Friday, July 13, 2012

Reach for the stars and you might just end up with the Milky Way

FORT WORTH, TX, April 29, 2010—Okay, you have decided to really get to know yourself. Maybe not even that. Perhaps you have just decided your life needs some change and the steps take you within.
Among the internal cobwebs and dust bunnies you find long forgotten interests, hobbies, or maybe even a vocation. There are some dark shadows here and there, but you look about as if on a treasure hunt. Oftentimes it’s almost as fun as being a kid in a candy store.
Memories greet you like the warmth of meeting an old friend. You realize that you had forgotten just how much you like to play the saxophone. Or knit. Or that you were better than most in your competitive swimming class in high school.
Life is moving along, a little change here, a bit more of a change there. Since we’re all different creatures we all move at varied paces. Change happens at different times and in different ways for individual people.
Then out of the blue you can’t get out of bed. Or if you do, your body is full of lead as you trudge about your day. You think you’re coming down with something.
Sometimes this lasts for a day or two, or it can last weeks at a time. You can’t function like this. You worry about your responsibilities: children, homes, bills, jobs, food, etc., etc.
Then it’s gone. Sometimes it’s gone for a while - but it always comes back.
If not with the irrepressible need to sleep, you’re filled with hopelessness. And/or irrational fear, irritability, excessive crying, angry outbursts, difficulty in decision making, and thoughts of death or suicide.
You think you’re going crazy. Spouses, friends, co-workers, and others are usually concerned at first. But when this behavior continues many of them react with confusion, anger, and even denial.
You try to take the huge load off by yourself. But try, try, try as you might, you can’t—even when you are accused of being a big baby who can’t deal with life.
For some this becomes a way of life, for others, there‘s another side to the coin. Such as dramatic and unpredictable mood swings, excessive happiness, racing thoughts, restlessness, making grand and unattainable plans. Also, less need for sleep, increased energy, high sex drive, uncontrollable spending that gets you into trouble.
For the record, I am not a medical doctor. I do, however have some personal experience with the subjects at hand. I also took a look at WebMD.
The first sets of symptoms indicate Clinical Depression. Then add the opposite traits and you have Bi-Polar Disorder.
These symptoms don’t always show up when a person makes changes to their lives, but something usually triggers them. These diseases, for that’s what they are, are also hereditary. Environment definitely plays a role too.
The medical field doesn’t always know why symptoms present at an early age for some people and later for others. But brain chemistry is usually where doctors start treatment. The medicine helps the patient to be in control of their lives once more.
There may be underlying issues such as childhood abuse or drug use to deal with. The meds prescribed will further help the patient to deal with those issues as well. Many people abuse drugs because they suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain.
Drug abuse is often an unconscious way of trying to correct the problem.
Unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to mental illness. Patients are often regarded as if he/she sports naturally purple hair or has just sprouted a second head. Even in our enlightened society.
I’ve run into folks who find it too much to be close to someone with one of these disorders. They feel put-upon. To be a friend or close family member requires too much of themselves.
I say good riddance. Sufferers of these disorders do not need people in their lives they cannot depend on. Or people who think tough love is the way to get rid of the disease.
Mental and physical diseases and disorders certainly add change to any life. If chronic, they cause one to set forth on a new path as well. But that does not mean most of your dreams can’t come true.
By necessity it’s not uncommon to find passions you wouldn’t have come across if not for an infirmity. Amazing, isn’t it?
Dealing with diseases and/or disorders in life just means there are additional paths to get to where you are going. That’s part of the beauty of taking any kind of a journey. Whether by car, train, or life - the experience of getting there is half the fun.
I have found that by changing your perceptions and expectations, a fearful challenge can become a welcome challenge. Don’t let a need for help from the medical field and/or loved ones hamper your journey.
Go ahead. Discover and live new passions. Create new dreams and reach for the stars. They are there for the taking.

Too much comfort can stop your living

FORT WORTH, TX, April 23, 2010From boundaries to comfort zones.
We all have one and know how it feels.
The definition of comfort zones refers to the environments and behaviors we all have. In them we have a sense of well being and with no sense of risk. Or that there‘s less risk where you are now than if you deviate from your regular path.
But life is something you do. Not something you be. Without change you are like a stagnant pond.
And with all this change you may as well put your energies towards the passions within you. If you don’t know what moves you, put forth the effort to find out. All of them require doing something different than you usually do.
Sound like a lot of work? Most of us would rather be all snug as a bug in a rug and comfy, yes?
Well no wonder average human behavior dictates that we don’t like change.
Comfort is good. Comfort means love. After all we were taught comfort from the cradle.
Besides, the media that bombards society says we are supposed to be comfortable. If not, we’re doing something wrong.
Sometimes the comfort zone is comfortable even when life inside it is not. People who stay in bad marriages or relationships come to mind.
Fear of not being able to self-support can make a person stay. Lack of childcare or the fear of loneliness can keep one from change. Oftentimes it seems like there are no other options.
But today I’m generalizing.
Most dreams can’t become reality if you stay in your comfort zone. You need to get out of it and make a new one that includes your passion. Your desire has to be stronger than the fear of change for that ambition to come true.

I believe perception and expectations have a lot to do with how easily we reach for our goals. Your upbringing and current value system affects your perception of the world around you. Expectations are affected by them too, but past experience also plays a significant role.
Do you have confidence? How’s your self-esteem? If you are low on either of them I say reach for your dreams anyway. Traveling the path to them builds confidence, and the effort made is a real image booster as well.
Were you raised to believe you can be anything you want if you work hard enough? Did you see a lot of people doing this while you were growing up?
Or were you told to take what you can get out of life? Just be happy with what you have and go no further? Even if you are miserable? Did those around you believe that if you change bad things might happen so why try?
All of that has some measure of truth in it. But you have to ask yourself this:
If you don’t make the effort to make your dreams reality, will you regret it someday? Will you regret it anywhere along the line of your life? Is your goal worth the risk of failure?

There will always be those around who try to talk you out of living your passions for whatever reasons. Some don’t want you to be disappointed. Others want you to stay at their level because it will shed light on their own unhappiness.
Drop these folks like a hot potato. If it’s not possible physically, then do it mentally and emotionally.
And if not completely, then put them in the periphery of your life. You need a support system that has unwavering faith in you and your abilities. When you fall down they will hold out a hand to help you up and on your feet again.
Unfortunately not all friends and family members want you to succeed. Fortunately, you don’t need them to get where you want to go. It’s reassuring when loved ones come along for the ride, but not if they tear you down.
Go ahead. Find out what you need to do to dwell in your passions. That’s the first step right there.
Now do what you need to do so you can live your dreams.

Don't let the past keep you from the present

FORT WORTH, TX, April 18, 2010—What is holding you back from reaching for your dreams? Or even from taking that necessary first step towards a new path and hopefully a new life?
Is it procrastination? If so, why? What holds a person back from starting an exciting journey to a better life? Life is loaded with responsibilities, but once they are cared for, what else?
Let's say, fear of the unknown. That's a common one. Sometimes it's hard to see past the fear even if it's only fear itself.
What's the worst that can happen? Lots of things come to mind, and most of the time none of them come to fruition. Yet fear can actually paralyze people physically as well put a halt to their lives.
Fear can keep people from taking chances. They never see their hopes and dreams come true. How sad.
Life isn't a place, it's an ongoing event. Like a train you have to hop aboard. Yet fear is packed with power and can bring life to a screeching halt.
Boundary violation is one of the biggest reasons for this behavior.
We all have boundaries. Even if one is abused, the barriers are still there - just not where they are supposed to be. Or enforced like they should be.
I looked for a definition of psychological boundaries and found several paragraphs explaining the concept. What I gleaned from my research is this: boundaries are a protective yet imaginary barrier possessed by people, like invisible armor.
Boundaries let others know where and what your comfort levels are. They let others know when they've gone too far. They illuminate those little red flags that rise up in your mind when something's not quite right.
When the barriers are breached against one's will it is considered abuse. Abuse can run the gamut from severe sexual and physical abuse all the way to subtle emotional manipulation.
Adults who were abused as children often never learn to set proper boundaries. Children aren't likely to learn about self-protection when violation is a big part of their lives.
Also, their personal integrity was so debased that boundaries can actually make the hurt worse. The less resistance, the faster it's over. Curl up in a ball and take it, the less it will hurt.
It's a paradox really. The defenses that help to protect an abused child can actually cripple them as adults.
The good news is that once this psychological defense is realized, it can be conquered.
The right and reasonable defenses can be learned.
People who've sustained violated boundaries are often ridiculed and shamed because of their reluctance to action or change. There's that fear again. They often hear, "Quit being a big baby and grow up!"
It's not that easy, and downright frightening for some. Sometimes fear so overwhelming that it can keep a person from life. Dreams and passions become unreachable.
It's also why some people keep choosing partners who hurt them. Or their love-lives are hit or miss at best. Their friends aren't much different.
What motivates these souls to keep choosing partners of one kind or another? Why do they keep coming back for more? I'm no expert but I believe it is love.
The desire to be loved is so strong that many souls cling to their imitation version of it. Even if they know it's not good for them. Some couldn't let go if they tried.
Why? The need for love is just as strong as the need for food, water, and shelter. So these folks keep trying, hoping each time to get it right. Sometimes they do, most often though, not.
Not until they get rid of old defenses and value themselves enough to learn new ones.
Hey, there's a new path right there: the path to self-respect and love.
It's exciting to say the least. Not always "good" exciting, but the rewards are immeasurable. We are all worth it too.
Are you having a hard time reaching out, or taking a step forward? Can you see past the fear? Maybe it's time you checked your psychological armor.
You'll be glad you did.

Inspiration IS only 10% ~ but worth its weight in gold

FORT WORTH, TX, April 13, 2010—Inspiration.
Thomas Edison said that success was 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Many agree that truer words were never spoken. But this does not mean that the percentage amounts are a reflection of the importance of each element.
Where would any of us be without inspiration? It can come out of anywhere and from anyone when you least expect it.
I was new to the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch when I read an article about Captain Phil Harris. Motor Trend magazine featured the Skipper covering his life from the time he was a small child onward. Wow! I was impressed to say the least.
The man started fishing with his father at seven years old when his Mother died. He started driving at ten and got busted for it at twelve - Phil was the original latch-key kid.
On his own at sixteen, then at seventeen he was voted least likely to succeed by a high school counselor. Not long after that Phil started fishing and made $135,000 in a month. The counselor’s home happened to be for sale at the same time.
The price was $45,000 so Phil got it in cash and put it in a paper bag. He then went to the counselor’s home, banged the bag of money onto the counter and told her and her husband to get out.
Of course they wouldn’t sell to him, but what guts! I had never heard of such a thing before. It was out of my realm of experience. Wow!
I did, however, identify with a lot of what was not written there.
I know what it took for Phil to go from troubled kid to a successful fisherman. Not specifics, of course - but what it takes inside to keep going.
On the surface he and I had nothing in common. But I do understand the many times he had to choose to not give up. Been there, done that.
Phil had to select the right path - often after taking the wrong one ten times in a row. I know I did. But eventually he made enough right choices to see a real future ahead.
The man had to do it all himself. I’m sure there was support, but digging oneself from a pit like this is done solo. Hand over hand, foot over foot. Lots of dirt in the face too.
And all this speaks well of what Phil chose to be made of. It’s also why he became the successful crab fisherman and much admired man now missed by many.
How does this inspire me? How can it not? With all that was against him Phil Harris became a success. The Captain succeeded because he realized only he would decide how his life turned out.
To realize this about one’s life is very liberating. It’s like being a kid in a candy store with a zillion choices. It’s also an opportunity for one to discover hidden passions within. I discovered that my enjoyment of writing is indeed a passion.
Once I learned about the Captain I figured that if he did it, why can’t I? Now I don’t expect or want celebrity from my writing, and I believe I will be a success—but only if I make it happen.
Before all this I would have never imagined the opportunities I’ve been given.
The description of my column says, “Claire, once lacking in self-esteem and had no confidence to speak of, now leaves fear in the dust and looks forward to the future…”
And I do. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. It doesn’t scare me anymore.
I’ve had other inspirations, both people and things on my journey besides the good Captain. But in honor of tonight’s season premier of Deadliest Catch, I wanted to pay tribute to a fabulous man.
Thanks Captain Phil. 

Make new friends, keep the old

FORT WORTH, TX, April 6, 2010 - Angels are real. They are all around us. Some of them are the heavenly kind; others are what we refer to here on earth as friends.
I’m talking real friends here, not acquaintances. defines them this way -
Friend: a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
Acquaintance: a person known to one, but not usually a close friend.
A real friend will be there for you through mud, flood, hell, or high water; if not in person then in support.
An acquaintance will wish you well.
A real friend will give you a kick in the behind if you need it.
 An acquaintance won’t care enough to make the effort.
A real friend will lay down his/her life for another without a second thought. This means: putting one’s self out of one’s comfort zone; although it can mean dying for another too.
Family members can be either friend or acquaintance.
In many instances friends offer a lot more real support and love than one’s own family.
Families frequently assign roles to their members. A person is put in a mold and expected to live it throughout life. Fair or not family members often cannot see past who they think you are.
This is one of the reasons it takes real courage to change your life. To go against family is to risk losing your safety net and/or support. Sometimes it’s like cutting off a leg or an arm. When you change your role, it forces their expectations of you to change - and no one likes change.
It goes against human nature.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-family, not by a long shot. I just believe that it’s okay to change with or without your family’s approval. Unfortunately this can also result in losing them, temporarily, or for good.
The angels we call friends see you with fresh eyes. They don’t have the prejudices and blind expectations that family members often have. You get a clean slate when you make a new friend.
Some friendships are cultivated over a number of years. Others are made and grow deep within a short span of time. Some friendships last a lifetime and others, for whatever reason, don’t last long at all.
Real friends encourage, cheer, and have an endless supply of waterproof shoulders for you to cry on. A real friend won’t steer you wrong. They will roll up their sleeves and get down in the dirt with you if necessary.

The Hope of Good Friday

FORT WORTH, TX, April 21, 2011 – Tomorrow is Good Friday. It represents the gift given to all of us.
Good Friday is a gift?? Yes.
It was the day Jesus was tortured so bad that He didn’t look like a man anymore. He carried the cross on His mangled body from the palace of Pontius Pilate to Golgotha, nailed through the flesh to it, and then died.
Three days later He rose from the dead conquering Death, Hell and the grave.
Yes, this is a gift. It is the gift of Hope.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
But that is the gift that was given by One to us all.  
From Hope all other gifts are possible. And the Hope that Jesus gives is available to all people. No matter who you are or where you are at in life it’s yours for the taking.
You don’t have to change a thing about yourself to get it either. Jesus meets you right where you are.
My beliefs firmly state that all people were created by God, and that evens the playing field of human worth.
They also state that all humanity is responsible for the torture and death of Christ; not just one group of people. Just a couple of chapters when Pilate ordered the torture and crucifixion Jesus states, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
This means that if Jesus forgave the Jews and Romans for what He suffered, then no one else has the right to hold it against anybody else.

According to scripture Jesus accepted His burden freely for all human beings. Not just a certain few - and no one forced Him.
He is the perfect Lamb sacrificed for our sins; taking the punishment so we wouldn't have to.
This is what is in my heart but I also respect a person’s right to believe what they feel is right for their life.
While it is an abstract ideal, one can get a sense of putting their hands around it. Once you grab on to Hope life becomes instantly more bearable.
Hope is yours to keep unless you let it go yourself. It is not taxable, wiped from your mind, or stolen without your consent. It’s truly one of the things in this world you really do have control over.
Hope for a better life is essential when looking for the passions within. And I for one believe that God created each of us for a specific purpose, or even purposes. Hope is the fuel that gets us there.
Hope comes in many forms. Jesus became Hope and He wants us to do the same for others. Be someone’s Hope. For those broken in heart and mind. Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 express what it means to those who receive that support:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…” (Matthew 25: 35-36)
Look beyond the obvious for other things that all humans hunger for.
What about the souls who have brains that don’t function properly? What about people who face such agonizing circumstances that they cannot see past the pain? Put yourself in their shoes:
“…I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”
What is thirst? Webster’s Dictionary lists craving as one definition of the word.
Is someone you know craving comfort and understanding? Love and acceptance? We all do from time to time. Remember that when you are called upon to put yourself out of your comfort zone for another.
And if the cost seems too much for you just remember that treating others with basic respect and dignity fills many a belly and quenches the greatest of thirst.
And Jesus said,
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

From a child's lips to the nation's ears

FORT WORTH, TX, March 30, 2010 - Children are still leading adults. Sometimes it is the result of the grown-up relinquishing control - not good. Then sometimes children lead us in all innocence to places of great learning. That is if the adult will see what the child sees.
Sami, the young daughter of my good friend Caryn recently learned that our community has a food bank. She learned that people right in her own neighborhood have little or no food at all.
Sami’s wise parents cleared a shelf in the kitchen and told her that this is what many people see when they say there isn’t anything to eat. Empty space. Bare shelves. Old Mother Hubbard.
Around this time Caryn won the use of a brand new Chevy Malibu for an entire month. She was chosen by a local dealership to drive and blog about her experience with the Malibu. Part of the prize was $200 worth of groceries from a local upscale grocery store.
Influenced by what Sami was learning Caryn decided to donate her free groceries to the Tarrant Area Food Bank. If you knew this lady you wouldn’t be surprised - even if the issue of hungry people had not come up.
Counting her blessings is a way of life for Caryn. She also wanted to give her friends an opportunity to do the same, I am honored to be one of them. Yesterday morning we gathered at the Tarrant Area Food Bank to make our donations.
Once the food was given to the bank we were offered a tour of the facility. It was fascinating. We learned that the Tarrant Area Food Bank serves 13 counties in Texas, moving over 1 million pounds of food through partner charities.
We also discovered that Texas ranks #1 for the amount of hungry people in the U.S. Texas’ ratio of hungry people is 1 in 4. This is twice the U.S. average of 1 in 8 hungry people.
The Tarrant Area Food Bank is fighting this through programs like:
Kids Café: It feeds children who receive subsidized meals at school, but cannot rely on eating dinner at home.
Backpacks For Kids: This program provides backpacks filled with child-friendly non-perishable food for those children at greatest risk for being hungry on the weekends.
Meals On Wheels/Senior Centers: Among Senior Citizens living in our area, more than 18,000 live in poverty and often must choose between buying much needed medicine or groceries.
Pet Food Initiative: Like a child, a loving owner will feed a pet before they feed themselves. Why keep the animal in times of economic crisis? Animals help us emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Pets help us to:
- Adjust to serious illness & death
- Be less anxious and feel safer
- Relax and reduce everyday stress
- Have physical contact
- Lift our mood
- Feel less lonely
- Have something to care for
- Keep active
- Have consistency
- Have better social interactions
All the above reasons are important to humans - especially when facing a critical situation.
Our group also learned of The Community Kitchen at Tarrant Area Food Bank. This school utilizes surplus food to teach culinary skills to low-income, unemployed and underemployed adults who seek jobs as cooks and chefs.
How it works: From the pamphlet from the TAFB, ”To provide groceries for the training, Tarrant Area Food Bank recovers surplus fresh and frozen foods from grocers, restaurants, hotels, and convention centers.
The Community Kitchen students convert this recovered food into meals for hungry children and adults served by the Food Bank’s network of hunger-relief charities.”
In addition to the Culinary Arts these students receive coaching for success and job retention as well as assistance with job searches.
Isn’t this amazing? These graduates often go on to work at four and five star restaurants, country clubs, and cruise ships.
This not only “teaches a person to fish”, a program like this hands them opportunity- opportunity to have the world on a platter, if they are willing to work for it. And with an almost 80% hire rate these folks take full advantage of this new lease on life.
In general, you never know how a little knowledge will affect your life. Sometimes not much, but other times a little learning will completely change the way you thing, feel, and/or live. Don’t be too proud or uninterested to learn something new.
I had just planned to support a friend whose generosity is something I wholeheartedly believe in. And as a result, what I learned increased my respect for this agency and others like it.
I can’t wait to show my kids how volunteering for one hour will help kids be able to eat. I also want them to see that it doesn’t take much to be an enormous help to the food bank. Every dollar given feeds four people. Just think of what would happen if everyone gave just a few items once a month?
A little girl wanted to know about our local food bank. Now I’m posting this information in an online column that is part of a major newspaper in the nation’s Capitol. How cool is that?
From little Sami to Washington D.C.; Some things never change. Thank God.