Category: Weekly Soapbox

Saturday October 23rd is Make a Difference Day. Although I think its great to take a day to purposefully reflect on ways we can make a POSITIVE difference in the world, I think a much better approach is to make it a lifestyle change. Making a difference should be a way of life, not just a one day affair. One day of good deeds is not enough to undo a year’s worth of injustice, ignorance, and apathy. We need to strive to make a difference 24/7, 365 (plus one extra day of superhero antics every leap year).

So yes, please stop on Saturday and think of ways to make a difference and then ACT on them, but don’t stop there. Think of ways to make it a part of your life. Small acts repeated over time have a snowball effect, eventually resulting in major and lasting change. So instead of only celebrating Make a Difference Day, why don’t you take the pledge to be a hero and make a difference for life!


Mean People Suck

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker that poignantly declares “mean people suck” and I doubt that anyone who has ever read that bumper sticker disagreed. Then why are there so many mean people in the world and why do they get away with it? The mean people phenomenon is not new nor is it isolated to reality television (which seems to lift mean, idiotic people up on a pedestal). No unfortunately mean people can be anywhere, from the checkout line at the local store to your kids school or public events. I see these people and wonder, first of all do they realize they are mean and second how come no one ever tells them so?

Enter me.

I can’t help it. I have to say something. Just because someone has gotten away with being a jackass for years doesn’t make it acceptable and just because I don’t know them doesn’t mean that I don’t have the right to say something. If your bad attitude is mucking up my day I have the right to stand up and say “stop being so rude” (or something to that affect).  So yes, when some snotty woman is laying in to a cashier who has no control over the return policy I say something and when someone is letting their kids push and shove and run into people I am going to say something and if someone insults another person’s intelligence I will point blank question theirs because someone needs to put an end to the unnecessary meanness. Someone has to say “mean people suck and right now sir/madam you are sucking something fierce.” Either that or I have to start carrying around a bumper sticker that I can shove in front of their face. Frankly, I find flat out saying you’ve crossed the line to be both more effective and gratifying.

So maybe this isn’t the most heroic thing I do, but sometimes heroes have to piss people off to make a change and I have no qualms pissing off someone who is being rude to another person who doesn’t deserve it. So I say, mean people do suck so instead of taking out your bad day or issues out on someone else practice the golden rule, otherwise the woman standing behind you in line might just call you out on it.

Trust is a rare thing nowadays. Who can blame us with government and corporate corruption, scams preying on the elderly and unemployed, and crime television showing the worst for the worst in our society. What we don’t see are the millions of good, honest people who deserve trust and respect in return. It’s time to start rebuilding a culture of trust, but before you can learn to trust someone else you must first learn to trust in yourself.

You may not think its important but it is. A person who doesn’t believe in their own abilities cannot believe in someone else. Unfortunately, not everyone has a support system, a person or group who believes in their abilities and supports them in the journey to reach their potential. You have to believe in yourself if you ever want to have the life you want and if you ever expect someone else to trust you.

Start today by learning to:

  • Trust in Your Abilities: Each of us has a unique set of skills and talents. No two artists paint the same way, no two business men approach business the same way. What you have no one else has and no one else can give what you can give. Trust in your ability to provide something wonderful to the world.
  • Trust in Your Heart: You know what’s best for you. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Trust in your heart to tell which path to take.
  • Trust in Your Power to Learn and do Better: We all make mistakes, but even a terrible mistake isn’t the end of us. Trust in your ability to learn from your mistake and to use that knowledge to improve and do better next time.
  • Trust in Your Value: You matter. Despite your faults, mistakes, or even if anyone else recognizes it you matter. Trust that you bring value to this world, significant value, that cannot be replaced.

There will be times when your belief in yourself falters. You will have to remind yourself of your abilities, your heart, your ability to improve, and your value but you must if you ever want to achieve the superhero life.

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I haven’t always been this way. In fact, I only made the change in the past two years. Before that I was a fast food munching, junk food junkie who treated myself to cake on a daily basis and spent most of my time on the computer.

Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

Now my dad is not and has never been healthy–not as long as I’ve known him. He’s a type 1 juvenile diabetic. Over the years he’s gone into diabetic shock more times than I can count, letting his blood sugar waver from below 30 to well above 200 (ideal range is 80-120). He didn’t exercise, ate horrible food, drank, chewed tobacco, and when he had a sugar low instead of eating healthy to maintain his sugar he would counter with a dozen candy bars.

Overtime he developed acid reflux disease (among other things). Repeatedly it ate away at his esophagus until finally his body couldn’t keep up with the repairs. The cells turned cancerous. They gave him a 20% survival rate because of his diabetes, but even if he survived cancer he wouldn’t be the same because he already had advanced renal disease (a side of effect of his diabetes) and the chemo was sure to accelerate that, meaning he would have to start dialysis.

Family members, including myself,  took turns taking my dad to chemo. I sat in the waiting room, reading all of the literature on cancer and other serious diseases. In the many materials where some consistent statements:

  • 1/3 of all cancers are lifestyle related
  • Healthy diet and exercise can prevent cancer
  • Organic foods are best

My dad’s cancer was a result of acid reflux disease. Like many things, my dad didn’t change his diet or manage the acid reflux. Added to his other heath issues, it was bound to happen.

So I sat there in the recovery room with my dad after chemo as he’s being re-hydrated. He has to get up and vomit several times. He was 6’2″ and 225lb when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now,vomiting what little he was able to swallow, his 160lb frail frame staggers back to his chair to finish with the nurse. I’m holding the informational materials on cancer, trying to be strong because right now I just want to cry. I love my dad, but that stubborn bastard can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. He couldv’e taken better care of himself. It would’ve saved us money (medications, hospital costs, monthly checks with the specialists, etc) and my mom wouldn’t be up half the night, jumping at every weird sound he makes, checking to make sure he’s still breathing.

That was when I decided I’m not putting my daughter through this.

Why am I telling you all this? Because, I want you to understand that your health doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you. The consequences of poor health can take a severe emotional and financial toll on your family and friends. At least once a week I have a nightmare about my father’s health. It’s hardest on my mother of course. I always wish I could do something more.

I decided to set an example.

It was hard at first. I love cake, and I ‘m not keen on cold, hard veggies. I was working 60+ hours a week and going to school full-time and the sole caregiver for my then four-year old daughter. Of course, my siblings and I have all earned my father’s stubborn streak, so I made sure to use it to my advantage. I didn’t see much difference at first. It took time to change all those little bad habits. In October 2009 I made the commitment to go full throttle. I lost 20lbs of pure fat and dropped from a 12 to a 2. Although I look good, I feel even better. I can go with my daughter to the park. I can go on a 4 mile run and come home and paint a room and still have energy to go dancing. Many of my health issues subsided. Best of all, my daughter loves that I don’t tell her I’m too tired and she knows that I’m doing everything in my power to insure I’ll be there for her for a very long time.

My father’s health issues have been hard on my daughter too. She loves my dad. She’s grandpa’s little girl. It only shows how far one impacts people, and how devastating their decisions can be when they choose not to take care of themselves.

My dad survived the cancer, but he did have to start dialysis. He’s getting a transplant for Christmas, courteous of my mother’s donated kidney. So now I have the stress of having both of my parents in the hospital during Christmas–not my idea of a holiday. I try to keep that to myself, don’t talk about it in front of my mom or dad. They don’t read my blog (they’re not tech savvy) so it’s okay. I can let it out here.

So I implore you, take care of yourself. Get healthy. Go exercise. Lay off the junk food. If not for yourself, do it for your children.

Labor of Love

For most labor day is a free day off work, a reason to barbecue, and a couple extra hours for sleep. Not only was this past Monday labor day, it was also my daughter’s birthday.

They say children change everything. In my case that old axiom has incredibly more meaning. Never had I fought so hard for anything in my life as I had to fight for my daughter. I had to fight in court; fight through depression; fight through exhaustion, poverty, and hunger. Through it all I did my best to make sure that not once did I blame my daughter for the hardship of being a single parent. Not once did I let her go without, even if it meant I skipped a meal, went without sleep, or had to sew up the holes in my clothes for the umpteenth time.

Yes children change things, but my daughter did so much more for me. She made me the woman I am today. Yes I was the one who made the decision to tough it out, even though I found myself as a single parent when my daughter was just barely 6 months old, but she was the one who showed me what beauty was. She showed me that unconditional love still existed and that two people could be so deeply and irrevocably connected. She showed me that what I thought were my limits were nothing more than doubt and that I could go farther, harder, longer,and better than I ever dreamed.

She showed me who I could be.

I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to become that person, if not for my own sake, but because she deserved it. She deserved a good mother. She deserved a roof over her head, clean clothes, a good education, drawn out birthdays, and magical holidays. For five years it was just the two of us and even though I’ve remarried and have to share my time with one others, my daughter is still the number one person in my life. Only now I don’t have to work as hard, I don’t have to pull 12 hour shifts and all night study fests, I don’t have to struggle to find a babysitter I can afford. Now, I get to just be the mother I want to be and hope that in the end my daughter grows up with less challenges than I faced, with more opportunities and joy, and knowing that no matter what I will always be there for her.

This is what labor day means to me.

Superheroes are social activists, always involved in the issues, speaking for the little guy. When it comes to public

Photo via NY Magazine

debate, complicated issues are boiled down to misconceived stereotypes and ideologies that gloss over or completely ignore the real circumstances of the underlying issues. The fact of the matter is:

Real People Get Hurt When We Don’t Honestly Look At The Issues.

There are human beings, with varying circumstances, needs, wants, abilities, limitations, and other factors all affecting what they can and can’t do. We can’t employ fallacies to appease our prejudices, nor can we assume that it’s all black or white, false or negative, either or. That’s when we come up with solutions to the symptoms of a problem, and not the cause itself. Then the problem perpetuates.

Remember–behind every debate there are real people suffering.

Be a hero. Speak for them. Make the media and politicians humanize the issues.

As a society, our priorities are screwed up. We reward bad behavior, and we reward it richly with money, fame, excuses, and ratings. You see it most in entertainment with reality television following spoiled housewives and over sexed twenty-somethings and in the news with starlets serving a couple of weeks of a nine month sentence. You also see it when the star football player is arrested with a DUI and gets off with a shrug and a “boys will be boys.”

There’s a saying, “vote with your dollar.” Every time you watch that terrible reality show, every time you choose to read the tabloid full of exposes, every time you decide to buy the numbered jersey–you are voting. You are showing your support of unethical, selfish, materialistic mayhem.

Why not vote with your dollar for something better? Why not vote by watching the in-depth documentary that shows the plight of  the poor, the abused, and slighted and bring light to those issues? Why not vote by buying a book or article that shows the heroic, the unselfish, and other good deeds happening on the sidelines? Why not vote by recognizing the teachers, first responders, laborers, parents, and other people living honest, good lives?

You can also vote with the products you buy. Go for the fair trade coffee, choose the ethically grown cotton, support the company that pays fair wages and donates to a good cause. You still get your latte, your little black dress, and your new pair of tennis shoes. If you can get the same product then why not vote for the stand up company that actually stands for something besides a bottom line?

I’ll say it again, our priorities are screwed up. It’s time to change. Vote with your dollar. Stop rewarding bad behavior and start sending a new message.