Thankful 365/24/7

The turkey is roasting, the potatoes are peeled, the casseroles are waiting to be put in the oven.  I have about 35 minutes before the kids arrive, just enough time to reflect on what this day really means to me.

Thanksgiving.  It means a lot more to me today than it used to.

When you’re little your parents teach you to say please and thank you, indicating that you appreciate the nice gestures of others.  I taught my children the same thing.  “What do you say?” I coached as they smiled sweetly and said thank you. 

I like to think that they understood why they needed to be polite, but I think they just liked the positive reinforcement they received. (my psychology minor, thank you very much.) I don’t think children are capable of understanding what gratitude really is.  It can only be after years of life-induced lessons that it can finally be realized.

I remember when my daughter Holly was 11.  She wanted a pair of tennis shoes that were popular at that time. “Be grateful for what you have, others have less,” I told her, not wanting to rehash the same old lecture of how I couldn’t afford it.  She just looked at me with a sad face, but I knew how much she wanted those shoes.  A few weeks later, I had scraped up enough money to buy them for her.  She was surprised when I put the box on her bed.  “An early birthday present,” I said as I started to walk out the door.

She opened the box, but the look on her face told me that she already knew what was inside. “Oh Mommy!  Thank you, thank you!” she yelled as she ran and threw her arms around me.  “You have no idea how much I wanted these!”

“Oh, I think I do,” I told her as I hugged her back.

What I was able to do for her that day was more than just giving her something she wanted.  Though I don’t think she realized it at the time, it was a lesson in gratitude. She knew I couldn’t afford the shoes. I bought them because I remembered how I felt when I really wanted something but my parents wouldn’t buy it for me. 

Fifteen years later, Holly still reminds me of how much those shoes meant to her.  “I can’t believe how selfish I was,” she told me.  “But you knew I really wanted them.  Thanks, Mom.”

Being grateful isn’t something that occurs one day a year. It’s about being able to appreciate the little things in life.  Family, friends, a baby’s first laugh, a sunset, a flower, a beautiful day, even a pair of shoes; these are things that we sometimes take for granted.  Being able to appreciate these things is what I am most grateful for…everyday.

TSA-A free massage with every flight?

Security has always gotten a bit tighter around the holidays.  However, the reports coming from frequent-flyers who say they feel they are being violated by the  intense and degrading pat-downs at the airports across the country are alarming.  Especially since I plan on flying to Orlando a week before Christmas.

The pat-downs don’t scare me; I think it’s more the hype that surrounds it. How can I be upset by the airport’s security when all they are trying to do is to keep me safe? 

The man who is encouraging others to follow his lead of boycotting the pat-downs and body scanners at U.S. airports on Thanksgiving, isn’t thinking that plan through.  Doesn’t he know that terrorists might actually be watching, waiting for an opportunity to bypass America’s security? 

It’s ironic that the people who are trying to keep us safe are being fought by the people they are trying to protect.  We need to let the people do their jobs.

I have no idea why those people feel they are being violated because it has never happened to me.  But they need to understand that terrorists hide explosives everywhere.  I think I feel more safe now than I previously did, knowing that they are taking extra precautions. 

I will get my chance to see how the system is really working.  It’s too bad that certain news shows only show one side of a story, often making something more than it needs to be.

Back to Reality

Sarah Palin finally did it.  She found a way to make herself even more annoying.

I am not a fan of reality shows, nor am I a fan of Sarah Palin.  In fact, I’m not even a fan of Alaska. I can’t even imagine what kind of show they could make from that combination.  I would love the opportunity to ask any of those five million people who tuned into the debut of her show on Nov. 14…why? 

I didn’t get to see the show (too busy doing homework) but I did get to see clips of it on Good Morning America, (yea) my one-time favorite morning news show. It showed Palin being a typical mother, shooing some guy down the stairs from her daughter’s room.  (Good call, wonder why I didn’t think about that..oh, wait–I did.) What’s so  great about that?  It’s called being a parent.

When Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate for the presidential election in 2008, most people were excited that he picked a woman.  But it didn’t long for that thrill to wear off.  All Palin had to do was open her mouth to speak and those who liked her bizarre, immature, and outrageous style rallied around her. Those against her found even more reasons to dislike her.

Rumors came out (rumors yes, but I believe them) that McCain picked her for only two reasons; to get the women’s vote, and because she is good-looking.  People thought she was down-to-earth,  an every-day Joe, (or Jill) someone who people said they could see themselves sitting and having coffee with.  It’s true that a vice-president’s role is limited but wouldn’t you like to think that if something happens to our president, that the vice-president could step in and actually perform their duties?

I didn’t see her like that all.  I thought it was kind of cool that a women was chosen, but that’s where it stopped.  Even I, someone who admits to be lacking in a political sense, knew she wasn’t in her right mind the first time I heard her talk.  Could it have been her screechy voice, or the way it grinds on my ears?

I really dislike her.

Hearing people talk about Palin running for president in 2012 scares me.  Not because I think she would win, but because I can just imagine how her seemingly-idiotic act will turn the campaign into more of a circus than it’s already known for. I can see it now: Sarah’s Delusional World in 3D. 

Now that’s a reality show.

Adventures of a 4-year-old

Me and Isabelle (and MaeMae)

Isabelle runs everywhere she goes, sometimes even without a destination in mind. She loves spending the night at my house, though much of the time is spent with me doing homework or working on the computer.

When I do finally get the chance to turn off the computer, she becomes playtime-focused and instructs me very bluntly that we’re going to play with our stuffed animals or with Barbies; there is no room for discussion.

Isabelle is 4 years old.  She loves make-up, perfume and cheerleading, just like her big sister Makayla. She also likes My Little Pony, Olivia, Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty, Spongebob and Sqwinkies. Her favorite stuffed animals are Piggies and Raffis (giraffes), which she can’t sleep without.

She has a thing for stuffed animals, or animals in general.  When Isabelle was almost 2, she was admitted to the hospital with a virus and I bought her a stuffed kitty with a rattle inside.  She carried that thing around her everywhere for two years, until one day, someone spilled glue on it, and that was the end of Kitty.  I have spent a year looking for another just like it but with no luck.

Isabelle is sweet and loving, but can become loud and obnoxious without notice.  But all she has to do is look at me with those big brown eyes and sweetly coo, “I love you Grandma,”  and every naughty thing she has ever done is instantly forgiven.

But I understand Isabelle. I know her need to try new things and ask why things are the way they are.  When I look at her, I see another rambunctious 4-year-old who loves to climb trees, jump off fences and worries her mother to death.  When I look at Isabelle, I see a little Cindy; loving, sweet, charming and a little devilish.  That ornery grin of Isabelle’s  always gives her away and I’m (usually) one step a head of her.

People ask me if her mother, Holly, was as wild as she is.  I have to admit that Holly had her moments, but she was always much more cautious than Isabelle is.  Maybe that skips a generation.

Fast Food-fact or fiction?

I am not a fan of fast food.  McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, even Subway leaves a bad taste in my mouth, literally.

The thought of all the fat I’m consuming fills me with guilt and I can almost feel my arteries clogging.  But I can’t help it; I love cheeseburgers and french fries.

When I take my grandchildren out to eat, they don’t want to go to a sit down restaurant.  They would rather go to a place that gives a toy in every meal.  And because there’s a McDonald’s at every corner (it seems like anyway), that’s usually where we go.

Is it the statue of the funny clown with the red hair or the play area that calls to them while they’re trying desperately to choke down their  meal of process breaded chicken parts?  Of course, McDonald’s now has sliced apples with caramel sauce instead of fries to choose from.  Fat or sugar…tough call.

It isn’t just McDonald’s.  It seems as though fast food restaurants are trying to come up with new ways to show the public that they’re trying to offer more healthy choices on their menus.  Salads have been the healthy alternative for fast food restaurants for a long time but who wants a salad when they can have that double cheeseburger dripping with greasy goodness?  I should know better than to even walk through that door.  No matter what my intentions are when we walk in,  I always change my mind at the last-minute and go for the grease.

I know it’s bad for me.  My heart knows it’s bad for me. But when I smell the burgers cooking and the fries frying, I lose all sense of control. 

In a fast-paced world where everyone seems to be in a hurry, stopping at the fast food restaurant on the way home after working all day has become the norm.  But do we have to jeopardize our health because of it?  I think that if people continue to let their bad habits control them, we will continue to be the world’s most obese country.

Maybe someone can develop a fast food restaurant that really caters to health conscious consumers and maybe figure out a way to make a plain chicken breast taste like a cheeseburger and french fries.

Politics 101

I learned a lot about politics this year.  It doesn’t have so much to do with protocol and procedures as much as it does with human nature.

My adviser pointed out that some of my writings may have sounded like I was someone who recently entered the world of politics, only to be disillusioned with the fact that many of our politicians appear to be less than virtuous.

He was right.

I am disillusioned.

I think I have a right to be. 

As an American, I value my freedom immensely.  As a human being, I worry that the negativity that explodes every election year, has a bad effect on how we treat each other. I’ve noticed that the all the negatives ads, which we are forced to watch every election year, have a negative effect on the rest of us, as well.  How many times have you heard, “Damn ads, I wish those stupid people would just get over it.”  Negativity breeds negativity.

More than a few breathe a sigh of relief on Nov. 3 when things can get back to normal, such as it is. 

I was very disappointed when I woke up this morning and found out that things have changed in a blink of an eye.  It wasn’t the fact that Branstad was elected as governor, or that the Republicans now control the house.  It was the dismay that Iowans voted the three Iowa supreme court judges out. What a shame.

And I thought Iowa was moving forward.

It’s a sad day indeed when people start listening to the rants of a closed-minded governor-wanna-be who just wants to be in the spotlight.

I hope this move doesn’t jeopardize Iowa’s good nature and open-mindedness.  I would hate to think that the ramblings of one man could sway others to follow his way of thinking.  If that’s the case, we’re in trouble..