doubt, rather than reacting to what we perceive to be another’s intentions. We can choose love over hate. Doing so will mean we all win.

Why Do Old People Want to Chat, Snap and Gram?

snapchat filters are funI am seeing conversations about Instagram and Snapchat growing in popularity and outside the typical teen demographic. Since I like being seen as an adult, and not one who is trying to be cool by desperately grasping at things to regain some appearance of youth, for years I have pretty much tried to ignore the newer social media platforms (of course after learning some basic facts about them and warning my children of the dangers of misuse).

But it seems I finally do get pulled in. First it was Facebook. Then my family got Smartphones, and one of the first things my kids did was to get on Snapchat. As I struggled with figuring out the basics of my new phone, they were happily Snapping away, with their friends and each other. When I asked about all the giggling, they told me about Shapchat and asked me to join in, urging me to set up an account.

I declined. I told them I had enough to keep up with having Facebook and needed to figure out what I was doing with this new phone that did everything but make coffee. I did, however, set up an Instagram account. This was more my speed, sharing photos. With my daughter’s urging, my account is set to private, so I can control who views them (yay for having a smart kid!)

Fast forward a couple months. I know how to navigate with my phone (mostly) and I am hearing about how one or the other of my children has done this or that from one of their siblings. I had just talked to him/her and did not hear about it. How did they get this info? From Snapchat. I’ve been left behind.

So I realized, if I was going to find out more about their everydays, I needed to get an account. Well, actually, the dog did. (Snapchat messages include a photo, and I like pictures of her more than those of me. They all seem to miss her more than me anyway.) The whole process was more complicated that I had thought it would be. Snapchat is not as intuitive as Facebook and I have no patience for searching for online tutorials. I muddled through and finally thought I had it figure out. I had requested to be “friends” with my kids and sent my first message (well, to three of them, I somehow got the fourth child’s name wrong and still don’t know who got that Snap). Thankfully it was just a picture of the dog.)

I continued to get frustrated with the app, since there were things I knew were possible to do, but I couldn’t figure out how. Over Thanksgiving break, they all taught me some tricks and we had fun adding to our “stories” with pictures we took of each other during a long car ride. I still don’t do much with Snapchat, except follow stories (it still frustrates me that I have to ask for help). It can be more useful than a text when I see something and want to share it with one of them, but for regular conversation, I still prefer to use the phone as it was intended, or I text for non-urgent questions or comments.

Although, now that I updated the app, (and got more “lessons”) these new filters are kinda’ fun…

Writers Are A Special Kind of Crazy

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The writing community, unlike many others, is extremely supportive. Though there is competition for markets, that cut-throat competitive spirit just isn’t there. Maybe it is the often solitary nature of the work that drives us all to be nice to each other. Maybe we are all just nice people who realize that there is enough space for us all. Maybe it is even simpler than that, maybe it is just that writers are usually also readers, and many of us just can’t get enough of the written word.

Whatever inspires it, the community is welcoming, to those experienced and new alike. Secrets are shared (where to send pieces, how to word queries, which person to direct submissions to) and there is a tendency to promote others’ work, as well as your own. We celebrate each other’s successes and are there for each other when things are down. We fight off the trolls together and commiserate when writer’s block strikes. We also laugh at ourselves for pursuing what is at times a rather bizarre way of life. Things that other professions would simply not accept, we take in stride as just another part of the day. These strange things we take for granted are what make us a special kind of crazy.

At some point in a writing career, you will:

Spend hours working on a project with no guarantee of pay. Working “on spec” is a given when you hope to break into a new market. Even when a paycheck is involved, you may not want to determine your hourly rate, especially after considering all the steps involved: the writing, promoting, billing, and keeping track of expenses in preparation for the end of year taxes. Seasoned freelancers frequently have pieces assigned to them, but if you want to choose what to write about, you will likely have to do so without the certainty of being paid.

Compulsively check your mailbox (either real or virtual). Unless you write exclusively for your full time job, you engage in the process of submitting your writing for someone else’s approval. While it is easy to say “submit and forget,” that piece you submitted way back when floats in the back of your mind, so that when mail arrives, you have to immediately check to see if your answer is in.

Definitely experience rejection. Most writers get more rejection letters than those of acceptance. I recently came across advice for writers to set a goal of 100 rejections a year (side note, I am on track to meet this goal.) The key, of course, is to then review the piece, and unless there is reason to edit or rework it, send it out again, to a new publisher. Rejection is not a reflection on you, it just means that piece was not right for that market. (Some weeks that is tough to remember.)

Agree to write for free. This may be for an organization whose mission you support, or for a friend who asks nicely, or maybe even, wait for it, for the exposure (yes, I know, people die of exposure). Though I agree that writers should be paid for their work, there are some good reasons to write for free and in the early stages of a career (or when switching niches) it may be the quickest route to steady work. It can also be thought of as a writing exercise (making your writing stronger) and is sometimes just a nice thing to do.

Experience extreme emotion. Submitting writing is in some ways, like parenting a toddler. You question yourself and your techniques. You devote a tremendous amount of time, energy and love into something and sometimes it just isn’t appreciated. On a good day, you get an “I love this!”  Other times you get a polite “No, thank you. This is nice, but it doesn’t work for us right now,” other times you get “I hate this, and I hate you!” (I actually have never gotten the last response from an editor, but like toddlers, not all editors are sensitive to a fragile ego.)

Make wonderful friends. These may be fellow writers, or people who have found and appreciate your work. These people will help you work through issues, both professional and personal. The power of the written word is tremendous. When two people connect over a story, that moment one says, “Me too!” is magical. It keeps writers writing and readers reading. We all want to know that we are not alone in the world, that others share in our experiences, even if they do so from afar.

Be glad you took this path. It has its ups and downs. The rewards are often intangible but real. Even if you can’t quit your day job, you know you can make a difference. You know you are part of a special, not-so-secret club. You know the power of words, and how to wield them. You are a writer.

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