Making it Easy to Give

March 11, 2011

I have a charitable heart, but not a charitable wallet.  I wish the latter could support the former, but that’s just not possible for me right now.

However, I’ve discovered a great, modest way I can give to a good cause. It is simple and easy.

My local grocery store (part of a large regional chain) often has “buy one, get one free” specials.  Usually, I only need one of whatever is on sale, but when I remember to do so, I’ll pickup two and give the second to the food bin they have at the front of the store for donations.

On Wednesdays, they have a “penny item.” If you make $XX amount in purchases, there will be one special item that you can get for a penny. One week it might be toilet paper. Another it might be coffee. You just never know, but it is nearly always something that most people will want or need.  I am trying to get into the habit of paying attention to their penny specials – even if it is something I would not purchase – so that then I can give that item to their food/donation bin.

Back about a month or so ago, when we were in the deep of winter, their penny item was some hot chocolate mix. I didn’t need it as I already had a good supply at home, but I put my penny down and put the hot cocoa over in the donation bin. It made me feel good and smile to myself, because I could imagine some laughing children coming in from playing in the snow, and Mom greeting them with some hot chocolate – perhaps a luxury that they had given up, like all others, when she had lost her job months ago. It made me feel good that my little contribution might bring some happiness and smiles to a family that was facing truly difficult times.

I’m going to try to pay more attention at the store and try to do this on a regular basis. Another $2, $3, or even $5 on my grocery bill won’t be that noticable to me – especially when the posted prices are buy one get one – and it could make a real difference to a hurting family.  If I find that I’m getting in a tight spot myself, in between paychecks, I can still use a penny to make a contribution, and help someone who truly may have no other aid.

I’m glad that my local store makes it so easy for me to give. Maybe you’ll find your store does this, too.

© 2011, writingreading

Word of the Year (2011) – Real

January 1, 2011

I still feel a little uncertain about this, but this year (2011), I’m choosing “real” as my word of the year.

I want my dream of writing a book to become real this year. Well – correction — I’m already writing it.  So it is becoming real. But I want to get done with it. Submit it to the publisher. Make it move from manuscript to finished “reality” – a published book.

I also realize I need to do a little “getting real” with myself, too. Real-ly- what do I want out of life, myself, my career, my  geographic location, the place I call home? Where is “home”, real-ly, for me? What do I want to become real in my life in the coming year?

What is the real issue(s) between myself and my family member(s) that makes in-person communication so painful? What is really behind all of my anger, which seems increasingly manifesting itself in my life, even when I try to put reins on it and bring it under my control, like a startled and panicky horse. I thought I’d gotten past the point of being an angry temperamental child decades ago. Apparently not.

The promising starts I made on some new efforts this past fall – will they become real, too? It’s hard to know, very ethereal by nature – but I suppose I will “know them when I see them.”

And now, let me look briefly back. My words last  year were:

Persistence and Patience

Both of them I chose mostly as they related to my book. Well, the book is still in progress, though I’m much much further along now than when I posted on New Year’s of 2010. My persistence has definitely paid off, because I really am very close to nearly finishing up my manuscript.

Patience….well, I always need help with patience. It is just not in my nature to be patient. I noticed this with family over the holidays. Not pretty.  But I am trying to be patient with myself as I continue working on my book.  And having faith that I will be able to see it through to completion. I want to make it REAL. I believe it will be, very soon, in 2011.

© 2011, writingreading

When Old News is New News

July 22, 2010

I’m sure there must be a name for it, though I don’t know what it is.

I’m talking about the phenomena of finding out something, long after the fact, and feeling a shock as if the event just occurred.

For instance, just tonight, I learned that one of my favorite university presses almost got shut down last year. Last year, mind you. But the shock, worry, and sadness that I feel at this news (even though it is old news) is fresh and real.

A few years ago, I learned more details – maybe too many details, about a friend’s death more than 10 years earlier. I knew she had died, and knew in a general sense what had happened. But when I read a lengthy news article about what had happened – the shock and grief and sadness were all very real, in the present. I was shook up for at least a week, maybe longer. And my grief was made more complex because no one else was grieving this loss – to them, it was all long ago. To me, it was as if her death had just occurred.

I ponder these things because I find it interesting in a philosophical sense how “old news” can have such an emotional impact in the present.  I also have to believe this phenomenon has a name or term to describe it.

I also think something along these lines might make an interesting story line for a short story or maybe even a novel, about a main character who has her world turned upside down by finding out “old news” and its impact on her present life. I’ll have to think on that one, some more.

© writingreading, 2010

Guilty conscience

June 5, 2010

I am guilty.

Others may point fingers at BP and even President Obama, but I must take responsibility. I killed this bird. And hundreds of others. I choked off the dolphin, who washed ashore. My oil, destined for my car, coated and smothered the mighty pelican.

I am guilty.

I will let BP take a great deal of the blame.  But I – I must stand up, weeping, and declare that the oil is on my hands, too. I bear the guilt and the blame. I own a car. I drive it. And it sickens me. I am part of the conspiracy which has brought about this disaster. I am a criminal.

I cannot breathe life into the thousands of birds and sea animals that have died. Seeing the images – particularly the photograph and video taken by AP photographer Charlie Riedel of the valiantly struggling bird weighted down with oil, but struggling on to live – make me cry as I have not cried in years.

David Letterman may jokingly refer to the Gulf Coast as the “Dead Sea” – but that joke is no longer funny. It is painful, and true. This is an environmental holocaust; a low-tech equivalent of a nuclear bomb, annihilating all within its path.

I desperately want to shoot my car, to always walk wherever I must go, no matter how many hundreds of miles – but I know the reality is that I will get in my car again tomorrow, and the next day, and the days and weeks after, and I will kill more animals. I will watch more birds and fish and beautiful creatures die. Their blood, my oil, will soon cover me. I will suffocate myself in my tears. But I will sadly remain unchanged.

Months from now, I may claim I was innocent. That I had nothing to do with this. To “wash my hands.” But mere water cannot remove this guilt, this oil, that clings so close. I leave my blackened handprints everywhere, on all that I touch.

I am guilty.

I want to tell that struggling bird that I am sorry. That I did not mean to take his beautiful, precious life. That he has inspired me in his struggle to remain alive,  to witness his Life Force being so strong, even as it was waning. Watching him die grieves my very soul. I cannot give him his life back.

I am guilty.

© writingreading, 2010

Kudos to Craig!

April 4, 2010

See why talk show host Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show won a Peabody Award for his interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Part 1 – thoughts on good, evil, and the resiliency of the human spirit, and some delightful laughter from the Archbishop

Part 2 – about suffering and forgiveness, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa

Part 3 – the power of telling one’s story; the Archbishop’s reflections on the election of Barack Obama, and his attendence at the Inauguration

What Craig learned that night.

Craig reflects further on his interview with Archbishop Tutu.

Meditation on Makeup

January 26, 2010

This morning while waiting for the bus, I was seized with a 30-second panic, wondering if I had remembered to put on makeup this morning.

Now, I’m no beauty queen and I don’t spend hours in front of a mirror, but I know better than to leave the house for work without makeup on. I reassured myself that yes, I did everything I needed to do to prepare myself for work and I needn’t worry.

But this got me to thinking – why is it that we, as women, have taken on and accepted as a part of our consciousness that we are incomplete, faulty, most of all, embarrassed – if we don’t wear our makeup? We can’t bear to look ourselves in the mirror – and we cringe at the thought of others seeing us – as we really are.

This is especially hard for teenage girls, when they are beginning to form this consciousness. Oh sure, part of the makeup is that it is fun; part of it is experimenting to find their own “look” – but I believe that the makeup obsession is part of the reason why young women give up their souls – their identity – their strength and their heart – as they go through adolescence.  (Think I’m exaggerating? Read the classic Reviving Ophelia and others like it.)

This morning, when the wind whipped my hair and my makeup faded as my skin paled against the cold, I recalled an incident many years ago, where I first came to realize how the makeup issue can so powerfully affect a woman’s self-esteem.

I was camping (no makeup needed or expected here) and most of the other campers were some good guy-friends and a few families.  One of the families had a teenage son, about 16 or so. Poor guy, he had horrible acne.

I thought – wow – if he were a girl, he would be devastated – but at least she could cover it up with makeup. As a boy, of course, he did not have that option.

I realized if I were in a similar situation – bad skin, right out there for the world to see – that I’d have to “power through” it – I’d just have come to terms with it and move on.  It would actually give me confidence. Self-determination. Inner strength.  What a contrast to what it is like as a girl.

Even though I never had such a severe problem as his,  I realized for myself – even as a grown woman – a blemish here and there would seem catastrophic. I had to cover it up! I couldn’t let anyone see – that I was less than perfect. That I was not completely in control of my own skin and appearance.  That without makeup I was a failure – less of a woman, less of a professional – a perfectly capable but physically (and therefore, by extension, perhaps in other ways, too) flawed human being. Putting all of my failings – by that one little  blemish – on display for the world to see.

Even in the camping situation where makeup was not expected and would be pointless and a pain (it was summer after all), I felt insecure.  I saw this young man – and took courage from him. If he could do it – so could I.

This one experience helped me see the vast differences in how – just even in this one small area – we continue to teach and encourage our young men to be confident and secure no matter their situation – and how we do such a disservice to our young girls by buying into the charade that “without my makeup I must die” mentality that we all seem to have in our culture.

I don’t have a teenage daughter, so I don’t know how I would try to balance her need to explore and affirm he own identity – sometimes via makeup – versus losing herself and feeling exposed, embarrassed, and ashamed if she didn’t have makeup. Perhaps sports or another activity would give her a chance to spend equal time experimenting without makeup and give her a chance to discover herself – her confidence, her true, natural beauty, and learn who her real friends – and boyfriends – really are.

Thankfully, I’m old enough now that I no longer have the fear and insecurity that I had when I was younger. I wear makeup or don’t wear makeup as I choose – though clearly I still follow the cultural expectation that I shouldn’t leave the house without it. (And I panic if I forget!)

© writingreading, 2010

Floating Rocks

January 19, 2010

I went to the park yesterday, and was puzzled when I first saw them. Large football-sized grey rocks that were apparently floating on the surface of a lake. I did  a  double take, then a triple take. Yes, they were there, on the surface. But it was only when I looked closer that I realized the lake was still frozen. That’s how the rocks “floated.”

It was 50 degrees, and the multi-week cold spell of below freezing temperatures had finally abated. It was a sunny and pleasant day. So the last thing I expected was to see floating rocks. They were slightly down into the ice, and the ice was clear, not white – so it really did look like they were floating.

About an hour and a half later, when I passed back by, the scene was even more intriguing. The rocks had absorbed heat from the sun, and had begun to melt the ice around them. They were sitting in puddles. But there was still enough ice underneath them to bear their weight although the ice was invisible. Now with the puddles forming, it truly had the appearance of large rocks floating on the surface of the lake. It was a fascinating visual riddle.

But this natural optical illusion was thought-provoking beyond the literal. How often do I see a problem as insurmountable – only to realize later that I merely had the wrong perspective.  Too often, I cling to my own stubborn views, without ever considering that they might not be as solid and reliable as I assume.

If someone had told me they saw large rocks floating on a lake, I’d say they were crazy. But I saw it myself, I know it is true. Perhaps, not in the most literal sense – they weren’t floating, after all – but at least in a metaphorical, visual, illusory sense, they were. To me, that tells me that even the impossible can become possible, given the right circumstances and the right perspective.

I’ll need to remember this the next time I get discouraged about my book, when progress seems slow, when it seems like I may never get done. I will remember these floating rocks, and I will believe that the impossible is just a figment of my imagination – and that the rock that stands in my way, is really just a stepping stone to help me across an otherwise dangerous or impassable path.

© writingreading, 2010