Category Archives: dichotomy

Letting go and growing up

Feeling sad that MM isn’t coming home for Thanksgiving.
Feeling glad that he is spending Thanksgiving with extended family.

The things that don’t kill you give you character.

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Finding positive in the negative

Last Thursday night you would have found me at the high school Veterans Day program. The wind ensemble, orchestra, artist guitar ensemble, and jazz ensemble all played music, and a former American Idol contestant (who happens to attend our high school) sang. There was also a slide show set to music, but when the music for the slide show failed to work,  we ended up watching the images in silence.  The two young men in charge of that part of the program were horrified. What they didn’t understand at that moment was the blessing in allowing us to focus solely on the photographs without any distractions.  Some of the images were ones we have all seen in magazines or on our television screens, but watching them in a silent auditorium was a poignant experience.

The guest of honor for the Veterans Day program was a 2003 graduate of our high school.  Back then he was simply known as Rob; but last week he was in full uniform as CPL Robert Jones, USMC, and he was walking on his new titanium legs. Yes, legs. Both of them.  An IED claimed his flesh and bone in Afghanistan in July, but it did not claim his positive attitude.

“The most common reaction I get from people who visit me is disbelief that I can maintain such a positive outlook. It isn’t because I posses anything that anybody doesn’t have, nor is it because I have the will of a superhero.  My positive outlook comes from the very people that are impressed by it.  Every visitor I get gives me a little more strength and a little more hope.”

Before the end of the program, there was another slide show. This time the photographs were familiar in a different way: they showed images of graduates of our high school who have served or are currently serving in the military, including CPL Jones. The slide image of him sweeping for explosives –a normal job for him prior to July 22, an act that took his legs and even some of his dreams– was especially gripping to my heart.

In the face of what many would consider a disaster –the loss of both of his legs– this young man has a positive outlook.

Where do YOU find positive in the negative? Can you find something to be thankful for today — a blessing that has arisen out of a bad circumstance?

Is there an acronym for STUFF?

I confess that I have a lot of STUFF. Some of it is pure clutter (hello, paperwork!) and some of it is tied up with memories.  I have 4 kids and they all present me with STUFF that at least one of us finds important  (okay, I am usually the only one who thinks it’s important) and that means space for storage. Like a typical American, I then trot off to purchase storage bins… or maybe I just use the packing boxes leftover from our last move.

What if there was another way?
Enter a new concept, which is actually more of a throwback to how people used to live: Tiny houses. Less space.

Here’s a picture of one (click on the picture for the link).

And yet I cry out, “But–what about my STUFF?!”

For example,  I have a couple of hobbies which I enjoy, including traditional scrapbooking.  I enjoy the creativity involved in putting together our family albums.  Some people would call that clutter.  Someday I might switch over to digital scrapbooking, but I have “invested” money in all these supplies on my shelves that need to be used first. Apparently I accumulate supplies exponentially faster than I actually use them, which may or may not be an illusion. Perhaps they simply multiply like mice when left alone together? Whatever the case, I’ve been noticing that my beading and card-making supplies are paying attention…

I was intrigued by this article about wants, needs, down-sizing and happiness. That quickly led to reading up on The Joy of Less. I am not a minimalist, but I admit there are many advantages to the lifestyle discussed in these articles. Conspicuous consumption may have a glossy exterior, but there is ugliness at its core. If you have never seen it, or if it has been a long time, please also click here to watch The Story of STUFF.

What makes you happy?
(Besides family and friends, of course. )
Your home? Your belongings? Your job? Your activities?
Do any of those things tie you down or hold you back from what you want to be?  What if you had to give some of it up?

Musical Monday on a Sunday: guilt and mercy

I have varied tastes in music. Sometimes it is the lyrics that really grab me… sometimes it is the tune… and occasionally (rarely) it is the video. This particular song/video has components of  hope and sorrow.  I find some of the images disturbing, but really? That is why they were included.  The band wanted us to stop and think about what we are doing — and what we have already done — to the world, to ourselves and to one another.  I think they ask, is there forgiveness? Can we forgive ourselves and start again? Will we make better choices in the future?

embedding fail yet again … sorry, you’ll have to click through to watch

Helping

When I was a kid, Marlo Thomas and friends created a project called Free To Be You & Me

I cannot tell you how many times I listened to that wonderful album, but today I still have those songs run through my head at random times.  Some tracks are silly and some are poignant, but the song that is running through my head today is “Helping” which was sung by Tom Smothers.

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about hate and flaming on the internet. Yesterday it was the hot topic over at The Women’s Colony.  Melanie wrote Ten Tips For Making Friends and Influencing People which really resonated with me, especially as I wrestle with who I am and how I come across to others …particularly when I want to talk about faith.

“Some kind of help is the kind of help that helping’s all about
And some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without!”

from the song “Helping”

Please discuss.

It’s Complicated

love hate love hate love hate snowplows.

It’s complicated.

Without the snowplows, our road looked like this:

And while I love the beauty of the snow, we were running low on milk being snowed in gets really old after more than 3 or 4 days, so I was truly glad to see the arrival of the first snowplows.

About a week after the first snowplows — the ones that made it possible for us to be free once again — this machine made it’s way through my neighborhood:

It’s one of the big guns from the  Department of Transportation.

Gone is the compact snow and ice, but the road itself has been gouged by the heavy machinery.
Scars remain on and off the road.

scarred pavement

The damage from the snow and ice met the work of the heavy equipment on parts of our road. I doubt there will be any money available to fix these problems for quite some time.  The county and the state had budget troubles before our winter of historical storms.

Sometimes the plows scrape more than just the road. Plenty of people will have yard repair work this Spring.  This clump of sod probably came from a neighbor’s yard.

Got Mail?

And sometimes the plow doesn’t come close to the edge of the road at all — good for the preservation of their lawn, but it clearly was a determent for the mail carrier.  I was impressed by the resourcefulness of these residents.

Our snow is slowly melting away. The gritty, gray mess on the edge of the roadways is ugly to look at, but the slow melt is preferred over worries of flooding.

And when the snow has finally melted, I do hope for a cleansing rain.

Much ado about everything

It’s nearing the end of the month — for me that is crunch time.  I won’t be around much until the newsletter is published and mailed.

So much is spinning around in my head right now.

Appointments, errands, meetings and deadlines are competing with reading, meditation, poetry and  photography.  Responsibilities are at odds with desires.

I want to devote time to writing and reading, to communicate and be creative.  Instead, I am feeling suffocated by paperwork, e-mail documents, and the needs of the people I love.

Winter has covered the world with a blanket of snow.  It is beautiful, yet I also see the damage caused by the heavy load — branches have broken off trees; limbs are weighed down, held captive by the weight of snow.

Preparing

Suburban Correspondent wrote a post about preparing for Christmas, and it got me thinking…

For the past 4 years, I’ve alternated between getting decorations up and gift shopping/wrapping done early so I can “enjoy” the season [usually after H-J’s December 5th birthday] or else waiting until the last minute as a protest December 15th when it hits me like a freight train that Christmas is 10 days away.

I’m still searching for the right mix. Frankly, I think the right mix was when I was a kid and it was mostly all about anticipation without all the work!! If so, perhaps my nirvana will be when I am an old lady in a nursing home.  The staff will dread me because I will always be asking, “Is it Christmas yet? How many more days?” but I will not have to shop and cook and plan… only anticipate.

[insert happy sigh]

Beauty

I saw this over at Jen’s blog and wanted to make sure you had the opportunity to see it, too:

Military family housing

I haven’t lived in military family housing since June 2002, which is right around the time that the military stopped taking care of its own housing and “privatized” it. That means that the folks that now run the repair shop (you didn’t really think all military housing is NEW, did you?) are contracted by the government. It also means that these old homes, with their old heating & cooling systems, no longer have their utility expenses covered by the housing office. When the military went over to privatized housing, the basic utility costs (gas, electricity, water) were passed on to the military family. Some of these homes are “substandard.” I think Mary Alice’s house qualifies for that moniker.

Mary Alice over at From the Frontlines has a husband in the Air Force and a son serving in the Coast Guard. She has been discussing her housing situation lately on her blog. Housing on military installations is a cookie-cutter operation, and if it is happening to Mary Alice and her family, you can bet it is affecting other military families. Our military families deserve better! They certainly deserve better than to have their private e-mail read by a base commander (how the base commander obtained a PRIVATE e-mail sent from Mary Alice to HER FRIENDS is unknown). Instead of doing The Right Thing and investigating what is really happening in housing, this leader instructed her Military Man to stop his wife from “spreading rumors” about her housing situation!

Yes, my blood is boiling just a bit here, and I’m not the one living in this situation. Read on…

I challenge you to do a little mouse-clicking and see what I mean.

Try this post out for starters, then read this post. If you have time, read this post also and follow the links.

This is a sad and sick example of how some of our military families are treated.

If you are moved to do so, link to Mary Alice’s blog and write your own post. I’m making sure to “tag” this post to help it get picked up by other readers. If you Twitter, tweet away. It would be wonderful to see mainstream media pick it up and run with it. Bloggers can help each other, and here is a great opportunity!