Seeing the best in life's challenges

Strong Opinions

I can have a very strong opinion about something, but that doesn’t mean I think anyone else has to agree with me.

For instance, I can love the color purple.  I can decide that I want to wear only purple clothes, and paint my room purple, and drive a purple car.  But of course I wouldn’t expect others to do the same.  They can like whatever color they choose!

Then again, I might discover a really great hair product, say a shampoo that I think smells really great and is inexpensive.  I might love it so much, that I would tell all my friends (or maybe anybody that would be willing to listen!) about how great it is, and that they should try it.  But I would also realize that what works for one person might not work for another, so of course I wouldn’t get offended if they didn’t drop their current shampoo and start using my favorite.  But, I would be glad that I shared my discovery, because maybe one of my friends might find it to be a favorite, too!

For some reason, though, this kind of “sharing” becomes a little more tricky when the subject matter gets more “serious.”

There are people who believe something very strongly, and can’t stop “evangelizing” about their beliefs or opinions.  And there are others who refuse to listen to anything outside of their current belief system.

The example I think of, is my experiences with the health benefits of going to a chiropractor.  I used to get headaches that would last 3 days, and it seemed I got them every 2 weeks.  I would get really grumpy, and I was taking a lot of Advil, which I wasn’t happy with either.

So really, I got to the point where I thought, I’ll try the chiropractor, it can’t hurt anything.  Well, to make a long story short, I have eliminated my headaches, and I feel so much better in so many ways.

I had such a good experience, of course I tell people about it!  Of course, I hope that others give it a shot (if they have issues that might be helped), and I hope that they have a similarly good experience.  But, they might not, and that’s ok.  I figure sharing my experience can’t hurt, right?

But I don’t push others to go or persist in telling them what to do.

There are some people who will just not consider a chiropractor.  I know some who say they just can’t get comfortable with the idea of someone “cracking” their back or neck.  Hey, that’s their prerogative.  I might think it would be worth it to get over that fear, but that’s their choice to make.

But there are others who will quickly jump to preconceived judgments – chiropractors are quacks, alternative medicine is weird, whatever.  There are deeply rooted assumptions of what is “right” and what is “wrong.”

If I have a strong opinion about something, and it only affects me, and I don’t impose my opinion on someone else…….should anyone else spend their energy deciding whether I am “right” or “wrong”?

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Perfect Teeth

Today is the beginning of Part 2 of Orthodontics.

Part 1 started a few years ago when I took my oldest to the practice my dentist recommended.  The introductory visit started with a 10 or 15-minute video, which shared the stories of many of the people whose lives had been changed by getting their teeth perfect.  We listened to the woeful stories of those whose smiles were previously inadequate, whose lives were less than what they could be….and how these people were saved by braces.  Now they could live life to the fullest and feel good about themselves.  Ok, I understand the whole marketing thing, but it still made me uncomfortable.

Next, an exceedingly sweet woman interviewed my oldest.  He was anxious to correct his overbite, as he had not enjoyed being called “Bugs Bunny” by the eighth grade son of his middle school principal.  (Yeah, that’s another story, and was a great learning experience as well as a tough period of time.)

Since my daughter was there, too, they decided to have a look at her next.  The woman sweetly asked something like, “how do you feel about your smile?”  to which my daughter replied something like, “fine.”  THEN, the woman said something that started off, “No, really….”


Which is why we are going elsewhere for her braces.  And, believe me, I realize we may have a similar experience.

Look, they did a beautiful job on my son’s teeth.  It’s not that.  And I realize I am swimming upstream here.

But I don’t buy into the idea that we have to appear perfect to feel good about ourselves or to be a success in life.  Because the truth is, we will never appear perfect.  Human beings just aren’t made that way.  And I certainly don’t want to teach my kids that they aren’t perfect just the way they are.

I have no problem with wanting to have straight teeth.  It’s nice enough, but it doesn’t define a person.  I have some really wonderful, great friends that have crooked teeth.  Does that make them less valuable as friends?  Does it make them less competent at what they do?

To me, this is an example of an assumption, buying into a cultural norm, that is really motivated by making money, by marketing.  Orthodontists provide a valuable service, but when do we go too far?

I think we go too far when we start encouraging people to fear that they are inadequate, in order to promote a business.

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Faith is accepting the idea that God is in control of everything, and that, under His control, life will unfold in a way that is best for everyone in the long run.

The purpose of life is to experience it and grow from it.  If you view life as a learning experience, absolutely nothing in life needs to be considered “bad”.   No position in life is any better or any worse than any other – each person is in the perfect place for that person.  All the challenges and sorrows are there for a purpose.  All the joys and blessings are there for a purpose.  It is hard to imagine, but each little occurrence that might affect just a few or hundreds or millions of people is just the perfect thing for all of them to experience in their own unique way.  Now THAT is amazing!

First, we have selfish thoughts.  We want things the way we want them, and if they’re not, we get frustrated and angry.  Our view of cause and effect is short-sighted, and gratification is immediate or else.  When events or other people are not participating in the way we want, we get mad.

Next, we figure out ways to influence and control situations.  We don’t want anything bad to happen to our children, so we try to build walls around them to protect them from anything remotely bad.  We learn how to market to others to convince them to buy from our company, attend our school, and we convince them that our way is good and the others are bad.  Eventually, though, we realize that we just can’t control everything.

If we are lucky, next, we let go.  We stop worrying.  We know that God will not give us anything we can’t handle.  We know there is always something to learn in every experience, that there is an opportunity to grow and understand.  We stop planning and start observing.  We go back and become like a child, and let God take care of things.

We’ve made life way too complicated, when it’s really very simple.

“Our purpose is to be just who we are.” — Zach Gill, The Water Song

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Love Actually

It’s almost time to watch Love Actually.

I’ve got two turkeys stuffed and put away in the basement fridge.  Kids are off school.  Tomorrow we’ll have 19 for dinner.  Friday we are going to friends’ for dinner.

Sunday will be here before we know it.  And Sunday night, we watch Love Actually.


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The War on Childhood

Here’s the link to the article by Lenore Skenazy:

Lenore Skenazy is one of my heroes.  She wrote the book Free Range Kids, and I have a link to her blog to the right.

This article, in the Wall Street Journal, should be totally shocking, for the simple reason that we are so used to this mindset, we don’t think a thing of it.

Anyone who knows me, knows my 10-yr old has been taking the public bus to school for the past 4 years.  Yeah, the computer teacher was always there too, up until last year.  Now, she takes it by herself, although there are usually some high schoolers on there, too.  She knows most of the adults on the bus, since they are regulars who are headed off to work.  We see them occasionally, and she’ll say, “oh, that guy rides my bus.”

She has had “practice” in how to react when things go wrong (the bus broke down once, and they had to wait for the next one);  how to avoid someone acting weird (ok, it happens, and she knows just to stay away or sit close to the bus driver); and what to do if the bus doesn’t show (“I’d just take the 7:25” said in a very matter-of-fact manner.)

We just had her parent-teacher conference this morning.  Everyone raves about her.  She is so self-sufficient, confident, takes charge.  Very self-aware.  She’s amazing.


Look, I understand the kid was born with a take-charge personality, and not every kid is ready for these things at the same time.  But the idea of someone telling me she would not be capable of doing certain things just because of her age….oooh, that gets me worked up.

In case you can’t get to Lenore’s article, here it is:


Ten is the new two. We live in a society that insists on infantilizing our children, treating them as helpless babies who can’t do a thing safely or successfully without an adult hovering nearby.

Consider the schools around the country that no longer allow kids to be dropped off at the bus stop unless there’s a guardian waiting to walk them home—even if home is two doors down.

Or how about all the libraries I’m hearing about that forbid children under age eight or 10 or 12 to be there without an adult—including in the children’s room? God forbid a kid wants to spend the afternoon reading books by herself.

Over in Europe (where I guess they’ve got nothing else to worry about), the European Union just ruled that children under age eight should always be supervised when . . . wait for it . . . blowing up a balloon. It’s just too darn dangerous. A child could choke! And those little whistle things that uncurl when you blow into them? Those have been classified “unsuitable” for children under age 14. (And somehow they’re suitable for kids above 14?)

The point is: Children are not being allowed to grow up and do the normal things we did as kids, out of the fear that, just maybe, something bad could happen. As if all the good things that happen—from exercise to independence to the joy of blowing up a balloon—don’t matter at all. All that matters is the possibility of risk.

When that’s your focus, nothing seems safe enough, which is why park districts are removing merry-go-rounds (kids could fall off!). A New Jersey day-care owner I spoke with was ordered to saw off all tree branches on her property that were lower than eight feet off the ground. Why? Because kids could run into them. They might even (I shudder to write this) climb them.

Which brings us to the latest casualty in this war on childhood: Train travel. As of Nov. 1, Amtrak raised its unaccompanied minor age from eight to 13. Whereas last month your third grader could get on the train, give the conductor a ticket, and proudly ride to the station where grandma (or, more likely, your ex) was waiting, now you and your kid have to wait another five years. Thirteen is the new eight.

This might make some sense if Amtrak had been experiencing a rash of child kidnappings, or pre-teens gone wild, but that is not the case at all. The government-subsidized train service announced it was making the change “not in response to any incidents,” but rather out of “an abundance of concern . . .”

So Amtrak did this for no good reason? That’s an impressive management style: Change your whole policy because, uh . . . well . . . everyone else is treating kids like babies, so why not follow the crowd?

As for Amtrak’s “abundance of concern,” it doesn’t seem quite abundant enough to cover all the parents who can’t afford an extra ticket, or time off work, but who trust their tweens to get from point A to point B, as generations of kids have done—and still do.

In Japan there is a special fare for unaccompanied minors under age six. The Japanese believe their kids can function independently. But over here, even when Amtrak does allow minors to travel on their own, look at the rules it imposes: 13 to 15 year olds must wear a special wrist band identifying them as youngsters. They cannot travel after 9:05 p.m. They cannot get off at an unmanned station. An adult must be at both ends to sign them in and drop them off.

Why not just put them in a crate with a chew toy and be done with it?

There is one more requirement for teens traveling on Amtrak alone. They also must be “interviewed by station personnel to determine if the child is capable of traveling alone.” So here’s an idea: Do away with the age restrictions and go with a basic interview for all the minors who want to travel solo. If they can tell you where they’re going, how they’ll know when to get off, and what they plan to do for supper, let them ride the rails.

There’s a difference between minors and babies. But if we never let the babies grow up and have some adventures on their own, they could end up as befuddled as Amtrak officials.

Ms. Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of

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A Poem about being connected

Life is a puzzle


The pieces always changing

Forever rearranging

Each piece grows

Each one of us flows

Into the others


Love is the tie that binds us

Always reminds us

Are we ever gonna find us?

Fear is the shadow that blinds us

Let it go


You touch me in some small way

It might not happen every day

But where there’s love we’re bound

That “Perfect Fit” is found

Forever and timeless


We can change (it’s ok)

Forever rearrange

Constantly moving

Always grooving

Forever One


(Just a poem I wrote in about June of 2010.  Makes me think about the movie “I AM”.  The message is, we are all connected.  “Perfect Fit” is a Van Morrison song I like.)

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Do You Believe It?

This is a story from back when I was on the Children’s Sermon circuit at my church.  I don’t remember the first one I did, but I did get a good response and was asked to do them on a regular basis.  I got into a kind of routine when preparing for them.

I’m not sure how or why it went this way.  It was almost like a game I would play with myself.  I would just decide that God would help me come up with a good idea.  I would not let myself stress about what I was going to say.  I just trusted that it would come to me.

I would wait until the day before or so, take a look at what the scripture was for that week, open the Bible, read that, read whatever else seemed to jump out at me.  I would just see what popped into my head.

So, the scripture one week was about doubting Thomas, the story in John 20.  After the women find that Jesus’ body is gone from the tomb, the disciples go and see this for themselves.  Then Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and later to the disciples.  But Thomas is not there at the time, and he refuses to believe the others when they say that Jesus appeared to them.

Typical human behavior, right?  It’s hard enough to know what to believe sometimes in relatively simple daily circumstances.  What about situations that are totally outside of our normal experiences?  Other people, even those you trust, can tell you something, and you might want to believe them, but there are some things you just have to see for yourself.

So I have to regress and tell you about what we had going on at our house at the time.  A friend of ours lives in the country and has chickens.  We stopped by his house with the kids for a visit.  My friend took them to the henhouse, and let them pick some eggs.  My oldest, in typical fashion for him, asked if these eggs would hatch.  Without hesitation, our friend said, sure, when I was a kid, we would make our own incubator and hatch them.  The idea was planted.

So, we took those eggs home, and they sat on the kitchen counter for 4-5 days.  All the while, my son kept asking if we could try to hatch them.  He is a very persistent kid.  My husband finally bought an incubator, I bought the “Raising Chickens” book, and we got them set up.  We went through all the motions, but we never expected to actually hatch anything.

Well, right on time, we hatched a chick.  He lived in a bathroom for a while, then the mudroom, and later spent his days in the yard eating bugs.   Oh, and I should say, we live within the city limits.

An idea popped into my head – what’s more unbelievable to a kid at a City church, than a chicken trying to eat your cereal in the morning?  It sounds ridiculous.  So… I took a picture of that chicken next to my cereal bowl, with me in the same clothes I wore to church that day.

I told the kids we were going to play a game called “Do You Believe It?”  I would tell them something, and they would get to vote on whether they believed it or not.  I came up with some things that were easy to agree with, and some that were really silly.

THEN, I said, “A chicken tried to eat my cereal this morning, do you believe it?”  Of course they didn’t.  Then I said to them, well, I have witnesses – and I asked each of my kids individually if they believed it, and of course they said yes.  I asked the group again, and they still didn’t believe it.  THEN I pulled out the picture – and asked them again.  The point was made – even with a picture, this situation still seemed unbelievable.


That picture was taped to the pastor’s door for a long time.  It was a funny and memorable children’s time!!

When I encounter something that seems unbelievable, I try to keep an open mind.  I could have a life-changing experience that is even hard for me to believe, I could know it to be “true” with every ounce of my being, but it may be all but impossible for even a close friend to believe it.  And I have to remember, that when someone tells me something that seems unbelievable, I can’t judge what they know to be true.

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I find this a fascinating subject.  There is so much conflicting information in the world today.  How does one decide what is true and what is false?  What is believable?  Who can you trust?

The easiest way to determine credibility is by association.  We can assume that ALL persons associated with a certain group or label or background are credible, or not.  All girl scouts are honest.  All senior citizens are wise.  All drug addicts are unreliable.  All doctors give good medical advice.  The teacher is always right.  He has a degree in that, so he must know what he’s talking about.  Experts are always right.

We all know that blanket generalizations of who you can trust aren’t always accurate.  But we tend to follow them until we learn otherwise.  Face it, investigating every source of information would be just exhausting and impossible.  We have to make value judgments about who we can and can’t trust, or we couldn’t function!  But we all know these generalizations sometimes don’t work, and sometimes the consequences can be bad!

I would argue that deciding whether a SOURCE is credible is different than determining whether a message rings true.  Is a source you believe is reliable ALWAYS right?

If you decide someone is credible, do you believe EVERYTHING they say?

Well, let’s do a little exercise in pushing the limits of our open minds…..NOTHING shuts down an open mind faster than politics or religion….right?

So here’s an interesting test, because it involves both politics and religion.  Following is a quote.  The subject matter is religious (a verse from the Bible) and the person who said it is/was a well-known politician.  Read it.  Do you agree or not?

“But the most important thing is what St. Paul said.  He’s the most important Christian writer.  His words are written closest in time to when Jesus was alive – the Pauline letters.  That great long chapter, the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, which is about love, which is often read at weddings – you know, love is not boastful or jealous, really is wrongly read at weddings, because it’s not about romantic love.  It’s about agape, the love of community, a loving attitude toward your fellow human being.  The last verse that everybody knows is “and now abideth faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.”  For a politician or a citizen, it’s not the most important (verse).  In the two verses above it, Paul talks about comparing life on earth with life in heaven with God, and in the King James version, he says, “For now I see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face;  now I know in part; but then I will know even as also I am known.”

Why is it important to have a loving attitude toward all human beings?  Because you see through a glass darkly.  Because human beings are fallible and make their very best effort.  So I think people should carry their faith and their values into politics, but there needs to be enough humility to know, just as St. Paul said, you are not in possession of the absolute truth.  I don’t care if you’re a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican.  I don’t care if you’re a Muslim, Christian or Jew.  Or Baha’i, Hindu or Buddhist.  You are not in possession of the absolute truth.  You see through a glass darkly.  You know it in part.  That means that you might be wrong.  Once you recognize that you might be wrong, you can deal with anybody, work out anything and go forward, even as you fight hard for what you believe is right.  It’s the single most important lesson for democratic societies in a time of resurgent religiosity.  Once you accept that, all else is possible.  Once you reject it, you’re going to have chaos, conflict, anarchy, violence or, in the context of American politics, bitter polarization and personal vilification.   And it’s totally unnecessary.  All you’ve got to do is give that up.  Then you can take your values to work and do the best you can.”

–Ladies’ Home Journal, November 2005, page 155

Does it frustrate you that you don’t know who said this?  Have you made an assumption about who it is? Are you afraid of who you might be agreeing with?  Why does it matter who said it?  What if it’s not who you think?  Would that change whether you agree or disagree with the message?

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An Attitude of Gratitude

by Anne Brenoff on November 15, 2011

I have a friend who I use instead of Prozac. Whenever life feels overwhelming, I call her and ask her to lunch. Apparently, she’s the drug of choice for many people because her calendar is always heavily booked; I love that she squeezes me in when I use the secret emergency code words “It’s been so long since we’ve talked!”

I can talk to Jae Wu about anything and she hears me. Notice, I didn’t say she listens. Lots of people listen — my dog listens if I hold a cookie in my hand — but no, Jae actually hears. She nods sometimes when I’m speaking, but mostly what she does is hear me. Jae never feels compelled to rush in and fill the pause of a conversation the way I do. She also hears the silence.

Jae’s life is not without complications of its own. She owns a successful real estate firm on the Westside of Los Angeles — and holds the distinction of probably being the only top-producing real estate agent in LA who has never tried to get me to write about one of her listings. Jae is also mom to two boys, one with special challenges. When she learned of her son’s diagnosis, she did what Jae does: She kept breathing.

I met Jae quite by fate, since as Jae taught me, there are no such things as coincidences. Awhile back, I founded a women’s networking group for entrepreneurs. One month, our keynote speaker canceled at the last minute and someone suggested Jae as a fill-in. She came, she spoke, and nobody in the room budged from their seats for the next few hours. Jae not only hears; when she speaks, she speaks from the heart.

Once you meet Jae, you become part of her circle, one of her peeps. She “match-makes” among her minions, sending new and interesting friends your way. You need something? She knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. And she means it.

From the day I met her, I’ve wanted to unravel the mystery of Jae. How is it that she carries such a full load and doesn’t let it weigh her down? I’m a spiritual person, and by and large a happy person — but Jae has this calmness about her that sets her apart. When Jae enters a room, she becomes its center. How is that?

Jae says she wakes up each morning and before moving from the bed, she mentally runs down everything she is grateful for. She makes lists in her head of all that is right with the world, all that she loves, all that she is looking forward to that day, tomorrow and the next. She thinks about how she can make all the people she knows happy. She does this every day. She starts her day with an attitude of gratitude.

Jae Wu’s life isn’t any less stressed or complicated than mine or yours — far from it. It’s that she knows something we know but don’t always remember. She knows that like beauty, happiness — dare I say inner peace? — is in the eye of the beholder. She knows it feels better to give than to get, to share than to hoard. She knows the difference between needs and wants. She knows that kind people trump mean ones, that your burdens are lighter when shared and that every day is a gift awaiting your unwrapping. She knows that even in the face of illness, there is life to be lived between the cracks.

I keep hoping that her attitude of gratitude will rub off on me. But for now, I am just grateful to be having lunch with her Thursday.

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Simplicity and Open-Heartedness

The following is something I found online back in 2006, I believe:

“The elder delivered a simple, direct message. He called for human beings to come together in support of life and light. Right now each person and group is going his or her own way. The elder … said there is hope if the people of the light can come together and unite in some way.

Reflecting on this, Mr. Barrios explained: “We live in a world of polarity: day and night, man and woman, positive and negative. Light and darkness need each other. They are a balance. Just now the dark side is very strong, and very clear about what they want. They have their vision and their priorities clearly held, and also their hierarchy …”

“On the light side everyone thinks they are the most important, that their own understandings, or their group’s understandings, are the key. There’s a diversity of cultures and opinions, so there is competition, diffusion, and no single focus.”

As Mr. Barrios sees it, the dark side works to block (oneness) through denial and materialism. It also works to destroy those who are working with the light to get the Earth to a higher level. They like the energy of the old, declining (world), the materialism. They do not want it to change.

They do not want (oneness). They want to stay at this level, and are afraid of the next level.

The dark power of the declining (world) cannot be destroyed or overpowered. It’s too strong and clear for that, and that is the wrong strategy. The dark can only be transformed when confronted with simplicity and open-heartedness. This is what leads to (oneness). “

A couple of years later, I found that Carlos Barrios published a book called The Book of Destiny.  It’s a really interesting book about the Mayan perspective on the world.

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