Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, dealing with stress, faith, Health, Leadership, stress

Surviving the Pandemic – Family with Covid-19

Snow Globe Jar

Our snow globe broke this week and I was out looking for a replacement and saw this interesting ‘do it yourself’ idea.

Now that I look at the photo I realize the globe has a church, which somehow seems significant. This Christmas I’ve wanted to get a T-shirt that says, “Don’t hate my holiday and I won’t hate yours.”

Has anybody been getting Christmas hate? Last year I was stunned when I was at Michaels and saw a nativity scene where someone had replaced baby Jesus with a pig. My husband tried to explain it away. It was probably kids goofing off. It could also have been staff, I said. The little plastic pig was in a separate department away from the display, so how did those responsible come up with the idea, was my question? It wasn’t just, “Oh, here’s a pig, let’s take baby Jesus out and put it in there.” They had to walk to another area and get the pig.

My girlfriend and I performed Christmas music at seniors’ homes a few years back and mostly we were very well received but there was one location where the coordinator was angry with us for coming to play Christmas music in December during their “Happy Hour.” Some residents wouldn’t come, she told us, even though this had been set up in advance as a Christmas special. She clearly let us know how inappropriate this was.

I grew up in a time when Christmas was a “hallowed” season. Each year schools and churches would re-enact the nativity or have a similar, uplifting play or program that always referenced the birth of Christ.

The truth is I don’t really like Christmas today without the sacred focus. The songs grate on me when I hear them played over and over again in stores that set out their displays way to early. Watching Hallmark movies where people dance to “Silent Night, Holy Night”??? And have you tried finding a Christmas card with any message related to Christ, lately? Impossible.

For awhile I immersed myself in the Hallmark version of the “spirit of Christmas” where the focus is on good things like love and generosity. There is merit to this, but in the end it still rings hollow for me, a season reduced to tinsel and activity and commerce, with a nod to family. Christmas, of all seasons, is about worship–come and worship Christ the King. Without worship, life is empty and void of meaning.

Do you ever feel like your nerves are a bit raw? Well, that’s how I feel. I try and ignore it as I put up more lights in the hope of adding brightness and joy to my part of the world.

But my nerves feel on edge. This past week my mother was hospitalized for Covid-19. The hospital was full and her bed was needed so she was sent home the next day. She had fluid in her lungs and could barely walk, she was so weak. There is a very serious outbreak in her area of Manitoba. People don’t believe the virus is a real thing to be concerned about. It looks like the medical system is collapsing. Nurses did not have time to check on her when we called to ask how she was doing. I admit I was relieved that she could go home.

My sister who cares for my mother was diagnosed with Covid-19 first and she thought she got it from my mother who probably contracted it at the lab where she goes weekly for tests. My sister said it was way worse than any flu she had ever had. She isolated in the basement of her house and is recovering now.

A family member has been checking up daily on my mother. We are aware of the risk, but we cannot leave her uncared for.

At my husband’s parents’ assisted living residence there is a total lockdown, starting this week, because of an outbreak. My father-in-law walks 35 minutes every day, down the halls or outside, weather permitting. He had open heart surgery and he does this for his health but he’s not allowed to walk now.

What I find heartbreaking is that care homes are not getting any better at meeting the needs of their clients more than eight months after the first lockdowns.

And in the middle of this we have the slow motion drama of U.S. election results. Biden talking about healing feels to me like an abuser talking about healing to his victim. After all, it was his party that called Trump voters the “deplorables” and worse. It was his party that spent four years invalidating the Trump administration. It was his party that controlled the media narrative the whole time. And his party is currently talking about reforming Trump voters. How do you heal that?

There is still a God in heaven. I remind myself.

Back to my mother, I’m extremely grateful that she is doing a little better this week.

The anti-dote to the distress we feel is to find beauty and be grateful and take note of the many small blessings we experience every day. I’ve been trying to do that.

I suspect that I may have had the virus, as I was sick for four weeks and now I still feel tightness in my chest, several weeks later. I could not endure the thought of waiting in line with a lot of other sick people for a covid test, so I just monitored myself at home. My husband was sick first but only for a week.

During the time I was sick my sisters took a road trip to visit me. When I told them I was not well, the morning of the day they were to arrive, they turned around and didn’t come. This is really not the time to be travelling and seeing family. Even though I was sad not to see them, I felt relieved.

I was getting better earlier that week, but I re-used my mask without washing it and I think I re-infected myself.

I’m trying to do all the right things to stay healthy and to keep my spirits up but there are difficult days. I find myself lacking in energy, which means I don’t get out as much to exercise. Exercise and movement are so key, as is cooking at least one good meal a day and getting quality sleep. When one area falters there is often a ripple effect. I just tell myself to do my best. Tomorrow will be different.

I mentioned the church at the outset. How is our faith influencing our covid response? I, for one, am praying. I am trying to be supportive of others who are struggling. I am holding on to my firm belief in the goodness of God. However, there is a flip side I am only too aware of. God does not smile on evil and injustice. The pandemic could be a sign of his displeasure. One religious leader has said that if this is so, then there is more to come.

I’ve been reading the book of Proverbs and am impressed by these words, “The fear of the Lord, is the beginning of wisdom.” We need to see more wise leaders in this world.

Rex Murphy writes today: Governments have caused us to lose faith in our pandemic response, “…the inconsistent messaging, the exceptions granted to certain activities and the disparity of its impact on private sector workers compared to those in the public sector have broken the faith citizens had in our overall response. The common spirit that was present at the beginning of the crisis is not here now.”

Covid has magnified the importance of good leadership. The double standard of our leaders is one of the saddest things I’ve seen. Those advocating for lockdowns and penalties are found traveling and attending large gatherings and protests as though they are exempted from regulations. This does not feel like pulling together. In the absence of corporate leadership we will have to assume leadership as individuals.

The truth is that if it were not for the overwhelming of our health care system and the deaths of the vulnerable elderly, we could probably go about our lives as usual, save for the fact that it is now becoming apparent that there can be long term organ damage from covid among those who recover. None of us want to be super-spreaders. Every day nurses and doctors and care workers are falling ill. They don’t have the option of isolating. I read this week that the doctor in a small town who was “assigned” to be the covid doctor just contracted the virus. What happens then? Another doctor is “assigned”?

Is there a silver lining? The saying comes from a “sliver lining” around storm clouds, reassuring us that there is sunshine behind the clouds. I do believe good can and will come out of this.

Posted in Abuse, faith, feminism, Home, Leadership, Social Media, women

Will Amy Barrett become a Supreme Court Judge?

When I heard that President Trump was nominating Amy Barrett for the Supreme Court I thought two things, he’s ticking the “female” box–this should please some people, and the media is going to shred her.

Even so, it has surprised me how mean-spirited the media can be and how low they are willing to stoop and how they are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel. I mean, claiming that adopting children from Haiti is somehow a sign of racism? The article was rather entertaining but I don’t want to promote it here.

So, forget that she is a woman. Let’s attack her motherhood. This gaslighting is now happening to other parents who have adopted children of color who are asking–are we racist? It’s insanity.

Another really amazing article drew attention to who attended one of her speeches–someone from a non-profit labeled “hate group.” Gasp! I’m sure that people from “hate groups” never attend speeches of Democrat judges.

And then it seemed really significant that she goes to a church that adheres to the belief of a husband being the head of a family, as if this accomplished judge was somehow oppressed in her career or personal life by the obviously supportive husband and father of her children. Another more balanced article related that Ms. Barrett manages her hectic life with the help of her husband who picks up the slack at home. But that won’t make headlines.

Yes, her every move and word will be under scrutiny. Maybe there will be a Facebook post from twelve years ago…. Incidentally, my web browser–duckduckgo–reported the other day that it blocked Facebook from tracking me. How does Facebook even know I exist after I deleted my account a year ago?

I wish these vultures would look in the mirror. They really are ugly. They might take note that by maligning a woman, a mother, a person of considerable accomplishment and apparent integrity, they are presenting as a foil and this may, in actuality, serve in Ms. Barrett’s favor. As a matter of fact, there were those warning the media not to be too vicious as this might backfire, but they can’t help themselves.

It really makes one wonder about the character of these reporters and those who are endorsing their behavior. It looks suspiciously like they are a “hate group,” and will stop at nothing to prevent Amy Barrett from becoming a Supreme Court Judge.

Foil character:  A foil character is any character in literature that, through his or her actions and words, highlights and directly contrasts the personal traits, qualities, values, and motivations of another character.

Posted in Communication, Leadership, trust

Surviving the Pandemic – Thoughts on Vulnerability and Ellen DeGeneres

rose

I recently donated my newly purchased book Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, by Brene Brown. Her rise to fame began with a her first TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” I’ve watched her and think she is fun and charming. I imagine, she would be a wonderful friend.

Being vulnerable has really not worked out very well for me, unlike Brene teaches. (Sorry I can’t figure out how to place the accent on her final “e”. Maybe somebody could help me out with that.) And, increasingly, with “cancel culture” I find that I don’t want to open myself to destruction, because that seems to be the result of vulnerability.

After seventeen years of hosting a super successful talk show, and no accusations of perceived negative off-screen behavior, Ellen DeGeneres is suddenly pelted with criticism to the extreme that her show has been cancelled in Australia and is under investigation in the U.S. That rarely ends well.

I’ll throw in this little bit. I am beginning to detect when the avalanche will come. Ellen did a “no-no” back in October and defended herself. What did she do? She sat and chatted with Republican, and former president, George Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game. They talked and laughed together.

Conservatives drew some hope from Ellen’s comments. But a certain element found this completely unacceptable.

Ellen said that she happened to be friends with George Bush and also with a lot of other people with whom she disagreed on some points. This may actually be what inclusivity looks like. But the mob came after her. She broke one of the commandments of the liberal far left, namely, you cannot endorse or give a platform to anyone on the right.

Ellen’s show focused on kindness and goodness and acceptance, and I’m sorry to hear she may not have been all of these things off screen at all times. But the way she was mobbed was unfair.

Let’s note that there are people who know her well and saw her in many different situations who have nothing but good to say about her. Her brother Vance DeGeneres wrote on Twitter,

If you think Ellen would knowingly allow bullying or racism on her show, you don’t know my sister. She has been and continues to be a bright light in a dark world. She’s one of the kindest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. And one of the funniest.

Maybe she is not the monster the media has made her out to be. Many of the allegations are unsupported, and many are about her staff, not even about Ellen. But it makes for plenty of fodder. News sites have become cheap tabloids.

I’ve thought recently about the statue of Jesus beheaded at a church in Florida and another in Indianapolis. The last prayer of Jesus Christ, as he hung on the cross, was, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Think for a moment. Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, feeding the poor, teaching about forgiveness. I can only conclude that the people doing this know nothing about the significance of his life. Jesus was a peace-maker. But some people only want war.

praying hands

And speaking of war, the media is trying to prime us for war. Have you seen it? We do not want war. We do not want our men and women fighting and killing other men and women.

I’m going to throw something out here. It could be possible that the “influencers” who are behind the trouble we see in the U.S. are not even Americans, but people who do not have the best interest of the American people in mind.

Another intellectual has been forced to resign because of his scientific views. James Cantor resigned his 27-year-long membership in the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Read here,

Top Canadian sex researcher quits scientific group after being blasted for views on transgender issues

The essay he posted on the listserv argues there is no defence for discrimination against transgender people in areas like housing, jobs, access to public washrooms and sports. But he says the dismissive acronym TERF — trans-exclusionary radical feminist — is used too broadly, including for Rowling or people who say children should not start transitioning before age 12, a view he says is backed up by science.

I learned yet another term from this article. It is sea-lioning. This professor was accused of sea-lioning. This is how the article ends:

Myeshia Price-Feeney, research scientist at the Trevor Project, a crisis-intervention group, said her only concern is to support transgender and non-binary people to live “their true authentic selves,” meaning that there is “literally nothing to debate here.”

Wayne State University PhD student Jami Pittman said “I would just like to express a great sense of violence that I feel from being exposed to this conversation.”

Finneran Muzzey, a PhD student at Michigan State University, wrote of having been subjected to Cantors’ “harmful tactics” previously on the forum.

Cantor responded forcefully to his critics on the listserv, asking them to point out any factual errors he had made. (my bold/italics)

Purnell, in turn, accused him of “sea-lioning,” an online trolling tactic that involves “pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions, while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity.”

Apparently you cannot discuss facts because some people feel “a great sense of violence” when they are exposed to facts. And requests for evidence are not welcome either. Your sincerity and civility is in question if you do this.

There is a saying that prophets mourn while the people are laughing and laugh while the masses are mourning. When the masses see catastrophe, they see deliverance coming. While others laugh and cast off restraint, the prophets see difficult times ahead and judgment on wickedness.

I don’t know if it was a prophet I heard speaking this week, but he was laughing. He was saying that this is the last act for the leftist activists. That is why they are so desperate and are behaving so irrationally. I don’t know if it is true. But it could be. Let’s not fool ourselves. We reap what we sow.

I’m not known for my vulnerability. When I try to be vulnerable it only comes across as pathetic. Not only that, I find people don’t value my vulnerability. They trample me when I am vulnerable. Sorry, Brene. Your book doesn’t work for me. Apparently it’s not working for Ellen DeGeneres either. Maybe we need another book.

Posted in COVID-19, Leadership, trust

Surviving the Pandemic – As the pandemic drags on, governments shouldn’t take our trust for granted

Instead of writing about my week, I am posting a link to an article that expresses some thoughts I’ve had this recently. We, the people, can be trusted with information. Here are two quotes:

Canadians have demonstrated that they’re prepared to sacrifice a lot if the evidence shows it will protect their neighbours and grandparents. But the onus is on political leaders to communicate the evidence and their underlying policy objectives in a clear and dispassionate way….

Tell us what the objective is and what we need to do to get our lives back. Be honest about the trade-offs. It isn’t about choosing between saving lives and saving jobs. That’s rightly regarded as a false choice. Instead it’s about understanding our objectives and the plans to get there.

Nothing will erode our confidence and our willingness to cooperate as quickly as learning that we have been deceived or manipulated, or treated as if we don’t have the capacity to understand.

Posted in feminism, Home, Leadership, Love, Marriage & Family, women

What Women Want

Forget what feminists have told you. The male role is to protect and provide.

I have studied the subject of the relationship between men and women for decades. I started out as the independent, self-sufficient feminist. I rebelled against what I saw as a dominant patriarchy.

Over the years, I gradually moved away from my rebellious stance to one of greater understanding. I got married. I became a mother. But I never relinquished my distinctness and my sense of self. I never allowed my “self” to be wrapped up in my husband’s identity. I did not allow him to overshadow my being. I’ve remained my own person because I firmly believe that this is the kind of woman a man will respect and cherish.

In my early twenties I began to see a void in my life. By then I had lived in many places and held many jobs. But I was lonely. I wanted to share my life with someone. Like any woman, I wanted to be loved by a man but I didn’t know if I would ever find “the right person” so I waited. I could have waited forever. A pastor changed my take on finding a marriage partner when he told a group of college-aged adults that in selecting a partner, we would need to look among the people we knew. I determined that I needed to expand my circle. I also looked at all the men I knew and asked myself who would be a most likely candidate for marriage. I realized that my prince would not come riding out to me on a white horse.

A certain man had pursued me for some time, but when I was ready to commit I discovered he had found someone else. That ship had sailed. I saw another possibility, someone I met as I travelled. We had a long distance relationship. For some reason communication ceased. I’ve sometimes wondered if I should have followed up with more intent. But that too ended.

Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice has three different models for marriage. There is the marriage of lust or passion. There is the marriage of convenience. And finally there is the marriage of mutual compatibility and deep love. Of course the latter is what we all want.

As a practical being, I considered the possibility that I might never encounter the deepest kind of love. I would probably need to make some compromises if I wanted to marry. I decided how far I could compromise. This was a big step for me. Looking back, I see that it shifted me out of fantasy and into reality.

From my mother I learned that her life took a similar turn at one point. She experienced deep love in a relationship that ended. She took stock and then looked into her future. She chose a man who she thought would be a kind and reliable person. It sounds a little boring, I know, but given a chance, love does indeed grow, whereas fiery passion wanes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be sexual attraction but it is not the dominant factor when thinking long term.

I did not marry a man in order to have someone to provide for me. For years I had provided for myself and this was a way of life. When I eventually got married it seemed like an unbelievable luxury to have someone else to help me out financially. I continued to contribute, because I needed to use my strengths. But once children came along, I immediately saw that I would either delegate their care to others or raise them myself. I realized that, more than anything, I wanted to watch our children grow and to be a part of their education. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to miss this. This decision came with some adjustments, one being that we needed to adapt our lifestyle to having one income and looking at what I was able to bring in as a bonus. 

Suddenly my goals had changed. Along with my decision to devote myself to nurturing our children I accepted the responsibility of taking the primary role in caring for our home. It only made sense since I was spending more time in the home.

The biblical term “help-mate” has been badly maligned and rejected but it is really a very appropriate description of the relationship between two people who are committed to each other for life. We help one another. We work toward a common goal. We try to keep the love flames burning and we mutually seek and long for peace and a sense of security in our home.

Men are admonished in the Bible to provide for their families. It is their assumed role. Historically they were hunters while women remained at camp and cared for children. This was not social conditioning. This was a biological survival tactic.

We all have an obligation to contribute, whether we are male or female. However, we contribute in different ways. Often these are gender specific. The vast gender experiment we have seen in developed countries, in the last century, is not working out and it never will. The reason is that gender roles are hard-wired in the general populace. They are not the result of social conditioning. From early times man has been the bigger, stronger one, the greater risk-taker, the protecter and provider, while the woman has been the one to give birth and nurture children. Either is capable of assuming many of the responsibilities carried out by the other. At the risk of bursting someone’s bubble, I assert that men are actually better at some things than women. However, even if it were possible to equip a man with a womb–perish the thought–that would not change his instinct to protect a woman and to provide for his family. The unique roles of men and women are dictated by our innate survival instinct.

The Bible refers to man as the “head” of the house. I’ve wondered if this was a social construct of that era in time. Perhaps it was. Perhaps someone decided this is how a marriage relationship worked best. I think it is a short-cut. I’ve resisted this teaching, naturally, being an independent-minded woman. I’ve carefully examined various interpretations of scripture by theologians. I simply don’t like the idea of hierarchy and I don’t believe it to be the ultimate sort of relationship between a man and a woman. On top of that, I believe my view is biblically supported. Jesus sometimes elaborated on Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions. On one occasion he said that God did not condone divorce, but it was allowed due to the hardness of people’s hearts. My personal take is that “submission” became a dictate for the same reason. Men and women did not know how to navigate a complex relationship, so the solution was to simplify it. In another passage we read that men and women are to submit to one another, and I believe this is actually the ideal.

I understand the “complimentarian” explanation of this reference and have done considerable research into this view. To me it still smacks of hierarchy and I find myself resisting it. I am not a naturally submissive woman and I believe in the importance of authenticity. I cannot do something on the outside that disagrees with my insides.

I have fought hard for equal rights. One thing I have learned, in the process, is that the evidence is clear–men and women are not equally equipped for every role. We are designed differently and uniquely, which means we work better together if we take this into consideration. Men, for one, are much less intuitive, generally speaking, when it comes to the needs of children and infants. And biologically, men are not designed as well for nurture, since they cannot breast-feed an infant. No amount of outcry from feminists will alter this.

Men are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. A lot of Christian women have given up their “rights” and “submitted” after being convinced that a man has the greater obligation, literally to give up his life for her. I don’t buy this. Even if a man is willing to give up his life for me, in a Christ-like fashion, I still feel like this is a manipulative trade-off. I apologize in advance if down the road I am convinced otherwise, but right now I am not there and part of me doubts that I ever will be. As recently as this past year I heard a very gentle-voiced man explaining the need for women to be submissive in a marriage. I admit I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree or approve. Please don’t manipulate women. We are equal in value to men, and our role is of equal value. We are to lay down our lives, just as well as men, so the application goes both ways.

I have a habit of supplementing my biblical understanding with common sense and biological references. I think this is only reasonable. When we look at nature, for instance, we don’t commonly see a female being submissive to a male, or a male dominating over a female. Humans are much more complex than animals, but this is a starting place to begin to understand our relationship with the opposite sex. Male and female are equally important contributors and we contribute in different ways.

I appreciate that my husband places a very high value on the administrative duties in the home. In fact, early on I decided that we needed some parameters. We were arguing over petty things concerning the home and I decided that he needed to stay out of my domain, mostly, when it came to deciding things about the home. I was better equipped at comprehending what was needed. In this area we did not have equal negotiating power. I had fifty-one percent of the shares. However, when it came to finances, I allowed him to have fifty-one percent. It was not because I was required to do so, but because I saw he was a good financial manager and we needed a way to break a gridlock. Of course I challenged him. This was expected.

We have done a lot of negotiation in our marriage. Sometimes I yield. But I do not submit because I am required to submit, due to some ordinance. I submit because it is important for one of us to submit in order to move forward. And I fully expect him to be able to do the same.

It may seem strange in these times, when we have primarily fallen for feminist dogma, to believe that, generally speaking, the best model for marriage is to consider the man as the one primarily responsible for providing. There are, of course, exceptions. The man can delegate this responsibility to the woman if she is agreeable to this. In some marriages this works out well. What is critical is that each maintains a sense of dignity in their role.

As I said earlier, I am grateful that my husband places a very high value on the care and planning that goes into making a home. So many skills of the home have been farmed out—think of daycares, decorators, cleaners, gardeners, seamstresses, bakers, cooks, cake decorators, teachers, personal assistants, family counselors and caregivers, etc. For one woman to take on all of these roles is phenomenal. If we are blessed with a partner, then we don’t have to do it alone. We can share this responsibility. If we are honest, we need a “helper.” This is why it is so important to learn to negotiate and be agreeable in a committed relationship.

If the man is willing to provide, I find that I am more than willing to oversee the home. When I go out to work I need to delegate the jobs at home to others, whom I in turn pay to do the things I would otherwise do. It is a trade off. Some women would rather do work outside the home and have others care for their families. I get that. Women vary in their level of nurturing skill. But I maintain that there is nothing as rewarding as influencing a person’s life from birth to adulthood.

I highly esteem my husband for carrying out the role of provider but that still does not mean I lower myself and think I have to submit to him. I collaborate with him. Yes, sometimes I yield my body to him, because I want to delight him. I cannot be thinking only about myself in this area or any other area. But I yield only as far as I am comfortable with doing so. I am not property. I am a queen in my home. I rule alongside my king.

There is another illustration in the Bible comparing a marriage to Christ and his church, with the church being the submissive bride. I think we do a disservice to the church and to Christ by taking this view of unquestioning obedience. Christ expects us to wrestle with concepts we don’t understand until we can grasp them and embrace them and make them our own. He doesn’t expect us to sacrifice our God-given intellect. He doesn’t expect us to ignore our hesitation. He expects us to inquire and to wrestle, not with a sense of distrust, but with a sense that he truly wants to reveal his ultimate best to us.

Some can meekly accept and yield, genuinely from the heart. Perhaps they have the insight at the beginning that takes others years to learn. But it’s also OK to take our perceived “truths” and subject them to the refining fire. If they are true and real, they will survive. In fact, they will come out shining and strong.

What women want is to be loved, and that is what men want too. We want to be considered as equals, to be valued and heard. We also want to be good help-mates. We want to work as a team.

Posted in Leadership, success

23 things that will mess up your life

It’s pretty easy to mess up our lives. It’s very difficult not to, in fact. Everybody can look back and point to choices they regret.

From childhood we are inclined to resist the guidance of our parents who are doing their best to look out for us and prevent us from our own ruin.

It’s good to learn early on that we cannot have everything we want because some of the things we want are not good for us. It is only as we train our desires that we begin to want the things that are going to give us a good future.

Over the years I have watched many people make bad choices. I have observed that it is easier to prevent a mistake than to correct it later.

I find it painful to watch people make choices that I know will mess up their lives. Most of the time I can’t prevent them.

I’ve decided to write this article in the hope that someone might want some coaching on how not to mess up their lives.

What will mess up your life?

  1. You will mess up your life if you are a follower. If you don’t have the strength to abide by your convictions and say, no, then you are going to do things you will regret later.
  2. You will mess up your life if you refuse to think about how daily decisions will affect your future.
  3. You will mess up your life if you don’t discern which people want the best for you. Some people really don’t care if you mess up. They have made bad choices and want company. They want to drag you down with them.
  4. You will mess up your life if you don’t have a vision for the life you want to have. Without this you will be without a roadmap. You will be making decisions based on the moment and on how you feel.
  5. You will mess up your life if you are afraid to stand out from the crowd and be different. Sometimes going against the crowd will mean that you will stand alone.
  6. You will mess up your life if you defy your conscience. There is a still small voice inside us that often warns us of danger and sometimes makes us feel an apprehensive guilt. It’s good to listen to your gut feeling.
  7. You will mess up your life if you rely on your peers for guidance. Most likely your peers are struggling with the same things you are. In order to keep from messing up your life you will need to look for role models who have more life experience.
  8. You will mess up your life if you fill your mind with garbage. Garbage is anything that does not move you in the direction of your goals. You need to develop a strong sense of what is worthy of your goals and what is beneath them.
  9. You will mess up your life if you allow any addiction to overpower you. Addictions are very expensive and always take a toll the take on our finances, our relationships and our health. Do not let them have this power over you.
  10. You will mess up your life if you think too highly of yourself and your abilities and if you think to lowly of yourself. Develop a healthy understanding of yourself in relation to others. See others as being of equal worth.
  11. You will mess up your life if you are prone to violence or violent outbursts. Others do not deserve your wrath. The deserve your patience and understanding.
  12. You will mess up your life if you think only about yourself. The most fulfilling life is a life spent with consideration for the needs of others. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  13. You will mess up your life if you refuse to learn. Learning means studying and listening to others with more knowledge and experience. Be a truth seeker.
  14. You will mess up your life if you are not discerning. Discernment means you can see consequences before they happen. It also means you see the motivation behind things, like advertising, for example. Discernment will help you understand what is for your good and what is not and why this is so.
  15. You will mess up your life if you cannot put the welfare of others ahead of your own welfare. This is especially true if you seek an enduring relationship and want to have a family.
  16. You will mess up your life if you habitually lie. Others will not be able to trust you.
  17. You will mess up your life if you steal. You do not show respect for the property of others. This also applies to vandalizing the property of others.
  18. You will mess up your life if you do not know how to manage your sexual desires and impulses. This is probably the least talked about subject because it is so personal. A sense of entitlement will result in making destructive choices.
  19. You will mess up your life if you avoid obligation and responsibility. One of the key obligations is to manage your finances by having an income and realizing that you are responsible for providing for yourself for the rest of your life.
  20. You will mess up your life if you engage in criminal activities.
  21. You will mess up your life if you borrow beyond your ability to pay it back. Borrowing has to be considered very carefully because it can quickly turn into crippling debt that will limit your ability to meet your obligations and have the things that are important in your life.
  22. You will mess up your life if you refuse to apologize. Everybody makes mistakes and we need to own up to our mistakes.
  23. You will mess up your life if you do not clean up after yourself. Cleaning up after yourself shows respect for your environment. You will respect yourself and others will respect you if you look after your surroundings.

There is a lot of value in simply being a decent citizen and not messing up what you have been given. Life is not so much about climbing the ladder of success as it is about being a contributing member of society. It is about taking time to think about how we are impacting our future, the lives of our loved ones, and our planet. We only get one round at life. Let’s not mess it up.

Posted in Communication, Leadership, Marriage & Family

Getting Ready for Halloween

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We all know that Halloween, just like Valentines and Easter and Christmas, is highly commercialized. Gone are the pillow cases and apples and homemade costumes. Buy your Halloween bucket at Walmart!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I want to examine present day Halloween festivities without delving into its origins–whether it began as a harvest festival, or as a festival of the dead, whether it has Celtic pagan roots with bizarre rituals, or Christian beginnings–a Hallowed Eve preceding All Saints Day.

When we lived in the Philippines, All Saints Day was a huge holiday and families faithfully placed food on the graves of the deceased. On Halloween children went and sang in front of homes in hopes of receiving a few coins. Even adults did so, sometimes dressed as the twelve disciples, going from home to home singing and collecting money. There were no costumes and of course no pumpkins.

But in North America we are all familiar with the symbols and trappings and activities of the occasion,–candy, costumes, masquerades, pumpkins, pranks, haunted houses, witches, ghosts, etc.

Image courtesy of hin255/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Halloween will mean different things to different people. When I went to the mall with my firstborn in a stroller, wide-eyed, taking in all the hideous displays of the occasion, I wanted to cover his eyes, shield him from all that represents evil in the world. To me Halloween pretty much covered it.

Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was in a store one year and observed a father taunting his five or six year old son as he recoiled in fear when he shoved an ugly Halloween symbol in his face. I remember thinking, this is how we teach intimidation and bullying and how we destroy innocence.

Image courtesy of  Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since then, each year during the harvest season I re-evaluated my perspective of Halloween. As the day approached I was so preoccupied that I frequently forgot my father-in-law’s birthday which falls on November 1st.

What is Halloween without the fear factor? Some people crave the adrenalin rush fear incites, as a weird kind of high. Without this there would be no ticket sales to horror flicks, no customers for graphic psycho thrillers.

I walked through the Dollar Store the other day. Halloween displays are out, right along with Christmas, ironically. I saw, among the skeletons and skulls, chocolate eyeballs, and a hacked off, bandaged and bloody foot. I admit I felt a little sick.

What do children think when they see these, I ask myself? What feelings do these images arouse? What is the impact?

As I was a child I remember for a time hanging around kids who told ghosts stories and I could repeat a scary story pretty well myself. It was an abbreviated season in my life but it helped me relate to the thrill of the scare factor. I soon found myself avoiding the unpleasantness.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here in Vancouver we recently had the Vancouver Zombie Walk. This is the perspective of the organizers:

Though we big kids all see the fun in it, small children may not and if you see any children reacting fearfully, please do not add to their distress. Just move on and let their parents explain. Do NOT accidentally be the douche who gives them nightmares for a week by leering in their face! However, if they’re into it, they’re fair game for fun, like ALL of the living! Vancouver Zombie Walk 2013

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So is this really all it is, fun and games? Something you enjoy? Is it something you prefer, like you prefer chocolate brownies to cream puffs? Let’s not kid ourselves. We all know that Halloween is an opportunity to glorify what is dark and deadly.

As a child I had a fascination with Halloween. For me it was about black cats, witches on broomsticks, pumpkins, and of course masks and trick or treating. In elementary school we made pictures of these symbols and put them up on the walls and windows of our classroom. I had not training about Halloween from my parents. We did not attend church, so I had no religious teaching back then.

Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of bandrat/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My parents never had a very strong conviction about Halloween and basically let us kids do what we wanted. My aunt took us out trick or treating for the first time when I was seven. I remember that some folks complained that we had no costumes, while others they complimented us and gave us extra candy for not dressing up. In my mind I was absorbing this information and asking myself if it was indeed bad to dress up.

But many churches I have attended since frowned on any Halloween activity and created their own separate “Harvest” event for the children, featuring, of course, lots of candy. I once helped decorate for one of these events and made the mistake of thinking that a black, lace, spider-web table cloth would be nice on the table in the entry, but I was quickly told to remove it.

Black Lace Tablecloth on sale at tias.com
Black Lace Tablecloth on sale at tias.com

Is it possible to enjoy Halloween without the dark scenes and themes, without sinking to the depths of evil–death, mutilation, witchcraft, demonism? Are there elements that we can redeem, things that are fun and beautiful, unspoiled?

The churches I have attended have taken a dim view on Halloween, perhaps understandably, and as a result my husband and I never allowed our children to go trick or treating. Our boys never made a fuss because there was always a fun alternative, but when our son left for BIble College we heard that he and his friends went trick or treating. Recent immigrants in the neighborhood were happy to hand out candy to these silly young adults.

When I was in primary school I asked my friend’s dad if she could go begging. Maybe I should have used the words “trick or treating.” He gruffly told me that his family didn’t go “begging.” An article by a pastor friend of mine essentially says the same thing–Halloween is of the devil and Christians will have nothing to do with it.

One year we visited my husband’s aunt around Halloween and she asked us if we gave out candies, “Or are you too cheap to give candies to little children?” I admit we were influenced by teaching not to participate in Halloween, but we were no longer in a church that dictated what to do. My husband and I talked and decided that it would be a positive thing for us to hand out candy. It was a charitable thing to do, a way to get to know our neighbors and their children. Handing out candy to innocent children felt good, even if we didn’t believe in everything the occasion represented.

halloween-candies

After the kids had come by for candies, we decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. It was truly one of the most gorgeous, “magical” nights I had ever seen. The street lights shone off of the red and orange colored maple trees. The leaves rustled beneath our feet as we walked. A few stragglers in costumes were still out, and to our great surprise we ran into a family from our church. The children were “begging” and the father was reverting to his childhood and lighting a few fire crackers in the street. I admit it took my husband and I back to our childhoods when I dressed up like an “Indian” in a fringed gunny sack and his mom dressed him up as an old woman with a curly wig.

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After that night my thinking underwent a transformation. I saw the evening as God’s evening–the gorgeous colours, the sweet air, the still night. Even the candles glowing in the pumpkins were beautiful.

Recently I have been introduced to  Liz Curtis Higgs‘ children’s book, The Pumpkin Patch Parable. It makes me realize we can look at pumpkin carving in our own unique way. We can tell our children our own stories about Halloween.

Image courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs Books
Image courtesy of Liz Curtis Higgs Books
Image courtesy of ammer/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ammer/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think Halloween is an unequalled opportunity to teach our children how to respond when faced with the dark side of life. Are they to cloister themselves in churches, or is it alright to hand out candy to neighborhood children?

What about going door to door? What about costumes? When I was young we bought a scary mask or two. It’s what kids love to do. But our parents frowned on masks so we dressed up creatively using make-up and non-threatening costumes.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Choosing costumes is a great opportunity for parents to talk to their children about values. For instance, what do skeletons represent and would this be a reason why you might you not want to dress like one? What are the other options? Talk about how your family feels about themes around death. Make your children aware of the dark side of Halloween, but show them they can choose light.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I refused to go on a local Halloween train ride because the artistic producer told me it would feature mutilated babies. Talk to your children about how they feel inside when they see certain images. Is this a comfortable feeling they want to have again? Would they like to avoid it? How could they do that?

When I was older I wanted to go to a masquerade but never did. Sometimes in large gatherings there can be a lot of peer pressure to do things you are not comfortable doing. I think I realized this.

As Christians we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” As children, and even as adults, there are times when we have to look ahead and plan to avoid temptation.

Some children find it very important to see and experience what their peers are telling them about. Rather than a sharp, “no,” you might want to talk about different scenarios. DIscuss possibilities and prepare them for what could happen. Let them know that you want to be sure they are safe and that they are making wise choices.

Image courtesy of samarttiw/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samarttiw/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Probably the most scary situation for a child is to find him or herself in a place where they don’t have a choice, or where they feel forced into choosing something they would rather not do. As parents we know that the dark side exists, and that it is dangerous, and it is our responsibility to protect our children, prevent early exposure to situations beyond their understanding and control, and prepare them for eventualities.

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can understand why many churches refuse to have anything to do with Halloween. They see it as evil, and much of it is. It would be a lot of work to sort out what, if anything, to keep, and what to discard, and then to explain this decision making process to the congregation. As you can imagine, it would be very time consuming. Undoubtedly there would also be a lot of different opinions to consider. So it’s easier to just forbid the lacy spider web table covering, and anything else black or orange, or Halloween-related.

I suggest that when our children are old enough to understand and ask questions, we talk to them about the aspects of Halloween that are playful, fun, maybe even scary, as opposed to those which are vulgar, repulsive, degrading and evil. Teach them to think. Teach them to choose wisely.

It might be a good idea to look at Halloween from the perspective of love. From this vantage point it might not be so bad to turn on the outdoor light and hand out candy to neighborhood children or to allow our children to dress up and go door to door with their friends. We might even decide to decorate for Halloween!

Image courtesy of Apolonia/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Apolonia/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I happen to like the color orange, and I like decorating. I’ve decided it is not an ‘all or nothing’ attitude when it comes to Halloween. There is definitely some sorting out to be done. I incline toward what is life-giving and uplifting and it saddens me to see how evil and the grotesque is paraded and gloated over on Halloween. But, I reiterate, we can teach our children to be discerning, to pray, to understand and explain their choices, to respond lovingly to others and perhaps even have some good clean fun with their friends on Halloween.

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Keattikorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sippakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sippakorn/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted in Leadership

What To Do?

Image Courtesy of Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image Courtesy of Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is the website where I write about anything. I have several blogs and my main one is tinafriesen.com. In it I write about writing. Writing is my job, my career.

Right now I am working on a novel, so I use my Tina Friesen website to chronicle my writing journey. I talk about what I am learning. I give tips to other writers. I share my process. But here is where I do my actual writing.

My novel is in the final editing stages, and I am trying to stay focused and motivated. Some of my followers are encouraging me and one of them directed me to Stephen Pressfield’s book, Do the Work. I went to his website and saw a compelling article entitled, How Hard is it to Turn Pro? A pro recognizes and overcomes resistance. A pro does the work.

I went to the site of someone who recently followed me and calls himself a “success junkie.” He recommends, among other things, cold showers. Yes, that’s it.

Then I was on YouTube and randomly clicked on Tony Robbins’ Clarity and Purpose. He stresses the importance of being very clear about what you want and having good reasons.

So, if I have clarity and purpose and do the work and overcome resistance, then I must succeed. I think I’ll start with a cold shower.