Tag Archives: truth

Ways We Can Improve Our Society: Part Two

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Check out part one for more ideas!

Thankfully, the number of potential candidates for the Presidency has dwindled slightly. Unfortunately, most of those who remain are the loudest, angriest, and most arrogant.  If I actually believed politicians would be willing to listen to the desires of the people they claim to represent, I would offer them the following suggestions for how we, as a nation, might grow and change. Instead, I am relying on the people to change what we can, provided we can stop insulting and berating each other on social media for how our political policy beliefs differ.

To begin, I believe our country (our world, in fact) would be a better place if everyone was required to give another human being a genuine compliment every single day. I’m sure there is a government bureaucrat out there somewhere who is tired of getting paid for reading magazines and pretending to file paperwork. Let him be in charge of tracking how quickly general happiness, self-esteem, and optimism skyrocket under the new Renee Fornelli Love agenda. There’s some type of computer program that can make graphs and pie charts, I assume. He could even create a survey — and we all know how important polls are these days — and build data. There would be so much more paperwork to “file” (and, by file, I mean lose/shred/stick in a box in a warehouse)! What an exciting job for that formerly bored government employee!

Next up, we can easily improve our world through the utilization of recycling centers. Last summer, my husband and I decided to make regular recycling a part of our lives. I organized a small corner of our home to store paper, cans, and plastic bottles. I have a couple pictures of my bins below. It takes, maybe, twenty minutes a month to gather up and drop off all the items that, previously, would have gone towards filling up our landfill. Instead of having companies make new things, they can refashion and reuse old things. Isn’t that “shabby chic” idea all the rage right now? Please consider making a better effort to go green. I was surprised — pleasantly — by how little effort recycling actually takes. Save our planet — it’s the only place we have to live!

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Last on the agenda today is the need and desire for our society to consider pet adoption. Statistics show there are many benefits to owning a pet. They can help to lower blood pressure, ease depression symptoms, and detect an owner’s serious illness, for starters.  Cats and dogs, especially, are excellent companions for children and adults, and offer a wide array of services to offset any minor inconveniences that go along with pet ownership. Dogs provide protection and a sense of security to people with disabilities and those living alone; they also learn tricks and make for great exercise buddies. Cats are useful for killing rodents and are particularly good snugglers. For example, my cats are great foot warmers in the dead of winter, though they do often steal all the blankets and fashion a nest for themselves, leaving me to shiver uncontrollably through the night. Be that as it may, I know they love me because they show it in other ways. They meet me at the door when I get home from work. They lay beside me and purr when I’m sick. They “sing” with me and often answer when I talk to them. They “pet” my hair and give me kisses. They leave fake mice in my purse if I leave it unzipped, and I often find toys in the toe of my boots when I slip them on. They are content to lay in my lap for hours. They fill my heart with joy and happiness.

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So, to all of you petless people, I will encourage you to go to a shelter and adopt a pet. You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy one from a dealer or a pet store. Often, people give pets away for free. Pets provide comfort, acceptance, and companionship to lonely people. They give entertainment and add excitement to daily chores. They offer unconditional love. People with pets are almost always happier because of them. That’s why they fill your Facebook news feed with so many pictures of them.

So, if we can change our attitudes and behaviors, we can change our world for the better. I’m willing to give it a try. Are you?

P.S. We don’t actually need the government telling us to compliment each other. Just do it on your own. It feels great for the recipient as well as the giver. Make each other happy today!

Peace and love.

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Ways We Can Improve Our Society: Part One

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As election time rolls around and debates separate the wheat from the chaff and political ads slander opponents mercilessly, it becomes apparent (particularly on social media) that everyone in America knows what is best for the country and if you disagree you are a worthless pile of fool. To add to the “excitement” of another 11 months of campaigns, here is the first stage of “making America great again,” and if you disagree, you are a worthless pile of fool.

First up, budget cuts. I hear about this concept of “budgeting” and apparently it means “planning for a fiscally sound future by not buying so much makeup,” according to my husband’s line of thinking. What it actually means is balancing income and expenses — in other words, allotting an adequate amount of money to each area in order to responsibly pay bills in a timely fashion. The following are some ways I think the local, state, and federal government could increase revenue or cut needless expenditures, or improve our society as a whole.

First, when an individual is caught speeding, he or she should be required to pay a fine of no less than $50 for every excess mile per hour an officer clocked their speed. (Bonus: the main roads will be much safer, as compulsive speed demons will likely stick to back roads — I’m not convinced they can change.) That money can be earmarked for educational funding, including a newly required defensive driving course for all caught recklessly risking their own and others’ lives by cruising along at 75 in a 65 zone.

Second, why do prisons provide cable television? Many hardworking, law-abiding citizens can’t afford such a luxury. My cable bill each month is astronomical (particularly after adding an additional box) and increases semi-annually. Felons don’t need cable, they need to sit and think about what they did wrong. If they get bored with repenting, they can pick up a book and read. Our world would be a better place if everyone in it read a book a month. Rather than setting up convicts with expensive entertainment, force them to watch local channels and, when they tire of that, to educate themselves. I know, the option of schooling already exists in the joint, but I feel more people who are incarcerated would put forth the effort of seeking an education to better their lives on the outside if it was the only option available during their free time (and by free time, I mean the time they don’t spend lifting weights and fashioning shivs out of toothbrushes). Admittedly my knowledge of the inner workings of life in the clink is limited to, ironically, what I have viewed on cable networks. What would the government do with all the funds they freed up by making the pen “hard-copy only”? They would redirect that cash to fuel public education. By funneling more money into our children’s schooling, we could hope there would be fewer ex-cons in the long run — and wouldn’t that make for a brighter future overall?

Third, hire only highly skilled and professional construction companies who will work on one mile of road at a time, from dawn until dusk every single day until the job is complete. The longer that stretch of patch work takes, the more road rage I suffer. The citizens pay taxes to fund quick, sound reconstruction of the roads, not to hire a bunch of sweaty, chain-smoking sign holders. When I drive by at 10:15 in the morning, I know they cannot possibly be legitimately still eating breakfast. So why are they just sitting in their trucks, laughing at my aggravation? Why do they tear up twenty miles of the interstate at a time if they have no intention of fixing it that week? Why must I slow down to twenty-five miles an hour when workers are nowhere to be found? Why doesn’t the foreman insist they remove the “reduce speed ahead” signs before leaving for the afternoon siesta (which is the only logical explanation for why machines are sitting empty in the ditches when I drive home at 4:30 in the afternoon)? Why is my tax money paying for months of unnecessary inconvenience to travelers and a lack of oversight resulting in lazy incompetence from poorly managed road crews? I’m becoming suspicious that maybe they intentionally take so long because they get paid by the day. Government officials, do some reference checking on the companies you pay with my money, or I will vote you out.

Check out part two here.

Peace and love.

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What I Have Learned From My Kitten

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11162081_10205935851051198_2565505048927328346_nI have recently acquired a kitten; he is nearly two months old. His name is Hannibal, because my husband and I were betting that he would have to be a warrior in order to stand firm against his much bigger brothers (Archimedes is 19.5 pounds and Magellan is 14 pounds). 10922872_10205907810470201_7914865518395219764_n

I have never really had to introduce new cats to each other before; previously I had a single cat, and after he died I got a pair of litter-mates when they were tiny. Furthermore, having not had a kitten in about 9 years, I guess I had forgotten what bringing a baby into our home would entail. Over the last three weeks, I have learned just what acquiring a “free” kitten includes.

A kitten comes with a monetary cost. Immediately upon his arrival, it was necessary for us to purchase another litter box, as vets recommend having one for each cat and an extra. We also discovered we had to buy a “potty training” box: a used 9″ x 13″ cake pan, as his little legs would not enable him to scale the walls of the full-sized boxes. We bought a bag of kitten food and a new food bowl (so he would not be afraid of the scent of the bigger cats). We also took him, within a day of bringing him home, to the vet for his first check-up and to get his shots. The next week we had to bring him to the vet’s because he had a respiratory infection that is common to cats who are born on farms. Free kittens will cost you quite a bit of dough up front.

11329764_10205906092067242_644109690277529000_nA kitten disrupts the flow of the home into which it is introduced. Each comes with its own temperament, and, therefore, its own rules, by which all household members must play. When we brought Hannibal in, we had all the fears and hopes of any new pet parent: would he be healthy, would he create tension, would he get along with our other cats, would he love us? The first few days were rough, to put it mildly. Tiny little five-week-old Hannibal was terrified, hostile, and fiery. He spit and hissed and bit and scratched everyone; he hid between the door and the wall; he ran from anyone approaching him.

But my husband and I were head-over-heels in love. It’s exhausting keeping watch and standing guard, so Hannibal often fell asleep while sitting up. After he ate, he let me hold him and sing to him and would snuggle in and fall asleep. He often got so caught up in his playing that he would fall asleep in the middle of it. In essence, he was an angel when he was asleep. How could anyone not fall in love with a sleeping ball of fluff? Even more endearing was his tendency to nuzzle in when his guard was down. He showed that, although he was afraid, he could learn to trust us; it was the first sign he was accepting his new family.  11377099_10205927908052628_4119230687361810319_n11429088_10205994352033686_7724427361259011556_n

A kitten costs peace of mind. The constant worries pile up; it is especially true for new mommies. “Why is the baby sneezing so much?” “Where is the baby?” “Did the baby use the litter box yet?” “Did Archimedes just hurt the baby?” “What if the baby uses his claws and scratches out Magellan’s eye?” “If the baby sleeps with us, you’re not going to roll on him, right?” “When are the baby’s next shots?” “Did the baby just hurt himself jumping off the couch?” “What if the baby falls down the stairs?” “How do we get the baby to stop chewing on cords?” “The baby isn’t climbing up my curtains, is he?!” Well, ok, that last thought isn’t so much a worry as a threat, expressed in the form of a question. If you get a kitten, be prepared to replace curtains, move furniture around, cover the couch in blankets, and, essentially, baby-proof your home.

A kitten costs time. It takes time to potty-train a baby. It takes time to feed him in a separate room, watching to make sure that he eats and doesn’t get distracted by other cats’ paws under the door. It takes time to teach him his name and to teach him not to scratch the furniture and to teach him not to bite his brothers’ tails unless he wants them to fight back. I also had to specifically carve out alone time to spend with my other boys (both the other two cats and my husband) and ensure that my time was not consumed with the new kitten. I often had to seek out the other cats, who hid upstairs and downstairs (where Hannibal was, for a time, unable to go — he has since learned to maneuver stairs and is an unstoppable force). I had to reassure them that, although I was spending so much time with the baby, it didn’t mean I loved them any less.11215807_10205957227265590_2406978983197072906_n11254288_10206161078001731_47836632477146075_n

A kitten costs all your peaceful, quiet afternoons. Kittens love to play — to scratch, bite, pounce, and bound away. They particularly love to ambush whoever accidentally moves in their vicinity. It is how they learn and it is their instinct. They are the masters of guerrilla warfare. If you bring a kitten home, be ready for nonstop attack mode. Unfortunately, not everyone in this house enjoys playing. In fact, no one does. We have learned diversion techniques (tossing toys across the room). We have bought mechanical toys to distract his attention for several minutes at a time. We have cruelly but without regret drawn the other cats into the “game” through the use of feather wands and food (which, notably, they did not appreciate in the least). Fortunately, over the past few weeks, all three cats are starting to become much more accustomed to each other and are spending some time together voluntarily. The older ones might even be starting to like the baby, despite his never-ending energy and their complete lack of desire to play with him…or with each other.1471338_10206070604059939_4157556326881593652_n11659317_10206153293127114_6421831474576771216_n

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A kitten will prevent you from doing many things that need to get done during the day. As previously stated, they enjoy playing, and it doesn’t matter with whom: with people, with other cats, with their own tails. They tire themselves out through play, and thus (like all babies) tend to sleep afterwards. You will get nothing done when a kitten is sleeping on you, because you are terrified of disturbing it, waking it, and being forced to fend off the needle-sharp claws and teeth with which it will retaliate. So you will just lay quietly and let it sleep.

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Finally, a kitten will cost you sleep. Kittens are basically nocturnal. They sleep a lot during the day and are far more active at night. Your new kitten will keep you awake by bringing toys with bells into the bed for playtime. It will bite your toes if you happen to shift them slightly. It will scratch you as it climbs you like a mountaineer on Everest. It will knead you and chew your hair. It will wake you up several times a night (though, perhaps not intentionally). It will purr loudly and make you love it. It may even put you to sleep by doing it. 11665747_10206160606949955_6609770067023629341_n
Enjoy your new kitten, but know that it is not, technically, “free.” That is the best part.

Peace and love.17668_10205979425740538_5577552344138097590_n

Success Series Part 2: Drive

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Check out part 1 here.

We have all been asked the question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”. I have a difficult time with this question. I guess I don’t even know why people bother asking, since they don’t truly expect honesty or answers like, “I’m incredibly lazy and won’t do anything productive without prodding” or “I often stay out unbelievably late at night gambling and drinking, so I will frequently show up late — if at all.” The expectation of future employers or college entrance officers is that we will effortlessly spin our flaws into benefits, like, “I’m a perfectionist so I spend way too much time getting everything exactly right” or “I often become so consumed with tasks that I bring work home with me — I just can’t stop thinking about it, even in my free time” or “I take on too much because I am overly eager and a real go-getter.”

My conscience is far too inconsiderate to allow me to ignore my true failings. My answer when posed this question often goes a little something like this: “One of my best qualities is my determination. I am tenacious. I am headstrong. And, fine, I will admit it: I am bordering on stubborn. One might even call me obstinate. If I feel I am justified, I dig in my heels — admittedly, being inflexible is possibly my worst quality.” And then I blush. I’ve never really learned to quit when I’m ahead.

So, let me see if I can spin this quality back into a positive.

I am proud of my ability to set a goal and work to reach it single-mindedly. It is my perseverance that has enabled me to get good grades, graduate from college, pay off most of my student loans, quit smoking, and lose a considerable amount of weight. (I am not discussing the impact of having a loving family or strong support system here — while those, too, are keys to success, they are so important that they will be in a separate blog post.)

Even though it hurts to acknowledge that being strong is often seen as unattractive or undesirable, I can’t allow that to intimidate me into being weak. I am a principled person, and when I am relentless or tough, it’s because I feel I must be. I stand firm when I believe it is not just the right thing, but the only thing, to do.

Despite being called “unyielding” and “unreasonable” by both loved ones and strangers, I find that it is my rigidity that has enabled me to survive hardship, bullying, and many new beginnings. I don’t let obstacles prevent me from doing what I need to do to find happiness. I go over, under, or around whatever is blocking my path to success.

Sometimes, that blockade was put in place by me. Sometimes, it was left by others. But it is my willpower, my unwavering desire, my belief that I CAN, which has allowed me to clear those hurdles one by one. It is my steadfastness that has let me heal from rejection, unfairness, and tragedy.

It is my dedication, my diligence, my drive that has led me to the life I have today. How can that possibly be a negative?

Peace and love.4332_1149745819631_369708_n

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

Success Series Part 1: Happiness

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People are always looking for the “key” to success. I am by no means a “life expert” — a term I’ve heard thrown around but don’t actually fully understand. How does one become a life expert? By living? In that case, all who are currently alive would qualify, technically. I digress. I am just going to do some thoughtful analysis (let’s call it creative and active thinking because it has an acronym of CAT) in a new blog series.

What determines whether someone is “successful” in life? There are far too many variables and opinions to give a definitive answer; that being said, a point on which most would agree is “achieving happiness.”

What makes one person happy would, however, not necessarily be fulfilling, exciting, or satisfying for another. I can state with complete certainty that I would not be happy as the ring leader of a rodent circus; someone right at this moment, though, is elated that they have finally realized their lifelong dream of dressing up, training, and touching rats all day long (I just can’t even…oh my word).

Unfortunately, people often rely on others to make themselves happy. They “need” a boyfriend or girlfriend, they “wish” they were popular, they “can’t live without” their cell phones, and they “would just die” if they were publicly humiliated. This type of mindset is detrimental to true happiness, which can only be found inside oneself. Other people’s opinions of my life are not something I care to lose sleep over; I do what makes me feel good, and surround myself with like-minded people. I wasted a lot of time in the past, trying to please everyone else (which, as has been famously said by one far wiser than myself, is an impossibility), and my personal happiness was often placed as the lowest priority. That, I realize now, was a mistake.

I am not attempting to say that one should always thoughtlessly choose his or her own desires over others’ at all times. That would be selfish and narcissistic, and would inevitably lead to unhappiness in the long run. I am saying that, in general, the things on which we should focus the most time and energy are the things which provide not just short-term happiness but will also lead to contentment and satisfaction over time.

Let me elaborate a little on this point. To use an analogy, I love cheesecake (I am pretty sure it loves me, too, but is afraid of commitment). Eating it makes me happy. Imagine this scenario: I choose one evening to eat an entire cheesecake for dinner, blatantly refusing to share any with my husband. It is fulfilling and full of creamy deliciousness right away. But it makes me sick when I attempt to sleep, and my husband is tossing and turning from hunger. The sicker my body feels, the more I regret the cheesecake; the more tired my man grows, the more he resents me. We end up divorcing. He moves on with someone who (begrudgingly) gives him a sliver of her cheesecake. I turn to cheesecake for comfort. I continue eating cheesecake for dinner every evening of my long, lonely, self-centered existence, because I know it makes me happy in the moment. I rue that decision every night, like a vicious cycle. My clothes stop fitting. I stop combing my hair. I can’t understand why I have no friends and am unattractive, so I drown my sorrow with more cheesecake to make myself feel better, if only for a few minutes. Even my many, many cats eventually leave me, refusing to watch me destroy myself. I can’t grasp the reality that something that makes me so happy (cheesecake) causes me to be so unhappy.

Through my long-winded explanation, it is clear that there are many different types of happiness, and even some emotions are mistaken for happiness when they are actually something entirely different. So, how can one avoid the pain of a “false” or “temporary” sense of satisfaction and focus on legitimate, lasting contentment? Henry David Thoreau once stated, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Put simply, honestly self-analyze and figure out what will make you genuinely happy and healthy, and do it as much as you can.

I believe that planning one’s future is essential to his or her future happiness. I don’t mean plan out every last detail down to the exact date (I was supposed to be independently wealthy three years ago, by the way). I mean, one must know what types of things will bring future happiness and what will not. Then, keep focused to make the good things happen and eliminate the bad. We must actively tend the metaphorical garden of our lives: plant our goals on the sunny side, water the dreams daily, fertilize the passions regularly, pull the destructive weeds as soon as they crop up, and watch your happiness bloom.  531553_3963563483314_1887143721_n

One final vow: I will always share my cheesecake with my husband. He makes me happier than all the cheesecake in the world.

Check out part 2 here. Peace and love.404285_2799947473641_945394804_n

Beauty Shaming

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It’s all around us: the obsession with appearance. Celebrities are constantly being praised or humiliated for their appearance by the media. New moms lament over excess baby weight via social media. Models are ridiculed for being too thin yet are continually being hired by top designers to represent a specific image for the brand. Plus-sized advocates loudly protest popular stores that do not cater to that particular clientele. Magazine covers feature airbrushed cover girls looking flawless. Makeup artists demonstrate on online videos how to fake higher cheekbones, cover blemishes, even out imperfections, and contour, blend, and highlight your way to a face that is simultaneously unrealistically gorgeous and impractical for daily life. Those who are caught altering their pictures with Photoshop are criticized. Those who subtly Photoshop their pictures are admired and envied.

And we all pretend that this is normal. We are all victims and perpetrators. We all buy the tabloids or click the link or repost the pictures or feel self-conscious and worthless in comparison to the forgeries presented by the media.

This must stop. For my own sanity, I cannot continue to compare myself unfavourably to images that are not real because they have been “touched up” before being printed. I don’t want to fall into the trap of putting down others to raise myself up. I do not want to be the cause of another person’s pain.

People have so much more to offer than just how they look. It is really the quality of their hearts and intentions of their minds that matter.

Peace and love.IMG_20150206_080514_115