Tag Archives: friendship

This Thanksgiving Season

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It is the time of year when people begin to express their gratitude for the good things in their lives. Of course, I could go on and on about being thankful for owning a home, my husband and I each having stable jobs, being in relatively good health, and all the expected sentiments: pets, good weather, and full bellies. In light of all that has happened in my family, good and bad, this year, I am going to take a moment and share from my heart.

Last fall, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been receiving chemo for just over a year, had a double-mastectomy in the spring, and went through six weeks of radiation this summer. It is a hard process to watch, but with determination and a caring medical team, my mom was recently told by her doctor she is officially a “survivor.” This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my mom, as never before.

In May, my dad suffered a massive stroke in two parts of his brain. He has come through with much less damage and fewer long-term effects than anyone thought possible. Then, in the summer, he had heart surgery. His doctors are surprised and proud of his resilience. He has healed quickly and has not lost his sense of humor. I am so thankful I am able to call my dad and argue over politics and hear his laugh.

Three weeks ago, my parents were sleeping when their house caught fire. They barely escaped and spent four days in the hospital recuperating from smoke damage. In a year where our family has had its share of disappointments and crises, this tops the list of being a mental and emotional drain. However, I believe, truly, that God sent angels to protect my parents’ lives while all around them was destruction.

In the midst of all of this, my husband and I were receiving fertility treatments that did not work. How can we find a blessing in this for which to be thankful? We have been inundated by friendship and support that was both unexpected and greatly appreciated. Our community, our friends, even strangers have been so thoughtful, uplifting, generous, and positive that it has helped me face the task of filling out adoption paperwork (so much paperwork!) and readying for our home visit with optimism. It is so much easier to do a difficult task when you know that people want you to succeed; we have received cards, phone calls, letters, and social media messages that I will forever store in my heart. I did not know, when I wrote about our fertility struggles, how many people this problem affects. Nor did I know how supportive people would be by the announcement that we were beginning to look into adoption. People have been so kind, understanding, and excited for us that it reinforces — in the midst of all the negativity in the world today and, particularly, in our country this week — the idea that most people are genuinely good, caring, and loving. Please know that we genuinely appreciate all the support we have received, and cannot express our thankfulness adequately enough.

Peace and love.14480660_10209711720605577_7351541725707216488_o (1).jpg

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Book Review: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

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***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

Check out my review of the first two books, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Summary: This is the last book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It describes the success of Frodo and Sam in making it to the mountain; however, once they arrive, Frodo finds himself unable to cast the ring into the fire. Gollum wrestles for control and bites off Frodo’s finger, obtaining his “precious” moments before slipping into the lava. This effectively ends the seemingly hopeless war that Gandalf, Aragorn, and many others had been waging against Sauron. Thus, Aragorn reclaims the role of king and marries Arwen. They begin setting things right in the land, and the Fellowship officially ends. The Hobbits travel most of the way back to the Shire with Gandalf, who leaves them to their task of rebuilding after Saruman’s minions destroyed it. Gandalf notes that the Hobbits are quite capable of being heroes without him, and his strength is fading because his time in Middle Earth is ending. Eventually, Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, and the Elves travel over the sea. They are joined by Legolas, Gimli, and Sam, who bore the ring briefly for Frodo during their time in Mordor. However, the three remaining Hobbits lived long lives after the departure of Frodo and Bilbo, proving that obstacles in life that don’t defeat us truly do make us stronger.

Peace and love.

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Love Is in the Air

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I love weddings. I should clarify that: I love the idea of weddings.

I love the idea that two people, despite the odds of divorce, which are ever-increasingly stacked against them, believe that their love will last “until death parts them.” I love that two people are willing to commit themselves, fully, completely, voluntarily, to only one other person for the rest of their lives. I love the idea that each person in the marriage is willing to sacrifice their own desires, needs, whims, hopes, dreams, or plans, if it means the other will find fulfillment. I love the idea that they trust that their love is stronger than their independence, stronger than their recklessness, stronger than their irresponsibility, for they are willing to exchange all of those traits for a lifetime of partnership, forgiveness, and accountability. I love that, while they each lose their individual freedom, they gain a comfortable security. I love the idea that they both desire only the best things in life for the one person they adore above all others. I love that both people in the marriage promise, on entering the union, to value, trust, support, care for, and respect his or her partner until the end of their days.

I love that a wedding is the beginning of a marriage.

I love that there is a friendship so strong between two people, one they fear losing so greatly, that they devote every thought and action of every day to keeping that friendship stable and healthy and balanced and, most importantly alive. Relationships take work or, much like the cactus in my kitchen, they die slowly, a little at a time, until, unfortunately, they are unable to be revived.

Marriage, at its core, is a long-term inside joke between two best friends. A culture develops for the two people inside the relationship that others simply do not understand.

A wedding, in effect, is a statement that each partner will create a life-long secret world shared only by those two people. No one else is invited in to explore. No one can board a plane and vacation there for a while. Though there are always outside observers staring over the fence, no one else fully gets the couple’s world. No one understands their special language. No one was there for all the memories the pair created. No one has seen all the arguments, the laughs, the slow-dances, the tears.

Nobody else gets the joke. Nobody else needs to. Don’t you just love weddings?

Peace and love.199400_1027251397347_5685_n

Why Everyone Should Own A Pet

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For those of you whose homes are free from the shedding of a four-legged friend, the next time your child brings home a stray and begs, “Can we keep him?!”, I highly suggest you acquiesce. (This, of course, assumes you don’t have a deadly allergy to pet dander and aren’t living in a pet-free rental.) There are many reasons owning a pet is a good idea. Allow me to elaborate.

First and foremost, pets calm you down. In fact, petting a cat or dog has been shown to lower blood pressure and resting heart rates. Even more interesting, stroking a four-legged friend for a while releases a hormone in both people and their pet to help them relax. My cat, Archimedes, sometimes even pets me back. 575881_10200791047474324_2035806325_n

Along with helping their people relax, pets often have a calmness that aids in sleep. Speaking as someone who suffers from insomnia, there are times when the only way I can sleep is if my cats are purring beside (or, often, on top of) me. It’s almost better than taking a sleeping pill. If there is one thing cats know, it is sleep.

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Pets can also energize us. Taking the dog for a walk, playing fetch, grooming — all of those things help create a healthy, active lifestyle for people and their pet. My cats, Magellan in particular, often help me in my workouts, and by “help,” I actually mean “hinder.” I usually have to exercise around them, in spite of them, over top of them, or while using them as weights. But, they keep me on my toes and help my coordination and balance.

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Furthermore, Archimedes does play fetch.

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Another reason to own a pet is they can distract people from boring, tedious jobs and make life more fun. Mine, in fact, help me correct my students’ papers, aid in my reading and planning for the week, and promptly let me know when I have done enough for the day.

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Pets provide unconditional love. They are always happy to see their people, no matter how long it has been or how much they have destroyed in the house in all those long, empty hours they were home alone. And, if for no other reason, you should own a pet for the company. Life is never dull when a fur-baby owns you. Peace and love.

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Why I Love and Loathe Social Media

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Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Youtube, Instagram, WordPress — odds are good that most people have an account set up on at least one of these websites. I, in fact, have an account on all of them. So, why are we, as a society, so into social media? When did it become so popular as to include people all over the world, of all ages and cultures and interests?

The benefits of using social media are numerous. These sites enable people with common interests or purposes or beliefs to interact. I have had the pleasure of meeting several people online that I would never have been able to meet any other way. I can learn new skills, discuss my ideas, promote myself, and broaden my circle of acquaintances. I can support and encourage my friends, and console or commiserate when it is necessary. I can feel like I am a part of something big.

This is a detriment. Social media is, at least in my life, beginning to replace other interests or hobbies — there is not enough time in my life for everything I love to do. I check my sites several times a day, scrolling and commenting and liking and reading other peoples’ posts. I watch a video online, and it links to another video, and another. Time gets away from me. Playing my instrument, practicing my calligraphy, sketching a picture, reading a book, playing a video game, crocheting an afghan — all my other hobbies take a backseat to updating my status online.

It gets worse. Studies are suggesting that the longer one spends on social media websites, the more unhappy he or she becomes with his or her own life. It seems that people become envious of the lives they see presented to them (not to confuse this with the lives their friends are actually living, which, daily, are likely just as boring and uneventful as their own). In fact, many people are now, whether intentionally or unintentionally, dishonest about what they show on their sites, showing just the positives: they post pictures of their vacations or slim themselves down with photo-altering programs or write about their job promotions or update about how their husbands are the sweetest men in the world because they got roses for their birthdays.

By themselves, none of these things are a terrible misrepresentation of someone’s life, and I delight in the joy of my friends. The problem comes when one only posts about the exceptional things that happen to them, in an effort to make others think their entire lives are exceptional. “Look how skinny I am in my bikini in Aruba! I could afford this because I got a promotion at work, the day after my husband sent 32 long-stemmed roses to the office to celebrate my amazing and enviable existence!” See the problem? Sadly, social media becomes a contest, rather than a celebration.

The concept of social media site is sound: interact with old friends; make new friends; easily, inexpensively, and quickly keep in contact with people you love, even if they live across the globe. Unfortunately, in practice we see that websites dedicated to human interaction, unfortunately, are at the mercy of the humans who interact. They have become a safe haven for bullies and trolls, who enjoy spewing hate with few (if any) consequences. They have fueled a rampant case of widespread narcissism, where one’s self-esteem is now determined by how many followers/friends/likes/comments one has.  They have granted fanatics a sounding board from which to promote their controversial arguments, with little regard for the political, religious, or philosophical beliefs of others. They have enabled people to post pictures of others which are unflattering or embarrassing, without their consent, sometimes even anonymously. They have, ironically, ended friendships.

In effect, social media is a double-edged sword. It is a fine balance between responsibly utilizing it and abusing it. It is an expectation that everyone uses social media, but it sometimes becomes a chore. Even when I am interacting respectfully, I am still constantly assailed by arguments, updates, and images that are snarky or untruthful or outrageous.

I can’t block out the negativity completely, but I can contribute positively by creating or resharing inspiring and encouraging messages. I hope that will be enough. Peace and love.

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Book Review: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

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***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

SUMMARY: This fantasy novel is the first in the famous and popular The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It describes the beginning of the journey of Frodo and his companions. It is first set in the Shire, from which Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin set out with the ring Bilbo stole from Gollum and willed to Frodo. The four hobbits eventually meet Aragorn, who leads them to Rivendale. At Rivendale, it is decided that the ring must be destroyed, and Frodo is appointed to be the ring-bearer. The four hobbits, Gimli, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas form the fellowship meant to carry the ring to Mordor. Through the course of the novel, Gandalf is lost while fighting the balrog and Boromir is slain by orcs while protecting Pippin and Merry. The fellowship is broken up when Frodo, followed by Sam, leaves for Mordor and Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas set out in search of Merry and Pippin.

Check out my reviews for The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Peace and love.
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Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

Summary: This fictional novella depicts life for two traveling workers during the Great Depression. George and Lenny are two men who are constant companions as exemplified in the book’s theme: it doesn’t matter who you are with, so long as you are with someone.

Lenny is a mentally challenged but hardworking giant of a man. George, his opposite in every way, is also his protector. The pair plan to eventually buy a farm together so that they may work their own land and keep animals, including Lenny’s beloved rabbits.

The friends get jobs working on a ranch, where they meet the wife of their boss’s son. Lenny, out of love for “soft” things, grabs the woman’s hair. When she screams, Lenny panics and accidentally kills her. Lenny runs to the place George told him was safe, and awaits the arrival of his friend in fear that he will no longer be allowed to tend the rabbits on their imaginary farm.

Out of mercy and compassion, George sends the lynch mob on a detour and finds Lenny on his own. George begins again to describe their farm and wonderful future while Lenny listens excitedly. In the midst of this distraction, George shoots Lenny in the back of the head.

Reflection: There is a great deal of symbolism present in this novel. Its title is taken from a poem by Robert Burns: the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. George may represent “men,” who do things that must be done whether they wish to do them or not. The lynch mob may represent “mice,” as they set out as a group in a cowardly attempt to kill an unarmed mentally handicapped man in secret.

George may also be more like Lenny than outwardly shown. Lenny killed small animals (mice, birds, a puppy) by loving them too strongly — while “petting” them as they lay in his pocket. George killed Lenny (whom he loved) while Lenny felt safe and secure — Lenny was in George’s “care” being “soothed.”

Lenny was in many ways similar to the mice he loved. Mice are often harmful but mean no harm. They are frightening but easily scared. They are likewise fragile and can be crushed easily by forces bigger than they are. Lenny similarly acts off baser instincts and was “crushed” by forces bigger than he: his circumstances; his lack of natural intelligence; his inability to control himself; his friends; and smarter “prey” meaning to harm him.

Peace and love.of mice and men

Why Cats Are Like Tempermental Kids

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10001162_10203012910619514_5431744211315265957_oMy cats, litter-mates named Magellan and Archimedes, are almost nine years old — senior citizens, in the cat world. They don’t frolic or play often; though, when they do, it nearly always ends with some degree of booty-shaking, yowling, and pouncing. My husband insists that boys just like to roughhouse, but I cannot support the violence they perpetrate against each other and usually wind up consoling whoever happens to lose the battle while the winner struts victoriously away. IMG_20150125_161624_763

They are more content to sleep most of the time. In fact, they can nap just about anywhere, anytime, and in any position. How have they mastered the art of sleeping, which so often eludes me? They don’t live with the constant fear of interruption (as I do, from them, when they happen to be hungry, or bored, or feeling snuggly, or cold, or just ready for me to be awake). You see, they are the only kids in the house, so they don’t have to worry about their tails getting pulled or their ears getting yanked by tiny fingers when they aren’t paying attention. Thus, my cats sleep soundly any time they wish, which, at their age, is most of the time. IMG_20141229_223619_606

However, when they are awake and longing for attention, they demand it insistently, much like human children do. They greet us excitedly at the door each day when we arrive home from work, ready to be held or stroked or given catnip. They sit on books I’m reading, chew off edges of papers I’m correcting, plop down in front of the screen when I’m typing, and stand on my chest and meow until I acknowledge their presence (sleeping used to be blissful, prior to their arrival — a similarity to a baby’s first few months, I suppose, but this has gone on for eight long years).1920523_873887382645030_4205182349469638139_n

Furthermore, I find that, when I really need alone time, one of the two cats is always underfoot: they swish their tails in the water while I bathe, they hog the covers at night, and they jump up onto board games, knocking pieces over like they are getting paid to do it. They love to aid in kitchen chores, the extent of which consists of sitting directly behind whoever happens to be stirring the sauce or washing up dishes. In the way children do, beating me up or down the stairs or into the next room is a fun game we play every single day, over and over. Solo yoga has always been a dream of mine, but, luckily for me, they decide to help with that each day, too.

10462352_873904525976649_6022804356553615682_nWhen I need them to, say, kill a spider, though, neither cat can be found. Their helpfulness only goes so far. Their lives are all about their own comfort, almost all of the time. It’s lucky for them that I love it when they are content — our relationship as a family is perfect.

Love and peace.10806337_10204416238061823_1808339046698785271_n

Why I Don’t Believe in Soul Mates

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Why don’t I believe in soul mates? It’s simple: logic.

There are over six billion people on the planet. Let’s assume, for a moment, yours didn’t die from abortion or miscarriage.
We must choose to believe he or she wasn’t born in the thousands of years of human history prior to your existence, and that he or she won’t be an infant when you are in the nursing home.
Let’s further assume he or she wasn’t orphaned in the wilderness of Siberia or in a small tribal community in Africa or in a poverty-stricken town in South America with no hope of ever seeing an airplane, let alone boarding one to fly to you.
Let’s continue on our hopeful guesses that your soul mate was properly vaccinated and survived the multitude of deadly diseases that kill millions of children every year, including polio, measles, malaria, AIDS, and the flu. The lucky duck also theoretically survived starvation, dysentery, child abuse, parasites, neglect, natural disasters, freakishly uncommon accidents, and war.
Still with me? Your soul mate would then have to sift through the six billion needles that make up the haystack of humanity in order to meet you; this meeting must be a memorable experience for both people (not just passing them on the highway or walking by them in a giant amusement park or making eye contact at a rock concert). Don’t even pretend it is somebody who grew up next door — how likely is that?! Realistically, how likely is it that your soul mate lives on your continent, let alone in your neighborhood?
You both must recognize the other as being your “soul mate,” as otherwise it is just considered stalking. Your ages and behaviors must be appropriately suited for a match in whichever society you choose to live – how unfortunate if you choose to live in America and one of you is twelve and the other is forty-two or if one of you is married already or is a priest.
Finally, if you have managed to overcome all the other obstacles, you have to be lucky enough to have a soul mate in the sex of your preference. The obvious proverbial nail in the coffin to any “soul mate” experience is the unfortunate circumstance of one being gay and the other straight — cue the eternity of longing, pain, and obsession. And, in the long run, it would be just as miserable if you had a soul mate who is your best friend rather than your spouse. If, for example, my soul mate was a woman with whom I completely meshed and related to and felt I couldn’t live without, I would, in essence, be doomed in marriage: I can’t expect it to last if I love my bestie more than my husband! Would your true soul mate want this — being the cause of strife and misery in one of your deep and meaningful relationships?
So, forget the idea of “soul mates” and find somebody with whom you can be happy and laugh, then call it a day.
The prosecution rests.

One final thing: looking at this litany of reasons that love is so hard to come by makes me appreciate finding my husband more than ever. If anyone ever had a soul mate, he would be mine.

Peace and love.IMG_20140724_132407_582