Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, New You

Every year, on January 1, many people promise themselves changes. They make resolutions, vow to follow through, and very few actually see the fruition of the seeds they planted.
Often, fear of change is the biggest obstacle. Staying with the status quo is simpler and more predictable than changing routines or situations, even if the outcome would be better. Civil Rights issues have exemplified fears of change for over a century.
Relationships are a more personal example. While I am in full support of dedicated partners, I also know that some people stay with a significant other simply because of habit. Marriage vows are wonderful, but they are meant to be a two-way partnership. The balance may shift within the relationship, but there should always be give and take. If one side isn't keeping up his or her end of the deal, why should the "better half" maintain a broken contract? Yet, relationships from marriage to casual dating will continue because the miserable party would rather continue than endure change for potential better.
Looking at a more global concept, people fail to care for the environment because they don't see how one small effort can affect the greater good. Yet, I personally can see an impact from my own recycling efforts. I was recycling before recycling was popular. I would pick up cans on the side of the road, bundle newspapers, and encouraged co-workers to follow suit. When I moved outside of the city limits, and recycling containers were not accessible, I got out of the habit. Recently, I made the extra effort to find drop-off sites, which are actually more accessible than I realized. I have reduced my garbage by half or more, and the process was much simpler than I had imagined. What if everyone in my community reduced their garbage by half? What if everyone in the country reduced their garbage by half? One person, making one effort, could create an entire chain of change!
Whether it is complacency, habit, or lack of motivation, change, when needed, doesn't haven't to be difficult. All that is required is the first move.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow Storm

A man named Mark saved my life today, and he doesn't know it. When the last student left after taking the exam in my class, it was 3 p.m. I made sure the computers were off, turned out the lights, and locked up the classroom. The building was empty except for the secretary; her husband would pick her up at 5 p.m. When we had looked out the window earlier, snow covered the commons area of the community college campus. By the time I walked out the door, slush covered the brick sidewalks. I shuffled to check out the traction. If the bricks weren't slick, I knew the asphalt should be fairly safe. One other car was on the far side of the parking lot and the snow was coming down fast and thick.
I ambled onto the road, driving slowly, but not too worried since the snow was fresh and not icy. The road crested a hill before snaking downwards. I wouldn't have given it much thought except a large SUV was sitting in the left lane with a crushed front end. The nose was pointed toward the yellow line, the back end leaned into the far ditch. Seeing the car made me slow down, but as I gently applied brakes to stop, I felt my own car try to fishtail. The road was much slicker than I had assessed, and this particular location was treacherous. Just ahead, a man was walking along the road towards the closest house.
Cell phone reception in this county is non-existent; the house looked empty. I rolled down my window and pulled up next to the man. "Do you need help or want a ride?" He stopped and looked at me. I could tell he was dazed, but seemed relieved. He knew the man in the house, but didn't think the owner was home. "Could you give me a lift home?" I didn't hesitate to let him get in the car.
As we moved forward, he told me where he lived, which wasn't too far. The shock was wearing off, and I could sense his shakiness. "When I saw the trees, I figured that was it for me," he said. He had decided to visit his friend "before the roads got bad." He came over the hill and started spinning before he realized what was happening. After bouncing off a tree, the car came to a rest on the opposite shoulder. He was bumped around, but fortunately avoided serious injury. Mark and I made quick introductions and I slowly drove him home.
"Should I call the sheriff? Or just get a tow-truck out here?" Mark was trying to decide the best course of action; his wife was out of town, and he was getting shakier by the minute. I suggested he call the sheriff to report the accident. At least then, he'd have it on record in case he wanted to file insurance. Noting he didn't have collision, I said, "Do it anyway; you'll regret it if you don't." His plan was to get his brother to drive him back to the scene of the accident. He also had another car at home.
When I dropped him off, I turned down his offer to reimburse me for gas. Instead, I thanked Mark. If I had not seen his accident, it would have been me on side of the road. Being in a much smaller car, I probably would not have survived, much less been able to walk.
On my way home, the snow came down harder, traffic was scarce, and the two-lane highways were barely visible under their white blanket. I drove carefully, thankful for the opportunity to not only help Mark, but to recognize that his accident saved me from tragedy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season

The holiday season is supposed to fill people with Christmas spirit, glad tidings, and fa-la-la-adry, yet I am meeting more people than ever who seem to be running low on ho-ho-hos. Not only is their cheer missing, they seem to feel guilty and apologetic for their deflated attitude. I must confess, I am among the sojourners of dolefulness.
Part of the problem is the retail world's vehemence towards profiteering from the gullibility of consumers. During a time when people should give to others because of caring and loving relationships, the public is inundated with marketing campaigns. Commercialism has saturated the intimacy of a sacred season, and the virus is spreading.

Christmas merchandise and decorations were going up in stores before Halloween. Across the aisles from skeletons, cauldrons, and witches' hats were reindeer, stockings, and Santa caps. Spooky laughter and clattering competed with singing elves. The Nightmare Before Christmas is taking on more relevance as each year passes. I can recall when the Friday after Thanksgiving was an unveiling of Christmas sales, decorations, and yuletide greetings. My mother's memories go even further back, as she recently recalled the magic of the holiday season's unveiling. "We would drive downtown on Thanksgiving day, and all the store windows would be covered with brown paper," she said. "On Friday morning, it was like Santa had waved a magic wand and changed everything." Brown paper was removed to reveal storefronts decorated for the season. The city's lights and decorations lined the streets. A parade beckoned the multitudes, and when the show was over, shoppers filled the stores. Retailers can't gain a huge impact on Black Friday when they start competing for shoppers a month ahead of time.

Commercialism, however, is not the only thing that ruins the season for me. Self-righteous Christians have started thumping their Bibles to the tune of the Little Drummer Boy, as well. Narrow-minded thinkers have joined in on a campaign to ban "Happy Holidays" in favor of "Merry Christmas." I suppose this is the follow up to putting the "Christ" back into "Christmas," or the opposition to "Xmas." Unfortunately, ignorance has led the way to a path of intolerance and misunderstandings.

Xmas is actually a clear and equal representation of Christmas. "X" is the Greek letter "chi" which is the first letter of Christ. Using the term Xmas is not a sign of disrespect, but rather an older homage.

Saying "Happy Holidays" to another person is not negating the impact of Jesus' birth. Instead, it carries on what I believe to be His message. The Jesus that I believe in would say that it doesn't matter what the day is called, as long as people remember the true purpose. His birth gave people hope and a reason to follow His word. He offered messages of unity and respect, regardless of differences. Even among Christians, the beliefs vary. To denounce another person's faith, is to disrespect a child of God. How can a true Christian go against the very teachings of Christ?

Whether someone just recently observed Ramadan, is lighting the Menorah for Hanukkah, will celebrate the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, attends Christmas Eve mass, or has a merry Christmas, I wish everyone a Happy Holiday.

In the meantime, I will continue to sort out my disdain for the retailers and the holier-than-thous, and find my own light within to merge with the one above.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Moon illuminates skewed justice

Celebrating a birthday at the movies is not unusual, but a Chicago woman spent two nights in jail for trying to record the event. She now faces up to three years in prison for film piracy charges. The 22-year-old recorded a group of friends singing "Happy Birthday" to her older sister who turned 29. Presents were opened and the gaiety was caught by camera, along with approximately four minutes of the feature film, "New Moon."
The accused claims that she was not filming the movie, voices can be heard, and the focus is on the party subjects, not the feature. I have no reason to doubt that is not the case, and believe authorities should let the incident go with a warning.

The main crime here, not punishable by law, is the ruckus this group probably made for the remainder of the audience. Movie tickets are expensive, and I don't tolerate rudeness in a theatre. If you have a phone call, conversation, screaming baby, or other distraction, I will remind you to leave when you don't do so promptly. My imagination goes wild at the prospect of witnessing a full-blown birthday party with adults giggling like adolescents while the movie is playing! (On a side note: Why would you open presents in a theatre? Where do you keep them - on a sticky floor or in a seat that flips closed?)

Like many accused criminals, facts surrounding the incident can cause a great deal of embarrassment, regardless of the final outcome. A grown woman spent two nights in jail because she was recording the ridiculous behavior of a party while watching a very bad, very adolescent movie. Perhaps Hanna Montana DVDs and Britney Spears CDs were among the gifts!

While Chicago police broke up this movie piracy scam, the Salahis have bounced a check to a liquor store for $24,000, they roam free after breaching White House security, and are trying to scam payment for interviews. As politicians have proven for many years, criminals get free reign in the D.C. area.

Maybe it is time for Justice to remove her blindfold and take a look at her enforcers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reflecting as a caregiver

Caregiving doesn't have to be a full-time effort for the duties to be all-consuming. When someone you love needs help of any kind, they stay on your mind, often interrupting your thoughts and efforts towards other obligations. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I find myself neglecting this blog at times.
I constantly see topics I wish to address, but my mind is diverted towards my own survival and the needs of my mother. Even though she is in a retirement community, she lives independently, but not self-sufficiently. Thus, my reason for creating a new blog.
Muttonchops is designed to address social issues, so rather than sprinkle in unrelated topics, I am creating one that focuses on caregiver issues. Hopefully, I can provide insight and humor, as well as unload my brain of some stress so that I can redirect my energies to more productive endeavors. At least, for now, that's the plan. Feel free to sit in on the Caregiver's Window Seat (