Turning words into action

My heart goes out to the people of Paris. Terrorism is an ugly truth that every human being has to live with. It’s everywhere we look; in the news, on Facebook, even in our own backyards. I have experienced several forms of terrorism myself; disguised as bullies who have nothing better to do than to make my life miserable. We don’t ask for it, but there it is.mother teresa

The group that claimed responsibility for the attacks on Paris yesterday are nothing but bullies, who just so happen to have a huge supply of guns and bombs. The world is letting these groups terrorize the world and we need to stop talking about it and do something to send the message that we refuse to tolerate it any longer. We need to turn our words into action.

America had its first real experience with terrorism in 2001, when terrorists used planes to do their dirty work.  Soon after, May 29, 2002, the Council on Foreign Affairs met to discuss what should be done to combat terrorist groups. Speakers were Frank W. Sesno, Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief, Host of CNN’s Sunday Interview Program, Late Edition with Frank Sesno, CNN, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Counselor and Trustee, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Samuel R. Berger, Chairman, Albright Stonebridge Group.

Zbigniew Brzezinski made a statement that has become common knowledge since then, but needs to be restated: Terrorism affects the entire world.

“I think it’s very important to understand that terrorism is a manifestation that’s widespread. It’s global. We’re not the only victims of terrorism … My question is who’s the enemy? You know, terrorism is a tactic; it’s a technique of killing people or of intimidating people to achieve a political objective. But you don’t wage a war on a technique. You wage a war on somebody, and I would like to know who the terrorists are.”

This meeting took place 13 years ago, and now that we know who the groups are most responsible for the terrorism, why aren’t we doing more to stop them?

Maybe it’s because when the world celebrated when Osama Bin Laden was killed, we expected something to change, that somehow the terrorism would stop, but it didn’t. Someone immediately stepped in and took his place, and someone else took that person’s place, and so on. There will always be someone to lead these delusional men and women, and there will always be people who want to hurt others in the name of politics and religion.

Our leaders stated years ago America would wage a war on Terrorism, but now it seems that it might be an unwinnable war. It’s not just men and women fighting for their rights; they fighting and killing because they have hatred in their hearts. They kill anyone who doesn’t believe in their religion and/or politics, and won’t listen to reason. They believe they are right and the rest of the world is wrong. They believe murder is the only way to get what they want.

Americans were awaken to the threat of terrorism after 9/11, but countries in the Mid East had it introduced to them much earlier.  Suicide bombings and innocent killing and be-headings had been occurring way before then, but we didn’t pay much attention, until it actually happened to us.

I’ve noticed in the past few years that people are much less willing to talk about their differences; there is too much discontentment, too much hatred in the world, and I wonder if peace is even possible. By creating discord within our own country, we seem to be making it easier for terrorists to recruit those who think their group can offer them a better life.

These people are easy targets because they have low self-esteem, they have a hard time making friends, they hate their lives and they don’t have a reason to live. Terrorists know this. They probably have had extensive training to learn how to recruit unsuspecting victims through social media. They target the weak-minded and it’s so easy because these people are so miserable. Anything is better than where they are. They are promised huge rewards for their servitude and promised adventures beyond their wildest dreams.

Once in their clutches, the groups brainwash the individuals into believing this is what they were born to do; to kill others without a second thought. They are used as weapons.

So how can we turn a seemingly impossible situation into one of action? What can we possibly do to make a difference when it comes to terrorism?

To start, we can try to be better people and set a good example for others. We can raise our children to be compassionate and caring adults.

Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” What we do ultimately affects others.

  1. Our children learn what they live. They see everything. They learn by mimicking us. Teach them to respect others, and you can set a good example by respecting others, too.
  2. “The world is full of kind people. If you can’t find one, be one.”  A smile goes a long way.
  3. Attitude is everything. When you think positively, you automatically create positive vibes that tend to extend out to others. Have you ever been around a negative person? Yuck.
  4. Figure out what it is you love to do, and do that. If you are happy, you have no room in your heart for discontent.
  5. Be grateful for wherever you are at any given moment. You woke up this morning; that’s something to be grateful for. Gratitude is one of the keys to living a happy life.
  6. Take control and quit blaming others for where you are in life. You make the decisions. You create the life you are living. You alone have the power to change it. “You’re not a tree. If you don’t like where you are, move.”


Challenge #8-Writer’s Choice

My 8th Challenge states I can write about anything I want. So I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my life.writing challenge8

I am 52 years old and have lived in Cedar Rapids my entire life, except for a couple of months when I visited Colorado and Tennessee to do a little “exploring.”

I have 3 daughters, and a son, my youngest, who has a developmental disability. He is autistic and diagnosed with ADHD, which made it difficult for him to learn how to read or write. The doctors told us at one time that they doubted he would be able to live on his own, but because stubbornness and determination runs in our family, we proved them wrong.

I did my best to teach him how to be responsible and pay his bills and take care of other business, but the rest is up to him. He is so smart about somethings but oblivious to others. His autism makes him socially-awkward, and it takes most people time to warm up to him.

Last year, Sean met Ashley. She is a nice person with a good heart, and I am very happy they found each other. They are getting married Aug. 15, and though it seems as though they are the perfect fit, they will have a lot of challenges to overcome.  Sean has a hard time keeping a job because of his disability, and she will just have to either accept it, or not.

My middle daughter, Caryn, just moved to Chesapeake, Virginia, with her husband and 4 children. This is the first time anyone in our little family has moved more than 20 miles from home. I was happy for them when they moved because it’s a chance to finally get ahead, but I miss them.Last night I was able to Skype successfully for the first time, and it made me feel a little closer to them. Caryn is having a tough time being so far from home, but I know once she starts her new job, she will be too busy to miss us.

My other two daughters, Holly and Lori, live in town. I get to see them and my other five grandchildren pretty regularly, which is a wonderful thing because spending time with my family is one of my favorite things to do.

I have three jobs. I work full-time as a receptionist/office administrator at McGrath’s Dodge car dealership. I am a program assistant for Cedar Rapids Main Street (an organization that helps preserve the historical district in CR), and work for Metro Sports Report, an online sports magazine, as a web editor.

I’ve had to cut my night hours back dramatically, which has help my stress level, but I’m still finding that I don’t have time to do everything I want. I guess it’s all about priorities.

I’ve published three books on CreateSpace, a self-publishing company. Between Worlds, my first, is a 3-book teen sci-fi series. I came across CreateSpace by accident and wanted to experience the life of a published author. (It’s quite a thrill to hold your own book in your hands for the first time!)

I am working on my third and final book in the series, which has been more difficult than the first two. I love the way my character, Mya, has developed since I began the book, one of the reasons I want to continue writing books.

I also compiled my family’s recipes in a cookbook, which I gave the title,  Homemade in the Heartland. I have always loved to cook, and when my daughters started asking me to write my recipes down, the book took on a life of its own.

I live with my mother, who is homebound. She only leaves the house to go to the doctor. I stay with her because the only other option would be have her go to a nursing home and I don’t want her to have to do that. I want to help make the rest of her life as comfortable as I can, and I think that is by staying with her. If there ever comes  a day when a nursing home is the only choice, I think she will already understand that.

I love my life. It’s not perfect, but it wasn’t meant to be. I am grateful and content and live a life where I am at peace, even when the world around me is in chaos. To me, that equals happiness.

The journey I’ve taken to get here wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. But that’s another story.

A Christmas message

I received an email from my uncle today. His thoughts about Christmas were inspiring, to say the least.  His eloquent words touch me deeply , and since I have his blessing, I would like to share the letter with you:

“This is my 78th Christmas and the wonder and the joy and the mystery build every year, rather than fade. I feel exactly the same today as I did when I was a child of 7 or 10.  Four days before Christmas, all the nerves in my body are standing on end, singing ancient Christmas carols.  There are phantom people all over the house putting things together, wrapping presents, decorating, baking, and all the anticipation of a great feast is in the air.  The smells, the ring of happy children’s voices, the joy that permeates the atmosphere.  It is truly the season of the little child in all of us.  To see the anticipation and the awe in the face of a child coming down the staircase on Christmas morning is a pleasure that we can all take part in and thoroughly embrace.  At Christmas time everybody is a Christian even if they don’t believe and are not really aware of what they are celebrating.

Every time somebody gives another person a present, that giving is an expression of love.  Every time a person receives a present, that, too, is an act of love.  For the giver, all their time and energy trying to figure out what the most appropriate gift would be, going to the store or stores to find it, spending the money to purchase it, all that synergy is exerted for one tiny moment: to see the look on the loved one’s face when she/he opens the gift.  And for the receiver, the great part is the anticipation that someone who loves us, thinks enough of us to expend all that effort, puts such a high value on our person, yearns to see us happy, is just about to “pop the question”.  Because when we give a present, what we are really saying is, “I love you; will you love me?”  And the usual procedure when one receives a present is to return the favor.  Both she who gives and he who receives are taking part in the same divine act, both asking and answering the question, both at the same time: “Yes, I love you; and I know you love me.”

Yes, the stores do commercialize Christmas too much.  But then, that’s their purpose: to overcommercialize Christmas in order to make money.  And we all buy into that conspiracy by purchasing presents for the people we love.  But as far as I’m concerned, there is never more love among mankind than at Christmas time.  If we could just keep the spirit all year-long, this world would be a lot more peaceful.

I’ve always been a little puzzled by some who say that if you say “Happy Holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas” you are leaving Christ out of Christmas.  I have always understood that the word “holiday” is derived from “holy day”.  If you believe in celebrating Christmas, if you believe that giving gifts is a healthy, holy, and human activity, if you believe that gifts are fulfilling and uplifting and that giving them is beyond merely human, then you must believe in some part of the miracle of Christmas.  Why are so many people raised up by their own joy at this time of year?

We are celebrating the birthday of Jesus the son of Joseph and Mary, the Christ, the Messiah, who came into this world as a newborn in order to experience the whole of the human experience.  He grew up  in a family just as we all did.  That family was his school.  He worked as a carpenter for fifteen years, from age fifteen to thirty.  Then he became a preacher to spread the truth.  He was a bit too honest in telling the powers-that-be that they were frauds.  Rome made him pay a terrible price.  But his words and his actions are still alive and well and flourishing today.  And the heart and soul of that message is: Love God first and prove that you love God by loving your neighbor.  He became man out of love; he taught us the truth out of love; he died out of love for us; he rose out of love for us.  He is pure love; his word is pure love; his truth is pure love.  And that is why on his birthday, we all are enchanted by and enhanced by that same pure love that he is.  God bless you all.  May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday.”

John Meis
Naperville, Ill.

Every year, I contemplate the meaning of Christmas. I begin the season with a heart full of love and end up exhausted and wondering how I got sucked into all the melodrama and commercialization the holidays often bring. But opening this email this morning, my heart was once again filled with the true meaning of Christmas. Like John wrote, “If we could just keep the spirit all year long, this world would be a lot more peaceful.”

I truly believe it’s possible. And I know it begins with me.