Sunday, November 15, 2015

On calling a spade a spade

“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore 
the consequences of ignoring reality.”
~Ayn Rand

I was watching the most recent episode of The Walking Dead last night, in which one of the characters -- who had, until this point, been shielded from the worst of the zombie apocalypse, living in a well-protected enclave where they still had electricity and running water and medicine and where their most pressing concern was the fact that they had to ration chocolate -- came face-to-face with the realities of the current world, when evil men invaded their utopia and ruthlessly attacked these peaceable people who had done nothing to provoke this violent group.

Her friend was left for dead, and then became a zombie, which she had to kill. The shocked townspeople stared at her in disbelief, that she could so calmly and coldly kill her friend-turned-zombie (before her dead former friend killed her). The woman turned to her neighbors and said:

"I used to not want to see the way things are. It’s not that I couldn’t. It’s that I didn’t want to. But this is what life looks like now. We have to see it. We have to fight it. If we don’t fight, we die."

It made me think of the liberal West... ignoring the growing terror of the Islamic Middle East, because we are safe in our enclaves, where our most pressing issue is getting the government to pay for free stuff and where we delusionally believe we have a "right" to "safe spaces" where no opposing viewpoints can enter our precious, fragile consciousness.

On Twitter, I saw several people referring to the terrorist attack on Paris as a “criminal act” -- as though it was merely a random act of violence. I saw another group calling the dead “victims of gun violence.” No, people. No. We can’t end this by downplaying it. When I called out one Twitter user for calling the terrorists a criminal group, he replied with: “I prefer peace over war.”

What the heck? Who doesn’t prefer peace over war -- except for terrorists? Do people really think they can end terrorism simply by calling it something else?

Believe me, I want peace. I’m a mom with one son on active duty in the Army, and another son contemplating the same. I don’t want war, The thought of war terrifies me. But we have to stop refusing to see the truth. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, war is being waged against us.

We have to see it. We have to fight it. If we don't fight it, we die.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On my own grief, observed

“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley 
where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” 
~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

This is how it happens, so suddenly, so unexpectedly: 

A scene in a TV show reminds me of a funny moment from childhood, a story that features my dad. I tell it. We laugh. "I can just hear your dad saying that," hubs remarks. 

I chuckle. "Yeah... " I start to muse, "he was..." 

Chest tightens. Throat closes. Words fail. For the next hour or two I'm lost in bittersweet memories, sorrow spilling down my cheeks, my heart once again in a million little pieces. 

Melancholy dreams fill my night. Tears stain my pillow. Morning brings puffy eyes, a swollen face, and a heaviness in my soul, as if I'm hearing the news again for the first time.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On waiting for the Supremes

I'm not a political junkie, and I'm not well-versed in all the issues of our day, but I am... passionate, I think you could say, about my political beliefs. I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that I lean right. 

I believe in the free market and virtues of capitalism, because I value the equality of opportunity it offers. For the same reason, I reject socialism, which focuses on equality of outcomes; by its very nature, in trying to "level" the playing field, socialism punishes excellence and rewards mediocrity. 

I respect our Constitution and believe it should be interpreted and applied with the view towards limiting the powers of the state, not expanding their reach. I do not believe the Constitution is a "living, breathing" document that "evolves" with our culture. I want government's role in my life limited to protecting my individual liberties: I want to be free to practice my faith and pass those traditions and beliefs on to my children. I want to be free to educate my children in the way I deem best. I want to be free to arm and protect myself and my family and my property. And I want to be free to make my own decisions about healthcare: what doctor I will use, what treatment plan I will follow, what insurance provider I will choose. I don't want or need socialized, government-run healthcare. I don't want the government telling me I have to purchase their insurance. 

Although I'm not expert in Constitutional law, I'm pretty sure our founding fathers never intended it to be used a means of empowering our leaders to control our lives in such a freedom-destroying manner. So this morning, I am on pins and needles as I wait for the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. I haven't been filled with this much nervous excitement since the 2008 Election Day. 

Tick, tock. Today we learn if we are a nation one step closer to socialism, or if our Constitution still preserves our personal liberties.

UPDATE: So... this is what it feels like to be sucker punched? *sigh. I'm going to hibernate and abstain from all news coverage of politics until after the November elections. Or until after my nap this afternoon. Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On being a writer

I read advice once, a long time ago, that suggested if you want to be a writer, you should stop telling people, "I want to be a writer," and start declaring to people, "I'm a writer," as a statement of verifiable truth. I am a writer. Even if, in fact, you hadn't actually written anything yet (or, perhaps more specifically, not written anything you could say was published somewhere) (or not anything worth reading). I think the idea behind the advice was this concept of thinking your way into being what you wanted to be. If you identify yourself to be   (fill-in-the-blank)  , then you will start acting like you are _______, and eventually you will then be _________.

This was terrible advice, by the way. Frankly, I don't believe one can think their way into acting. To wit: For years, I could actually picture myself as one of those people who ate healthy foods and exercised regularly and looked slim and trim and svelte and fit. I mean, I could actually envision myself skinny like that, and what my life would look like if that's what I did and if that was how I acted. Amazingly, however, that thinking didn't translate into action. I don't know. Maybe that kind of mind game works for others, but it definitely did not work for me. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

But I digress.

Another problem with the "Call yourself a writer and make it so" advice is that it was definitely offered up before the age of the internet. These days, everyone considers themselves to be a writer and can claim that their work is published... on their blog site, anyway.

I don't want to examine too closely the reason why this person, me -- the gal who started writing stories when she was old enough to bang out words on a typewriter (and, oh, my... you should see those stories I wrote when I was seven and eight and nine years old; they are hiLARious) -- didn't, in fact, become a writer. Or even a very good (let alone consistent) blogger. But, for whatever reason, I gave up storytelling for news writing in college, and then gave up news writing for press release writing when I couldn't find a job in journalism, and then gave up press release writing for lesson plan writing when I started to homeschool, and, well... here I am.

And, yeah, I know. Plenty of folks hold day jobs and/or even homeschool a quiverfull of kids and still find time to blog and write and create amazing recipes and post elaborate pictures of the individual ingredients along with the finished dish and then end up with a book deal. But we can't all be the Pioneer Woman.

Heaping further coals of discouragement on my head was this recent article: Why You Shoudn't Be a Writer. It was a pretty harsh reality check, but I realized the author probably had some pretty good points. Am I really as good as I think I am? No, definitely not. Am I compelled to write; do I feel as though I will burst if I can't write every day? Uh... that's a negative, Ghost Rider. (Or should that be Ghost Writer? Bwahahaha! Get it?) (*sigh.) (This is why I shouldn't write.)

In any case, this whole post was spawned by the fact that I have an idea for another post churning in my brain, but my attempts to "put it on (virtual) paper" have proved futile thus far, and it makes me question whether I really have that.... je ne sais quoi it takes to be a writer. In fact, this post is actually the perfect example of the problem I have with the other post, and it's not writer's block; just the opposite: I know what I want to say, but it's taking too long to get to the point, and, in fact, I have more than one point I want to make, and they are related... and yet they aren't, and trying to bring the two stories I'm sharing back together so the reader can see the relationship between them and how (in my mind) it all ties together... and, more importantly, the significance of it all... well, it's challenging.

And then, I wrestle with yet another aspect: Who cares? My mom and my sister and my husband and maybe a couple close friends (if they have time) read this blog, and that's about it, so why am I worrying about it so much?

Because I want them to think what I want to think of myself: 

Boy, that girl can write.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

On having it all figured out

A friend of mine was getting ready for an extended vacation (which, in this case, is not a euphemism for a trip to the funny farm, as it usually is around my house; no, my friend was actually going on a real vacation, to Florida), and she joked with me: 
I am almost packed. :) Well, except for actually packing it... but, you know, I have it all figured out. You know what this like, don't you?
Yes. Yes, I do. And I wish it were just limited to my packing (OK, fine, my overpacking) issues. Unfortunately, it pretty much describes every endeavor I attempt to undertake. 

I am almost finished with my blog post. Well, except for actually writing it... but, you know, I have what I want to say all figured out.
And this is why my blogs are still empty.

I almost have 20 pounds lost! Well, except for actually losing it... but, you know, I have the diet and exercise plan all figured out.
And, meanwhile, nothing really changes. Except, now I have thirty pounds to lose, instead of just (just?!) twenty.

I am almost debt free! Well, except for actually paying off my debt... but, you know, I have the payment plan all figured out.
Seriously, we're going to start on that. Soon. Right after we pay for the expenses for our oldest son's upcoming wedding. And my daughter's college tuition. And my youngest son's first car. And a trip home to see my family. And maybe an "extended vacation," if you know what I mean.

I almost have my spiritual life squared away. Well, except for actually spending daily time in prayer, studying God's Word, putting Him first in all I do, and fellowshipping with like-minded believers... but, you know, I have a library filled with study guides and devotional books and commentaries and Bibles in every version, and I know a group of godly women who meet weekly for fellowship and, really, I plan on going... one of these days; so I have the plan to live a holier life figured out.
And then I wonder why I am experiencing a crisis of faith, and why God seems far away, and why I find it easier to do things that merely please me or please others (with the hope that they will like me) instead of doing the things that please God.

Yep, I really have things " all figured out," don't I?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On getting spammed with comments

I haven't blogged for awhile... but suddenly received a spate of comments, all of which went directly to my spam folder (awaiting approval... which won't happen). They are quite hilarious. Even more fun if you read them in the voice of the spokesperson for the Sokoblovsky Farms Petite Lap Giraffes. "Welcome to world wide web. This cause you to laugh till you make tears."
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OK, I admit, I liked that last line: "You've been carrying out a top notch job." Gee, thanks!
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Honestly, I don't understand the spam comments. And by that, I mean I don't understand why they waste their time. (Obviously no one understands their gibberish.) What do these spammers hope to gain? I mean, they have to know their comments aren't ever going to be approved, or will be deleted in short order if they do get posted. What is the point? 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On the benefits of being the 99%

Today is May Day. Supposedly, the Occupy Wall Street mob planned to storm the city and shut down commerce for the day. (Sidebar: I live in Jersey now; do I need to specify that "the city" is New York City? Around here, we all know what we mean when we say "the city." But I digress.) Anyway, I think the OWS crowd was sending out its own May Day distress call by the end of the day, as the whole thing was a bit of a  a huge bust (which, quite honestly, gave me a serious case of the glees).

Coincidentally, my 14-year-old son and I started an economics unit this week, and part of today's reading included this article: a letter written in 1942 (!!) from a grandfather to his grandson. Apparently, the grandson (who was just a schoolboy at the time) heard many people disparaging the profit system, and wrote about it to his grandfather. This was the grandfather's reply. That we read this today, on this big OWS "We are the 99%! Down with the 1%" day of (failed) protest, could not have been more perfectly timed if I had tried. Believe me, I'm not that on top of things. 

The book we are using as our primary text is Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury. (Excellent book, by the way.) This article came from the study guide to that book, A Bluestocking Guide: Economics by Jane A. Williams. 

In the letter, the grandfather tells his grandson to imagine a primitive community of 100 people, who do nothing but work hard all day just to obtain the mere necessities of living. They live in a village at the base of a mountain; their water source is at the top. Every day, each person must climb the mountain for water, which takes them one hour. 

One day, one of the hundred notices that the water trickles down the same direction he walks. He decides to build a trench down the mountain, leading to a basin he digs out by his house. None of the other 99 people pay any attention to what he is doing. When his trench and basin are finally complete, he turns some of the water from the spring into it. Soon he has fresh water at his house. He tells the other 99 that he will let them get water from his basin if they will give him the daily production of 10 minutes of their time. They agree. So he now has 990 minutes (16.5 hours) worth of production from the others every day, and the 99 have each saved themselves 50 minutes of time every day, because they no longer have to go up and down the mountain for water.

Now that the one man has 16+ hours of production from others, he is free to spend part of his time observing things around him. He notices the water has power; it carries sticks and pushes small stones along as it travels. He contemplates this for some time, and eventually devises a water wheel to harness that power, which he uses to run a mill to grind his corn. There is enough water power to grind the corn for the other 99, also. So, again, the one offers the 99 a deal: If they will give him one-tenth of the production from their time saved, he will let them use his mill to grind their corn. Again, a win-win for both the one and the 99.

With all this production coming to him, the one is now completely free to spend all his time observing others. He realizes one of the 99 is the best shoe maker in the group; he encourages that one to spend his time making shoes for the others in exchange for a portion of their production. He sees that another one is more skilled than all the others at making clothes; again, he helps that one devise a plan to make all the clothes in exchange for portion of the others' production. Bit by bit, people begin to specialize their labors, doing what best fits them, and the whole community benefits.

But what would have happened if, at the very beginning, the 99 had turned on the one, and said, "We are ninety-nine, and you are only one. We will take what water we want and you can't stop us. We will give you nothing." What then? There would have been no incentive for this enterprising one to continue to solve problems.

And so the story continues... I encourage you to take a few minutes to read it in its entirety. The best parts are boxed in red. My favorite part? This: 

"Unless envy and jealousy and unfair laws intervened to restrict honest enterprisers who benefited all, progress promised to be constant. Need we say more to prove that there can be profit from enterprise without taking anything from others, that such enterprise adds to the ease of living for everyone?" 
Indeed, nothing more needs to be said.