Heroes in the Elevator

A couple of weeks ago, a group of firefighters answered a call to rescue a little family from an elevator.  Firefighters are pretty much always my heroes anyway … I mean, who else would sign up to run into a burning building to save complete strangers, except someone heroic?  Still, these kinda went above and beyond to, not only rescue, but keep calm a little four-year-old girl by singing “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen”.  Not sure why this story made me misty eyed, but it kinda did.

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Do ya’ll remember that question in your class at school … your third grade teacher or whoever would ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Answers used to be awesome.  “Firefighter, policeman, mommy, ballerina …” now, and this is just from kids I’ve personally asked, more and more it’s “famous, in a band, an actress like so and so, Taylor Swift.”  Hm … our kids seem to be missing several crucial points.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with being famous, or being Taylor Swift for that matter, but I think they could aim higher.)  What our kids are reaching for are professions that they look up to, idolize.  People who they perceive as heroes.  Nothing wrong with that.  Mostly.

The term hero is badly misused I think.  Our kids use it to describe how they feel about anyone, from Hollywood actors to the X-men.  In my opinion, heroes are rarely famous.  Sometimes celebrities use their fame for good, certainly, and of course, some people are simply too heroic to ignore.  Mother Teresa didn’t seek limelight, but she was one of the greatest women of our time, and her selflessness threw her into the public eye.  I hope my daughters try to emulate her one day instead of some silly teen idol.  My personal favorite definition of hero comes from the wonderfully hilarious Dwight Schrutt, from “The Office”, who, after spraying Pam’s ex-boyfriend with pepper spray to keep him from beating up Jim, states, “I am not a hero.  You know who’s a real hero?  Hiro … from ‘Heroes’.”  Thank you Dwight, just for being you.

(This isn’t the exact clip, but it’s still pretty awesome!)

So, seriously though, I thought it would be fun to talk about some everyday heroes.  Things real people do right now, tomorrow, when the situation arises, whether they are ever famous or not.  So, here goes.  Some of my personal heroes.

I have a former student named Katy Lauderdale.  Katy attends UT now and has turned into a really fabulous young lady.  The other day, she found someone’s debit card on the sidewalk and picked it up. When she got home she looked up the owner’s name in their directory, got ahold of her and set up a place to meet so she could return it.  When Katy arrived, the other girl had tears in her eyes.  She confessed to Katy that it had been a really hard semester, and that her faith in the goodness of humanity was almost gone … until she got a call from Katy.  Katy hugged her and told her that she was going to be okay.

How great is that?  How broke were you in college?  That’ll tell you how great it is!  If you never went to collegeor did, but you had money, allow me to explain.  Picture standing in a Walmart and trying to decide between buying shampoo, or toothpaste that week, because you can only afford one or the other.  So, you think, I guess I can just put corn starch in my hair this week … and brush my teeth with water, because on a second glance at your bank account, you’ll actually be overdrawn with buying your weekly Ramen Noodles and can’t afford either.  That should give you a vague idea of college kid brokeness … or at least how broke I was!

M’kay, in case that one didn’t do it for you, here’s another fantastic tale of heroics.  Last year a friend of mine named Devin Dickinson collapsed.  He’s a normal healthy 30-year-old with very little medical trouble, so this is obviously hugely alarming.  They got him to the hospital and many days and tests later (Devin, correct me if my timeline’s off, buddy!) he was diagnosed with Guillian-Barr Syndrome.  If you don’t know what that is, it attacks the peripheral nervous system the way Multiple Sclerosis attacks the central nervous system.  So anyway, Devin is making huge leaps in his comeback, but it is a long slow process.  To celebrate how far he had come in his recovery, at his year anniversary of being diagnosed Devin’s entire family went to Disney World.

They were greeted at the door with buttons that said, “I’m Celebrating!”  After which, they were escorted to the front of every line, brought in to rides by separate entrances  and treated like royalty for their entire visit.  Brilliant!  Another reason I love Disney!  Sorry if you’re not a fan … actually, I’m just sorry FOR you!  You’re missing out on a lot of wonderful. (Of course “wonderful” is a noun.  I was an English teacher … I can make up nouns if I want to.)  There are two stories of awesomeness in this account, of course.  The Dickinson’s entire family, especially Devin, and the people who work at Disney World.

My last set of heroes are my favorites because they are heroic every single minute of their day and for the rest of their lives.  Foster parents and people who adopt.  I know a few couples who are brave enough to do this and, in my mind, they are real life superstars.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Brian and Jasmine Jamar,  are now the proud parents of not just one, but three little boys.  All brothers from the worst background you could possibly think up.  They are now our official nephews and three of the most wonderful kids in my life.

Imagine the kind of courage it takes to not only Foster three kids who were three, four and five-years-old when they first got them, but to start out parenting with three children who have no connection to you whatsoever.  There is no logical reason for Foster parents who adopt to bring a perfect stranger’s children into their home and treat them with kindness, dignity and respect (something which these boys had never received before).  If you think the money’s good, you’re completely out of your mind, and after you adopt, there’s no money at all.  No one in their right mind would do this.  Thankfully, there is a force for which there is no explanation embedded in these people’s souls.  Love.  Nothing in the world is as weird or wonderful as that.  And nothing is as wonderful as witnessing the effects of love on a previously unloved child.  If you had met those three before, and then you met them again now, you wouldn’t even recognize them.

I could write an entire book about these kinds of people, but I’ll just include one more family and leave you to your happy and heroic thoughts.  My friends Andrea and Justin Chambers have been Foster parents for years. I don’t have all the details of the heartbreaks they have endured in that timeframe, but I can tell you every time they weren’t granted a child that they had Fostered their hearts were shattered because they just cared so much.  Every child that came into their home was treated as if they would stay forever.  There are not two more wonderful people on the planet and now, after all these years of giving many children a loving home for a few months or even a couple of years, Andrea and Justin have been able to and are in the process of adopting three precious children, all from different homes and backgrounds.

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Justin and Andrea’s Christmas card

I don’t think actors are beautiful really, I think Foster parents are.  That’s just an opinion of course, but still …

Of course the common denominator of all these heroes is so simple.  Just love.  Love causes firefighters and policemen to run INTO a situation when all normal people run away from it.  And gives them the kindness to sing to a little girl, instead of just telling her to calm down.  Love causes strangers to give special attention to a man in a wheelchair and insure that he has a wonderful time at “the happiest place on earth”.  Foster parents … no words for that kind of love.

I Corinthians 13 says that if we could speak with the tongues of men and angels and if we could prophecy and understand every mystery in the world and had all knowledge and could move mountains but don’t have love, we have nothing.  We ARE nothing.  Just think what we can be if we have love.  We can be anything.  We are heroes  just waiting to happen.

 

Please feel free to comment about your own personal heroes!  I would love to know about them!

On Your Mark, Get Set … Parent!

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When I had my firstborn I started to pick up on the tendency to compete with other parents, usually over stuff that I had nothing to do with.  “Jack has six teeth now.  I know, right?  Best. Parent. Ever.”  Also he slept through the night more quickly than one of my friend’s babies, who was born around the same time.  See what I’m saying?  Pure parenting awesomeness.  I even tried competitive potty training.  My kid was going to be potty trained the minute he started walking, because THAT’S what The Babywhisperer (the only parenting book I actually read) said was possible.  He was just about potty trained before he turned three.  Not through lack of trying, mind you.  I literally cleaned pee up from everywhere for almost two years.  My third born, Caleb, had to potty train himself.  I was way checked out by that time!

A friend of mine who works at a camp and lives on property told me about a mommy group she’s a part of that asked her what they were going to do for her daughter’s birthday.  She thought about what they had out at camp and said they would probably bring up some ponies and hang out by the pool.  It’s a camp.  All that stuff is free for them.  Her friends launched into a verbal sparring match about what they planned to do for their kid’s birthday parties and how many hundreds of dollars were at their disposal to do so.  My friend finally threw her hands in the air and said, “we’re not doing anything!”  They stayed home and had one friend over.

Competitive parenting is the one thing I try really hard not to engage in any more.  This isn’t because I’m a super-Christian, or extra humble or just so sure of myself I don’t care what anyone else thinks.  It’s because I’m no good at it.  Friends, I’m just trying to survive here with enough clean clothes to get through the week!  I’m pretty sure my husband went to work this morning with no clean socks, so you can judge for yourself how well I’m doing with my goal.

The other reason is … sometimes our kids just need us to stop.  I recently read an article about parents of kids in sports.  One parent mentioned in the article stood at the window during her five-year-old daughter’s gymnastics class.  Periodically she would tap the glass and glare at her daughter while mouthing the words, “stop having fun!”  Wow.  I also saw an ad for a “Netflix for toys” program that stated the average parent spends $1,400 a year on toys for their children.  I’m bringing those numbers way down.  I think I spent $50 last year on all their Christmas presents combined.  (My kids are still little and easy.  They don’t care if all their stocking stuffers have the Easter Bunny on them because I bought them on clearance the previous Spring.)

The birthday party thing is still so shocking to me.  It is unbelievable the amount of money spent on birthday parties for babies who aren’t even old enough to realize it’s their birthday!  My friend went to the birthday party of a one-year-old and there was valet parking, catering … ice sculptures … who knows?  Crazy right!  I’m so glad I’m in the family I’m in!  We decorate our own cupcakes and the really ambitious ones rent bouncy houses.  I took my mother for her first pedicure (when she was 55 years old) and we sat next to a ten-year-old who was getting a mani-pedi in preparation for her tenth birthday party.  The girl’s mother bragged to us about the jillion dollar venue they had rented because the girl wanted a ball for her birthday … so the party was in a ballroom.  She had a date taking her.  They bought her a floor length gown.   How do you even find a ballgown that fits a ten-year-old?  How will they top that?  Sweet sixteen is right around the corner.  Maybe they’ll fly her to Europe and rent an actual castle.  Who knows with this level of crazy?

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Ella’s first birthday party which we combined with her Uncle David’s party … and also we dyed Easter eggs for the hunt that weekend. (You don’t have to be at quite this level of pathetic.)

Homework is a whole post all it’s own!  Anyone who’s ever been to an elementary Science Fair knows exactly what I’m talking about, so I’ll just say to those special people who clearly cannot allow their child to make a mistake, “Stop doing your kid’s homework!  They are learning NOTHING when you do that!”  Okay, all done with that.

I look at my kids sometimes and think, “What do they actually need?  What do I really need to do for them?”  Most of the things they need don’t cost much money.  I spend money on good, healthy food for them.  I give them lots of hugs, kisses and tickles.  I read them books … that I buy for 98 cents at Goodwill.  We fight cybugs in our living room with pop guns and build forts in the bedroom with sheets and pillows.  They are not in organized sports yet.  I know!  My oldest is five and his chances are now ruined for ever playing professional football, but oh well.  Maybe he’ll be a missionary instead.

I know that some birthdays are more special and it’s so fun to make a big deal of things sometimes.  I’m certainly not opposed to a little excess if someone can afford it.  My kids love the birthday parties where there are hired actors to play characters.  Turning ten is big.  Sometimes homework is overwhelming and your kids could use a boost … just a little one.  Teachers can, in fact, tell the difference between work done by a seven-year-old and work done by a college graduate.  Just sayin’.  But we have to keep a bit of a grip on reality.  There are still people in third world countries starving.  There are some financial years that are better than others.  Occasionally remind them that they don’t NEED it.  They WANT it.  There’s a big difference.  I really loved one parent’s idea this year who felt she had bought too many things for her kids for Christmas.  So she told them ahead of time that they were going to pick one toy out and take it to a kid who didn’t have much for Christmas that year.  They were very excited about it too!  Kids like to be generous if you raise them to be.

And here’s to us mothers who still have Oscar Meyer cater our children’s birthday parties and the thought of hiring an adult dressed in a pirate costume only crosses our mind long enough to elicit hysterical laughter!  Here’s to kids who still play outside … with sticks and rocks because we don’t spend $1,400 on toys that will just get broken, ruined and ignored.  Here’s to the babies who don’t even think about potty training until they’re 4 and parents who just let it ride.  If you’re still in the competitive parenting ring, come join us!  Get out while you still can!  Life is too short to clean up pee for two years. You can just take my word on that one.

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Bows and arrows made with sticks and yarn! What could be more fun than that?

Cameras: AKA the World’s Greatest Liars

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My mom is the biggest proponent of getting professional pictures of your children ever.  JcPenney studio should start paying her.  Seriously.  It’s that ridiculous.  She had very little money for this when we were babies, so now she insists on a pretty regular basis that she and I take my children and have them photographed and she always pays for whatever I can’t afford.  These outings are fun-filled hours of constantly getting onto/bribing/timeouting and doing whatever it takes to get four squirmy five-and-under children to sit still for a nano-second and also maybe smile.  Maybe.  But that part is optional.  They’re all looking at the camera, just snap the picture for the love of all that is decent!  The results are usually big fun though.  I posted my latest “perfect” pictures on Facebook to be lauded and praised about how adorable and angelic my children are.  It was delightful.

But really, cameras are such liars!  Now you can even use photoshop and increase the velocity of the lie.  Smudge out those wrinkles and zits.  Enhance your eye and lip color.  You can even make yourself look thinner. I’m dying to learn that trick!  I’m not saying you shouldn’t take pictures of yourself and your family.  Of course you should, and you should smile for them because smiling makes everyone prettier except for Vigo Mortenson.  Vigo, if you’re following my blog, you are much better looking when you’re  serious.  Anyway, where was I?  Smiling for pictures is good.  Remember life’s happy moments.  No one is a bigger advocate of keeping an upbeat and positive attitude than I, however, I sometimes wonder if I am too good at the show.  I do an excellent job at “smiling for the cameras” of my life.  Let’s get real here.  You shouldn’t go through pictures on Facebook and believe that they are the sole indicators of the picture taker’s happiness level.  So here is my unphotoshopped reality for anyone who looks on Facebook, this blog, or at my sweet kiddos and thinks, “I certainly wish my life was perfect … like Julien’s”.

1.  Sunday mornings

Camera version:  My four children arrive at church scrubbed and beautiful in lovely outfits.  The girl’s hair is usually fixed in some way.  My hair is fixed and I have makeup on.  My clothes are clean and my husband’s shirt is pressed and I sometimes even wear heels.  Jason and I teach our Sunday School class, smiling and laughing with our college and career group.  It is all just precious.

Real version:  I am up super late the night before trying to find SOMEthing clean that both fits and matches and is appropriate for church.  Special bonuses if the outfits include underwear and possibly socks.  Tights are the bane of my existence because they are always dirty, holey, too little or too big.  Who MAKES these things?  Sadists.  That’s who.  Baths happen before bed Saturday, or they may not happen at all.  Jason and I drag ourselves out of bed before the sun is up, feed our children something from a can (sweet rolls usually, but recently I’ve switched to biscuits from Immaculate Bakery, because I tell myself they are slightly more nutritious.  At least they aren’t leavened with aluminum,) and then we dress the children.  Even if I have stayed up late, this can be a real nightmare.  I scramble around for clothes while Jason catches little people as they streak through the house laughing and screaming with glee because they aren’t wearing anything.  We pull clothing onto their reluctant bodies and try to figure out why every shoe has no partner. I iron Jason’s shirt while he looks for shoes and then shake the wrinkles out of my own clothes and throw them on.  We yell a bit at the kids, sometimes at each other, then we gather up everything and everyone and throw them into the van.  I run back into the house to grab two cups of coffee that we can drink on the way to church.  Jason feeds the chickens and ducks while the van warms up.  My makeup bag is permanently in the front seat so that I can dab a little bit on my face as we drive, in an attempt to look like a human.  Jason glances at me, then does a double take and says, “wow, you look really pretty!” Translation:  I didn’t recognize you without the scowl and with your eyes all the way opened.

2. Homeschooling

Camera version:  Jack, Ella and I sit in our clean classroom with books opened and smiles on our faces.  I pray and start the morning with the pledge of allegiance.  I follow my carefully detailed lesson plans throughout our day.  Jack learns to read; Ella colors in the lines.  My two-year-old and one-year-old play peacefully in the corner with all the things in my “busy little hands box” that I got off of Pinterest.  It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… on days like this.

Reality version: Jack and I sit on my unmade bed with a stack of books that I’ve carried in from the classroom because it is piled high with clean clothes that need folding and putting away.  My two-year-old is planted firmly in front of the TV watching “Bug’s Life” for the millionth time with a pile of goldfish crackers in front of him.  My one-year-old is in her crib with her second bottle of milk which she has thrown onto the floor, while she screams at the top of her lungs in protest to her morning nap.  We dive into Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  because I want to finish the book.  I warn Jack we can’t read his favorite book The Human Body until we have done our reading and math.  Ella runs into the room screaming and crying that Caleb hit her.  Caleb saunters in after her grinning while he says he’s sorry.  I tell them to go shut their bedroom door because I’m tired of listening to Lily scream.  Ella and Caleb fight over which one will go and then run to the bedroom to slam the door frightening the wits out of Lily who screams even louder.  I storm into the situation and order everyone to sit down and be quiet.  I get frustrated with Jack because when I come back into the room, he’s making paper airplanes instead of doing his work.  Jack starts crying.  It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… I mutter through my teeth as I google “Boarding Schools in Switzerland” on my laptop.

3. Being a writer

Camera version:  I sit at my computer and write in three hour increments, skillfully seeing to the needs of my children at regular intervals.  Every month I receive a large royalty check in the mail and my husband and I spend every summer in Italy while my children learn the language, have unforgettable international experiences and sink their refined palettes into every delicacy Europe has to offer.

Reality version:  I kick my children outside to play and run to my computer in a desperate attempt to “just write something today”.  Periodically I throw raisin boxes and peanut butter sandwiches at the kids.  At least I buy whole wheat or gluten free bread and natural peanut butter, so that’s something.  I add honey to the peanut butter because it is so dry and yucky on its own.  In the few precious moments of quiet I blog, work on my Twitter following, advertise and Facebook.  I get to spend about 15 minutes a day writing.  I actually recently received a small royalty check which was super fun and it almost covered the electric bill last month.  I also make spaghetti on a pretty regular basis and sometimes there is also salad to go with it.  So I feel all set in the refined palette department.

Conclusion: My children are definitely precious, but taking their pictures is an exercise in dealing with imperfection!  I do truly love homeschooling and some days are so fun.  I enjoy writing and reading and think it’s a fabulous way to pay the electric bill.  I show up at church one way or another and fellowship with my friends and family.  There you are.  My perfect life.  If you think I’m exaggerating, you’re a wonderful person and I want to hug you.  Friends, life is just life.  Everyone has the camera version and the real story.  And sometimes even the camera fails us!  That’s why most moms don’t even take pictures of themselves for the twenty years that they’re raising their children.  I think reality keeps us humble.  It keeps us manageable.  Can you imagine living with someone who is as perfect as they appear in pictures?  I can’t.  Thankfully, I never have to.  I only associate with real people.

My friend, Anna Stallcup (you can also follow her on http://www.thestonecups.com/) is a huge propenent of honesty in our Christian walk.  She calls it, giving people the gift of “going second”.  Being honest about our struggles is a present we can give to each other.  It allows another person to see that they aren’t the only one that fights against anger, depression, guilt, yelling at our children etc…  They get to “go second”.  We are honest first.  I love this.  I’m not very good at it.  I’m much better at smiling as if I’m being followed around by a 24 hour camera, so that everyone will think I have it all together all the time.

Of course we can overdo the honesty thing.  You don’t have to update your Facebook status every time you stumble.  Unless your friends are all medical professionals, very few people want or need to hear all the details of your health issues. For instance, if I can’t see the body part in a normal appropriate setting, I don’t want to know any detail about how it’s malfunctioning.  I didn’t go into nursing for a very good, very weak stomach related reason.  Just tell me it hurts.  I’ll get the point and be sympathetic.  I promise.  You know what I mean, if you’re ALWAYS having a bad day or everyone you work with are jerks or your life just never seems to go right for one reason or another, perhaps your perspective needs a switch.  I’m not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but even I know that when someone has no friends at all, it usually isn’t everyone else’s problem.  That’s a whole different topic … for someone much more qualified than I at dealing with hurting hearts.  Of course we should find a good balance between being honest and wearing people out with our problems.

So, maybe we could go easier on each other.  Give each other less of a reason to pretend that we’re always looking into the lense of a camera.  Let people “go second”.  If you don’t buy into Christianity because you’ve met imperfect Christians, join the club. I’ve never met a perfect Christian.  There was only one perfect person to ever walk the Earth and we crucified Him.  There’s a cheery look into the human condition.

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Everyone is finally smiling, looking sweet and lovely … Lily is looking at the shelf full of props. *Sigh*

My world is a good one and even better when I realize that life, things and people don’t have to look like a magazine article to be wonderful.

“When I was a kid …”

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Maybe this is just me, but does it seem like a hilarious amount of complaining about “today’s generation” of children are emanating from Facebook, Twitter … wherever people go to complain publicly?  My recent favorites are “When we were kids, video games were called ‘go play outside’.” and “When I was a kid, we respected our elders because we’d get smacked if we didn’t.”  Mind you, these quotes are coming from people in their 30’s.  Seriously.  So we’re basically getting a 30 year head start on being the grumpy old man next door.  Like, when we were kids there weren’t video games?  Things weren’t violent in movies.  I don’t remember children typically being required to be more respectful of their elders either.  So, for fun, and for Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d make a list of things that are actually better since we were kids and a list of stuff I miss … this does, of course, depend on when you were a kid.  Feel free to add your own reminiscences to the lists!

What’s better now?

1.  Disney movie themes.  Yes?  I mean at least nowadays the “princesses” aren’t scantily clad and heavily endowed teenage girls who basically know everything about everything.  I love “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” but come on?  Give me the teenage girls from “Frozen” and “Tangled” who are realistically built (mostly.  They’re still SUPER skinny, but oh well) and a little insecure and still figuring out life. Like reality.  Enough said.

2.  Every movie made doesn’t feature ten year olds who swear every other word.  I’m not stupid.  I know kids say swear words, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to them do it!  I’d much rather watch “Ender’s Game” which was full of wonderful storyline, dialogue and action.  And pretty much no curse words at all.  Awesome!

3.  Push towards less smoking.  Does anyone really miss Jerry, from “Tom and Jerry” lighting up a cigar in the middle of a chase scene?  I’m seriously excited about the lack of smoking in modern day tv and movies.

4.  Parenting techniques are kind of trending positive.  Don’t you think?  I love that self control is being lauded as the thing to do with your kids now.  Kind words and thoughtful discipline are being praised over screaming and smacking.  Not that I never raise my voice to my children, but I at least read better alternatives in parenting magazines, blogs and other resources.  I love it!  I need it!  I think this is better.

5.  Technology is fabulous now!  Smart phones are great, guys!  I mean, I don’t think ten year olds should have them necessarily, (another rant I heard recently that I semi agree with,) but come on!  How great is it to have your entire world at your fingertips!  Yes, it creates a slew of problems that we have to combat, but still, as much as people gripe about them, sales of smart phones seem to be going up, not down.

6.  Fashion.  Yes. It’s just so much better.  I get to look cute again and still be in style.  Those of you who suffered through the “Grunge” faze of the 90’s know exactly what I’m talking about.  Thank goodness for pretty dresses and cute hairstyles!

7. People caring about the environment – even conservatives. I’m pretty conservative and I love the trend toward not filling our landfills with stuff we don’t have to!  Cloth diapering is easier than it’s ever been.  Kids recycle now as a matter of habit.  I compost and garden and have chickens.  Big fun to think how conscientious kids are becoming about these things!

8.  Motherhood is coming back in style.  I don’t have to work outside my house now to be considered a contributing member of society.  I love that!  I never have people look funny at me when I say I’m a “stay at home mom”.  Actually, that somewhat condescending and completely untrue term is even pretty muchly evaporating.  Yay!

9.  Coffee, eggs and chocolate are now good for you.  Awesome!  I’ll have another.  In all seriousness, the growing awareness that real food is healthier than highly processed “sugar-free” and “light” foods makes me very happy!  My mother always preached this, but very few people listened to her.  I always thought she was brilliant.  Turns out, she is … according to recent studies.

Okay, so here’s the list of things I miss.

1.  Human interaction.  I text a lot since I surrendered to texting.  I fought it for a long time, but it’s just so convenient!  But here’s the deal with texting that makes it both great and annoying.  Now we don’t have to talk to people.  We literally took a group of teenagers out to eat one time, and at one point, every single one of them was looking at their phone, texting someone else.  I took all their phones.  Talking to the person you’re with is so great.  Ignoring them to text or take a phone call … not so much.

2. Old cartoons.  I know I just kind of ragged on “Tom and Jerry” but I actually kind of miss those oldies.  I still just want to see Wyle E. Coyote get the Roadrunner just once!  

3. Comic strips.  They were so awesome!  Peanuts, Garfield, The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.  No contest the best comic strips ever made!  *Sigh*

4.  The Disney Afternoon.  I know, I know.  It had terrible themes and cheesy dialogue.  I still miss it.  Tale Spin and Darkwing Duck were my faves.  Don’t judge me

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5.  “The Neverending Story” and the good “Star Wars”.  I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate here.

6.  Video games that you could figure out in twelve seconds.  Is it just me, or do you sort of have to be a genius just to figure out how to play xbox?  I only play games to relax and I kind of like the old Nintendo games that you didn’t really have to think about too much.  These days it takes me like a week just to figure out the controls.  Now I feel old … sheesh!

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7. All the time I had before social media was invented.  Whew!  I waste a lot of time finding out about people’s food choices and hair appointments and whether or not they’re still with their boyfriends.  I don’t even care about this stuff!  Still I check it  All.The.Time.

So, here’s your chance.  What’s better, or what do you miss?  It seems like things always change for the better and for the worse, so we may as well focus on what we love about it! 

People Boxes

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I’ve always liked boxes.  Especially shoe boxes because you can sort things into them and stack them up neat and tidy.  They provide structure and organization, which the teacher side of me thinks is just awesome.  However, the artsier part of me takes over sometimes and goes for bags, you know?  They’re softer, so they don’t stack well, but you can fit more in them and they have a lot of “give”.

Our “people boxes” are an interesting conundrum.  On the one hand, it’s a very convenient organizational system.  It’s just easier to say, “you know, and then he went all ‘engineer’ on me,” instead of “it was two o’clock in the morning and he started talking about the compounding chemical structures involved in the formula for the bulletproof paneling they make at his company.”  You get what I’m saying of course.  Calling someone artsy, businesslike, teacherish, engineer, Christian, there’s nothing wrong with having a system … is there?

There was a particular guy that I grew up with who liked his organizational system, but maybe a bit too much.  The boxes he put people in were labeled, based on a first impression and pretty much permanent.  I was unknowingly in the “silly little girl” box for years with him, and never could figure out why he didn’t like me.  One night on a train ride to town we had a conversation about Edgar Allen Poe and the change in him was instantaneous.  All of the sudden, he talked to me like I was a human, not just then, all the time. It was so drastically different that I had to ask a couple of his friends what I had done to suddenly merit his favor.  They told me, he had put me in that box years ago, labeled it, and never thought of it again until the Poe conversation.  Really?  Yikes!

Here is my theory on people boxes (feel free to chime in with theories of your own,):  They are a byproduct of the fact that many people never mature past a high school mentality.  We still think of people as jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, etc. But I think people do better in bags.  Breathable bags of course, not plastic.  Something for people to stretch out in and have more than one facet.  I am a very cheerful person, which does sometimes translate to silliness, but I also love Dickens, Poe, diagramming sentences and reading my Bible.  I read this quote once and it has changed my perspective on people forever, “The most complex character in literature is far more simplistic than the most simplistic person in the world.”  I’ve read some pretty complex characters.  David Copperfield, Elizabeth Bennett and Harry Potter to name a few. Literature is full of brilliant characters and they don’t scratch the surface of a real live human being.

That “little old lady” who sits in the back at church, she was alive during times in history that we study about in books.  Her husband was killed by a drunk driver when she was in her late twenties, leaving her with three boys and an 18 month old baby girl.  She used the insurance money to buy a house so that they would always have a place to live, and she planted a garden so they would have food.  She raised those four children alone, keeping them in church and every activity in school that she could afford.  They had nothing, but she never complained, she was too busy to complain.  She taught her children that sometimes life was hard, but it was just life.  Her children grew up to be four of the most brilliant, hard-working, non-complaining, selfless people in my life to date.  One of them is my mother.  “Old people”: how did they merit only one box for all 476 million of them?  Horrifying.  We should fix that.

Should we even have categories for people?  We’re probably going to, whether we should or not, right?  So how can we keep our people organizing from being stifling? Of course we should burn the cruel categories.  That should be a given.  Obviously let’s not do the loser box, or stupid, or waste of skin.  I do think we should make an exception in the case of bad drivers.  Right?  Can we keep that one?  Okay.  Also, we could let go of the first impression rule.  Of course it’s lasting, but it doesn’t have to be permanent.  Otherwise, perhaps we’d be better off categorizing by lists instead of labels.  Bags not boxes.  Remember that homeless people have a story (one that you probably don’t even WANT to know), that artsy people have their mathematical side, and that rocket scientists sometimes play the piano.  Nerds make really good friends. The beautiful homecoming queen from high school that you thought was a snob actually grew up to be very nice!  I’m crazy extroverted and occasionally I just want to be alone and quiet.  Sometimes atheists believe in God, and sometimes Christians forget that He exists.  People are complex … and wonderful and they don’t fit well into boxes.

Also, you should never, under any circumstances, ask an engineer (out of politeness) how they are liking their new job at the bulletproof paneling place … just don’t.  Especially not at 2:00am.