‘Tis the Season to Be . . . Greedy?

I love holidays! I believe God perfectly planned out our 365-day calendar year because holidays are far apart enough to enjoy the anticipation, to look forward to get-togethers and beloved traditions, but aren’t terribly close where they lose meaning and enjoyment. I think my favorite thing to do is get out our children’s books for each season. At this time of year, I make myself wait to get out the Christmas books until December 1. I can’t wait!

But Thanksgiving and Christmas always carry a bit of concern for me. I have a yearly internal and external struggle with greed and teaching the kids the true meaning of gift-giving and being thankful for what you have even when everyone around you seems like they have more. When you were a kid, didn’t everyone else seem to have more? It’s like a childhood curse!

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Someone’s Medicare Plan is Missing Something

Politicians are in a bind. They seem to have a distinct inability to point out something obvious, probably because they’ll lose votes. They’ll piss too many people off. They’ll be booed off the stage. They’ll make too many people uncomfortable, and, as a society, we can’t stand that.

Elizabeth Warren just announced her plans for paying for Medicare-for-All, the socialist system of government funding all medical costs. Her statement had a lot of good, solid information–who pays for what now, who will pay for it when she’s President. And she does point out that medical costs are extravagant, leaving many individuals and families in complete financial turmoil. We do have to do something. The system is broken.

I haven’t watched much of the political debates. I get cranky as soon as the candidates start in on each other and bad mouth each other or bad mouth the current President until they all start to sound the same. So I usually leave the room and listen for my husband to make loud remarks. But I’d like to know how many of them have said that in order to get a handle on these medical expenses and paying for Medicare, we need a healthier country? Isn’t that the most obvious thing we need?!?!? Not that everything is preventable, but for every risk factor we can’t modify (age, sex, heredity, etc), there is one that we can modify (lifestyle choices).

Imagine a political candid saying, “We need to stop smoking, being obese, working long hours at sedentary jobs, getting poor quality sleep, eating junk and junk disguised as healthy, turning to phones and the internet for our mental health, and being crybabies about getting vaccines.” (Boo! Boo!)

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The Haunted Hallows Personality Test

I invented a quick personality test called (aptly), the Haunted Hallows Personality Test. Okay, so the title needs some work, but I thought the idea had some merit, especially with this claim: It will predict your mortality.

Last night, I took my 13-year-old and three of her friends to a part-indoors, part-outdoors haunted attraction called Haunted Hallows. At $18 a pop, this was a part of a birthday gift for her and something that she has wanted to do for four years. Out of my three kids, my 13 year old is probably my most creative, most resourceful, imaginative child, and she has the most vivid dreams. She’s also a little braver than my other two, and she loves Halloween, so this outing was right up her alley.

Out of her three friends, one had been there before, one hadn’t, but was game for it, and the last one had gone before but chickened out and never actually went inside . . . well, that one had a repeat performance.  Even after promises of completely surrounding her with friends, promises of hand-holding, promises that the “actors” were just teenagers in costumes, it wasn’t happening. So my daughter and two of her friends went in without me while I waited with the one at the entrance. I had to block actors from approaching us while she hid behind me. (Luckily, the cashier refunded me two tickets because I was going to be a little perturbed to spend $36 to stand at an entrance for over an hour.)

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Someday, I’ll . . .

Have you ever been to an antique store? Not a fancy, expensive, furniture-heavy antique store, but one of those buildings that host a mishmash of sellers and their booths? Similar to a garage sale, most of the booths at these antique stores have older, nostalgic items, mostly used, usually quite interesting, and sometimes we’ll find things still in boxes or still with original tags. My youngest and middle daughter love those places, which is why we stopped at one on Monday.

You never know what you will find at antique stores. I’m kind of a cheapskate myself, so I don’t spend a lot of money, but I almost always find a good book or small knickknack that I have to rescue. On Monday, I hit a jackpot: A seller was selling five (five!) unused journals! And some of them had thought-provoking quotes or Scripture on the pages, offering a bit of inspiration or possible writing prompt. It was a perfect find for me. I immediately had visions of safe, profound, personal exploration and creative enterprises. Oh boy, oh boy!

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Oh, the Pressure!

I tuned in to a webinar yesterday from Leadercast called “Liberate Your Listener; Liberate Your Leadership,” presented by Executive Coach Amy Balog. Although the intended audience was leaders in the workplace, the information was relevant to anyone who interacts with people, even kids. The overarching challenge presented was, “How do we navigate in this high-demand world?” Given that we live in an unrelenting world of constant change, constant pressure, and too many (fruitless) meetings and activities, and where “everyone is hungry to be heard,” it is no easy journey.

For leaders (in any role—parent, teacher, nurse, representative, etc), what their workers (the “listeners”) are looking for is security. It’s what most people look for on a daily basis while making future plans and while fulfilling responsibilities. As society’s structures, financial systems, and political climate seem more and more unstable, it has become increasingly important for leaders to make listeners feel more secure by developing deeper connections and not only be authentic themselves, but allow their listeners to be authentic as well. As Balog says, real authenticity is a two-way street. In other words, it does a leader no good to go about being “themselves” if no one around them feels safe enough to do the same.

One of the quotes Balog used was from Linda Hill, an American Economist, TED speaker, and professor at Harvard Business School. “Your leadership depends on how people experience themselves when they are with you.” Effective leaders have to develop the skills to be active listeners, not driven by their own agenda, opinions, or responsibilities (something Balog referred to as their wrecking ball). This is especially difficult in meetings where the leader needs to hold the energy in the room by hearing what people are saying, helping people hear each other, helping people hear themselves, and creating a safe space for meaningful dialogue. She even suggested holding some meetings for quicker tasks and action items, and other meetings deliberately set aside for open discussion. But in any situation, when a listener is talking or responding, the leader needs to listen actively and not have their mind on the next meeting or the next deadline or (yikes) the next thing they’re going to say.

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This One Time, at the Orthodontist, I Saw . . .

Yesterday, I had an ethical dilemma that I’d never thought I’d have. I took my two oldest daughters, age 15 and 12, to the orthodontist after school. With two kids in braces, we go to this office at least once a month. The waiting room is usually not packed, but we see a good number of mostly middle school kids/teenagers coming and going with their parents and sometimes younger siblings tagging along. In the waiting room, you have your typical magazines scattered on the tables or in the magazine rack, most appealing to parents rather than children, but anyone is welcome to pick them up and leaf through them while they wait. (They also have Otis Spunkmeyer’s cookies, but the cookies were all gone!!!!)

The ESPN magazine lay on top of the pile on an end table. I don’t normally read ESPN magazine. I had no idea what the “Body Issue” was until I picked it up, thinking it was about working out. With my 12-year-old beside me looking over my shoulder, I slung it open and saw what the Body Issue meant: naked athletes. “Ewww!” my 12-year-old said. “Put it back!” my oldest said before she took it and put it under the pile of other magazines.Then we giggled about it for a while.

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Life Lessons, Day by Day

I believe that lessons are around us on a daily basis, but some lessons are obvious while others are not particularly noticeable unless you go back and evaluate them. Over the last few weeks, I sensed that our household had experienced several life lessons, most pretty typical, some humorous, all unpleasant.

1) Life is full of tests. And tests in school get harder as you age. You will reach a point where memorization doesn’t help you answer critical-thinking questions. But if scores come back low, don’t worry, we have plenty of Kleenex and chocolate in the house for the aftermath. And if your test was tough, get ready to hear Mom and Dad talk about their college exams (in croaky voices), “Back when I was in school . . . ”

2) You can’t plagiarize. This applies even if you are 8 years old. Yes, it’s more work to rephrase information, but let’s not get kicked out of elementary school. Cuteness factor aside, I don’t think 8 year olds are very marketable in the workforce.

3) Life is not fair. You can run for Vice President of a club and think you are the most qualified candidate, but someone more popular than you who wears short, black skirts and who only comes to a handful of meetings throughout the year will come run against you and win. But, cheer up, at least you didn’t spend $53 million on a campaign and have to drop out of the running. (Sorry, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY).

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Didn’t Need to See That, Butt I Did

Every morning that I’m not working, I turn on NBC Channel 4 News from Washington DC. I don’t sit down to watch it, but I’ll catch bits of news as I’m wandering in and out of the living room, occasionally stopping to watch a segment. Well, there was one this morning that really bugged me. And since I have a blog–you get to read about it! And feel free to comment.

“Bicyclist accused of grabbing, slapping women’s buttocks as he rides past them,” we learned. The news program showed a 3-second footage of the accused riding beneath a surveillance camera on a bicycle. They never stopped the footage so viewers could actually try to identify the stupid kid (looks like a teen). For the record, I hope they find him. He deserves the misdemeanor sexual abuse charge he faces, and perhaps he’ll have a spiritual awakening that’ll change his current life trajectory.

But (and that’s a pun, in this case), then the news program showed footage of random women walking–from the waist up, from the rear view, most of them in shorts. I guess they had to do this just in case you wondered what women’s buttocks might have looked like to the offender. Maybe just in case you couldn’t quite picture this offender’s target. Maybe to make sure you knew that if you are walking like this and you have a butt, you might be his next target.

I’m so glad they cleared that up for us.

Subsequently, I spent more time seeing the backsides of women than I did seeing the little sh– on a bicycle. Thank you, NBC, for the education.

Have you ever seen news programs that chose asinine footage to make a point? Please share!