Societal Honesty: Do You Really Want to Know?

Some people will not tolerate emotional honesty in communication.  They would rather defend their dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others.  Therefore, having rationalized their phoniness into nobility, they settle for superficial relationships.  ~Author Unknown

According to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, “On March 15, the television show Primetime Live with Diane Sawyer focused on honesty in everyday life and asked Michael Lewis, PhD, to tell the truth about lying. “Socially acceptable lies form the glue of our society,” explains the researcher. Lewis believes that lying is a very common activity evident everywhere from presidential politics to international affairs. “In a single day, most of us lie a minimum of 25 times and by age 2 to 3 years, 70 percent of all children lie very well,” he says.”

Wow. Really? I generally consider myself an honest person. Being brought up in a Christian home, I was taught that “honesty is the best policy.” I learned the lesson that a lie only gave way to a punishment, normally of the “tanned backside” kind. I’m thankful that I was taught to be an honest, upright citizen, despite my childish willpower to hide the truth. But this blog post isn’t focused on lying about where-you-got-that-orange-Faygo-in-the-fridge-when-Mom-told-you-not-to-go-downtown {story for another time!}, this post is about one of the socially acceptable lies we tell each other every day.

“How are you doing today?” We all ask and answer this question numerous times each day. Whether it is in line at our favorite coffee shop, greeting co-workers in the office, talking to family members, or simply passing an acquaintance in the hall, more often than not, we answer with a lie or expect a short generalized reply. And, to tell the truth, do we really want to know? Are we really interested in the answer or do we expect the nondescript “Fine, thanks!” as we walk by? Are we a society of habitual liars? If we base our answer upon the University of Medicine/Dentistry, I guess we truly are.

Making it Personal

Over the past nine months, many people have asked me how I’ve been feeling. Maybe it’s just me, but 3x a week physical therapy generally means that you’re still in quite a bit of pain. Surgeries aren’t fun. Yesterday, my physical therapist said that I’m looking at six months before the intense pain starts to go away and a year until it becomes bearable. Lovely. Just what I wanted to hear.

I hate being negative. I loathe the defeated spirit that I constantly battle. I’m not perfect; I wrestle with post-surgery depression and the feelings that I’ll never again be able to lift my arm without pain. Unfortunately, my line of work generally requires heavy involvement from shoulders and I wonder if there will ever come a day when I go without my faithful Ibuprofen. I desperately want to play my piano, but know that I am not strong enough to play even a simple song without pain. All of these facts run wild inside my head when I try to figure out how to respond when asked how I’m feeling.

The Flip Side

Despite the pain, I’ve learned that “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” (Ben Franklin) I have come to realize that without the pain of recovery, there will be no strengthening. If I don’t push through the pain, the muscle soreness, the bone aches, I will never reach the level of mobility that I desire. Truly, no pain, no gain. Without struggle, no battle is won. I relish the recovery because I will be stronger when it is done. I will play my piano again, I will complete a work day without pain medicine, and I will be able to lift my arm with minimal pain. These things will happen… I just have to keep doing what I know is right, push through the pain, and focus on the finish line.

In the midst of all of the conflicting emotions of ground won and lost through physical therapy, I realize that I am actually quite blessed. I have a wonderful doctor and therapy team. I woke up this morning and got out of bed. My eyes see, my ears hear, and my mouth speaks. I have use of both my arms–my shoulder hurts, yes, but I have two working arms. My knees still work and my feet carry me where I need to go. I have a family that loves me, friends that support me, and a job that pays my bills. I breathe clean air, live in a city where people vacation, and love the man God made for me. 

So, I’ve decided that when someone asks me “How are you doing?”, I will answer, “I am blessed.” Now that, is being completely honest. 

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.” ~Author Unkown

Eye Life: Living in the Eye of the Storm

In Florida, there are basically three seasons: Summer, Not-So-Hot Summer, and Rainy Season. This week, the eyes of countless weathermen have been watching the skies south of Florida as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its way toward our coastline. At the time of this writing, it is still a Tropical Storm and has yet to hit Puerto Rico. They predict that after passing over the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it will either slam into Florida’s western coast or gain speed in the Gulf of Mexico with a nebulous track toward the as yet undetermined southern states. Needless to say, the husband and I will be buying water and saltines tonight.

I’ve always loved storms. Even as a child, thunder and lightning only brought excitement and wonder. I think it may be because I grew up in a house not too far from railroad tracks; the feeling of thunder in a shaking house still reminds me of a train coming, never the possibility of the destruction from an impending storm. As a child, thunder was “God’s bowling league” and lightning was only “gigantic lightning bugs.” What can I say? I was an imaginative little tyke.

Travelling in Tampa Bay this weekend is going to be limited at best due to the Republican National Convention. It’s one of those weekends where staying home in pajamas is a delightfully rational idea. However, now that TS Isaac is in play, it’s an even better idea.

Defining the Eye of the Storm

According to ehow.com (you’d be amazed at how many sites didn’t have a usable definition of ‘eye of the storm’), “A hurricane (tropical cyclone) is a giant rotating storm with winds of 74 to 200 mph and heavy rain, which can cause high tides and waves. It is in the center of this activity that the eye of the storm is formed, an area clear of storm. The eye of the storm can be slightly cloudy or clear resulting in limited to no precipitation. If you were to stand directly in the center of the eye of the storm, you would notice that the weather is calm, there is a slight breeze and there is no precipitation. Blue skies are seen in the daytime and the stars at night. When viewed from helicopter, airplane or satellite, the eye of the storm appears circular.”

Living the Eye Life

In the eye of the storm is shelter from all-encompassing weather; in the Eye Life is shelter from all-encompassing worry. 

Life is hard. Sometimes it feels that the storm is too big, the resources to small, the trial too large, the escape hatch too far away. If we are to successfully navigate this thing called life, we must live in with the storm in view. The Eye Life. To me, it’s ok for the storms to rage, the winds to blow, I have an anchor safely secured in the eye of the storm. We should live inside the storm tethered to our anchor, affecting change upon our individual Eye.

My anchor is my family, my faith, my worldview. The world does not revolve around me; on the contrary, sometimes I feel as if the world is passing me by with people moving on into grand futures and me staying here, faithful about my duties. Working at a college does that to a person, I guess.  I do not live by focusing on my surroundings, but upon the stabilizing influence of my mentors and my faith. If I veer too far from my anchor, I enter proverbial “inclement weather” and lose my stand by shaky footing.

Stand upon the rock of your convictions, the resolution of your faith, the stability of your family and support system, and the balancing of your fear. Join me in living the Eye Life. 

Is today a day to gather strength from the storm –
a day to to learn life lessons for the next battle?
Or is today a day to sit by the fire
and watch the storm rage outside?
Either way, the storm is just life.
Give thanks for all of Life.
– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Contentment: Wanting What I Have

My crown is in my heart, not in my head,
Nor decked with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen; my crown is called contentment;
A crown it is, that seldom kings enjoy.
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI

In this age of instant gratification, instant messaging, and instant coffee, living a life of contentment demands a delicate balance of ambition and apathy. Not only should we be content with such things as we have, but we should also strive to pursue excellence and personal growth. It is in the image of the proverbial scales that we find a visual definition of the fragility of contentment. I would dare  say that being content is a momentary pursuit, one that commands both dedication and repose.

The Equilibrium of Contentment

Equilibrium, defined as “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced,” perfectly illustrates the necessity of both ambition and apathy as requirements for contentment. While ambition is the desire to achieve, apathy is the lack of desire.

Think about it: without the ambition to achieve goals, we attain nothing. Without the lack of desiring more than we have, we become restless and discontent with our lives. There has to be a balance between wanting what we have and pursuing what we want. We have to be content and visionary. It all comes down to being consumed by acquisition or consuming our life with contentment.

Charles Spurgeon said it best: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

The following is a clipping from Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner: “That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.”  

Taking it a Step Further

My husband and I went out to lunch with his boss (free pie day at Village Inn!) and discussed the issue of contentment. I brought up this blog post and how I was “gelling” my thoughts on the subject. As a parent of a five year old boy and a ten year old girl, he had an interesting perspective on contentment. “You have to have a balance between how you achieve contentment and how you teach your children to be content,” he said. “Hopefully, your life experiences have brought a sense of maturity; that maturity is defined by your contentment level.” He then described how his children see the fancy new toys, the extroverted personalities, and the height differences in their friends, but they have to learn how to be content with what they have, even at their young ages. Together with his wife, he is consistently teaching them to appreciate what they have and who they are. Contentment is not something to be achieved; contentment is a state of being.”

Parenting brought contentment to a whole new level for me. I was thinking of contentment as being happy with my career, my electronics, my house, I wasn’t even considering the fact of teaching contentment to a child! Being content with what you have is one thing; communicating how you came to be content is another. I can only pray that when our time comes, my husband and I will have this contentment thing down!

Making it Personal

  • I don’t have an iphone; I do have a cell phone that calls my loved ones.
  • I don’t have the latest fashionista must-haves; I do have a closet overflowing with colorful clothes that fit.
  • I don’t drive a Pontiac Sky (my favorite); I do have a car that gets awesome gas mileage and looks nice.
  • I don’t live in a Florida mansion; I do live in a comfortable house filled to the brim with love, laughter, and joy.
  • I do have a husband who loves me.
  • I do have a job that pays my bills and lets me save a bit each month.
  • I do have friends that love me.
  • I do have a church that meets my needs.
  • I truly do have a wonderful life

How do you define contentment? If someone asked you about contentment, what would you say?

Love Like Crazy: Reflections from a Song

From the moment I heard Lee Brice’s song Love Like CrazyI was captivated by the story of a lifetime of Crazy Love. The song tells the heartwarming tale of a couple celebrating 58 years of marriage and how they kept their Crazy Love alive. It reminds me of my grandparents and brings a smile to my face as I remember hearing the stories of how they met, fell in love, and lived out their own version of ‘happily ever after.’ 

My first experience with Crazy Love was at home. One of my most vivid memories of sacrificial love was a seemingly insignificant act by my Dad. Because his job demanded an endless schedule of international travel, he was overseas for a good portion of my childhood. One summer, he was scheduled to be gone for an entire month, setting up a telecommunications network for a company in Chile. After two weeks had passed, my Dad surprised Mom and I by showing up for a quick weekend. I remember being shocked that he was home, but he explained that when the option arose to take a vacation trip to Antarctica for the weekend or fly home to see us, he chose us. If my Dad had chosen the Arctic cruise, he would have reached his goal of travelling to every continent. Rather, he chose time with his family. To a seven-year old, choosing to come home rather than visit penguins defined Crazy Love.

Later, I watched my Mom care for my Dad through his horrible battle with cancer. Nothing epitomizes Crazy Love like supporting a spouse through sickness. Sacrificing her own schedule and plans, my Mom became the nurse, the comforter, and the supporter to a man slowly dying of cancer. To this day, she wrestles with back pain from the countless times she physically supported his weight. The night he passed away, she said, “Goodbye, my Love! You’re with Jesus now!”, but she still carries that Crazy Love in her heart. Crazy Love transcends death.

Lifetime Crazy Love isn’t old-fashioned… it still exists. Whether it is choosing between penguins and family, supporting an ailing spouse, or texting “I love you” at random times throughout the day, Crazy Love is possible. It takes commitment, perseverance, and a dedication to keeping the fires burning. Since my husband and I have only been married for a year and a half–we’re still writing our Crazy Love story–I plan to emulate the strong marriages around me, to guard my marriage with passionate resolve, and to exemplify the characteristics of true, enduring love found in I Corinthians 13.

To me, Lifetime Crazy Love is an attainable goal.

They called them crazy when they started out.
Said seventeen’s too young to know what love’s about.
They’ve been together fifty-eight years now.
That’s crazy.

He brought home sixty-seven bucks a week.
Bought a little 2 bedroom house on Maple Street
Where she blessed him with six more mouths to feed.
Now that’s crazy!

Just ask him how he did it; he’ll say pull up a seat.
It’ll only take a minute, to tell you everything.
Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse “I Love You!”
Go to work, do your best, don’t outsmart your common sense.
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy,
And love like crazy!

They called him crazy when he quit his job.
They said them home computers, boy they’ll never take off.
Well, he sold his one man shop to Microsoft,
And they paid like crazy.

Just ask him how he made it,
He’ll tell you faith and sweat,
And the heart of a faithful woman,
Who never let him forget.

Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse “I Love You!”
Go to work, do your best, don’t outsmart your common sense.
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy,
And love like crazy!

Always treat your woman like a lady.
Never get too old to call her baby.
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy,
And love like crazy!

They called him crazy when they started out.
They’ve been together fifty-eight years now.

Aint that crazy?

True Friendships in a Barbie World: Revisited

The inevitable end of summer has arrived! Walmarts across the country are being overrun with back-to-school shoppers searching for number 2 pencils, composition books, and the perfect colored Postit note. In the spirit of new beginnings, this week’s blog is a delightful reblog of last year’s article dedicated to the formations of new friendships in the first few moments of the school year. Whether we’re passed a pen in class, selected for a fall sports team, or handed a cup of coffee in the break room, making friends is one of the most challenging and somewhat fearful events of life. Here’s to friendship!

If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends? ~Author Unknown

How do we choose our friends?

I think this question is answered according to where you are in life. Granted, I’m a thirty-something who looks back at her charmed childhood with rosy glasses, but I’m going to attempt to define friendship and/or popularity from my perspective.

  • Elementary: It was simple in elementary school. You wanted to be friends with the girl who had the most Lisa Frank items. Tell me you don’t remember those awesome trapper keepers and stickers! And folders. And pencils. And….
  • Junior High: Can we really take junior high popularity seriously? Hormones, pimples, bad hairstyles—let’s just skip to high school!
  • High School: Once you graduate from the upper elementary building and hit the lockered halls of high school, your world changes. Your Lisa Frank collection starts to gather dust, boys are a whole lot cuter, and every night you pray that your Clearasil works. Whatever circle you were in—athletics, drama, academics, pretty people—some were more popular than others.
  • College: In college, you fall into groups that possess similar majors, interests, or personalities. Honestly, I think that as we begin to form our own identity, we realize that our friends are an intregal part of who we are and who we will become.
  • Career: Everything changes once you hit the real world. Or, does it? Considering today’s world of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, online dating, and forum presence, I wonder if we have really outgrown high school mentality of popularity and friendship.

Actually, whatever stage of life we are in, do we really ever grow out of the “Lisa Frank” mentality? Do we surround ourselves with the people that make a difference in our lives, or do continually compare our proverbial trapper keepers? It’s the whole “keeping up with the Jones’” point of view. I don’t want to choose my friends based upon what they can do for me; rather, I want to surround myself with people that inspire me to go deeper into maturity. In contrast to “buying Barbie’s friends,” I’d rather describe my friendships as:

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.  Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.  ~Dinah Craik

Whatever stage of life you are in, I hope that you can honestly say that you have this type of friend. True friendship in an increasingly Barbie world is rare; here’s hoping you have found your place in a circle of friends, and that you make a difference in your world together.

Objects in the Mirror

Due to my car accident in January, I have been avoiding driving. My husband would argue that this is a classic case of my bad diving habits catching up to me, but I choose to believe it is in direct correlation to my recent accident and the ensuing, lingering injury. When I do drive, I’m overly conscious of cars entering my lane, misused (or unused) blinkers, speeding summer vacationers (living in Florida isn’t always fun), and inanimate objects on missions to collide with my freshly repaired vehicle.

While sitting at a red light on my way to work minding my own business, I looked in my side mirror to see a barely-legal brunette applying what looked to be a second coat of mascara on her already made up face. “As long as she is behind me” used to be a valid argument… that is until a Toyota 4-runner rear T-boned me in the Target parking lot. She reached for eye liner, causing the wariness and anxiety to exponentially grow in my chest. Once again, I looked closer at the mirror and saw “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Surprisingly, I smiled.

No longer was I anxiously watching a twenty-something apply another coat of makeup; I was mentally transported to a Father’s Day several years ago. Father’s Days are never good days for me. Long story short, my Dad lost his battle with cancer in 2003. On that particular rainy evening, I was sitting at a stoplight, on my way get a much-needed cup of coffee at my favorite Starbucks, when a quick glance into my side mirror changed my perspective forever.

A beautiful rainbow was suspended above the saying, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” 

Rainbows echo promises. Not only promises of Biblical proportions, but also reaffirming, stabilizing promises of new days, ends of tunnels, and smiles after tears. That night while sitting at a stoplight I was reminded that my Dad was just a whisper away, that one day I’d see him again… on a day that was much “closer than it appeared.” You may think it is a stretch, but I was encouraged. Because of that encouragement long ago, I was blessed today.

Taking it a Step Further

It’s the little things in life, isn’t it? The little reminders of a blessing discovered, a smile given, a dream realized. Don’t ever forget to look in the mirror of life; not just to see your reflection, but to reflect upon what has gone before. My past has made me who I am today. The battles fought and won have made me a stronger person. The people I’ve “lost” along the way will one day be found again in my home beyond the sky. The broken hearts, the broken dreams, and the broken promises have only served to mold a masterful collage, more beautiful from its healing than a pristine, undamaged, un-characterized whole. I wouldn’t change a thing.

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes even more beautiful.
Barbara Bloom

What in your mirror is closer than it appears?

The Unwritten Slate of Mornings

Try as I might, I am just not a morning person. No amount of coffee can ever change this fact. The first flick of a lightswitch is an act of treason upon my darkened eyes; my upstairs neighbor’s Godzilla-toddler is my mortal enemy; and a purring, I-haven’t-seen-you-in-hours cat brings no joy to my still-sleeping joints. My snooze button is a fair weather friend that delivers precious few moments of additional sleep while continuously heightening a sense of panic each time I succumb to its sweet seduction.

Before I go any further in this blogging adventure, let me confess my addiction: I am purely, competely, shamefully addicted to coffee. Not a normal “sure, I’ll have another cup” addiction, I own two Keurig brewers (one for home and one for work, obviously), three french presses, an Aeropress (best Valentine’s gift ever!), several over-the-mug brewers I bought in China, a percolator, and a husband that makes iced coffee by the gallon jug. I’ve even found ways to use my crock pot to create delightful caffeinated concoctions of my obsession. I refuse to drink Folgers; call me a coffee-snob, it’s ok. That civet coffee? I’ve tried it and actually liked it.

Back to my Monday morning blog. Despite several cups of coffee this morning, I was unprepared for a quote I found online. Check it out:

The moment when you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the twenty-four hours.  No matter how weary or dreary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen.  And the fact that it practically always doesn’t, matters not a jot. The possibility is always there.  ~Monica Baldwin

Why can’t I look at mornings like that? Yes, it’s an optimistic, bubbilicious view of reality, but isn’t it a great concept? Mornings are an unwritten slate. They are the proverbial empty page waiting for the pen of a writer. All of my days are unwritten, yes, but why have I never stopped to consider the building blocks of the unwritten life?

I may never become one of those lucky (?) people who are able to sing along with the radio on their morning commute, but I can look at my mornings as possibilities of greatness. When I begin to view them as such, no matter what the reflection of each day reveals, they will be full of captured moments, gratified potential, and realized possibilities.

Time for another cup of coffee.