Baby, It’s Cold Outside

snowI want it to be sunny AND warm.  Is that too much to ask?  It looks gorgeous outside today.  Blue sky, slightly breezy, crisp.  Looking out there, it seems as though I could grab my cup of coffee, the book I’m reading, and head out to the chairs we have on our back deck.  The chairs that just yesterday were covered in snow.  But, no.  Uh uh.  Ain’t going to happen.  Why?  It’s damn cold.

It’s not really that bad, being 37 out there right now that is.  Not bad considering the winter we’ve had.  Not bad considering how much snow and cold and wind we’ve had this year.  But, c’mon.  37.  It’s spring.  I’m ready for spring weather.

Not long ago, November of last year, we had our first snow of the season.  We were so excited.  Yay, we said.  It’s going to snow we exclaimed excitedly.  Yay.  When we only got a dusting we were upset.  We felt robbed.  We wanted more.  We should’ve kept our gosh darn mouths shut.  Be careful what you ask for is right.

Those months ago, when we were entering the cold season and we wanted to experience a real Illinois winter, we didn’t know what we were asking for.  The previous two winters we’d lived here were mild, mellow in fact.  We were told repeatedly that the warmer weather we were experiencing then wasn’t normal at all.  We had no idea.

Now, after a frigid winter and loads of laundry from all the layers we have to constantly wear, we’re ready to pare down.  We’re ready to break out only t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops and not have to spend 10 minutes just getting ready, layer by layer, to go out.  We’re ready to actually look forward to walking the dogs.  We’re ready to be able to sit outside on our deck and watch the birds in the feeders and talk to our neighbors over the fence and grill with ease.  We’re more than ready.

Of course, in three months I’ll be complaining about how hot it is, how humid it is, and I will long for the cool breezes of early spring.

What Kind of Eyes Do You See With?

Eisenhower QuoteI happened to be looking at quotes this morning, which is something I occasionally do, and found this little gem.

I’ve never been a huge Eisenhower fan, and to be honest, I don’t really know too much about him.  He was a two term president, a conservative who also happened to be against McCarthy, for civil rights and inclusion, and ultimately pretty good a foreign policy.  He adhered to a policy of moderation and cooperation as a means of governance.  Yeah, you got me, I just looked him up and that last bit is a direct quote from Wikipedia.  I just read a bit about him and turns out he was an interesting guy that somehow gets overlooked when we mention presidents.  Probably because he came after Truman, and World War II, and before Kennedy, who garnered a lot of attention.

What strikes me about this quote is how relevant it is today.  We find ourselves in an era of bitter rivalry, and one might even say hatred, toward our fellows.  Our political system is a prime example of this.  Hate, fear, finger-pointing, and a general culture of unkindness seems to prevail.  Individuals, and I see this all the time on Facebook, love to post hurtful, finger-pointing comments full of ridicule and scorn.  Nowhere in that is a thought toward commonality, togetherness, kindness, or even an idea toward actually working a solution to our many problems.  It’s all about how the other guy is an oaf or an idiot or simple-minded.  Sadly, it’s the same behavior I saw so many times while I was working with at risk kids.  People who post these inflammatory things are bullies.  They wouldn’t call themselves that, no.  They would say they are passionate about their topic of choice and are attempting to push change.  They are wrong, just as people who try to bully have always been wrong.  One does not get their way by pushing, cajoling, shoving, and name-calling.  Name-calling… I’m appalled.  Adults, people I know, do this.  It’s like we’re back on the playground again.  Ridiculous.  Arrogant.  Shameful.

If you are a passionate person about, well, anything, the way forward is to promote an idea, not knock someone else down for an opinion that differs from yours.  Find what you feel are solutions and put those forward.  Create ideas or support causes you feel are worthy and promote those.  Stand up and state what you believe in, without saying that someone who believes differently is an idiot.  They aren’t, they just don’t agree with you.  And their not agreeing with you is OK too.  Differing ideas bring different looks at a problem.  We have a lot of problems, we need a lot of looks.  If you must comment on the “other side”, do so by posting actual, honest and real, events or circumstances that happened that you don’t agree with.  Then, comment on those with integrity, and an eye, again, toward solution.

I’m so tired, can you tell, of the trend toward mass posting these ridiculous saying and quotes about how liberals are this or that or tea party members are this or that.  Blanket statements that do nothing to enrich the world.  Mean quips and vicious comments about “those people”.  You know what?  I’m those people, and my mom is those people, my family is those people, and my friends are those people, on both sides.  Before you post something of that nature, think of people you know, picture their faces, and decide if you would say whatever it is you are about to post right to their face.  If you would, well then I guess you aren’t really a friend of mine because true friends of mine aren’t mean.  Friends of mine are kind.  I will, to borrow a phrase, accept no substitutes.  Everyone, and I mean nearly everyone, is entitled to a measure of respect. You choose who you are.  You can rise, be kind, elevate.  Or you can degrade, denigrate, and wallow in the muck.

As Eisenhower, whose quote started this whole little stand on the soap box, said…  “we must avoid becoming a community of dreadful hate and fear” and as the character Lindsey Brigman says in the movie The Abyss, “We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and…  he sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.”  I love that quote.  It’s stuck with me.  We see what we want, we create our world based on what we see and what we do.  We have to be better, for the world and for each other.  If we show a general disrespect for people we don’t even know, we disrespect ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods, our larger communities.  We have to look with better eyes than that.

If You Give a Little Love, You Can Get a Little Love of Your Own

Yes, grand gestures are awesome, but it’s the small things we do every day that really make a difference.

Parts of this video include footage from the Liberty Mutual campaign called the responsibility project.  It’s by far my favorite ad campaign.  All about doing small things to help our fellow beings, human and animal alike.  Good deeds, just like bad deeds, create a wave.  As the wave moves it picks up and grows.  Lets use our power for good people.  We have a choice.  Choose love and help and kindness over fear and animosity and cruelty.  If you give a little love, you can get a little love of your own.  Positive energy instead of negative energy.  It’s a choice we make hundreds of times a day in small ways and big.  Think, and be better.  I’m trying.

 

And Above All Things… Kindness

I’ve written many times about how I feel we should look at all sides, find common ground, talk over places we disagree with compassion and a willingness to hear. I’ve also written a lot about being open, non-judgemental, and how we are all, most of us anyway, pretty much the same, wanting the same basic things out of life. I believe all of it.

What I believe as well, more than anything else, is that we should all be kind to each other. We should talk from a place of kindness, act from a place of kindness, and think about the world and our fellow men and women from a place of kindness. This is not to say that we should all just get along and there will never be discord. Of course there will be, and is. It’s just that as we disagree we should do it with kindness. No name calling, no finger pointing, no bending of facts or twisting of ideals.

I was reading an article today on CNN.com, the subject of which I won’t talk about as it’s really not relevant to what I’m trying to say here, and then I looked at the comments. Needless to say it was the same ol’ same ol’. And people, listen when I say this, it came from both sides of the argument. As I’ve said, I’m liberal, but I get just as disgusted with the liberal rhetoric, hype, and nastiness, as I do the conservative comments in kind. What good does it do to point fingers, call names, make statements with no support or basis in fact, and generally act like an ass? We get nowhere doing this. Let me repeat… NOWHERE. We have to be better than this, people. We have to rise above our petty differences and playground tactics so we can have meaningful conversations. That is unless we feel we already have all the answers, know everything, and can learn nothing from each other. Arrogant much?

The key to acting with compassion is kindness. Kindness to ourselves, our neighbors, our loved ones, and yes… even toward people we feel might be our adversaries. I will listen to your reasoning, your opinion, your ideas, much more willingly if you don’t call me a name, make fun of what I believe in, and presume to know me. I don’t know you and therefore should do the same. Other than to say, once again, I really feel we are all after pretty much the same things in life… a good life well lived with people we love.

In an effort to look into kindness, do a bit of research you might say, I stumbled upon the seven virtues. The antithesis of the seven deadly sins, these are the seven ideals, the seven character traits, we should all strive to achieve. I actually read them through, not skimming but reading, which made me realize the deeper meaning behind them instead of the sort of one word definitions that are so often assigned to them. Chastity is a great example of this. People always think of chastity as the no sex virtue. Yes, there is a part of the definition that says save yourself based on your current status, but there’s so much more to it than that. In finding the seven virtues I was fascinated… I’d read them before, long ago, but reading them again, with older and hopefully wiser eyes, I found myself agreeing with them in basic principal, as I interpreted them. Key point here is how I interpreted them. We, each of us, take things in through the filter of our own perception. It cannot be helped. So I read these virtues and this is what I understood them to mean, for myself, and for the larger world. I took the original definitions directly from Wikipedia so take that for what you will. I’ve left in the gloss (the four highlighted words directly after the virtue that represent a brief marginal notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text) and after that the sections of the definitions I felt summed up the essence of each virtue. I tried to do this paraphrasing elegantly so the basic premises of the virtues shown through. And away we go….

Chastity: Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom. To be honest with oneself, one’s family, one’s friends, and to all of humanity. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought-through education and betterment. The ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation or corruption.

Temperance: Self control, justice, honour, abstention. Restraint, temperance, justice. Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, moderation, zero-sum and deferred gratification. Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. Proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.

Charity: Will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice. Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice; the term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving. Charity—or love (agäpé) — is the greatest of the three theological virtues. Love, in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Such love is self-sacrificial. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word “love”. The love that is “caritas” is distinguished by its origin – being divinely infused into the soul – and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up.

Diligence: Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude. A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. Upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching (integrity).(The vice “acedia” is more commonly known as “sloth”.)

Patience: Peace, mercy, ahimsa, sufferance. Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts and injustice peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. Accepting the grace to forgive; to show mercy. Creating a sense of peaceful stability and community rather than suffering, hostility, and antagonism.

Kindness: Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity. Charity, compassion and friendship for its own sake. Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. Unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. Having positive outlooks and cheerful demeanor; to inspire kindness in others.

Humility: Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism. Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination; charity toward people you disagree with. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.

I love the character traits present in these… being unselfish, inspiring kindness in others, loving your fellow human, conviction, honesty, patience, mercy, honor, generosity of spirit, justice, peace, and compassion. Just to name a few. These are the things we should strive for, these are the ways in which we should act in our own lives and toward our fellows. This is how we should live in the larger world.

I read these virtues and thought again, the greatest of these is kindness… it generates all the other traits. If we are kind to ourselves we are better people out in the world. If we are kind to our fellow humans then we spread an energy of joy and understanding versus judgement and antagonism. Kind people act with charity, they act with mercy, they act with love.

I don’t profess to always be the kindest of people. I try, but am honestly not always successful. The hope, my hope, is that I am more kind than not, that I think before I speak and act, and that I am always attempting to be aware of my actions and their impact on the people around me and the world at large. What kind of energy do I, do we, want to put out into the world? There are two options… positive energy, which pushes things in a loving and caring direction, or negative energy, which diminishes and constricts. It’s our choice every day. It’s the choice we make when we interact with the barista at our coffee shop, our partners friends and family, or a homeless person, or someone we are angry with or maybe disagreeing with. It’s a choice people. We need to try and be better.

I say strive for kindness… we would all be better off. The world would be better off. Small acts to large, every act of kindness matters. It matters, and it makes the world a better place.

… stepping down off soap box now…

A Word From Our Sponsor… Namely, Me

I do not choose to post inflammatory political stuff on this blog or in social media. I’m liberal and have my opinion but I didn’t even post stuff of that nature when I was really anti a previous administration. I see that sort of thing as plain ol’ finger pointing, which gets us nowhere. You want to solve the worlds problems and don’t agree with whoever is making tough decisions then do something constructive.  Volunteer somewhere, run for office, donate money to organizations you feel will help move the country in the direction you think it should go, write letters, take part in the process in a constructive way.  And if you must air your political opinion out in the open for all to see then why not post things that offer solutions instead of nasty rhetoric.  I have no issue with you, even if you disagree with me and we feel completely different about how problems should be solved, but let’s all of us get the hell out of the sandbox, pull up our big boy pants, and be civil.

The moral of this story… Let’s just everyone get a grip, try to focus on the positive, try to offer real solutions to things if you must be heard. I might not agree with you, but I will respect your opinion more and maybe a real conversation could be had.  One where people respect each other, honor differences of opinion, agree to disagree on some things, and then just maybe work toward real honest compromise.   When people post stuff that’s inflammatory I shut down, and so does everyone who doesn’t absolutely agree with it.  What purpose does that serve?  So those on either side can all nod their heads and agree that the other side sucks?  That’s not true.  Those on the other side don’t suck.  Everyone, really, is just living their lives, trying to do the best they can, loving their family and friends, and believing what they believe because it’s what they feel is right.  Me, you, your neighbor, the person in the checkout line, the guy sitting in the car at the stoplight, your kid’s fifth grade teacher,  your dentist, the woman out walking her dog, and on and on.  It’s time we stopped this us and them crap.  There is no us and them.  There’s just us, and we had better start being nicer to each other, more understanding instead of less, listening instead of talking so damn much, and seeing the good in our fellow man instead of the less than one percent that’s truly bad.  Again I will say get a grip people.  I’m tired of it.

That is all….

One Nation

I grew up with the idea that it was OK to disagree, appropriately of course, and that having more than one opinion in the room is often a good thing.  It provides a discussion with more than one side, which I feel is always a good thing.  Granted, sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but if all parties remain respectful it can also be the best way to wade through a problem, working it from more than one side.

What floors me so much about the political landscape of our country right now is that we are so black and white, right and wrong, us and them.  Polarized.  It’s ridiculous.

Those who know me know I’m a liberal.  I tend to vote Democrat down the line, but the reasons I do this aren’t very popular even to me.  I do it because I care, deeply, about my personal rights.  I care about social issues very much.  It’s not that I don’t care about economic issues, foreign policy, education… I do.  Very much actually.  It’s just that in the current climate where people who I don’t even know are trying to tell me who I can and can’t marry, which impacts them not at all, I have to stand on the side of me, of my partner, of our life together.  I have to stand for my friends, and for millions of people who just want to love who they love and have everyone else stay out of their personal business. But I rant, and this is not really about that at all.

So I vote the way I do based mostly on social issues, but if those weren’t an issue how would I vote?  Honestly, probably somewhere in the middle.  Probably sometimes for a Republican candidate, or a third party candidate, that I thought was the best person for the job.  I’d vote the issue, or the candidate, and not the party.  I used to vote that way.  I’d love that.

I disagree with extremism.  My idea of what this country was founded on is about freedom.  Freedom to think, pray, work, live, prosper, and thrive as we each see fit.  As we each make our way.  There are different ideas about how to get there, but when did we become so polarized?  When did we forget that this whole thing was set up so there wouldn’t be just one way to be, one way to think, one party who had all the power.  We didn’t want a kingdom, we wanted a free republic that respected the thoughts of ALL of it’s people.

I may disagree with some of the more outlandish and extreme points of view, but I also feel like everyone needs to have a say.  I was raised to value all sides.  Weren’t you?  We’re better together.  Better even when we don’t agree with each other.  And in fact we are probably stronger because of it.  One nation.  So let’s get on with it.  Let’s get on with the real business of trying to right what’s wrong, expand on what’s right, and move forward together.  We are, after all, still living in the greatest country.  We are honored, and blessed, to live here.  We should remember that.

Why Can’t Jim Own a Canadian?

I just read this post on Facebook and had to repost it here on my blog.  It had me laughing so hard I was was crying.  Thanks Margaret for posting it there and Jim (whoever you are) for writing it.

Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?

by Margaret Shelburne Reed on Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:46pm
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,

Jim