My ultra-boring life

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

10 Ways to Show Charity, Become a Better Person, and Feel Better About Yourself with less than 5 minutes and No Money

1. If you go to the store, don't pick up your cart from the collection inside. Take one from someone who just unloaded it to save them the trip to the cart holder.
2. Write a letter or email to a friend or acquaintance for no reason. Get personal with it: ask them personal questions, tell them specific things you like about them. If you miss them, tell them so.
3. Do the same with a phone call.
4. Show up at a senior center or assisted living center. Tell people you are the 'Hug Fairy' and go around giving a hug, a smile, and a greeting to at least a dozen people.
5. Visit a mom with young children. Offer to do a specific household chore and talk to her while you do it. Both can brighten a mom's day like you wouldn't believe.
6. With things like #4 or #5, wear a cape or fairy wings when you do it. It may seem silly, but trust me, it makes it a million times more awesome for everyone.
7. If you're at a grocery store where people have to bag their own groceries, help the person before or after you bag their groceries (especially if they are elderly or alone or have little kids with them).
8. Keep your cape/fairy wings with you at all times. If you ever have a time and place that you have a few minutes to wait, put them on and give random people hugs or smiles.
9. When you are at a store, or in the drive thru, pay attention to the person helping you. Give them a moment of real and friendly interaction. Compliment them. And thank them sincerely for what they do.
10. Keep a couple of sticks of sidewalk chalk with you in a ziploc bag. Use them to write short and sweet greetings on the drives and walks of both friends and strangers.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Responsibility of Democracy

When it comes to voting, I'm afraid that this is what we've come to:



After the results of the Brexit vote last night--including the regrets of many of the people who voted to leave--I thought it was time that somebody get the word out to people to clear up some misconceptions that have been perpetuated by soundbites and vote beggars, as well as give you some education about how government and democracy actually works.

First, to the government part.  Governments are what make our laws that dictate what you cannot do.  They are also in charge of enforcing those laws, and protecting the country that you live in as well as the people in that country.  They also manage relations with other countries, to help with security and other foreign relations that affect industry, trade, and other things important to the people in your country.

Got it so far?  Good.

Now, up until a century or two ago, most countries in the world were ruled by monarchies or dictatorships.  A few were ruled by oligarchies, but democracies were few and far between.  This meant that the number of people who had ANY say in the laws, enforcement of laws, protections, foreign relations, and other things that affected everyone in their country, was in the dozens at best.  No one else had any say.  Period.  This didn't mean that the people could sit around and let those few people take care of them and take the responsibility of making sure things ran smoothly.  Heck no.  This meant that the laws were based on the needs and wants of the people who made the laws--those few people.  The laws kept them in power, the laws made them rich, the laws kept them from getting in trouble.  Protecting the country was more about pride and power of the leader, not protection of the people (except for the detail that the fewer people there were to man the armies, the easier it would be for another country to take the power and pride away from the leader(s)).  Foreign relations were more about keeping power and money with the people who already had the power and money.

Still with me?  Let's move on.

This meant that there were a lot of laws that most of the people didn't really like, but there was almost nothing they could do about them.  Like, they couldn't talk bad about their leaders, at ALL, even if it was true.  If they were accused of crimes, they were often guilty until proven innocent, and since it was usually appointees of the leaders who made the judgments, and not a jury of one's peers, you were basically screwed if you had done anything to get on the bad side of any kind of leader or one of their friends.  Religion at that time was generally based more on power and politics than conscience, as well, and many, of not most, countries had a 'state' religion.  This not only meant the the religion was the official one of the country, but that the leadership, rules, and monies of the state and the religion were intertwined.  This not only meant that the state religion affected laws and policies, but that the state affected what was taught at the pulpit.  Think about that.

Now, the United States was not the first democracy, nor will it be the last.  But the people living here  considered the rules and restrictions they were living under unpleasant enough that they decided to go to war over it.  Not just fight.  Not just rely on a few strapping young men to go volunteer to sacrifice their lives in a foreign land for them.  But to give up their homes, their money, their reputations, their comfort, and quite possibly their lives and the lives of their families by waging a war against the most powerful country in the world at that time.  That is what a say in their country's governance was worth to them.

Now, though, things have changed.  Democracies have become so commonplace, and the world so populous, that we really take our way of life for granted.  If something goes wrong, it is Somebody Else's fault, and Somebody Else had better fix it.

Well you know what?  That's not how democracies work.  

Let me say that again.

Democracies are not governments where someone else is responsible.  Democracies are governments where YOU are responsible.

Now, I'm not going to use blanket, simplistic adages like 'just vote!' or 'if you don't vote, you can't complain!'  Why?  Because they are WRONG, and I will tell you why: with something as important as the governing of your communities, towns, cities, states, and countries, you absolutely should NEVER just throw crap against the wall and see what sticks.
Voting means you are in charge of the government in your country.  And if others have been willing to work their whole lives, to give up everything, or even die for this, you should at least be willing to put a few hours of research into making an informed decision in the voting booth.

Don't tell me you don't have time.  I know there are a few people out there that are crazy busy with serious responsibilities in their lives.  But most of us spend more time in a single week scrolling through Facebook, watching sports, or playing on our phones than it would take to be decently informed on upcoming political choices.  You cannot rely on the intelligence, sacrifice of time, or sense of duty of others to make sure your life runs smoothly.  It never has, and never will, work that way.

So here's some important rules to follow:
1.  At least a week before an election, do some research and find out what issues and candidates are going to be on your local ballot. Then, from a few different sites (none of them social media, please!), gather information about the issues, the laws, and the candidates.
2.  If you don't know anything about any of the issues or candidates by the time you go into the polling place, don't vote.
3.  If you are basing your voting decisions solely on the party associated with that candidate or issue, don't vote.
4.  If you are basing your voting decisions on what you think your friends like, don't vote.
5.  If you are basing your voting decisions on how your spouse told you to vote, don't vote.
6.  If you are basing your voting decisions on hatred of some person, group, or people, you should probably not vote.  (Protection of you and yours is one thing.  Simple hatred of others is something else entirely.  And it's bad.)
7.  If you are basing your voting decisions on what name simply looks most familiar, don't vote.

Please note that I am NOT saying you should never vote.  I'm saying you should VOTE RESPONSIBLY.   Those career politicians you hate that you say we need term limits to oust?  Stop voting them in.  Those high-level politicians that you hate having as the only choices?  Start voting good people in at lower levels of government so that we have better choices when they get to the top.  WE are the ones in charge.  WE are the ones whose responsibility it is to make our country better.  So start taking the responsibility that was given to you seriously and put some effort into it.  It's important.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beauty

OK, so there is this trend lately to make sure that everyone is 'beautiful.'  And I'm not particularly on board.

See, to me, everyone has strengths.  Everyone has weaknesses.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Some people are short, some people are dumb, some people are ugly.  Those sound like awful words, and in some ways they are and shouldn't be used in polite company.  However, I don't think the solution is to redefine the antonyms of those words so that they apply to absolutely everyone.

Dictionary.com defines beauty as "the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest)."  However, I feel like most people define it as visually pleasing when it is used in a generic context.  If something is not intensely visually pleasing, it is not beautiful.

But my point is this: People do not have to be beautiful to be good and of worth.

You don't have to be 'normal,' or clever, or pretty, or talented, or even functional, to be good.  Period.  Being good is all about your choices, which are unrelated to any of those.

The people I know who are not 'normal' (aka 'weird') are great because they add humour and variety to my life.

The people I know who are not clever can be great because they teach me the value of perseverance and trying even when they won't ever do very well.

The people I know who are not fully functional teach me the value of persisting despite obstacles, and finding alternative ways to get things done.  The ones that are truly and completely not functional, teach me to love and to serve without expecting anything in return.

The people I know who are not pretty teach me to look beyond the surface for other qualities.

Now, I have known a lot of annoying people.  But most of them are annoying because of their choices, not because of vacuous societal judgments or inborn traits.

So embrace the good in you, fight the bad, always try your best, and you will always be splendid.  You don't need to be the best at everything--or even ANYTHING--to be wonderful.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Finishing!

I think I've seriously wanted to be a writer since about eighth grade.  I was a voracious reader pretty much since I was four years old.  As I got older, I not only wanted to live in other worlds and lives, but I wanted to live in worlds of my own devising, so I could make sure that things worked the way I wanted them to.  But various things hindered me, the largest of which was a complete lack of self-confidence.
It was easy for me to see for many years that, despite my good grades in English and writing courses, the things that I wrote didn't have the power to transport me to their worlds.  Combined with the idea that I could never finish anything by myself, I spent most of my life feeling hopeless about writing.

But last year I got a bug.  (As well as a dose of mania.)  And that passion pushed me past my roadblocks, pushed me past the 'I know something is wrong but I don't know how to fix it,' and pushed me past my doubts and psychological hangups (aside from being obsessive about Benedict Cumberbatch.  That's still there.).  And last night, I finished the first 'book' I have ever, ever finished.

Yes, it's fan fiction, so no, it will most likely never be published.  And yes, it still needs some editing.  But it's DONE.  And I am so excited and proud of myself that it's like drinking a full case of diet Dr Pepper, because I couldn't get to sleep until sometime after 2 this morning and I couldn't sleep much past 6.

And while I was pondering this this morning, I remembered this quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. 
And it made me cry.  Because it's true.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Lesson of Zeniff

I was reading in the Book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon this morning and I was struck by something as I was reading the account of Zeniff, who had gone back to the original Land of Nephi to reclaim it.  Now, Zeniff seemed to be a decent guy.  He saw good in the Lamanites there and didn't wish to war with them.  He seemed to reign later in justice and follow the statutes of the Lord.  But when he wrote the record, with the benefit of hindsight, he said he was "over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers."

Now, to be called a zealot today is generally considered an insult, because it has a connotation of being overly committed to something, to the point of being blind to facts and reason.  I'm not sure exactly what the connotation of zealous was when this was translated in the late 1820s, but I am sure that 'over-zealous' could not have been complimentary.  So for Zeniff to say this about himself indicates, to me, a great deal of regret.

So, as I try to do with scriptures, I began to ponder how this sort of idea could apply in my life.  Was Zeniff a bad person, or did he have bad intentions?  No, he doesn't seem to.  Would getting back the land of his fathers' inheritance be necessarily a bad thing, or violating the commands of the Lord?  No.  But the record doesn't say the idea itself was bad.  It says he was over-zealous.

How many times in our lives do we have something we want so badly that we are willing to make many sacrifices for it?  Sometimes this is a good thing.  But sometimes, I think, we push things a little too hard or cling too tightly to something that may not be as important as we believe it to be.  For those of us in the Church, we often call this 'kicking against the pricks.'  Sometimes in our lives, we have something we want SO BADLY that we fight even the promptings of the Lord that tell us that we should shift our focus a bit.  It's not that what we want is necessarily bad.  It is usually that it may not be the best thing for us, or will lead to bad consequences we couldn't foresee.

In Zeniff's case, it led to many wars and bloodshed with the Lamanites, the drifting of the people from the Lord under the reign of Noah, the murder of a prophet, the loss of their liberty, years of heavy taxes and burdens, and contentions amongst the people.  He could not foresee these things.  But they happened.  And for what?  Because he wanted not just ANY land, but THAT land.  He was clinging to the past nostalgically, and ascribing an increased value to that specific land which was inflated and not real.

How many times do we do this in our own lives?  You really want to marry a specific person, so you get creepy about them.  You really want to get married, so you jump at the first opportunity despite obvious signs that it is a bad match.  You really want children, so you either go to inappropriate lengths to get them (such as sleeping around to get pregnant when you are not married), or you waste the rest of your life accomplishing nothing because you are too busy whining about how you were robbed.  You really want to do well in some worldly goal (a certain job or skill, perhaps), so you sacrifice everything (including family and/or personal integrity) to get it.

All of these desires are good, when accomplished in good and reasonable ways.  But when we carry them too far, we can hurt ourselves and others.

There is a false belief out there that if we really want something, we should NEVER give up on it and we should sacrifice anything and everything to get it.  While hard work and determination are good, we all will have points in our lives when, to remain sane, we MUST re-evaluate the costs and possible rewards involved, and sometimes that means letting go of a goal or desire.  I find this easier to figure out with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but most of us have the ability to apply reason to such things, especially if we work to set aside our passionate emotions and look at the situation wisely.

And on those occasions when you decide that letting it go is the wisest course of action, I think it is important to really let it go.  That means not only ceasing the relentless pursuit of it, but also not allowing the loss of that dream haunt you, like you had been robbed or you have to be miserable forever because you can't have that thing.  We can always be happy.  Always.  It is our choice whether to hold onto something like that and be miserable about it forever, or to find something else to love and be happy about.