Winners, Losers, Technology, and Life

Someone close to me once confided in me after her son committed suicide that she wished she’d taught him coping skills, then she asked me how it was that my mom managed to instill this ability in my sister and me. Although I gave her an answer, her regret had stuck with me. We’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20, but for her this was a very painful reality with no ‘do overs.’

As she talked, there were things that she looked back on and wondered ‘what if.’ What if she’d worried a little less about him feeling accepted? What if she allowed other family members to voice criticism instead of not allowing anything negative to be said? What if she’d taken her children to church more often? What if they hadn’t given him everything he ever wanted?

It seems to me that two things in our society have been rapidly and consistently gaining large ground. They’re not exactly what I’d call bad or evil, just dangerous if not balanced…and we’re not. Balanced, that is. It’s become a bit of an epidemic and it’s starting early.

When did losing become evil? Countless numbers of my friends and family have talked about the concept of not keeping score for the youngsters just starting out in organized sports or no grades on a report card. The concern is that children need to feel accepted. (And probably to deter the hyper competitive parents from causing scenes.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for acceptance, but there are several very important life lessons to be learned in both winning and losing. As for the parents? If you’ve watched Dance Moms or any of the kiddie beauty pageant shows you know that those kinds of people are going to be that way with or without a score.

The first lesson is you’re not always going to be good at everything right away and that’s okay. Some are going to have certain natural gifts while others will need to work at it. There are countless examples from Michael Jordan to Emmitt Smith who were told they weren’t good enough, or big enough, or talented enough to make it, but with hard work and dedication to their dream, they still found a way to make it happen. The second is that there will always be naysayers in your life. It’s your choice whether or not to give them the power to give up your dreams. Third is that regardless of how badly you may want something, sometimes you just won’t have the ability and/or tools to make that dream a reality. It doesn’t mean you stop dreaming…it just means you learn from it; discover the things you are good at and find another dream.

Of course there are also the obvious lessons. Learning to be graceful as you’re winning or losing. Learning that losing a battle doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war. It just may be a temporary setback. Shaking an opponent’s hand in recognition of their job well done (or maybe yours), while strategizing on what you can do to improve your own results next time. Most importantly, winning doesn’t make you a better person than everyone else, and losing isn’t the end of the world. After all, in the real world, no one is going to pull punches. You won’t get a job just because you applied. You may lose a job or relationships. If you’ve never been taught how to handle them as a child, how will you know what to do when you lose the shield of parents and/or youth?

The other thing I’ve noticed is how completely we’ve allowed technology and social media to take over our lives, and not in a good way. Direct communication with people is becoming less and less frequent, and it’s everyone’s loss. By not looking someone in the eyes and talking, we’re becoming desensitized to the people around us.

Twice in the last two days I’ve cringed over the lack of care shown at the devastation of others seen online. I choose not to post the video clip or articles from the two events, but many of you may recognize the stories anyway (and may have seen them for yourselves).

The first happened on Saturday when a close friend expressed her rage over a video clip seen on Facebook. It was supposed to depict the dangers of texting and driving; a message with which I firmly agree. Her problem? When she’d clicked the video she thought it would be a reenactment, but it wasn’t. It was, in fact, a live videotaping of a motor vehicle accident where fatalities and severe injuries had occurred, recorded in all it’s gory glory. Besides the deceased in the video, there were the injured people. The problem was that while all this was being recorded it showed the severely wounded lying on the ground, people (including police) milling around, the injured appearing to be all but ignored. The person recording not being asked to stop. This video was put up on YouTube for the world to watch. It made my friend and I wonder if they took the families of the dead and wounded into account.

The second item was of a young lady who was allegedly drugged, then raped. Apparently she had no idea this even occurred until she discovered that nude and compromising photos of her went viral. One of the perpetrators to the alleged crime sent out all sorts of mocking tweets about the night in question after she went to the police. A potential rape victim splattered online, mocked, then bullied? Are we really so desensitized to the pain of others that this doesn’t bother us?

Then, as if the universe was sending me a message, I heard something coming from the living room. Last night, while I was working on a project, my hubby was watching Girl Meets World (Yeah, we were both Boy Meets World fans, so we decided to check out the new show). The subject turned out to be cell phones! How utterly appropriate, right?

Turns out, Cory has followed in Mr. Feeny’s footsteps, and is now teaching the lessons. I loved that he forced his class to go “old school.” In the beginning of the episode his daughter couldn’t even say “hello” to her crush. It had to come through her phone. By the end….

Maybe I’m over reacting. I mean, I’m the girl who didn’t even have a tv in her home until she was 7. I lived in other countries without the benefit of a phone in my own home until I was 10. I didn’t play video games growing up. I climbed trees, played tackle football in the yard, played school and library (my mom made me stop trying to collect actual late fees on my “library books” from my sister). I wrote my own stories and told them to my younger siblings to entertain them. Am I saying the way I was raised is the right way and everyone else’s is wrong? Not at all! I’m simply saying that maybe we need to find a way to be more engaged in the world around us again instead of hiding behind our phones, tablets, and computer screens.

Care to share your thoughts?

Own Your Power

Today, as I contemplate that it is International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what makes us so special as women. There are so many things that make me absolutely proud to be a woman. At it’s core, though, I think it boils down to one thing. Resilience. We are very good at recovering. Sometimes it’s a physical thing like child birth while other time’s it’s heart break or loss. Regardless, as a whole, we find ways to regroup, recover and come back stronger. I felt the above music illustrated that super power quite well.

I attempted to put my feelings about women in general into a poem, and this is what I came up with.

beauty_sunshine

Mystique

“The Weaker Sex”
is what we’re called.
Generations
of velvet encased
iron core,
who have held
and nurtured
in body and heart-
souls,
Sons who become
fathers,
daughters to
mothers.
We’ve stood firm,
guardians of the castle
charged with
sacred duty
to mold, guide and nurture,
teach and love.
Dry tears,
kiss away wounds
spiritual and physical.
Healing powers-
steeped in
understanding,
forgiveness and patience.
We hold on if we can,
let go when we must.
kindness, empathy
and knowledge.
Strength is required
to be
“The softer side.”

To all the women out there, I hope you realize how truly strong you are and that you have someone who shares your life who recognizes those superpowers you carry so effortlessly. Today, on International Woman’s Day, I think it’s fair to ask. What do you think makes women unique and/or powerful? What things do you respect the most?

For all you girls…in whichever part of life you happen to fall in…this is for you. Hold your head up. Own your power! You ARE strong.

 

A Foundation Of Tears And Trust

Patrick Thomas from the first episode of The Voice does an amazing cover of Rodney Atkins’ song, “Invisibly Shaken”. The song resonates with me, and I really love Patrick’s pared down version.

What do you do when the your foundation gets shaken? Sometimes it may be a relationship, like in the song. Sometimes it can be a crisis of faith. Maybe it’s not your faith being tested, but your sense of belonging. Maybe it’s a loss or upheaval in your family. Regardless of the circumstances, we all have those times where our internal strength gets tested.

“God will not test you beyond what you can bear.” That’s the promise God gives us on 1 Corinthians 10:13. But there are moments, aren’t there? Moments when you wonder if that’s really true? For some people it can be an untimely or unexplainable loss that brings on the crisis. Cancer, accidents, violence…things that happen way too often. Or maybe it’s just an incongruity.

Have you ever walked into a church, heard a message…maybe through the preacher or through the songs and hymns being sung…but the message sent by the behavior of the members, or even the minister didn’t match? Were you that person who felt unwelcome? Unaccepted? Unloved? Unimportant…even in God’s house?

It’s a challenge, isn’t it? To hold on to what you know is right and good and faithful when everything around you is shaking and crumbling? I often wonder if this is how my sister-in-law felt when she was told that her only son, my nephew, had committed suicide. I knew it destroyed my husband, though he wasn’t my husband yet. It was also his first close, personal experience with loss. I know so many of us asked the questions that Blaine Larsen asks in this next song.

Sadly, often when we ask those questions, all we come up with are more questions. Many either question God as to “why?” or even “where were you?” or “How could you let this happen?” Everyone’s ability to cope is different. The pressure point can vary from person to person. No matter how strong a person is, there IS a breaking point. What I’ve learned through life is that we were NOT meant to live it alone. God sent us each other to push through till times get better. Things that may not seem like much to you can be the thing someone uses to hold on and pull through. Oddly enough, it was my experiences with my brother that prepared me to help him and his family during their time of grief.

I was 15 when my brother died. I’ve talked about him before, so some of you even know the circumstances surrounding his death. I was a freshman in high school. Moved to a private church school, I didn’t feel very welcome. Most of these kids had been together since kindergarten, and I was the new girl in.

No one made it easy for me. In fact, girls being what they are at that age, all but two of them had decided they hated me on site. The one had grown up with me, and had been one of my closest church friends in our younger years. The other found out I grew up like a sister to the boy she had a crush on and hoped that being nice to me might get her a date with him. The guys? At first they were very welcoming, excited to have “fresh meat” in the classroom. It all changed when they realized I wasn’t really interested in dating. My brother had just died, we’d moved neighborhoods, moved schools….been taken away from everything that was familiar to us. Dating was the last thing on my mind! Coping was the best I could hope for.

Something happened about a month into my stay at this school that changed everything. School had just gotten out and an impromptu softball game had broken out at the baseball field across from the school. Fingers wrapped in the fencing, head tipped up to enjoy the sunshine, I stood, enjoying the last of our Indian summer day when I heard footsteps approach.

Turning, I saw an underclassman friend from church. I smiled, “Hey! How are you?”

Hoisting his foot up to rest it in a fence rung, he nodded. “Doing ok. I hear you’re really popular, though.”

Confused, I turned to face him completely. “Popular? Me? I hardly do anything.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard,” he said, tone sympathetic. “I’ve heard you’ve had a new boyfriend practically every week. I just thought you should know.”

Suddenly, I wanted to throw up. “It’s not true.”

“I know that.” He shuffled his feet. “The damage has been done though.”

Nodding, I headed for the bleachers and grabbed my books. “Thanks for the heads up.”

Without any effort on my part, I’d become the school slut. While I’m grateful to my friend for warning me, any sense of welcome I might have felt from the few people who faked their friendship to me was gone. Dried up with a few pointed words.

I didn’t want to go back. Part of me wanted to lash out. It was all so unfair, but what could I really do? I couldn’t tell my mom. She was going through enough! This was her second son she’d lost. No parent should have to go through that. I didn’t want to burden my little sister, though I was pretty sure she had been hearing the rumors about me too, by then.

If there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s pride. I would not ever give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. So the next day I walked in to school, determined not to show any sign of weakness.

God has funny ways of giving us gifts in the midst of these painful times, though…if we just look for them. Mine came in the form of a boy, two years younger than me. I’d met him on registration day, but he was shy, so I spent more time talking to his older brother. This day was different. He walked right up to me.

With a bashful dip of his head, hazel eyes looked up at me through a fringe of thick, dark lashes, “Hey.”

Surprised, I smiled. “Hey, you!”

He reached out for my hand, sliding something small in it. “I just wanted you to have this. It’s nothing much.”

Looking down, I realized he’d given me a class picture of himself. By the time I brought my eyes up to say something, he was gone. I lifted the picture to look more closely. Flipping it over I found this message: “If you’re missing your little brother, and you need one, I’m here.”

Even at that age I was floored. What a kind and generous offer to make someone you barely knew. Still determined not to let anyone see my tears for fear it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, I calmly walked into the girls washroom, entered a stall, locked the door and sat on the toilet. In that safe place I let tears of gratitude flow at his compassion.

In two days I felt like I cried a million tears…some filled with pain and anguish, while others were of gratitude, healing and catharsis. Looking back, I think it was these days that cemented the importance of tears for me. It’s always found a way into my poetry. For me, I realized that without the bitter tears, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the sweet ones.

Since those days I’ve realized something about God’s promise and me. When those hit come and drop me to my knees, there’s a reason. First, he wants to remind me to call on him, to lean on him. Second, he rarely answers with the loud roar we seem to expect. Instead, he answers with a soft whisper, sometimes carried on a gentle breeze, other times through a simple gesture from a friend.

Our problem is that we’re so busy looking for the roar, we completely miss the whisper. Then we turn to him and blame. How much easier would it be if we just asked for his help instead of demanding it? More than that, how often have we been the mean, catty person? How often do our words have barbs, designed to cut and hurt someone while we excuse our own behavior because of some slight (real or imagined) that they’ve committed against you? How do we know that these people haven’t been sent there to teach us lessons in kindness or patience or tolerance? Those kinds of responses are easy. Taking the high road when you have no reason to? That’s hard, but you never know when your simple kindness may change someone’s life.

Were Those Words Worth It?

I’m feeling a bit melancholy today. This election has been tearing at me. I choose not to post about political things. Not on Facebook. Not on Twitter. In fact, I rarely talk about it. People sometimes take my silence to mean I don’t have an opinion. That’s absolutely not true. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I have opinions on many things. This is just one of them that I don’t discuss.

Before you go reading anything more into this I need to explain why this election has been tearing at me. Let me clarify…someone once said…hang in there. Whether the person(s) in office is someone you like and respect or not, sooner or later someone else will come along. It’s just a matter of waiting. It’s all cyclical.

But it’s not the politicians that are bothering me. It’s the behavior I’m seeing from people…on both sides…that has been disturbing me. It seems like in the last twelve years people have gotten steadily nastier with their comments, their slogans…and even the memes they choose to use. They have done everything from question people’s intelligence if they chose to vote their way to mocking people as unaware and uneducated and the list goes on and on. (I even know of someone who told a friend of mine who is gay and voted republican that they hoped he got aids and died….really? Another friend voiced her opinion on where she was going to cast her vote and received threats of bodily harm…from a friend of a friend…and they had descriptions of her children, prompting her to call the police and report it. She is a single mom. Her kids safety comes first.)

I have friends who are blocking other friends posts in an effort to be able to simply retain friendships after the election is over. Families have stopped speaking to each other because they’re on opposite sides of a political fence and the comments made were hurtful enough to cause some of the more mature members to back away and stop talkin in the hopes that maybe these fences can be mended once the election is over. It seems in the last twelve years this kind of nastiness during election years has gotten steadily worse…driving stakes into friendships, families…and ultimately into this country I love so much. The taunting and gloating and mud slinging that’s still going on post election…isn’t helping. The end of the election isn’t the end of the world…but it very well may be the end of some relationships, because even now, it hasn’t stopped.

Does any of this behavior change anyone’s minds? Rarely. Unless you’re someone who was undecided and became repeatedly victimized by the bashing that’s happened because of some questions you may have had. The negative behavior might have sealed your vote for the opposition of the basher. One of my friends had a meme that said, “I don’t post my comments to change your mind. I post them to speak mine.” Ok. So regardless of whether you voted for either candidate…when you say that if you vote a certain way, you must be stupid…that’s your opinion of your friends? Got it. Good to know.

The thing is…these words…these sayings…these things….they can’t be taken back! Once they’re out of your mouth (or in many cases blasted all over facebook and twitter to assault every person on your friends list), the damage is done. We talk about bullying and how terrible it is. We all agree that it’s a huge epidemic in this country. Where do you think our children learn that behavior from? All this nastiness and insults? Guess what, people! That’s bullying, too.

I had no issue with any post on either side that chose to discuss or debate the election based on salient points pertaining to the actual election. The rest was garbage…and sad. We spout off about family values… From what I’ve seen, it’s important as long as everyone agrees. Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree? Or rational discussion? Yeah…our country is being torn apart from the inside…and we have no one but ourselves and our superiority complexes to blame.

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s a people issue. People should always come first. Respect. Love. Value. When a cause becomes more important than people…it’s time to think long and hard. I hope we can get past these rifts we’ve managed to create for ourselves.

And for you folks that aren’t in the US…I hope, if you live in a country where you have not only the honor, but the obligation to vote that you remember to love and respect those around you…regardless of who you are voting for. I value my freedoms. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wish people valued their friends and family with the same fervor they give their politicians.

So here’s my melancholy music for today….

Is Women’s Lib Killing Our Alpha Males?

At the risk of offending some people, I’m going to be candid. Maybe it’s because of a post I read last month from Once A Month 4 Ladies or maybe it’s the election or maybe it’s a memory of an old friend, but people’s perceptions on feminism lately have been driving me nuts.

First I’ll tell you what I do believe:

  • Women deserve to have the right to vote (you may say duh, but that’s actually a fairly recent right!)
  • Women of equal experience and education as men deserve to be paid at the same salary
  • Women should be able to try out for any type of sport, and if they’re talented, deserve equal consideration as their male counterparts

I may have forgot a thing or two in my list, but I think you get the general gist. And then there are the extremists when it comes to women’s lib. They kind of ruin it for everyone because they send mixed messages to the male gender. Earlier I mentioned a friend. My friend and I were out with a bunch of people one day (mind you, we were in high school). We’d just arrived at the restaurant when one of the guys from our group walked ahead of us and opened the door for us. I said thank you. She snapped at him, telling him she wasn’t weak and she could get the door for herself. Confused, I pulled her aside. She explained to me that she wanted to be “treated like an equal” and not some “weaker sex”.

I was completely floored! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that “women’s lib” had made it all the way into the dating scene. Maybe it’s old fashioned of me, but I don’t think it has any business in the dating scene. I’m not a “go Dutch” kind of girl. I like when a guy opens the door for me or pulls a chair out for me. I don’t see that as him treating me as a member of a “weaker sex”. I see it as the man I’m with paying his respects…and in some very old school, old world way…maybe paying homage to the beauty of womankind in general.

And yet these days men walk on egg shells, unsure of what’s expected of them. We women bitch and bemoan the loss of the “alpha male” and that men “don’t treat us right” when they don’t take charge or he pauses at the end of the night, unsure if he should be paying for the whole tab or part of it. Who do we have to blame for this? Ourselves!

You want an alpha male? Stop trying to neuter him! When he opens a door, say thank you and smile! When he holds out your chair for you, find a way to let him know it’s meant something and that you appreciate the effort. And no, for my dirty birdie friends out there, I don’t mean crawl under the table and “show him gratitude”…well, unless you want to. (hehehe!) I mean maybe touch his arm or make eye contact and give him that special smile that lets him know you really appreciate the gesture. And for goodness sake, ladies…don’t go on a dutch treat date unless you got suckered into one.  Usually that’s the beginning of something not so special…”if you know what I mean”. 😉

What about you ladies?  Gentlemen?  Care to weigh in on this topic?  How do you feel about women’s lib?  Am I the only one who thinks it’s gone too far when it’s pushed it’s way into the dating scene? Are there other places where it’s crept in and done more harm than good? Inquiring minds wanna know!

I enjoy the mystique that women posess. I like being treated like something special. I thrive on being flirted with and doted on….and I don’t think that should be out of date or old fashioned. I also like those alpha men who enjoy taking charge but respect the fact that women have minds of their own and are able to think for themselves and fight their own battles (but offer to always be there for back up if needed).