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Finding Peace

At times I feel as though I’m spinning a bit too fast.

Not out of control, per se. Haven’t gotten there lately. But I need to step back and slow down, stop spinning. It’s not a new problem. The decades change how we spend our time, but not the impact of overload.

I need balance. While I couldn’t find statistics on how adults spent their time decades back, there was plenty about teens. So I’m taking my cue from the younger generation, then and now, to help me find peace of mind in my time today.

Listening to Records

Be Real. Only in Peggy Sue’s dreams was she playing records with the hunk from algebra class.

Back in 1960, the average teenage girl spent 2-1/2 hours a day listening to the radio, and another two hours playing records. She spent less than an hour a day watching TV, a statistic that is a little misleading, since not all American homes, or homes anywhere in the world, had television sets. And remember, for the vast majority of homes that did have TV, there was one set for the whole family. No computers, no smart phones, just the one screen for all to share.

I’m betting the average teenage girl spent a fair amount of time on the phone, as well, until her parents told her she had to hang up because Aunt Patty might be calling about Sylvia’s baby. One phone in most homes, and no voice mail.

Today’s teenager averages more than nine hours a day in screen time, and he or she is beat out in that statistic by the adults. Of course, that includes school, homework or work time on the computer, as well as productive time spent in creative pursuits (like writing a blog). There are few statistics on the breakdown of that screen time, in other words, what can be considered productive and what is not.

Lady Playing Tennis

Never one for sports, not I…

Interestingly, a study done in 2004 showed that teens in 1981 spent less time in school, studying, helping around the house and socializing (structured events) than their peers at the start of the 21st century. They did spend far more time out of doors and playing sports. They also had more down time (how that was spent is not well accounted for in this study).

Friends of mine have two bright, active teenage girls, and those young ladies are going at top speed from dawn to dusk and many hours beyond. Their dad told me once that statistically, girls who are involved in sports are less likely to get pregnant (well, yeah, their periods tend to stop, but I didn’t say that to him). So they never stop running, and I darn near mean that literally.

I wonder, sometimes, if that kind of busyness has a dark side. I know I desperately need my alone time, and as I recall, it was crucial to my adolescent development that I find time to process whatever was going on in my life and my mind.

Down time is different these days.  I get nostalgic for some things. There’s something about playing records, with the discs steadily going ’round and ’round, the music that speaks to you playing as many times as you need it, that seems comforting to me. I know, there are a multitude of ways to wallow in music these days. But the record player had a soothing quality to it, and actively having to change records seems somehow a fair exchange of labor and reward.

I’m not criticizing computers, smart phones, televisions and the like. I depend on them. But reflecting on how teens spent their time in decades past gives me some insight into what might help me relax and regroup today. There are moments when I have to close the computer; I cannot look at one more message, perform one more search, post one more anything. What do I do then?

How do I regain my sanity, my ability to face what’s coming at me next?

Lady readingI didn’t find my answer in all those statistics, but the search led me to what I needed to know in a different way. I started to think of things I could do that were timeless, that sort of activity my parents, grandparents and ancestors decades back perhaps took part in.

I need to step out of the present. I need to return to what brings me peace.

Pondering the eternal, reflecting on the past.

Escaping to what never was and never will be.

Finding the strength to go forward with the present.

Reading.


Image Credits: © RetroClipArt — Fotolia, except Magic Book City — © Bigstock

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Better Days

Is there a balance of pain?

Do people with chronic illness, loss of the precious, or injustice in their lives get a break elsewhere?

We all face good times and bad times in life. Some have chronic problems, others have temporary, albeit serious, challenges. It’s hard to view the latter as temporary, however, when the consequences can stay with you for years, decades, a lifetime.

BalanceLife isn’t always fair, and you may be faced with more dark times than others around you. The balance, as I see it, is in part how those times change you and make you a better person.

Yes, I’ll say it, the people who have been refined by fire are better people. More compassionate, more accepting, wiser and perhaps, if they’re lucky, more content, regardless of circumstances.

But in the middle of the storm, it can be difficult to face the day when you know it will be a challenge. The choice to escape, in whatever way is available to you, becomes an overwhelming temptation.

Those escapes sometimes bring their own problems. Watching television instead of taking action might drag out the time you will be facing difficulties. Drugs or alcohol, well, I don’t have to detail what they can do to you, robbing you of everything you hold dear.

Motivation becomes its own challenge. The chipper platitudes don’t always work when times are tough. It takes experience to know there will be an end to the loneliness, fear and sadness. For me, the quotes that acknowledge my pain, yet hint (at the very least) at hope are the most meaningful.

It’s darkest before dawn.

Maybe it looks like you got more than your fair share of bad times. I can’t promise there will be enough good times to offset those days, but I do believe there are better things ahead.

bigstock--137999819

We are told “life is good,”  “make lemonade” and “don’t worry–be happy,” but sometimes we have to acknowledge a sorrowful time in life. If you don’t do so, you likely are compounding the problem.

But once you do, you are free to do two things: address the pain, and truly believe the sun will rise.

It may rise slowly, but one day you will look up and there it will be, high in the sky.

That’s the hope of better days.


Image Credits: (Rainbow) © Pellinni — Fotolia; (Balance) © frender — Fotolia; (Balloons) © Bigstock

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The Narrow Path of Middle Ground

Recently I was tempted to very loudly tell a salesperson to shut up and leave me alone.

I’ve worked retail long enough to know management puts a lot of pressure on sales associates to push the company credit card. They provide all sorts of helpful tools to overcome objections, and expect their workers to talk a certain percentage of customers into applying right then and there.

Most of the time, a bored sales associate rattles off a line something like, “Would you like to save ten percent today with a (company name) credit card and receive notices about special sales exclusively for our card-holding customers?” I smile and say thank you, no, and we proceed with the purchase.

Recently, however, my mom and I were shopping, and it didn’t go so smoothly. After the initial question, I replied, “We’re not interested.”

“You’d get special discounts throughout the year, and can easily take advantage of our already low prices.”

“We’re not interested.”

“It would only take a minute to apply. I’m sure you’d be approved.” Seriously? You’re sure?

“We’re not interested.”

“We have so much wonderful merchandise, I’d hate for you to lose out…”

Angry WomanThis was the point where I wanted to shout, “WE ARE NOT INTERESTED. JUST RING UP OUR PURCHASE AND STOP HARASSING US ABOUT YOUR DAMN CARD.”

It was my mom’s birthday, and we were shopping for her, so I stopped myself. Okay, I may not have done it anyway. But I really wanted to let this whiny-voiced woman know how offensive she was being.

Moderation in everything. I can’t say it’s outside the realm of possibilities that either my mom or I would apply for that company’s credit card in the future. If we do, I can guarantee it won’t be because of pushy sales tactics.

Persuasion is a game for diplomats. To truly bring someone around to your side, you need to find some common ground, build a rapport. I don’t know how you’d do that in the above situation, except to say I do know most of us expect the question and know whether or not we want to save ten percent today. Your best bet at winning me over is a friendly attitude and understanding smile.

But what if what you’re trying to sell is something far more personal, something that people feel passionately about? Never discuss religion or politics, the saying goes, and we all know why. You’re likely to end up in a fruitless argument.

Today I (somewhat foolishly) responded to a friend who is a true believer in an Unnamed Politician. Okay, Donald Trump. I’m not. Wisest to stay away from any confrontation, because I won’t change my friend’s mind. But he had written something on Facebook I strongly disagreed with, so I felt compelled to respond.

Flag 2 scI knew what not to say. I laid out the reasons for my feelings in a straightforward manner, and sought the narrow path of common ground with my friend. “I don’t expect any president to be perfect,” I wrote in part, “and I respect that it is a challenging job. I want all of our presidents to succeed, just as I want our country to succeed. I just don’t trust President Trump.”

My friend, who has different ideas than I do about what will make our country successful, replied in a gracious and kind manner, saying (among other things) that while he didn’t vote for President Obama, he was willing to give him a chance, but disagreed about the direction he was taking.

We will never agree about politics, but we will listen to the other, and maybe learn something valuable.

And we’ll remain friends, and that is more important than any argument about politics.


Image Credits: (Path) © studioturburu — Adobe Stock/Fotolia (Screaming Woman) © Igor Zakowski — Adobe Stock/Fotolia; (Flag) © Bigstock

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Equal Time for Mimi! (It’s Caturday)

A few weeks ago, two consecutive posts featured my adorable cat, Walter.

But I have two precious kitties, and Mimi is every bit as loving and sweet as her brother. It’s just not as easy to capture cute pictures of her. Here are a few I particularly like.

 


 

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Lost & Found & the True Culprit

It’s with immense relief I can say I finally found my lost pair of glasses.

Ironically, they were very near to where I was long certain I’d find them, yet somehow I’d never looked in that particular odd spot. I finally pulled out a flashlight, and the extra amount of light did the trick.

Most of the time I wear contact lenses, and the glasses are a back-up. On occasion, however, they are necessary, and while thankfully I hadn’t had dire need of them in the two months since I lost them, the time would have come.

Piggy bank managerWith my prescription, it is impossible for me to get glasses for less than $300. Don’t bother telling me about any discount outlets or such, because they can’t or won’t deliver for less than that amount, no matter what they advertise. Since I’m out of work right now, that cost is far beyond my reach. I was getting a little scared.

I was very amused to make another discovery: a small stash of improvised cat toys under my bed, in the far corner. A loosely wound ball of yarn, a baby bootie, some crumpled up foil, among other things, were piled together, evidently placed there by one (or perhaps both) of my cats. If I had to name one of them, I’d say it was Mimi, for she is by far the more clever kitty.

It brought to mind a mini-mystery at a favorite job I had several years ago. The office had an honor snack bar in the break room, and all nine or so employees could pretty much be counted on to pay for their candy, nuts or gum, with only the occasional memo going out saying we were short by 25¢ and would the guilty party please pay up. Inevitably we’d then end up with an extra two or three dollars the next time the honor bar was traded out.

Then, suddenly, we began to be short by significant amounts. Ten, fifteen dollars. Again, the memo was sent, and again, we over-compensated for the loss (each of us certain that in an absent-minded moment we’d taken a snack and forgotten to pay). But we were perplexed. Why the sudden dramatic change? (Excuse the pun.)

Office GossipOne employee would knowingly blame another, whispering the suspect’s name in the eager ear of a giggling gossip. It began to be uncomfortable.

This went on for months, and our executive director was exasperated. The honor bar was going, he told us, no matter that we always paid up, there was a problem and he wasn’t going to tolerate it. We were embarrassed and remained confused. A dollar here, a dime there, that we could understand. But this was too much.

Then one day one of the women noticed a suspicious piece of paper peeking out under the supply closet door. She opened it up, but other than what she’d already seen, the small room was spotless.  She peered behind the door, and there was our answer. An enormous pile of wrappers, half-eaten candy and…mouse droppings.

Since that corner was hidden once the door was open, and no one ever closed the door behind them when entering the closet, our house mouse had been able to effectively hide his crime for quite some time.

We got a good laugh at how picky he was. Not a speck of any Snickers bars remained, but the Skittles and licorice, no doubt distasteful to mice, were barely touched.

Unfortunately, our executive director was not impressed we’d found our culprit and solved the mystery. The honor bar was gone by the end of the week.

Angry WomenWe’d spent months secretly suspicious of each other, quietly trying to catch the one of us sneaking off with snacks without paying. Sadly, some of that animosity remained for the rest of the time I worked there.

The answer isn’t always obvious, and people don’t always easily give up their conclusions, no matter how clear the evidence may be that they were wrong.

All you can do is live your life with integrity, and trust the gossips will do themselves in.

It sometimes happens that way.


Image Credits: (Piggy Bank) © BCFC — Bigstock; (Drawings) © marinabh — AdobeStock/Fotolia

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A Year Later

Hard to believe it’s been a year.

Last year on this day, at about this time, I got a text from my friend Laurie letting me know her brother, Monte, had died. We’d been expecting this news; he’d been battling cancer for several years. His treatment had been compromised in the beginning because he developed an infection after surgery, and eventually, it was evident he was going to lose the fight.

I’ve detailed Laurie’s story before, so I won’t go into it here, except to say, a few months before her brother died, her mother had passed away. I imagine yesterday, so close to the anniversary of Monte’s death and only the second Mother’s Day since losing her mom, might have been emotional.

Several of my friends lost their moms last year, and my heart goes out to all of them as they face the day with a sense of sorrow and longing. At least one woman had a challenging relationship with her mother, which brings with it a different, yet equally difficult, set of emotions.

My mom is still with me, and I’m grateful for every day. My dad, my brother and my sister are all still alive and healthy, and I know I’m lucky for that blessing as well.

To those who faced the loss of anyone you loved in the past year (and I include beloved pets, because their loss brings its own pain), may you find peace.

Peace, and purpose.


Photo Credit: © Bigstock

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What it’s Like to Have a Sibling with Autism.

Grace is the daughter of a friend from college. I’m not surprised Ruth has such an incredible daughter, but I wasn’t prepared for a piece as eloquent as this. If you “like” this post, please do so on Grace’s page.

By the way, the theme I’m using now incorrectly credits me with writing this post. All the credit goes to Grace!!

TREES & SUN

My older brother, Jordan, is very high on the autism spectrum. This is a rough definition of what that means from Autism Speaks,

“Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.”

For Jordan this means; limited social and communication skills, extreme sensitivity to sensory stimuli, lack of motor skills, the need for a rigid schedule, and repetition of words and actions. He will never be able to live on his own.

In doing research I have found quite a few resources for parents with children on the spectrum, but hardly ANY for the brothers or sisters. I never had other siblings to resonate with in this unique…

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