A friend just had to say goodbye to her beloved pet. My cousin just lost his Mom and his dog in less than a year. Two years ago, I stood by as a family of a former student laid their daughter to rest and a co-worker buried her husband.
So much pain and grief.
I find myself without words.
I realize nothing I can possibly say will make it better. My words are not going to heal the pain or make it go away… and silence doesn’t help either– I hurt a friend deeply when I didn’t reach out– because I didn’t know what to say.
I am here.
It’s the best thing I can think of to tell someone. Maybe that’s all they need to hear– to know that you are thinking of them, that you stand with them, you’re there to listen and that you share their grief.
When I find myself confronted with someone’s loss, I get frustrated and angry that I don’t have the right words to express how I feel. No words can truly express the love, the sorrow, and the empathy– wanting to reach out but not clearly knowing the right way to do it. I have experienced loss in my life and I know that no one else can feel or has felt it the way I do. Sometimes it feels like people say things because they should, not because they understand. I cannot pretend to know exactly what someone else is feeling, which makes it so difficult to know what words to say.
I am here.
Nothing makes me angrier than to hear someone belittle someone else’s grief.
“Why are they so upset? It was only a pet.”
“They hardly knew them! Why are they so emotional?”
How dare anyone be so unkind and unfeeling! What right does anyone have to judge someone else’s grief?
Loss is Loss.
My animals are my children. Losing them is a traumatic experience. They are members of my family. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that. They’ve either never had a pet, or never taken the time to bond with them in the way I do. But- some people do understand how real that loss can be and that it can be as, or even more devastating than the loss of a person.
A friend of mine, battling leukemia, said that she’s had people say things to her like– “Don’t worry, it will get better.” or, “You’ll be fine.” She told me how angry it makes her feel because it isn’t fine. It just isn’t.
So, what are the right words to say?
I wish I had the answer.
To all my friends, acquaintances and those that may be reading this that I have never met… I do feel your pain. When you grieve, I grieve with you. I just wish I knew the right words to say. The best I can think of is: I am here for you.
Do you use coupons? Are you obsessed with it? Do you avoid coupons because they are more of a nuisance or are you embarrassed to use them?
If any of you have seen TLC’s Extreme Couponing, you’ve seen people buy hundreds of dollars in merchandise for pennies on the dollar. I’ve heard for years of people doing this but seeing it in action makes me crazy. First, the people literally spend hundreds of hours collecting and sorting coupons and then they have whole rooms dedicated to storing their treasures. Most all the stories I’ve seen, feature people that have stores that double the coupon value, enabling them to get items for free or close to it. I have yet to find any local stores that do this, making these kinds of savings in my neck of the woods, nearly impossible.
Does anyone really need 500 tubes of toothpaste or 700 rolls of paper towels? The people on the show call it stocking up but I call it hoarding. In their defense, many of the extreme couponers keep only what they need and donate much of what they buy to local food pantries, which I think is an excellent idea. My question is: Why can’t I find these bargains?
I actually helped a friend move a few years ago and they had tubs and bins of deodorant, soap, razors, etc. that were purchased with coupons. Most of those items have a long shelf life– but they also had an overstock of perishable items that had expired. I, of course, gave them a hard time about it and we had a good laugh over it– but seriously– when is a bargain really a bargain?
I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like to save money. The trick with coupons is knowing if you are really saving money. Coupons are a marketing gimmick. Manufacturers use coupons to entice you to either try a new product or switch brands. The questions you need to ask yourself are: 1) Do I need, or would I purchase this anyway? and 2) Is this brand a better value than my regular or store brand? Consumer confidence plays a big role in purchasing but many people don’t have the luxury of buying certain name brands. The bottom line is that people make purchases that they feel comfortable with. Another importance part of perception is quality vs. quantity. Are you really getting the same value?
Where Do You Shop?
There are many options out there when it comes to grocery shopping– and again, a lot of the choice has to do with people’s comfort and perception. Local chains, discount markets, buyers’ clubs and specialty markets all have their pros and cons. Most will accept manufacturer’s coupons and some will take coupons from other stores. You have to know the individual store’s policies ahead of time. I’m finding I can’t just go to one store anymore for a number of reasons. First, I might not like the quality of all their selections or they may not carry particular brands. Second, I’m trying to increase my fresh and healthy eating and the most convenient local grocery chain has serious issues with the freshness of their meat and produce. I can’t shop once for the week there because the fresh products will spoil. In fact, I won’t buy fresh meat unless I’m going to use it that day because too many times the meat has turned by the next day.
Another thing to consider is value. Buyers’ clubs are not always the cheapest. I think that is a misconception I’ve run in to on multiple occasions. You can save substantially buying some items in bulk but not others. Chances are individual items are the same price or slightly more expensive at buyers’ clubs than other stores because they believe you’ll pay the higher cost because of the convenience and savings on your overall bill.
My Coupon Experiment
So for the past six months I’ve been trying to be conscious of shopping sales, couponing and finding the best values. The best way to save is often by combining the store sales with the coupon discounts. Many times I’ll find a comparable product that is a better value than the sale, the coupon or both combined. The biggest mistake is to go and buy a product just because you have a coupon for it. Another thing I’ve found is that many items with coupons are not on sale the week the coupon comes out but might be on sale the following week. Most manufacturer coupons have an extended expiration date. So if an item isn’t on sale, you may want to save the coupon to use at a later date with the chance that it might go on sale, saving you more money.
I get most of my coupons online. There are various sites that offer weekly coupons from various manufacturers that you can print yourself. There are also a number of coupon groups on Facebook that will alert you to special saving opportunities. You can get coupons from manufacturers’ websites as well — but be aware that the price you pay is more advertising email in your inbox.
When I shop, I do try to shop the sales and stock up on non-perishable items to get me through to the next sale. Soup, for instance, is often on sale for $1 a can, so why would I pay $2.69 for it when it’s not on sale? This also goes for drinks. There is a lot of competition for water, ice tea, juices, coffee and sodas. They aren’t always on sale but when they are– I stock up on them because I know I’ll drink them. I also know soda will always be on sale around holidays, so that’s a great time to stock up.
I had several coupons for sunblock and suntan lotions and thought I’d check out the prices for my upcoming cruise in December. I was lucky to find one product ( a small tube) on clearance– regularly $9.99, clearance was $2.19 plus I had a $1 coupon saving me nearly 90%! I found another coupon for the same product but when I went back to the store it was back to regular price so I didn’t buy it. These are the kind of deals that you want to watch out for.
Last week, I bought 10 packages of shredded cheese, good until the end of the year, that was on clearance. (We are on a low carb diet so we eat a lot of cheese.) It so happened that the manufacturer was also running a deal that gave you a coupon for a future shopping trip. In this case, buy 10 items and save $10 on your next trip. So the cheese was marked clearance at $1.49 (reg. $2.79), I spent $14.90 and got a coupon for $10. Ten 8oz. packages of cheese for $4.90. That was a great deal.
I went shopping today with my fist full of manufacturers’ coupons, my $10 off coupon from last week, a $3 off store coupon and watched out for the sale items. I only used a fraction of the coupons I took with me but saved 47% on my entire purchase. $19.05 was from manufacturer’s coupons. Not bad for an amateur.
Remember a bargain is only a bargain if it’s something you can really use.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we become who we are, how we live and how we think. There’s been many studies on how the stimulus young children receive establishes who they are. Though I think this is really interesting, I think overall it’s a little shortsighted. We frequently hear, you can’t change someone or people don’t change… but I don’t believe that to be entirely true. People can change but only if they really want to… or are forced to change.
First, I want to talk about the mind food we don’t ask for… the stimulus we receive from others and from our environment.
I think we can all agree that how we behave is closely related to how we think. Take education for instance. Because we think differently, we also learn differently. Most schools are not equipped to accommodate different learning styles. They have one set way of teaching and you either learn it (temporary memorization, in most cases) or you don’t. This has a direct relationship with our behavior. Some students seem to absorb information easily and others require hours and hours of studying. The third group are those that don’t even seem to try. This third group is made up of students that either don’t want to learn or more likely, are unable to learn in the style they are being taught and just give up. I can’t even being to tell you how many students I’ve met that have brilliant minds but are labeled ADHD or special needs because they can’t be forced into the strict mold our education system requires of them. Their brains just work differently.
Words, actions and events have a huge affect on us. Our interactions with others, intentional or not, mold who we are, or at least how we behave throughout our lifetime. I wrote a little about this in a past blog post. Negative input tends to cause stress, a lack of self confidence or self worth or even cause people to shut down. Harsh words from a teacher… the boss who tells you, you can’t do anything right… the experience of a tragic event… all are stimuli that can have a profound impact on us. Unfortunately, we can’t control these types of experiences from affecting our brains and they can have life changing results.
What about what we choose to put in our minds? We are able to make choices of what we do, who our friends are and what we read or watch for the most part. We can also choose to experience positive activities that will have a major effect on us. Our attitudes are shaped by what our mind consume. This, in turn, can change us.
I believe our spirituality is the essence of who we are. It is our inner path. Our spirituality is the most important part of our character. Religious beliefs can be an important part of our spirituality but it should not be misconstrued as the only part of it. Many people wear their religion on their sleeve like a badge, yet when it comes to who they really are, it may not be quite as visible. Our histories can cause us to put up walls blocking the world from seeing our true selves. When I hear someone referred to as an old soul, I think of someone that has moved beyond those barricades and is unafraid of revealing their inner self. It’s a gift to be able to live without fear and to look beyond the facade of others and see the true person that might be hidden behind layers of hurt, anger and betrayal.
Feeding the Mind
We are surrounded daily by negative mind food. Especially in this political year, the news is bursting with negativity. It’s important to at least balance the negative content we absorb with positive thoughts and behavior. We can’t find positive solutions when we focus on the negative. Unfortunately, our society loves to complain about all the problems that surround us but seldom take action to find solutions. If we’d focus on the solutions, we might actually be able to make some progress.
I see too often that people say they don’t like negative people, and then they surround themselves with them. Some people like to wallow in negativity. It feels good to vent frustrations but we all have to be willing to take the next step towards resolving our issues.
Our survival relies heavily on the strength of our body, mind and spirit. We tend to overlook the latter and that have serious implications on our overall health. Focusing on diet and exercise is only the beginning. We also have to feed and exercise our minds. Having a victim mindset is unhealthy. We must strive daily to look for the good and conquer our problems. With a positive outlook– reconnecting with our spirituality– we can overcome any obstacles and live healthy, meaningful lives.
Today is a day of Remembrance. Eleven years ago the world changed… at least my world changed. Every generation has defining moments that go straight to the core of their being. September 11th, 2001 in mine. I thought I’d share an excerpt from my play, September’s Heroes in honor of the occasion.
To the Wife of Falling Man:
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before.
For over 10 years you’ve awakened in the middle of the night, crying, reaching out to the emptiness in the bed beside you. Reaching out for the man that you adored. Gasping for breath between sobs and clutching the pillow where he once so peacefully slept.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… saying your last goodbyes. You’ve played those moments over and over in you head…things that you thought…things you should have said. Just another morning… a beautiful, extraordinary September day.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… the moment you heard… time forever frozen on that day. Playing over and over… slow motion in your head. The pain you felt… the pain you feel today.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…rushing across the room… embracing your child when they were sent home from school. Looking in your child’s eyes… his eyes…his eyes…I can’t imagine what you thought, or what you said.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…reporters at the funeral asking for you…asking you to identify pictures… pictures you’d already seen… pictures that made you turn away. Pictures of your brave, daring falling
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before…the story you created to get you through the day… day after day. What had happened…what it was like… playing like a movie in your head.
You and I had only met once, so very long ago. The fact that you honor me, remember me in your movie… flatters me to no end.
It was just another day, like so many before. It was only Tuesday but he was excitedly telling me of the weekend plans you had in store. When the chaos broke out, explosions ripping through the floor, your brave and dashing hero, covered me… shielded me… protected me… as if I were you.
He helped me up… and it was if we floated… almost like a dream. Death and destruction surrounded us… and nothing in between. As we stood shaking… trembling, staring out through the smoke and the fire. We knew this was the end. Knowing we would never say goodbye. Staring… staring… staring through the hole… at the clear, blue September sky.
He grasped my hand so tightly and walked me towards the light. He turned ever so sweetly… and said, “This is for my wife.” He embraced me and he kissed me standing on the brink of time… a single tear rolled down his cheek, and he turned back towards the sky. I knew then in that moment what he was going to do. I looked at him, so peaceful… all his thoughts on you… he was gone in one quick moment… but he didn’t jump, he flew.
The scene ends so abruptly… goes instantly to black… but no credits role… just emptiness and silence… the silent screams deep in your soul.
I can’t imagine what your life must be like now… or what it was before… you take a deep breath… you remember… and life goes on once more.
— from September’s Heroes by Jeff Linamen, originally produced October 2011, Bartlett High School.
Fat, fat, FAT! How do we get there? Poor eating choices and overeating, of course. Fast food is so much easier than cooking– and if you are going to eat fast food, who wants to order a salad? If you go to a restaurant, they often start you out with bread or rolls and the sides that come with your entree aren’t always what’s best for you.
When we’re under a lot of stress, we tend to justify lots of comfort food. Nearly every diet out there tells you over consumption of bread and potatoes is just plain bad for you. Add to that, a sugar addiction, if you have one, and we’re on our way to an early grave. Most comfort foods and eating ourselves into oblivion, are just another nail in the coffin. What kind of comfort does that give us?
Michael and I started dieting… wait, make that we completely overhauled our eating habits, a little over two months ago. We had just finished booking our travel for my 5oth birthday celebration in December: Five days in New York, leading to a seven day cruise to the Bahamas. (We want to be thin, right?) When we started, we had six months to drop the weight we wanted to lose (now three months left) if we wanted to feel more comfortable sunning by the pool.
Obviously that’s not the only reason. Realizing, as we get older, that we really need to focus more on our health, it was time for a change. We both had entered the textbook classification of obesity and were putting ourselves at a higher risk for a heart attack and diabetes, among other things. It had to stop.
We started following the original Adkin’s diet with minimal carbs (which we did successfully about six or seven years ago) and have altered it from there. Back then, we both easily dropped 30 or 40 pounds but then started eating haphazardly again and gained back the weight over the course of about two years. Next, we followed the Gillian McKeith plan (minimal fat), again dropped the weight and kept it off for a couple years. I think I was down to 191, at my lowest weight, two summers ago.
It’s always easy to blame something rather than take responsibility for our decisions. I blamed the endless hours I spent at my computer working on my degree, combined with my unconventional work schedule, for the reasons I ate the way I did, leading to my weight gain. I couldn’t be bothered with shopping for food, cooking it and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. I was living on primarily pizza, burgers and yes, ice cream… not that any of those are really bad for you… but not every day and not in the quantities I was consuming them.
Neither of the diets I mentioned rely on small food portions, although smaller portions are recommended. They rely on science. The combination of fat and carbs has a huge affect on our weight and overall health. Our bodies process foods differently. Carbs aren’t processed the same way as fats. Filling our bodies with both confuses our digestive systems and asks it to to perform multiple processes at once. This contributes to the body converting foods and storing fat– and in some cases, eliminating the good nutritional elements we consume.
I think we also have to look at weight and health as two different concerns. We’ve all seen people that appear to be in perfect healthy. Thin, toned, perhaps muscular– but are they healthy? How many ‘perfect people’ have you heard of, suddenly having a heart attack? They are thin, so they appear to eat right, exercise daily– and yet their bodies fail them. Bad cholesterol, high cholesterol are often the culprits. People that seem to us to be able to eat anything they want– really can’t. Simply eating in moderation isn’t the answer. You have to pay attention to the nutritional value of the foods as well.
One of the downfalls of many diets is that there is always someone there to tell you it’s not healthy for one reason or another. Low carb diets are blamed for flooding the body with cholesterol– but it’s good cholesterol. Other diets that rely strictly on portion control are hard for people to stick with because they always feel they are hungry. It’s hard to stick with a diet when your body is always craving food.
Probably the biggest contributing factor to unhealthy eating is convenience. Are boxed or pre-prepared meals good for you? Look at the nutritional content. While you’re doing so, make sure to check out all the chemicals that are added to preserve it.
Are you one of the people that buy in to the whole Low-Fat marketing? You might not know it but most low fat foods that are sold are higher in calories and loaded with sugar. (Yes, even milk!) The fat content is reduced but sugar is often added for flavor. What does your body do with sugar? It turns it to fat.
Change takes time. Cooking again has been a big adjustment for me but it really doesn’t take that much time. What is time when we’re talking about our health, right? Once I’ve lost the weight I want to lose, my ultimate goal is to change my eating habits to eating primarily fresh foods– lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and cut back severely on meats, starches and grains.
I don’t want to slight exercise. I’ve started going back to the gym but at this point, my workouts have been minimal. I’m slowly increasing the time, frequency and intensity. Exercise is an important element many of us are missing from our lives. It doesn’t have to consume us. Walking alone has great health benefits.
Avoid the triggers that cause you to fail.
I’ve found that my weight loss journey isn’t always about pounds. I’ve gone two weeks without losing anything but noticed the weight shifting during that period. I’ve reached plateaus and just had to work through them. Your body needs time to adjust. It’s important to ask yourself, “How do I look?” and more importantly, “How do I feel?”
You have to be committed to any lifestyle change or it’s just not going to work. I set a goal and a time frame I intend to stick with. If I don’t lose all the weight I want, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed or give me a good reason to give up. Instead of looking at the negatives, I look at the positives and try different ways to better my chances of reaching my goals.
So what are my results so far? Here’s my goal and progress so far:
Started: End of June
Goal Date: Mid-December
Starting Weight: 245
Goal Weight: 185 (which I haven’t been since my 20’s)
Current Weight (after 10 weeks): 210
Total Weight Loss So Far: 35
Weight Left To Lose: 25
I’m on my way.
Wishing you all a healthier life!
Back to School
The 2012-13 school year is well underway and as usual, there’s always something new to make things interesting. I have a new boss– my seventh since I’ve been at the school and I’m starting my fourteenth year– which is pretty hard to believe. Three of the teachers I work with the most are retiring at the end of the school year, making this year bitter-sweet in many ways.
Over the summer I started painting the auditorium. It was looking pretty drab and I’ve been wanting to paint the proscenium walls since I started working there. The original fifteen-plus year old paint was really looking dingy and outdated, plus it reflected a lot of the stage light. The new grey actually ties all the colors together and has a more modern feel.
Our fall play has been pushed out of its normal time slot in October, to the weekend before Thanksgiving– by an outside organization in a disappointing and unprecedented move by the school and district. Reportedly, the group is going to ‘make a donation’ and this was the reasoning behind allowing this to happen. I think it is a
dangerous move to start giving priority to non-school-related events over student activities in order to make a buck. Especially when all of August and September were wide open. Once again, the arts get pushed aside.
Back to Class
I’ve decided to take more classes online to further my education. It has been a year since I finished my Masters and I’ve found I really miss class. Currently, I’m taking two classes, with a third starting next week. We’ll see if I can keep up with all the work. The structure is slightly different from my past studies but so far all is going well.
I’m taking the classes for FREE through Coursera.org. It’s a great opportunity to take a wide variety of courses from major institution around the world.
Imagine taking a course with over 26,000 students from around the world! That’s the enrollment in my Introduction to Sustainability class offered by the University of Illinois through Coursera. One of the drawbacks of this type of learning opportunity is that its hard to get to know any of your classmates. One of the pros is that you get unique perspectives from students of all ages from all over the world.
I’m also taking a course in Securing Digital Democracy offered by the University of Michigan, and Monday I start Networked Life offered by the University of Pennsylvania.
Many, but not all, result in a certificate of completion form the institution offering the class. Grading can be different from course to course and most classes provide all the study materials needed with optional texts that can be purchased from major online retailers. Many different courses are offered year round, though they do have specific timetables for starting and completion. They also can range from a few weeks to a full semester in length.
If you are looking to expand your knowledge or perhaps a career change, you might want to check it out.
The biggest thing that I have realized from the Republican and Democratic conventions is that the United States is anything but united. Whether the differences are separated by borders or by party and ideology– the leaders, or people that hope to lead our country are ignoring the basic fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty and justice for all does not exist.
Why are the parties in our country constantly fighting the same battles over and over again? How hard is it to see that All Men Are Created Equal, means equal rights for all people– regardless of skin color… male, female… old, young… straight, gay… rich, poor… Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim…EQUAL. I am entitled to no more rights than you– and you have no more rights than me. EQUAL.
Do I really need to remind anyone that it wasn’t that many years ago that in some states it was illegal for Caucasians and African Americans to marry? Now the issue is gay marriage. What’s the big deal? The deal is that marriage, which was once strictly a religious commitment, has been made a legally binding contract with rights and privileges. Eliminate the legal benefits of marriage and the problem is solved. No one is asking for a church to be forced into marrying a couple whose union does not agree with that church’s beliefs.
A side note: I actually heard a TV preacher back-tracking on the issue of interracial marriage last week, claiming the church was never against it in theory— but that in biblical times, it was forbidden solely to protect Jesus’ bloodline from being polluted!
Too many Americans feel they are uniquely entitled to something… marriage benefits, welfare, tax breaks, special privileges, wealth… Entitlement does not spell Equality. It amazes me that there are people that actually believe the upper class are wealthy people because they work harder than the middle and lower class. Unfortunately, our country is unfairly dominated by the upper class.
I don’t think it’s right to penalize someone for being rich but they should have to pay their fair share of taxes, as should the poor. Wealth people can spend their money any way they like… if they choose to give back to their community– even better. They don’t need to be rewarded for it. Poor people can spend their money how they want as well– but shouldn’t expect handouts if they choice to use their resources foolishly and live beyond their means. The existing class structure is killing our country and entitlement is at fault.
I took a political quiz yesterday that suggested my political leanings ranked in the following order: Democrat, Green, Libertarian, and finally, Republican (a distant 20% from the other three parties; Democrat, ranking 89%.) Does this mean that I hate, or am against anyone that is Republican? Absolutely not. But, as an educated and fairly knowledgeable person, I just can’t understand, or agree with the philosophies and platform of the Republican party. What’s worse, I can’t understand why Republicans can’t verbalize the grounds of their beliefs or justify their actions.
I grew up in a Republican household. In my first election, I voted a straight Republican ticket, but it was because I was uninformed. I simply tied ‘Republicans’ with religion and what was right and ‘Democrats’ with sin and all that was wrong with the country. Ignorant, huh? I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t mature enough to think for myself and let others tell me what was right and wrong.
The Republicans constantly babble on and on about smaller government, yet their beliefs and ideals force the need for more laws and bigger government to protect and provide for those that are victimized for not holding the same beliefs and ideologies. In addition, at least the past three Republican administrations have grown bigger government, increased the national debit and added many jobs to the public sector but not the private sector as they claim is their goal.
What has happened to the separation of Church and State? The Republicans have made a big deal over the fact that the Democratic platform didn’t initially mention God. It’s my belief that politics and religion shouldn’t mix. Religious freedoms are protected by our Constitution and that should be enough. The insinuation that the Democratic party, as a whole, is against religious freedom is ridiculous. It just shouldn’t play a role in politics.
The Republicans claim their biggest concern is the nation’s economy, yet from past examples and current lack of a communicated plan, they are only concerned with their own assumed wealth and prosperity. Which is also amusing, considering that many people that side with the Republican party are not wealthy– but continue to support people who are only concerned with making the rich, richer and which does nothing to improve their own quality of life. As former President Clinton pointed out in his speech to the DNC last night, with what little is known about the Republican economic plan– do the arithmetic and the numbers don’t add up.
I don’t want anyone to think that I drank the Kool-Aid and believe the Democrats are perfect– far from it. I do believe that most of what they strive to achieve is to build a better, stronger and unified America. Our country has to work together for the good of all people.
It should be the goal of all good Americans to contribute to their communities in the best way they can. Some people are wealthier, some are better educated, some are more creative and some are better organizers. If we all worked together and shared our collective strengths– think of what an amazing country this would be!
In this election year, I encourage everyone to do their own research, make their own decisions and stop taking people’s word for granted on the important issues. Look at the facts and do the math. You might be surprised at the solution to the equation.