The Hate in Debate

All throughout the news coverage of the inauguration today I kept hearing the newscasters say how historical of a day it was.  I will admit that I have never watched an inauguration, and the only reason I saw/heard pieces of this one was due to my husband having it on TV.  I’m not sure if it is said every four years how historical of a day it is or if that phrase was unique to today.

In any case I will agree that history was made today.  A man whose main qualities seem to be arrogance and immaturity is now in charge of our country.  I’m not writing this blog to promote my views or spark controversy.  Rather I want to draw attention to something that has grown exponentially throughout the election season – the hatred within debating differences of opinion.

I remember the first time I watched the political debates on TV.  It was my senior year of high school, fall 2004, and I would miss the opportunity to vote by a few weeks given my birthday falls on Nov. 22nd.  Most of my classmates did not have the ability to vote either, but that did not stop us from turning our AP Chemistry class into a full blown debate zone.  There were only about 10 of us in that class, but 2 students became very passionate on the issues and were the key debaters given their strongly held opposite viewpoints.  Mr. Conley, being a genuine educator, allowed us to spend most of our class time the day after a debate aired discussing the various topics.  It was a very enjoyable and thoroughly educational experience.  At no point in time did anyone get nasty with each other, even the 2 who had the most heated exchanges.  The debates stayed in that classroom and when the bell rang we all rushed to lunch, taking with us expanded knowledge but never any resentment towards those with differing opinions.

In college I took a few philosophy courses and one was focused on contemporary moral problems.  Controversial issues ranging from the death penalty to abortion to stem cell research were discussed and debated.  One of the key elements to the class was formulating solid arguments, not just spewing personal opinions.  We were taught to find evidence that supported our viewpoints as well as learn the arguments of the opposing side.  There were some very opinionated and passionate people in that class and sometimes the professor had to interrupt, not because people were being disrespectful, but rather we would run out of time and need to move onto another issue.  Again we all left the class with more knowledge than we had when we arrived and no animosity towards anyone who argued the other side of an issue.

If high school and college “kids” could have civil debates with each other why does it seem adults find such difficulty in doing so now?  Is social media completely to blame due to it ease of attacking nearly anyone whether they be friend, family or complete stranger?  I have been utterly disgusted this week by the posts in my news feed from people on both sides of the political spectrum.  Not only is there a lack of respect for one another, but the full ignorance of the facts is appalling.

I do blame mainstream media for providing opinion based news rather than true fact based journalism, but everyone has the ability to research issues on their own.  I could also point out how often you see people arguing with one another on mainstream news shows with no respect for what another person has to say.  They talk over one another, they interrupt each other and worst of all they write off the other person’s views the moment they realize they are not in agreement.  This year’s presidential debates displayed much of the same behavior.  This just helps reinforce the idea that this is acceptable in debating with another person.

Am I irked by certain posts made by people with opposing viewpoints from my own?  At times and usually because I know they have done no research on the topic.  Do I feel an overwhelming need to attack them for it and try to force my thoughts upon them?  No.  My in depth political discussions are reserved for those who are close to me.  Those who respect me enough to not degrade me for simply not agreeing with them.  Apparently the vast majority of our society has not reached that level of maturity and decency that they feel the need to attack one another for no legitimate reason other than to reinforce their opinions.

If we are to truly “Make America Great Again” we need to start with learning how to decently communicate with one another.  To respect differences in opinion.  To not let one’s differing views define the relationship we have with them.  To stop disregarding what someone has to say the moment we detect they do not agree with us.  To act like civil human beings instead of self centered jerks.  To stop the hate when we debate.

No More New Year’s Resolutions

For years I loved the start of the new year.  The chance to start anew with a fresh calendar meant the chance to wipe the slate clean and become a new person.  Or so I thought.

The more I think on the concept of New Year’s resolutions the more I think they set us up for failure by implying high expectations.  We create our lists and share them with family and friends determined that this year is going to be our year!  We will do more than we ever have – lose weight, save lots of money, find our dream job, take on the world!  Never mind the fact that statistically most resolutions are abandoned by February.

Now I’m not saying that goal setting isn’t a good concept.  I just think creating a year’s worth of goals to begin on one particular day of the year is futile.  Every month, every week and every day we have a chance to tackle a new goal.  Whenever people ‘fall off the wagon’ instead of thinking “Oh well, maybe next year” they need to think “Tomorrow is a new day.”

This year alone without ever having made a formal New Year’s resolution for any of them, I have accomplished several goals.  In August I decided to keep a log of my workouts to ensure that I never skip working out more than two days in a row.  To date it has worked.  I wanted to explore new subjects as I missed learning, and I signed up and completed two Coursera classes.  I’ve also watched several documentaries on a wide range of topics and in doing so have developed a passion for certain causes.  I’ve donated more money to charities than I have any other year.  I didn’t hold off and wait for 2017 to begin.  I simply made internal goals and picked my own date to start.

Every year I formally or informally create a resolution to write more.  This is made with the underlying hope that somehow that will be what starts me on a path to writing a novel.  I failEvery year.  Some could argue it’s because I don’t set out an actual plan.  Much like running though I cannot force myself to stick to a regiment of writing.  The passion has to be there or else it will feel like a chore that I will grow to loathe rather than love.

This year I’m not going to make that resolution.  I’m not going to make any.  I am just going to trust that when the time, energy and motivation are right for a certain goal then I will undertake it.  I don’t need to wipe any slates clean.  I’m not striving to become a “new” or “better” person.  I’m content to enjoy my life as it is and who I am as a person.  Life doesn’t always need to be a checklist of goals we need to achieve.

Here is to 2017 becoming whatever it is meant to be for all of us, with or without New Year’s resolutions.

Water – My Element

I believe all of us are drawn to one of the 4 main elements (earth, wind, water, fire) more than the others.  Water has been my element for as long as I can remember.

I am fortunate in that I have been to the Atlantic Ocean every year of my 30 years of existence.  This past spring I finally saw the Pacific Ocean as well as Multnomah Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the country.  I’ve swam in and kayaked on lakes and I’ve cruised the Caribbean.

I grew up not far from the Susquehanna River.  Thanksgiving and Easter were spent at my grandparents’ house where my cousins and I either played on the frozen pond or waded in the creek.  I spent my first year of college living on campus and often took walks to a nearby creek.  When I moved to Northeastern PA I quickly found both a river to run alongside as well as a lake to visit when I needed to clear my mind.  It seems I am always drawn to water no matter where I am.

Water calms me and opens my mind as a natural form of meditation.  It connects me to nature in a way that nothing else does.  It has the ability to make me appreciate life all while realizing how minuscule I am in this world.  I am in awe of its power to give life as equally as it can destroy it.

Tonight I ran across the Susquehanna River and looking at it from atop the bridge it finally clicked to me where my advocacy passion lies – water.

I am strongly against fluoride being added to the water supply and refuse to drink my tap water because it is added to it.  I feel anger when I read articles about states prohibiting their residents from collecting rainwater.  I want to cry when I see images of the glaciers melting.  I am appalled when I view pictures of trash accumulating in the ocean.  I loathe companies such as Nestle who seek to expand their business in states where drought is affecting the locals.

This is why I feel so much empathy for those in Standing Rock, ND.  They are fighting for the right to clean water.  A right that shouldn’t need a protest.  A right that every human in existence is entitled.  I feel helpless in my ability to assist them, but I can only hope that my bringing attention to their plight serves to help them.

Water is their cause.  Water is my element.  Because of that we are connected.

Goodbye Again Facebook, Hello Again Blog

My one and only New Year’s Resolution this year is to write more.  I know that’s very vague and it is said that goals should be specific such as “I will write 3 blogs per week” so that you can better track if you’re achieving your goal.  I don’t tend to do most things the way they should be done though.  With that said to me writing more is just that, to write more.  For me that can be anything from journal entries to blogs to short stories.

If you’re reading this I’m going to assume 1 of 2 things.  Either 1 – you don’t know me and you’ve stumbled upon my blog to which I say welcome and thanks for stopping by or 2 – you do know me and you saw my Facebook post stating if you want to keep tabs on me after my Facebook deactivation that you should bookmark my blog.  I deactivated my Facebook once before in the fall of 2013 for about a month or two, and not only did I not miss it, but I found that I was a lot more productive without it.  I also found myself actually reaching out to people to interact with them as opposed to relying on a newsfeed stream to help me keep in-the-know with their lives.  I’ve realized that the only way I will actively dedicate myself to writing more lately is to remove the distraction of Facebook at least temporarily.

So with that said I am back to my blog and hope to be writing more entries of a varied nature.  I invite you to leave comments, throw me some ideas to write about, anything you want really.  I don’t write for anyone specifically beyond myself, and I don’t stick to a theme.  I know those blogs that center around a main concept (kids, food, etc) tend to see more success, but I find the idea of that too limiting.  I like to write about whatever I want as I feel it sparks more creative thinking.  As I said I tend to not do anything the stereotypical way.

Here’s to a 2015 filled with more writing!

It All Started with Pancakes

I recently found the blog 100 Days of Real Food.  I am amazed at the ability for this family to go cold turkey on processed food for 100 days and consider them a real inspiration.  With that said I personally cannot be that dedicated or motivated to do something so drastic.

Like most I’m a creature of habit and in order to change specific habits I need to ease into them.  In this case I chose to start with one meal, breakfast, and one recipe – pancakes.  Prior to finding the blog I relied on Eggo chocolate chip pancakes to be my food of choice in the mornings.  Once I actually read the ingredients on the box, however, and realized many of them I couldn’t pronounce let alone guess what they really were, I realized I should really be making pancakes from scratch.  I love homemade pancakes (and by homemade I mean Bisquik pancake mix), but always found that freezing leftover pancakes would result in hard spots once I microwaved them to eat later.

The recipe I found on the blog for whole-wheat banana pancakes intrigued me for 2 reasons:  one – it promised that the recipe worked great to freeze pancakes and two – it called for white whole wheat flour which promoted a milder taste than typical whole wheat.  A few weeks ago I put the recipe’s claims to the test and found that it held true to its word – I was able to eat great pancakes from freezing and microwaving and I didn’t notice a taste difference in eating whole wheat.

I will admit I cheated in being 100% healthy – the first batch I made followed the recipe but near the end I threw in some chocolate chips.  I made my second batch today splitting the original recipe into two bowls so that I could add frozen blueberries to one and chocolate chips to the other.  It is my hope to find “healthy” (ie organic and dark) chocolate chips so there won’t be any future guilt in making the recipe.

Since making my first batch I have begun making other small changes as well in hopes of improving my eating habits.  I’ve bought all natural peanut butter and jelly along with whole wheat bread.  I admit I’m getting used to the bread’s texture, but I’m hoping the more I eat it the more it doesn’t phase me.  I’ve been choosing snacks from the organic aisle such as Annie’s Cheddar Squares which I will attest taste identical to Cheese Its.  Today I found pumpkin spice Kefir which made me super excited as I love nearly everything pumpkin spice flavored.

Don’t let me fool you – I have indulged in Pizza Hut, ice cream and Tastykakes this past week.  I am, however, taking baby steps towards a healthier, more natural diet.  Each time I choose something that is less processed or organic, or I make it from scratch I build more confidence that I’m moving in the right direction.  And it all started with pancakes.

Why You Should Take the Gratitude Challenge Daily

I recently completed the 5 day “Gratitude Challenge” on Facebook.  Normally I’m not a fan of doing the challenges people present on Facebook (no ice bucket challenge for me), but this one actually coincided with something I was already doing so it seemed fitting.

I have begun reading “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Psychology of Happiness”.  I’ve had the book for years but only ever read the first few chapters in it.  Recent events in my life have caused me to undergo a self evaluation in which I realized I didn’t truly understand what it meant to be happy.  Sure I know what happiness feels like in a temporary sense, but I wanted to dig deeper, to know what truly makes someone genuinely happy and optimistic in life and able to ward off feelings of depression and pessimism.

One of the chapters in the book was devoted completely to the concept of gratitude and giving back.  Volunteering was covered in great detail, but I already knew that could boost a person’s morale.  The concept that struck me the most was a simple one – to begin a gratitude/gratefulness journal.  The idea is simple.  Each night before you go to bed you are to write down 3 things that you are grateful for.  These could be from that day, that week, or even from years ago.  They can be as small as you’re grateful that there was pumpkin pie on the dessert menu at the restaurant today or as elaborate as you’re grateful you didn’t get the job you applied for years ago because you ended up in a better career field.  The goal is that no matter how harsh of a day you’ve had that by focusing on 3 things that you’re thankful for you will increase your appreciation for life and have an improved outlook.

I’m not someone who prefers writing to be required.  I could never stick to keeping a running log.  While I know the more I write the more I’m inspired to write, forcing myself to do it daily becomes a “chore” to me and I don’t like that.  I was hesitant to start a gratitude journal for this reason, but trying to keep an open mind I began to do it anyway.  I don’t wait until right before bed as I don’t think well with a fuzzy brain, but once I’m settled in the bedroom for the evening I grab the journal and jot down at least 3 (sometimes more) things that I’m thankful for.

As the days went by I realized how much of a “mental timeout” the activity had become for me, and how it didn’t feel like a chore at all.  It gave me a chance to reflect on the day, and while some days it has been a challenge to do because I had a horrible day, it really does put a lot into perspective.  I “cheated” in a sense by not using the journal for 5 days because I was able to do the challenge on Facebook instead.  I know when Thanksgiving approaches people tend to do a 30 days of thankfulness which is along the same lines of the gratitude challenge.  I think it’s something people should begin doing for more than 5 or even 30 days.  It requires less than 5 minutes out of your day to jot down 3 things that you’re grateful for.  I can attest that it really can start to make your outlook on things change even if it’s just for those few minutes of writing.  Life is full of challenges and it can be daunting, but if we take a few minutes for ourselves to reflect and see what we have to be grateful for then I believe we’ll all be a little more positive and happier.

Spring Clean Your Facebook

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like spring.  I mean what’s not to like?  Fresh air, warm weather, pretty colors… Everything just feels new and exciting.  I know many of us like to take the time to de-clutter our lives, reorganize things and overall do some spring cleaning.  Typically this entails house and yard work, but I’m encouraging you to also take this time to “spring clean” your Facebook.

Over the months I have gradually decreased the number of friends I have on Facebook.  I can say without a doubt this has been one of the best choices I have made.  It has resulted in less time spent on Facebook in general as I no longer need hours to read through my news feed.  The items that now do show up are ones that I actually enjoy reading because they’re being posted by people who genuinely mean something to me.  Mind you I still have those random ads thrown in the mix and things posted by pages I’ve “liked”, but overall the content is much more relevant to me.  In cutting down my Facebook time I find that I have more time for other things such as reading, writing, exercising and cleaning the house.  We all want more than 24 hours in a day, so cutting out time spent on Facebook, without intentionally having to cut down the time, is an easy way to feel like there’s more time in the day.

I know it may seem hard to start cutting people, but trust me, once you get into it you really start to evaluate who means something to your life.  When I first began I started by asking myself which people I actually wanted to see my own statuses, comments and pictures.  If I wouldn’t typically talk to that person in “real life” then there was no point in keeping him or her as part of my online life.  Then I began weeding out people whose lives I really didn’t need to know about including people I went to high school with.  There’s nothing wrong with most of these people; it’s not that I dislike them, but just that I have no real life relationship with them so there’s no point in reading about their lives or having them read about mine.  If you’re still struggling an easy way to decide yes or no to someone is to say to yourself “Do I ever write something to them or do they ever write something to me?”  If the answer is no then there’s no point in keeping them on there.  I have even gone so far as to delete off all my current coworkers save one.  This is for more personal reasons than I care to elaborate on, but let’s just say I was advised to “trust no one” when it comes to career advancement.  Rather than pick and choose and risk being questioned by people why they never longer on the list, it was just easiest to cut everyone.  Honestly I see these people on a daily basis as is, I can certainly ask them about their lives and they mine so overall to me there is no real loss but much more gain.

Sometimes I feel slight guilt in not accepting people’s friend requests if I do indeed know them.  Having fewer, more intimate relationships has always been my style of friendship through the years, and I’m finally applying that to my online life as well.  I find that it’s caused me to rely less on Facebook and be more willing to text or call someone to catch up and have more of a legit conversation than just writing a comment and waiting for a reply or like to it.

I think when most of us joined Facebook the craze to have as many friends as possible and accept people whether you really knew them or not caused us to accept more people than necessary.  In doing this we’ve increased the amount of time we waste on Facebook while not really getting to know anyone any better from it.  So go ahead, go to your friends list and start hitting that delete button.  It’s a lot easier than cleaning the windows after all.