life is what we make it

August 25, 2010

I am preparing to begin a story about a young graduate student. Her story is just like the next girl’s, except that hers involves a few more struggles.

She moved here from India six years ago; she’s also a burn victim and has the scars to prove it.

Yet, instead of allowing those scars to hold her back, she has used this possibly debilitating experience to springboard her into a fulfilling life and career that she holds close to her heart–recuperating burn victims.

It’s always inspiring to hear about people who deal with traumatic events and take the less traveled route of conquering them rather than being conquered. These individuals represent strength and a deep amount of self worth and motivation that many admire, feeling as though they could never measure up to that.

It’s true that most of us will never experience a shooting spree, lose a limb, be thrown from a burning vehicle, be kidnapped, lose a child, etc.

But many of us will cope with divorce, be disappointed by a loved one, lose our job, get cancer.

What will we do when that happens?

These stories of coping with seemingly insurmountable obstacles can not only inspire us but also incite us to action. They can help us to see that if they can cope with their trial, we can cope with ours.

Life is too short and too precious to throw it away–under any circumstances.

Sadly, some of us are too quick to do that.

well-meaning but inaccurate

August 25, 2010

It really is true what they say:
The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
Keep seeking and you will find.
The early bird gets the worm.

Yes, when it comes to getting what we want, we have to survey the situation, make sure our circumstances allow for the change, make a plan, and do it! No hesitations. Just follow through.

Whether we’re talkin’ bout a fitness goal, a job change, a baby, a new hairdo, re-locating. It doesn’t matter–the process is the same.

And most of us will be surprised to find: A–change is fun (who knew?!), B–more options exist than first met the eye, and C–we’ll, most likely, want to do it again!–with a new goal.

Ancient proverbs would have us think otherwise, however, regarding creating opportunity and many other things.

I tend to dislike these proverbs. They paint immovable, concrete images, impressing a singular rule, without a hint to an exception or alterior possibility.

And plenty of them are plain stupid:

“Opportunity knocks only once.”–most people are living testaments to the falseness of that one.
“Only men laugh, only men weep, only men dance.”–I think the feminists would have a bone to pick here.
“Pleasure is the bait of evil.”–depends on what kind of pleasure they’re referring to.

There’s plenty more, of course; but I’ve tired of arguing.

My point, though, has been proven.

No one should be able to control or hold rein over another person’s life. Nor should someone allow another that ability for dominance.

We all have incredible potential, and the naysayers can just pipe down, I say.

The Moo part 2

August 17, 2010

I turned to view the glistening lake as the sun began to set, heard the grouchy acknowledgement of the goats as our group traipsed past, gazed upon the rows of tomato plants and corn stalks, leaned down to pet Sparky–the resident lamb being groomed to father the next generation of workers.

From this, I drew the conclusion that we city folk don’t really understand and almost can’t comprehend what we’re missing. And admittedly, maybe for some of us, that’s for the better. (Need I remind anyone of The Simple Life?)

But it’s experiences like these, opportunities to see real farms and enjoy a true from-ground-to-table meal that make it possible for us to truly cherish and understand how the earth works and the extreme effort involved in transferring it onto our dinner plates.

It still remains somewhat of a conundrum to me as to whether we’ve really come that far as an “improved” society.

As I sat on the screened-in, un-air conditioned porch, listening to the insects chirping in the warm summer darkness and peering into the vast forest, I couldn’t shake my deeply envious feelings toward those that enjoy the privilege of living this way every day.

And I concluded that maybe I didn’t want to shake it.

A Moo Point

August 13, 2010

The obscure dirt road with no street sign signaled the end to our search and the beginning of a lavender-themed, all-natural, from-ground-to-table dinner experience that has been the object of our anticipation for many previous weeks.

The dinner began with thirty minutes of discovery of the raw realism of living on and operating a farm—the planting, maintaining, uprooting and renewal of crops, interacting with and caring for the sheep, goats, cows, chickens that inhabit the land; add to that the constant sweat and strain of the hot summer days, and my hunch was confirmed—that my dream of living in the country would most likely always remain just that: a dream.

Ticks, mosquitoes, insect bites, sweat, cultivation of land, milking goats, butchering lambs, cooling down with the help of a fan instead of an air conditioner—these may be welcome realities for some, beatable obstacles to others, tortuous nightmares for yet others.

While I have dreamed about being a country convert for most of my life, when I ponder what is really involved, my feelings become much less pleasant.

Up till yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between a goat and a sheep or a kid and a lamb. But after last night, I can not only tell you the difference but can also proudly proclaim that a true, working farm is a wonderful place to visit but my hair can’t sustain more than a yearly jaunt.

I’m strong enough to own that.

Returning to my story, after tooling through the town of Depew, which took all of thirty seconds, we found our unmarked street. After losing our way and growing increasingly confounded by the amount of absent street signs, seeing cars at the end of the correct road brought sighs of relief to everyone in the car.

The modest country home and squawking hens welcomed us to The Living Kitchen farm: a humble establishment boasting four employees—the owner: professional farmer and chef, a part-time helper and marketer, with two interns pulling up the rear and undoubtedly carrying their bulk of the work.

The farm is home to goats, for cheese and milk, lambs, for healthy, non-hormone injected meat, and chickens, for eggs. Add to that a number of cows that roam unseen and unheard until they ramble through the woods, arriving home for dinner, leaping, exuberant dogs for companionship, and the many snakes and other critters nesting in the woods, and Owner Lisa Becklund has more than a full house.

Becklund came to Oklahoma five years ago from Seattle. Born and raised in Washington by parents in the food industry, Becklund’s career choice was obvious. She eventually owned and operated a successful restaurant in Seattle and served as head chef for many years. However, she commented, while she knew how to cook food, she knew nothing about food.

Then, when an opportunity for a complete lifestyle turnaround came up in Oklahoma, she felt the move would be just right for her.

As listeners of her story, most of us would probably share the same wonderment as to her decision to leave Seattle. I know I did.

And then I turned around.

Check back on Tuesday to read the rest of the story.

At the gym this morning, I glanced at the television to see two men on Fox & Friends interviewing three Victoria’s Secret models in all of their luscious glory.

I’m sure those two had some mighty fights on their hands in order to receive those coveted interviewing chairs.

And, I’d like to interject that the topic was completely male appropriate.

Apparently Victoria’s Secret is unveiling a new bra . . . .
Yes, you heard me right: the PhD genuises at a top news organization decided that its viewers’ time would be best spent listening to two googly-eyed males ask three beautiful, but not the greatest at intelligent talk, women about cup sizes, adjustable straps and adequate support.

Are you kidding me?

No, sadly Fox & Friends was not kidding, and neither am I.

Maybe Fox researchers decided that America has had enough political, environmental, military and terrorist discussions to last us till 2020, so let’s add in a little fluff fun for the masses.

And, if that was their thought, they’re right to a certain extent.

Let’s not forget too that Fox & Friends is far from the most highly respected nor reliable source of news information. And they don’t tout themselves as such–for the most part. So I guess that merits them some acknowledgement.

However, that does not in some way allow them license to use a somewhat-credentialed national news service in order to make a mockery of the American people.

But, then again, I guess that’s never stopped them before.

And, frankly, if I were from a foreign nation,–oh, how I wish I was–and I ran across that broadcast, I would cackle all week long about the laughableness that has become our nation.

I’ve always known that knowledge is important. My school teachers droned on about it; my parents repeatedly reminded me of it; and various public service advertisements would use famous people to persuade me to believe it.

Okay, I get it. It’s got power. Whatever.

Yet, it wasn’t until I entered my adult years and experienced the everyday trials of simply living that I really began to appreciate the wide-ranging benefits of having and using knowledge.

It is powerful.

Learning how to get a loan, understanding why not paying off credit cards immediately can wreak disastrous effects, investigating what’s under the hood of my automobile, finding out how warranties can be comforting security blankets.

And most recently for me, figuring out what to look for in a laptop.

When I first perused my online laptop options, most would agree with me when I say that the sheer volume of choices could keep a person’s head spinning for days. And mine sure did.

Processors, hard drives, gigabytes, RAM, optical drives. I just wanted one that was fast and pretty.

At least, I thought that’s all I wanted.

The nice thing about the Internet is, if you use trustworthy sites, it takes no time at all to learn everything you need to know about any given topic.

And people are pretty quick and eager to give their opinion, especially if it’s anonymous.

I found very quickly that Intel and AMD are the leading processors, with Intel coming in just a hair ahead, and AMD being more useful for “gamers.” After that, I read about the types of processors: single, dual core and on up. The bigger the number, the faster the speed—I determined.

Same thing goes for memory (RAM) and the hard drive. Of course, most of us know that, but what I didn’t know is how much is too much or too little.

With a little more online investigating and face-to-face salesperson discussions, though, I found my answers. I finally settled on a Toshiba with an Intel i3 processor, 4 GB RAM and 500GB hard drive.

But I tell you what—the feeling of walking into a store and having an educated conversation about products, without embarrassment of appearing stupid or ill-equipped, and knowing the right questions to ask so as to make the right purchase, that’s priceless.

And powerful.

Scanning my fitness center’s list of exercise classes, oftentimes, I feel as if I am living in a yoga world, begging for the occasional pilates scrap to be tossed my way.

The yoga craze has officially hit our nation. It’s been going on for a while, I know; although I have just recently begun seriously evaluating it.

While yoga has a long history, beginning many centuries ago, pilates is a youngster in comparison but with an equally active and loyal following.

Understandably then, my mind began reeling with wonderings of the positives, negatives and benefits of each fitness experience.

Turning to the Internet, I was not at want for answers–no shocker here, I am not the first one to wonder this.

Turns out, yoga and pilates are far from similar, a statement which goes quite contrary to common assumption. The two differ in focus, strategy and result.

Yoga is truly steeped in spirituality–with the aim of completely aligning mind, body and spirit. This is accomplished through controlled breathing to increase lung capacity and detoxify the body, posing to build strength and ward off illness and stress, and, depending on your class atmosphere, meditation and quiet to encourage serenity and inner calm.

The result is flexibility, inner balance and solitude with a minor muscle workout.

Alternately, pilates takes no spiritual undertones. Its focus is on strength and building a person’s core muscles, or powerhouse, through isolation exercises that work the abdominals and surrounding muscles.

The result is a stronger core, which brings about improved posture and body alignment. Improved flexibility is not the emphasis, but it will improve.

To sum up, pilates creates greater flexibility and improved posture, but its goal is core strength, with the absence of spirituality; yoga, on the other hand, uses spirituality to cultivate inner and outer balance and flexibility, with an underlying improvement in strength.

Thanks to this information, I now more clearly understand which route is better suited for me.

My next challenge: getting my gym to see it my way.