Archive for August, 2007

The Right to Bear Alms

>Just when you think it can’t get much stranger, or more worrisome, come two fathers from Boston who have designed, and are marketing, bulletproof backpack/book bags for school age children.  It seems these two men have been worried about the safety of their children since the Columbine killings and have now done something about it.
    We are living in a society where it’s necessary to try and bulletproof our children’s’ book bags? Well, maybe the answer is “yes” by all appearances. But aren’t there bigger issues here?
    I have never been very active or vocal around the whole gun control issue…mainly because I feel one way but see the other side’s point of view. So, I’ve basically taken the “live and let live” (no pun intended) approach. I abhor the general populace being armed. I am certainly not an advocate for owning any type of gun. But the other side makes the point that if you make gun ownership illegal then only those intending to do harm will have them and, well, I see their point. But surely making it so easy to own one has to be part of the problem.
    Then there is the whole violence in the media contribution to the present state of things. Endless studies have shown that repeated exposure to violence not only desensitizes a viewer’s feelings around violence, it also actually promotes violence.
    So, anyone can own a gun and we are daily inundated with violence in the media. Sounds like two ingredients in a recipe for disaster.
    I understand those Bostonian fathers’ concerns and their wanting to do something to increase the chances that their children (and others) will survive exposure to a violent episode. But to me, it’s like putting a band aid on a hemorrhage the size of a grapefruit.
    We, as responsible members of our society, have to step-up and demand radical changes around the way we live our own lives and what we will tolerate from others.  Each of us has to limit our own family’s exposure to media violence in its many forms…from the internet to TV to newspapers to magazines. Each of us has to make our voices and our pocketbooks heard by the purveyors of such violence that it’s no longer acceptable.
    Most importantly, turn down the potential for violence in your own life. Alter your lifestyle to decrease stress. Runaway stress is a breeding ground for anger which is a breeding ground for escalated anger which, unchecked, turns into violence. Do not tolerate domestic violence, verbal, emotional or physical in your own life and do not ignore it when you see it occurring in the lives of people you know and care about.
    We are in need of creating a bulletproof society where respect, compassion and civility replace selfishness, greed and impatience. Where adequate food, education and the possibility for advancement is available to all in equal measure.  Neither government edict nor bulletproof backpack can do this job. It’s called personal responsibility and it starts with me and it starts with you.
    We have a 14-year-old daughter who is starting high school in a few weeks. Soon we will go shopping for clothes and school supplies. I won’t be buying her a bulletproof anything. She delivers food to the poor once a month, hardly watches TV, has limited internet access,  discusses her emotions with both of us, and has a strong sense of herself as a young woman.
    Backpacks aside, we’re working on the bigger issues in our home.

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One Voice

>My husband and I went on a hike and picnic to Palmyra Cove Nature Park in New Jersey. By the brochure’s description, it’s “a 350 acre island of green in a densely populated area on the Delaware River just south of the Pennsylvania/New Jersey line. It’s comprised of “woodlands, wetlands, tidal cove, and wild river shoreline, and serves as an important feeding site for migratory birds.” That’s the official description.

For us, and so many others, it’s a little piece of heaven and respite from urban life in an all too commercialized world. And it’s under attack.

The Army Corps of Engineers (a/k/a the Federal government) along with the New Jersey State government want to take 70 additional acres of this natural habitat (they already have 25)and use it to dump yet more dredge materials from the Delaware River in support of maintaining the commerce route between Philadelphia and Trenton.

Ahhhh…in the name of progress. Or, is it in the name of money?

When we lived in Pennsylvania it was to take 200 year old farm land to build a WalMart. Now it’s to maintain commerce. There’s always an economic reason. My mother lives in southern Florida and it’s a “wasteland” of strip malls and furniture stores and condominium complexes to the demise of the Everglades.

I don’t know why we humans think we are disconnected from the natural environment. Or that we can do with it as we please without a reverberating impact. Perhaps it’s because we think we are disconnected from each other and it all starts there.

Just as “there is only One of Us”…a multitude of “branches” all emanating from one “trunk”…so there is only One of Us when it comes to the Earth. All living things are interconnected and interdependent. To ignore this reality is to go the path of the Everglades.

This is not news.  For decades environmentalists and all people who “get” our connection to one another and the planet have been raising awareness about the dangers of humankind’s insatiable taking without giving back. And so often the question is “What can one individual do against the powers that be?” My answer is that each of us has a voice and a choice. 

Today I choose to use my voice in this blog to state my opposition to the taking of land from Palmyra Cove for dredge material. I will choose to contact the head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network to see what further help I can provide. I will choose to contact my state representatives as well as my Congressman and Senators via phone and let them know my opposition. And, finally, I will talk with everyone I can about the matter and try and raise awareness and other voices.

Barry Manilow has a great song titled “One Voice.” It’s all about the power of what one voice can do. The song starts out with just his voice solo, and by the end it’s raised to a powerful crescendo of voices that makes you want to just get up and do something…anything. You just want to move.

That’s the power of one, committed, voice. So remember, the next time you wonder what you can do about something that you feel is important, use your voice and your choice.

When you do, I’m sure you’ll feel as good as I do right now.

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Life's Hall of Fame

>  I am not a baseball fan but I can’t miss the fact that Barry Bonds just broke the all time record for home runs set by Hank Aaron. It’s a good time to write about desire, certainty and action. You don’t accomplish what Bonds just did with a healthy amount of some…if not all three of them. 
   Living in the fast-paced, high-tech world we live in, our children are raised with the experience and belief that everything is quickly and easily replaced. As a result, they are short on patience. 
   It’s not unique to our children. 
   Ever since the 1970’s, things have been exponentially speeding up in our world due to the rapid technological advances and how they have impacted the quality of our lives. The almost frantic pace at which we live provides neither time nor energy to contemplate or dedicate ourselves to the necessary stages for achievement. 
   Achieving a goal first requires setting a goal. Setting a goal means knowing what it is you want. Once you have certainty about what you want, it becomes easier to make decisions that support that goal and eliminate things that do not. But having a definitive goal is meaningless without taking the action steps to manifest it.  Action steps almost always include some form of practice or physical action that performed over time reach a level of completion (some would say perfection) that eventually, and often suddenly, create the intended outcome.
   Whether it’s Barry Bonds, Tara Lapinsky, Tiger Woods, Kevin Costner, Hillary Clinton, Mother Teresa or you, it really makes no difference.  You need an intention, a goal, about which you are certain. You have to take the action steps and make decisions that support your goal. And while it’s not a sure thing that doing so will get you where you want to go, or what you want to attain, not participating in all three stages of achievement is pretty much a guarantee that you won’t. 
   So the real harm of today’s pace of life and endless, replaceable “things” is that it breeds a type of laziness and lack of stamina that undermines our inherent need and purpose to uniquely create something of real value…beyond the material.
   Barry Bonds has made a lot of money playing baseball. He will make a lot more money as a result of his latest achievement. Two things I am certain of are these: 1) he did it all because he had a goal, believed he could achieve it, and took the action steps to make it happen and, 2) all the money can’t equal the feeling he had when he hit that 756th home run.
   The money is the perk. 
   Life’s all about the feeling of purpose.
   Ask Barry Bonds.

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Everybody's Job

>  Three college age kids were “executed” yesterday at a school in Newark, New Jersey and one more seriously injured. So far, it was for no apparent reason. Newark is a city plagued by murder, 60 so far this year. While much could be written about gun control or stricter sentencing, I prefer to write about the responsibilities of being a parent.
   One of the murdered young men (there were two males and one female killed) was Dashon Harvey whose father James has been quoted as saying about the parents of the killers, “If you raised your kids better, this would not happen.”  While that’s no guarantee, James Harvey is on a very important point. 
   I practiced family law for 13 years and had a lot of empathy and compassion for parents going through divorce. I thought I “got it” when it came to raising children. But I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you don’t “get it” until you “do it.”  
   Perhaps it’s because my husband and I are older than the parents of our daughter’s friends, or perhaps it’s just because our values are different. Our daughter watches no more that 2 hours of television a week, and we know what it is she is watching. We never used the TV as  a babysitter in order not to be bothered by her. She has limited access to the internet. She has been encouraged to read since she was able to read. We have one day a week when we turn off all the technology and make our own fun with boardgames, cards or being out in nature. All of this is in direct contrast to how her friends are being raised. 
   This is not to judge the other parents’ choices. But I will tell you this. Her friends love us and it makes her crazy because all teenagers think their parents are “not cool” and she can’t understand why they like us so much.
   I have a theory. 
   They like us because they know we care. They like us because we are involved. They like us because we are around. They like us because when we talk with them they know we’re really listening. They like us because we set boundaries. They like us because they know our daughter is our first priority.  And they miss that. 
   We live in an affluent, educated, suburban, New Jersey community and there’s more than enough abdication of parental responsibility to go around here. No, we don’t have execution style murders of children…but we do have ongoing drug, alcohol and suicide problems.
   Now imagine Newark, where the inner city is teeming with the lure of drug dealers and poor quality education and single parents and absent parents and hopeless futures. Who’s caring about those children? How much more neglect are they experiencing that my suburban neighbor’s kids? The answer is self-evident.
   Kids need the presence of loving, involved adults to steer them in the right direction. No, it’s not a guarantee that everything will turn out fine. Things can and will, occasionally, still go awry. But without such an environment it’s a guarantee that things will go as wrong as they just did in Newark.
   So Mr. Harvey, who grieves the loss of his son, is right. 
   And so was Linda Marcoccia….a pretty smart friend of mine and family therapist who said to me 20 years ago, “A society that abandons it’s children writes it’s own obituary and fails to survive.”
   I am not a pessimist. I believe in the human spirit and in turning things around. But we will not get this one right until we step up and take responsibility for the children and care about what is happening to them…because what is happening to them is the future. 
   And the future is now.

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Breaking News

>  It’s the norm these days that bad news builds up periodically and puts us over the edge. Actually, it happens almost daily with national and global news reports of all that is wrong in the world. 
   One solution is to tune out all that negative chatter and place our attention elsewhere. But what do we do when it happens in our personal lives? 
   It’s inevitable that the simple fact of living in a high-tech, fast-paced, globally-connected world is going to periodically take it’s toll. We all get stressed out. For me, it became very personal this past week so I’d like to share my solution with you in the hope it will be of value.
   It’s called “segment intending.” Actually, it’s not originally my solution.  I borrowed it from Esther Hicks’ work with the energies called “Abraham”…non-physical beings who have communicated some amazing information through her. 
   Now before I lose you with that last sentence…hang in here a little longer and then tell me this is not a great plan!
      Segment intending is setting forth, in your own mind and in your own words, what it is you intend to happen in the immediately next occurring segment of your life. 
Here’s how it works.  
   You get into your car and are driving to a meeting. Before you start the engine, you say to yourself, out loud, “As I enter this next segment of my life experience I intend to encounter no traffic delays, have a pleasant ride listening to music I enjoy, and arrive in plenty of time to relax before my meeting.”  Then you start the engine and have the experience you just set forth.
   Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it. Well, IT WORKS! 
   Now the key is 1) you have to know what you want in the next segment, 2) you have to believe it is possible, and 3) you have to expect/allow it to manifest in the way you thought and spoke about it.
   What’s all this got to do with personal and global “bad”news. 
   Well, first of all, there’s no bad news. There’s only our limited perception of what the “big picture” is and why things happen they way they do. But secondly, when you manage your life deliberately, one segment at a time, everything really is manageable. And what’s more, putting your intention and your attention on what it is you really want gives momentum to your desired outcome.
   I have said since I was 5 years old…”thoughts are things.” Have the thoughts you want and get the experiences you want.
   Now to the personal part. 
   The past two weeks my husband has been out of state getting his pilot’s license. Everything imaginable has happened to our house in that time period…not the least of which was getting struck by lightening and destroying our sun room. 
   At another time in my life, without the guidance and wisdom of “Abraham” I probably would have caved. But instead, I handled each occurrence head on…setting forth my intention around how to deal with it and the desired outcome…and calmly spoke with my husband each night keeping him posted while supporting him in his goal. 
   And you know, there’s a residual benefit to it all as well. 
   When you are so focused on tending carefully and deliberately to your own life, segment by segment, you don’t have to worry about the world’s problems and all the catastrophic predictions we’re fed every day. They simply don’t exist because your total energies are directed in a positive, self-supporting way.    
   So, try it. One segment at a time. You may not believe in non-physical beings called “Abraham” but you can believe in your own lowered stress levels and renewed sense of empowerment. 
   The proof is in the doing
   Actually, it’s in the segment intending.

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Bridge and Hope Collapse

>    The collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis is a tragedy. Of that there can be no doubt. But it’s been 3 days now that every development of this event and it’s aftermath remains the lead news story.  It’s not that I am a callous person. I certainly have compassion and offer prayer for those killed and injured, as well as for those who loved them.   
    My frustration stems from the fact that 1) the media imposes priorities into our lives, welcome or not, that actually interfere with our individual life paths and 2) where are the equally remarkable stories that have occurred in the past 72 hours that uplift the human spirit and inspire us to greater achievement?
    I recall how, after 9/11, I felt added and overwhelming stress building in myself and others…not just from the actual event, but from the never-ending replay of the visual image of the event as it occurred.
    We humans are “wired” in such a way as to be biologically and physiologically able to chemically and mechanically respond to conditions of stress. Simply put, it’s commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response. A chemical reaction to threat or stress triggers extraordinary internal occurrences that help us manage what is supposed to be a finite event.  While cortisol and other potential toxins are released into our blood stream and muscles during such times, these toxins are short-lived and manageable in their negative impact.
    However, when the event is artificially sustained over an indefinite period of time, the body has no way of distinguishing the authentic occurrence from the artificial repetition. As a result, the chemical reactions continue to occur and the toxins continue to be released long after they serve any beneficial purpose and, in fact, cause irreversible damage.
    This is one of the real dangers inherent in our misuse of the technological advances we have made in the past 30 years.  We are literally killing ourselves by watching the news…because all the news feeds us is frustration, terror, and fear.
    So to my next point.  What if we had at least equal time in news  reporting for stories of valor and creativity and invention and problem solving that fostered hopefulness and optimism?  Our bodies are also wired to respond chemically to positive experiences as well…emitting seratonin and endorphins that support health rather than foster dis-ease. Wouldn’t that be a better use of our knowledge and technology? And think of the residual benefits.
    Healthier, happier, less stressed, less frightened people will likely need a lot less healthcare (really, we should call it sickcare). And all these healthier, happier people are probably going to be less aggressive, hence, a lot more peace. And a more peaceful world would be one that could focus more on those things that uplift and advance the planet and it’s inhabitants rather than worrying about their inevitable destruction.
    It’s seems to me the latter approach is a lot more “bang for the buck”…and I am only hypothesizing equal time for positive news. Imagine if that’s all we got!
    As for those who say my scenario and it’s proposed residual effects are grandiose, or even foolish, let me remind you that when a butterfly flaps it’s wings in New York, air current patterns are inevitably effected in Japan. That’s how it works. We’re all connected and what we think, say, do, read and look at, matters.
    I could close now and go check the headline on CNN.
    But I think I’ll go see if I can be of help to someone, instead.

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