Remove the stinger from your life

I walked up smiling, carrying my cooler. My friend called from his patio, “Is that an electric cooler?”

“Yep,” I said.

His neighbor came out on her porch and waved.

I said “Hey” and then felt a sharp pain on my foot and exclaimed, “Ow!” I quickly set down the cooler and bent over my foot.

The neighbor said with concern, “Oh, did a bee sting you?”

“I think so,” I looked down. “The stinger is stuck in my foot. Should I pull it out?”

She said, “I think you need Benadryl.”

My friend said, “I have cortisol cream, but you need to wait before applying it.”

I sat looking at the stinger and said, “I heard if you pull it out, you’ll squeeze more venom into your body.”

“Let me know, I can get the cream,’ my friend offered.

“I’m fine,” I replied, as my foot began to throb.  I looked at them for help, but all they could do is stare attentively.  Ignoring the pain, I limped further up to the house. Then I stopped.  I bent down and without thinking about the pain, I swiftly removed the stinger.

Instead of addressing the problem, we overanalyze and avoid it

My friends, meaning well, wanted to treat the symptoms before we addressed the cause. I think we do it all the time. We know what our problems are, although we distract ourselves from them. Some of us tell ourselves that we don’t have a problem, or it’s not big enough to be concerned about. We can also blame others for our situation, so we avoid taking responsibility.  Others use the delay or “I don’t have the time” option: “Once I get to my vacation, I’ll be happy, so I’ll tolerate working this job for now.”  Or there’s the simple distraction of money, better stuff, or loved ones: “Once I get that job that pays more” or “that new car” or “that girlfriend/boyfriend”, I’ll be happy.  And then there is the overanalyzing, which delays taking action.

Changing our lives may not be as easy as flicking a stinger away, but we may exaggerate the pain of removing that stinger from our lives.  So make a plan and get started on removing the stinger. Our friends, family, or partners aren’t going to remove it for us.

Food is more than fuel

On my way home last week I stopped at Chipotle, a restaurant famous for its burritos. After I got my food, I made my way home, and I passed a Firehouse Subs restaurant, a McDonald’s, a Taco Bell, and a Burger King. The drive-thrus were lined with cars with people waiting for their own quick meals. At home, I ate the burrito, my hunger driving me past savoring the taste to get the food in my stomach. Afterwards, I grabbed a bag of banana chips, and as I snacked, I looked at the ingredients.  The first ingredient read, “Bananas”. The last one read “Banana flavor”. As I sat there on my couch, I felt full and satisfied, and ready to tackle my chores, but I didn’t feel good. Why?

Although the food was real, I didn’t know what I’d eaten

The restaurant workers were nice enough. The cashier even talked to me beyond the usual banter, but all I did was hand over my credit card. A quick swipe and I was done. I had eaten alone, speaking to no one.  I had finished quickly, but usually I am the slowest eater in the dinner party. I chew and talk, while others chew and swallow.

I like picking parsley from my garden and chopping it on my cutting board

From my couch, I looked out my window, and saw the parsley growing in my garden. I liked hearing it crunch under my knife, and suddenly smelling its fresh and pleasant fragrance. I would mix it into the noodles that I had cooked, and the aroma of the tomato sauce and capers and parsley danced together into my nose. I would look at what I’d made, swirl a bite onto my fork, and chew it. It was a good experience. It made me happy.

I knew it would be a long time before I’d have the full and satisfied feeling of a restaurant burrito and  bananas with banana flavoring.

And that was ok by me.

9-11 is the wake-up call that is still ringing

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I listened to news reports about the attacks, and grew sad in remembering what happened. Then I tried to think about why those men would want to attack the US.

Ignorance promotes aggression

If you truly knew your enemies, you would not only see them as having different ideas, but as a father or mother, son or daughter. They love their family and try to help provide a good life. They just want to be happy… just like you and me. Ignorance dehumanizes the Americans that are being targeted. And ignorance about the terrorists leads us to fear them.  Fear is a feeling of insecurity. When we don’t know a person, we’re cautious.  And when we don’t know a situation, we are fearful.  But knowledge gives us power over the situation, and it gives us the power to decide whether attacking is justified. Those who call for war sound the most confident, but in fact, they are the most fearful, whether they are patriots or terrorists.

The 9-11 attack is the wake-up call

Did the terrorists surprise you on 9-11? They surprised me. I realize now that the attack is our wake-up call to find out what is happening in the world. The attacks happened in a world in which the US spends massive amounts of money and sells loads of military weapons. In fact, the US is the biggest spender and biggest weapons exporter of any other country in the world. We provide money and arms to different countries and different groups. Some of them have fundamentalist religious beliefs and/or have powerful ethnic grudges. Our money influences these alliances and animosities. After years of involvement, we have developed a worldwide reputation, accurate or not.

With our money comes great power, and great responsibility

How do we stop future terrorism? We start taking responsibility. We start thinking about the consequences of our actions. What do you think we can do to prevent people from developing a mentality that would make them attack us? Asking these questions is part of being an accountable and empowered American.

I know we can do it.

Labor Day reminds me how to respect the laborer

This Labor Day makes me think of the workers who help me get everything I have. The food in my kitchen, the tv in my living room, or the car in my lot.  I thought, “Many of my dollars are paying people outside of my community, and so taking jobs and money from the people in my community. The right thing to do is buy goods that support my local economy” And then I realized that I cannot do this. My stuff didn’t come from one company, although there is only one company name stamped on the label. Many hands from all over the world contributed to each of those things, from their inception in creative minds in one country, to their manufacture in another that used supplier parts from still other countries.  But I can still make a right decision given this.

Making a right decision requires us to ask WHY it was the right thing to do

The supply chain is too diverse. And some out-of-state/country companies have invested in the people around me to make their product, like the Honda plant just outside of my city. What can I do? I can become more aware about where my stuff comes from, so that I know why I’m making the decisions that I am. I should require a company be able to tell me where their product comes from.  This way, I’m accountable for my actions.

Consumer accountability is empowering and it respects the laborer

Accountability gives our lives meaning. Without this, we are just consumers, and we cease to become members of a community.  As society becomes more complex, we must keep this power, because otherwise we are losing our freedom of choice and our connection to other people. And I don’t think anyone of us wants that.