People Power

American Flag

I love America.

Not in a “my-country-right-or-wrong” kind of way.

I love America because it is resilient.

I love America because we are a diverse people with a vast array of opinions, traditions and dreams.

I love America because we have a history of disagreeing and arguing and finger pointing and political-maneuvering that has – against all odds – ultimately resulted in a centuries-old tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

I love America despite its imperfections.

I always feel a swell of pride when watching an outgoing president from one political party shake hands and wish the incoming president of another political party well.

I watch as other nations struggle with this idea of a peaceful transfer of power.

I watch with a heavy heart as I see them fall victim to the politics of armed stand-offs.

The images from Syria, Ukraine and Egypt, for example, are heart-wrenching.

My love of America and this sympathy for struggling nations gives birth to a worrisome fear.

What if our string of peaceful transfers of power were to come to an end?

I watch as our political leaders honor party loyalty and special interests over pragmatism and the common good.

I watch as a growing number of candidates run for office with the stated worldview that our government IS the problem and with the goal of cutting it down or bringing it to a standstill.

They don’t just think the current leaders are the problem.

They think the very government itself is the problem.

But WE THE PEOPLE are the government.

WE THE PEOPLE must remain informed, engaged and involved in the government.

Not to tear it down.

Not in some effort to “protect” ourselves from ourselves.

But in the honorable pursuit of cooperation and action on behalf of the common good and in defense of our centuries-old tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

This is America.

Not Egypt or Ukraine.

We have the power.

It is the ballot box.

It is the balance of powers among three branches of government.

If the government IS the problem, it is because WE are the problem.

Do you love America?

Then participate.

Participate in a centuries-old tradition that has served us well.

If you won’t do it for yourself, how about for your kids and grandkids?

Or will they look back from the future of a crumbled America and see that it was our generation that betrayed the trust and killed the dream?

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Piles

Photo of a mailbox, driveway and yard - lined with leftover snow and ice

This has been one heck of a winter.

Snow, snow, snow – like we have not seen in years!

We dig ourselves out from one big snow when along comes another.

This week we are due a warming trend, and so the mountains of snow have started to melt.

It’s melting!

We are starting to see patches of grass and sidewalk that have remained hidden for quite some time.

I peered out my front window this morning and noticed a stubborn border of snow around the edges of our driveway and sidewalk.

As we shoveled and dug ourselves out over and over, we also created mountains of snow and ice.

Other snow may start to melt, but these piles we have created are not as quick to go.

If you live in a region that experiences snow, you know what I am talking about!

The kind of mountains of snow and ice that claim large sections of parking lots days and weeks after the snow has disappeared elsewhere.

As I gazed out my window, sipping my coffee and planning my day, it occurred to me that versions of these piles of snow and ice can build up in our lives in other ways, too.

As we dig ourselves out of challenges and problems, we often build up piles of discouragement, resentment, and other negative feelings.

Leftover laments and residual resentments line our thoughts as surely as those piles of snow and ice line our driveways and sidewalks.

Even after we have moved past the challenge or problem, these piles of negativity don’t disappear overnight.

They often take time to resolve.

Like these piles of snow and ice, they often stick around a while, as pesky reminders of our problems.

In the case of the actual snow and ice, those piles will naturally disappear – eventually.

The sun will do its thing.

Our own piles of negativity can be more persistent.

Just as with the snow and ice, a sunny day can help.

A sunny disposition, though, is more likely to lead to a cure.

Photo of a road in a neighborhood with snow lining the sides

Crumbs

Picture of an open Bible with an Oreo cookie and a mug

There were Oreo crumbs in my Bible.

Huh.

I looked down and there they were.

It’s not a mystery really.

I was eating a couple of Oreos while reading my Bible.

(Oreos are crumbly, as you probably know.)

Oreos are a weakness of mine and we happened to have some in the cupboard.

Double Stuff.

I happened to remember that we had some in the cupboard and happened to open that resealable cover on the package and pluck a pair of those cookies out of their sleeve.

With my Oreos nestled on their fancy paper towel “plate,” I opened my Bible and started to read.

It was as I finished my reading that I noticed them.

The crumbs.

In my Bible.

Huh.

Those Oreo crumbs inspired me.

They got me thinking.

“How’s that for symbolism?” I asked myself.

I brought my weakness to the Bible and left some of it there.

Oreos are a weakness of mine.

Don’t we generally come to the scripture with our weaknesses and preferences in tow?

In this case, my weakness (Oreos) offered a perfect symbol for preference.

Do you eat your Oreos whole?

Or do you pull off the cookie part and eat the crème filling separately?

Does it matter as long as you end up eating the cookie?

Do you come to the Bible with plans to read it straight through?

Or do you hop around and mix it up?

Do you take what’s written there literally?

Or do you see God’s overarching truths presented in various styles of writing?

Does it matter as long as you end up honestly seeking out the Word?

Huh.

The Promised Land may have offered milk and honey.

But, in my book, milk and cookies would have been just as good.

Open Oreo cookie with the shape of a cross etched into the creme filling

Good Thing I Didn’t Have a Gun

Gun

My blood is boiling.

All because of a stupid robocall we received this evening.

A gun rights group called to urge us to contact lawmakers about some piece of legislation.

Honestly I can’t tell you the name of the group, the name of the bill, or what it is supposed to do.

I’m too mad to remember.

The fact that they called our house and, since it was a robocall, wouldn’t let me hang up on the call, has pushed me into an agitated state.

I’d hang up.

It would ring again.

I’d hang up.

It would ring again.

As inescapable as the epidemic of school shootings, this call would not let up.

Add to that annoying persistence this important fact:

I hate guns.

I’m not talking “going hunting with your Grandpa” guns.

I’m talking “I will carry this around with me in case somebody ticks me off” guns.

You know the kind.

The kind that a former policeman used to murder a guy in a movie theatre because he was annoyed with him using his cell phone to check on his young daughter during the previews.

The kind that a guy used to fire multiple shots into a teenager’s vehicle, killing him, because he was annoyed that the kid was playing his music too loud and got mouthy about it.

The kind that a man used with no warning to shoot and kill two men who were walking in the backyard next door. One of those men had just bought the house and was showing it to his brother…at 2:30 in the afternoon.

I’m talking about the “left around the house for some child to get his hands on and accidently kill someone or himself” guns.

I’m talking about the “I can fire a gajillion shots in under a minute” guns.

Yeah.

I hate those.

Our nation has turned one interpretation of the second amendment into an anti-life idol – worshiped by the gun industry and those the industry has whipped into a frenzy of fear.

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

One of our greatest presidents said that.

It was true then.

It’s true now.

The more people are whipped into a state of fear, the more they will feel it necessary to arm themselves to the teeth.

The more they arm themselves to the teeth, the greater the risk that they will actually use their gun(s) to do something completely stupid – ruining their own life and those of people around them.

So, yeah.

I hate guns.

Don’t be calling my house telling me to bully lawmakers into voting for some pro-gun bill.

Not gonna happen.

And it’s a good thing I don’t have a gun.

Or there would be one blown apart phone/answering machine smoldering on the floor of our home office right at this very minute.

The worst I could do with my rage and boiling blood was write this rant.

So there!

Take THAT!

Heart

Heart decoration wrapped around lamp stand

I recently set up a small “writer’s nook” area in the corner of our living room.

I borrowed a floor lamp from our son, scavenged part of a circa 1992 computer desk and hutch (minus the hutch) and the seat part of a broken office chair (minus the back.)

Around the lampstand I wound a red wire heart.

I had it in my college office for years (I don’t remember how many) and had packed it away with my other office mementos.

My husband spied that heart last week and asked me where it came from.

“From you,” I told him with a smile.

It was a decoration left over from some long ago floral arrangement he had sent me at work.

He had performed the act of kindness and love, but did not remember the specifics of the wire heart.

I remembered.

That is so often the case.

We perform an act of kindness and love and then move on, sometimes forgetting.

But to someone, it is memorable.

To someone, it is appreciated.

And so, it is worthwhile.

On this Valentine’s Day 2014, I wish for you opportunities to perform acts of kindness and love.

And I hope you are also the recipient of such acts.

Much love,

Sarah

The Eyes Have It

Blame Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday.

I have been browsing through pictures of my previous self along with earlier renditions of family and friends.

My sisters and I have a healthy storehouse of photo-memories, thanks to parents who have always valued photography and photo-journaling.

A little over a year ago my parents gave me a jump drive treasure trove of my past. (It was a gift for a significant – ahem – birthday.)

Hundreds of old images.

In these pictures of my previous self, it is the eyes that draw me in.

I look into those eyes – my own eyes – and try to remember what I might have been thinking in that moment.

What was my perspective on the world?

How did I measure the world around me?

I’m still that person, but time makes it hard to remember the moment-of-the-photo without the filters of what I have experienced and learned since.

We live each moment of life through its own unique lens.

Through that moment’s lens.

We knew what we knew.

We didn’t know what we didn’t know.

So I return the gaze.

I stare back into the eyes of yester-me, knowing more about the world and through today’s filter.

That 12-year-old girl didn’t know she would live and study in Europe.

That toddler had no idea she would suffer a miscarriage.

That co-ed could not anticipate the events of September 11th.

That high school senior was not aware that she would have a son who would be fascinated with Japanese culture.

That baby didn’t know her future husband wasn’t born yet, but would be born a few years later in the same hospital where she made her arrival into the world.

“If I just knew then what I know now,” we tell ourselves.

But it doesn’t work that way.

We live in the moment.

That’s the way it is meant to be.

We take pictures to mark the moments.

And then, years later, we look back, gaze into our own eyes, and try and remember how it felt to be that person, at that time, in that place.

The present moment will then reclaim our focus.

And our eyes – those same eyes – will look out into the world.

Through the lens of its own day.

Looking to the future, without knowing what it will be.

Photos from across the years. Eyes.

Watch It

Meme - I don't watch a lot of television. But when I do, it must teach me something.

I confess.

My favorite TV shows are really meant for kids.

I love children’s television.

Not all of it. (I will not voluntarily watch Yo Gabba Gabba, for example. Sorry. I just don’t get that one.)

But there are lots of great shows produced for kids.

These shows tend to be upbeat, optimistic, and joyful.

They tend to model strong friendships and families.

They often address basic truth and knowledge.

My favorites feature fabulously witty writing.

And I usually like their music.

I don’t need to have a kid around to enjoy a good episode of Phineas and Ferb, Veggie Tales, 3-2-1 Penguins, Little Bear, 64 Zoo Lane, Reading Rainbow, Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends, Blue’s Clues, or Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

And Word Girl!  Natch!

The other day, for grins and giggles, I got out some old Baby Einstein videos (yes…VHS tapes) to watch while I walked on the treadmill. I usually catch the news.

But I was in the mood for something else.

I was in the mood for Baby Shakespeare and Baby Van Gogh.

I enjoyed the music (mostly classical) and the poetry and art and simple motions.

I also enjoyed the memories that came flooding back…memories of watching them with our son when he was little. I smiled when the videos presented images, music or moments that had been his favorites (or mine.)

Our son has definitely moved on from most of those earlier shows.

Nowadays it’s more along the lines of Adventure Time, Good Luck Charlie, The Amazing World of Gumball, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, and (thanks to the influence of my husband) Dr. Who. (Our son has also recently discovered Full House on nick@nite and has long loved the Cosby Show.)

I haven’t been able to interest him in Gilligan’s Island yet. Yet.

But I am patient.

I imagine I am not the only grown up who likes kids’ TV.

Maybe you do.

Just for fun…see if you can name the show to match the following quotes. Answers listed after the picture:

1 – “I know what we’re gonna do today.”

2 – “‘Cause when we use our minds, we take a step at a time, we can do anything that we wanna do.”

3 – “(He) could count by twos and tie his shoes.”

4 – “You know, if you had all the toys in the world and you didn’t have any imagination about how you would play with them, those toys would just sit there doing nothing. And that would be no fun.”

5 – “Everybody’s got a water buffalo.”

6 – “Butterfly in the sky – I can go twice as high.”

DVD covers for Kids' Shows

Answers:1)Phineas and Ferb; 2)Blue’s Clues; 3)Franklin; 4)Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood; 5)Veggie Tales; 6)Reading Rainbow