Gobsmacked

Have you ever had a moment when reality hits you gobsmack in the face?  Where the fantasy world you have built in your mind shatters? 

That was me yesterday. My sister and I have a penchant for attending concerts by bands that were top of the charts when we were growing up. REO Speedwagen, Foreigner, Rod Stewart, Little River Band to name a few. This time around it was The Doobie Brothers. Those of you with a few less years around the sun are probably scratching your head (or more likely googling) that name, but they were a big deal back then and judging by the number of people who were willing to sit in the rain to rock with them last night, they are still a big deal for many of us.

Sharing the news that we were going to see the band with co-workers led to the inevitable statement….”They must be a 100 years old by now!”  They had to be right?  Since I was just young and in high school/college, they were probably old back then.  Convinced that most in the crowd had much more grey hair than I and were most likely wearing sensible shoes, I laughed at how old the band must really be until I googled it myself.  Shock and horror set in as I passed the phone to my sister to show her.

The original band members were in their early seventies. Not young, but not ancient. Shocked by that realization, we started checking out the ages of the members of other bands we have seen. Most of them were right in that age group and, in the years since we have started our bands of our youth tour, we haven’t had a single one where the band didn’t sound great, the music wasn’t rockin’, and we weren’t left feeling as pumped up as we did the first time we heard their music.

But here is the gobsmack moment…..for me to consider them old, I have to start thinking that I’m old too.  But I don’t.  You’ve heard the phrase “age is a state of mind”?  It really is and like so much else in our lives, if we are programmed to respond in a certain way, we succumb to the negativity of it. Birthdays with a zero at the end signify another step to old age.  The Medicare threshold of 65 means you should pack up your bag, retire and head off into the sunset.  Don’t climb on that ladder – you’re too old.  Knees hurt?  Old people have achy knees.  Sitting in the rain in the dark at a concert?  Oh my goodness, but you’ll catch pneumonia and you know that can be fatal for old people!

You know what though? I got home in the middle of the morning, well past my bedtime and yet buoyed by the exciting evening, I stayed up until dawn. Pneumonia? Never happened because although we sat in the rain waiting for the concert to begin, with age comes wisdom and we were prepared for the weather. We were dry and comfortable and when the rain stopped, we stripped off those rain ponchos and enjoyed an evening under the stars. We stood, we danced, we clapped, we hollered, we hooted along with the 10,000 or so other fans in attendance and when it was over, I felt even younger than I did the day before after watching those old guys on stage for over two hours doing what they loved. I hope they do it until they are a hundred.

The morale of this story? Don’t be gobsmacked into believing that age is a limitation to what you want to do whether you are young or old. You are what you allow yourself to be and expectations or limitations imposed by others should not define you or your abilities. Sit out in the rain and sing your heart out my friends!

Until then, be well….

~BAL

The Net

January 1, 1983 – the day the world and our idea of how to be kind changed.  For many of us, myself included, the day was New Year’s Day.  A day to recover from a late night or to sit in front of the TV glued to bowl games and wonder how long your commitment to the hastily vowed resolution of the night before would truly last, but for the world, it was so much more.

Development of the internet as a global communication and transaction tool changed everything.  Financial transactions were completed before you left the store; people you hadn’t seen or heard from in decades now were just a click away; the hard cover encyclopedia so many of us grew up with began its descent into oblivion; we could communicate with people around the globe without having to worry about international long distance charges putting us in the poor house; and, much to the chagrin of people in the television and newspaper business, the way we shared news began to change.

Along with this great invention came warnings. With their noses in an electronic device, people would lose the ability to talk to each other and the art of diplomacy and compromise would become a thing of the past.  Those who believe the world is ending were happy to share doom and gloom predictions to a much bigger audience while most of us just laughed it off.  Yet, when you stop and think about it, they were right; maybe not to the extreme of the world ending, but much of it is happening today as people have learned that hiding behind the computer screen allows them to say and do most anything they want.  People are becoming meaner and generally unkind and even though it seems trivial, the entire world seems to be following suit. If it was just someone spouting off that would be one thing, but people are being hurt by the acts of others that without the internet would have been easy to stop and even easier to condemn.

This weekend I watched a documentary about Notre Dame football sensation Manti Te’o.  If you’re a football fan, you know that this young man captured the world’s collective sympathy when his grandmother and girlfriend died on the same day.  Te’o had talked often in the press of his girlfriend and he was crushed by the two deaths, but with Notre Dame in the midst of a championship season, he soldiered on and earned the respect of the country and accolades from politicians to hard-nosed journalists. 

But here is the thing. The girlfriend never existed.  He had been catfished and the world immediately began to condemn him. Some believed he had made the whole thing up. Some believed the “fake” girlfriend was a means to hide something else. Some even blamed him for being naive enough to let himself be catfished.

In reality he was nothing more than a victim. He had given his heart to someone he thought he had developed a relationship with. But that someone was playing a game and in the end Te’o, the victim in the whole bizarre story, was looked on with scorn, laughter and suspicion. Few if anyone outside of his immediate family offered him the sympathy and support he should have received.

When the whole sordid and sad affair was revealed, the fake girlfriend was exposed as a man and Te’o’s personal and professional integrity was left in tatters and he suffered emotional and psychological damage that would last a lifetime.  The man who perpetuated the fraud?  Well let’s just say that in this case, justice was lacking.

Catfishing and Te’o’s experience are extreme examples, but they are an unintended consequence of the internet.  When bad people can sit behind a keyboard in anonymity and post things that are damaging to others, the internet becomes a weapon and not the beneficial invention it was intended to be.  Memes, harmful language and posts can spread unchecked to thousands of people in seconds and by the time the internet police realize that something so harmful has been spread, it is too late.  The damage has been done.

The internet will never be like old fashioned journalism with unbiased reporters who double and triple checked their facts; where publishers were too afraid of being sued for publishing something that was untrue that didn’t publish until they were sure they had all the facts.  The internet is a free for all with few people held accountable for causing pain or sorrow for others. Posting a bald faced lie with no consequence is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Freedom of speech allows me to post these thoughts and for that, I am grateful.  However, our government realizes that the freedom to express our beliefs is tempered by the need to protect the innocent with laws against slander and libel.  It’s unfortunate that as the internet has propagated along with the unkind and downright mean people who use it, it’s becoming nearly impossible to police and punish those who have chosen to be hurtful and deceptive.

If I am going to complain about something I strive to offer a solution to the problem, but on this topic, I can only pray that parents will teach their children to be kind and that spreading hate and vitriol through the internet is never okay.  We need to teach those who are growing up with the internet that they must not live in the bubble of the faceless internet.  It’s okay to come out from behind the blue light and learn to interact with others face to face, to learn the art of compromise and to learn how to be kind to everyone. 

Today and every day you wake up with the choice on the type of person you want to be.  Please choose to be kind.

Have a wonderful day my friends…

~BAL

Elections

A big part of my non-author life is administering elections.  Years ago, it wasn’t such a big part, but as the country has grown divided over politics and as our State legislature in Minnesota changes laws regarding elections, elections seem to have become more of a year-round job rather than just once or twice a year.

Tomorrow is State primary election day in Minnesota and, in my role as Election Official for the city I work for, I have been preparing for this day for months. In fact, due to an unexpected special election back in May, the normal timeframe to prepare was compressed which just makes it more difficult to make sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.

Every election starts the same with recruiting Election Judges. While it has never been an easy task because I just don’t know enough people that owe me a favor, (Ha!) the drama surrounding elections in the last few years has made recruiting Judges even more difficult. It seems no one wants to be under that kind of pressure. Nonetheless, by election day we usually have enough folks wearing the Election Judge lanyard so that regulations are met and the public experiences a well-run election.

Seems simple right? However, there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes for all Election staff. Checking and learning new election laws; finding polling places (hopefully the same ones we always use); working with a vendor to program election media; testing that media to make sure every name is pronounced correctly and every single word on the ballot page is correct, in the right order, and as required under statute; then pre-testing that media to ensure that every single piece of election equipment correctly tabulates the votes before we – with witnesses of different political parties – before we run those same tests all over again in public; printing ballots; posting and publishing notice of candidate filing and then never leaving your office for that two week filing period in case someone comes in to file; posting and publishing notice of public testing and the election itself; preparing for Election Judge training by developing a PowerPoint presentation 200+ slides long and copying 2” stacks of training materials for each and every Judge and practicing that presentation so that everything is correct and to the point; training those dozens of Election Judges in what the State thinks is a two-hour training session but actually lasts three hours to cover all the different components of election law and then having to do it all over again sometimes multiple times when Judges that you need to meet State requirements forget to show up for training; arranging for Judges to do health care voting and then providing each of those who will do so with an extra hour of training; providing an additional hour of training for each Head Judge; putting together great big green supply tubs with every possible thing the Judges may need in their precinct on Election Day; working with our staff to deliver those impossibly heavy supply tubs to the precincts the day before (and not to mention deliver those tubs back to me the day after) the election; making last minute work schedule adjustments when Judges pull out the day before the election; handling calls from the public wondering where they vote, when they vote, what’s on their ballot, and whether or not they are registered; and…..if you work for the County in my area, receiving and processing thousands of absentee ballots by folks who wanted to vote early.

The days leading up to the election get longer and longer as last-minute details must be attended to and on election day, it is a guaranteed minimum 18 hour day and sometimes even more.  Sleep in the next day?  Not a chance.  There are post-election deadlines to meet and things to do and paperwork to complete.

There is of course more that goes on behind the scenes, but my fingers are tired from typing it all and when all that is put on top of my normal work duties that keep me busy for more than 40 hours every week, election season is a drain.  I always say it’s like throwing a party for 10,000 people and praying that someone shows up.  Because that’s the thing.  We never know if anyone is going to show up on Election Day and if they do, how many voters will show up.  We plan for thousands and sometimes struggle to attract 500 throughout the City.

Sounds like whining right. I get it. I’m paid to do this job and for the most part, I like it and do it very well. But when 9,500 people don’t show up on election day to vote for their Mayor and Councilmembers and School Board members; when 9,500 people don’t show up to vote for the person who will represent them in Washington, it seems pointless.

Yet, those people who don’t show up to vote are the ones who want to complain about everything. Those people think their taxes are too high or the City is using “their” money frivolously. Those people, the ones who don’t exercise their right to vote, are usually first in line to find fault and that’s not whining. That’s frustration.

The United States of America is a democracy and democracies need citizens to participate in the most basic of rights – the right to vote for those who will represent us.  When we don’t take the few minutes it takes to vote on each and every Election Day, we are failing our country and everyone around us.  Voting is essential for our way of life to survive.  It’s the core principal of democracy and without voters, without those 10,000 people showing up to the party I am throwing on Tuesday, we lose our ability to function as a democracy.  The will of the people can’t be a valid premise if “the people” are too busy to participate.

If you live in a jurisdiction that will be holding an election, please get off your couch and vote. Tomorrow may be just a primary and you’ll have another chance in November, but whose name do you want to see on that general ballot in November? And, when November rolls around and the entire nation is voting again, your number one priority on Election Day must be casting your vote for the person your research has shown will best represent all of us and then proudly wearing that “I Voted” sticker.

Then and only then, will all my hard work have been worth it, no matter who wins!

Be well my friends….

~BAL

Who Do You Tell Your Story To?

Have you ever truly thought about how we find and are connected to the people in our lives?  Of course in the case of family members its genetics, but just because we are born into the same family doesn’t keep us family.  Like our friendships, we gravitate towards those people with whom we feel a much deeper connection.  Sisters may be sisters by blood, but that doesn’t make them friends.  Friends are not sisters, but if you are lucky enough to share a deep bond with them, you may think of that friend as your sister.

Recently a woman who is a stranger to me, but connected by a high school friend, reminded me of a song called “The Story”.  The lyrics of this song are meaningful to me for many different reasons but until she brought it up, I had forgotten about it. For this woman, the song defined her love affair with her husband and indeed, was the song that accompanied her walk down the aisle to him.  Now, they have a tiny little baby fighting for her life and that song has taken on a whole different meaning for the mother.

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
Oh, but these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true, I was made for you

When a child comes into the world parents are designed to feel love for them and as the family grows and the children become adults, that parent/child connection continues.  But if you have been truly lucky enough to experience your parent as an adult and a friend – if your parent has shared the story of who they are outside of the parent relationship – then something magical happens.  You learn where they come from and what made them who they are as a person and not just as a parent.  You connect with them on a deeper and possibly more meaningful level and that’s when you might finally realize that your parent was made for you and you were made for them. 

The memories you make with your own parent shape and mold you until you become who you are meant to be and pass that story of who you are and how you got to where you are to your own child.  You are sharing your story little by little with everyone you connect with and as the song says, those stories don’t mean anything when you’ve got no one to tell them to.

Are the connections we make in life truly just random?  Or, are we made for people to share our lives with?  Friends don’t become friends without something connecting us.  Mother and fathers may become our parents because of biology, but adoptive families can have stronger and deeper bonds than some biological families.  Is it because we are made for each other?

If you believe in a higher power, or fate or whatever you choose to call it, could it be as simple as that power having predetermined who we are made for?  If you listen closely enough, if you are open to seeing the signs in front of you, will you find the person you were made for?  When you do, share your story, for tomorrow is never guaranteed and I believe we are all here to share our story.

Be well my friends,

~BAL

Life Is A Balancing Act

You can’t get to my age without having noticed that life is one big balancing act and that is never more prevalent when love is involved. We enter this world helpless yet surrounded by people who love us unconditionally and, it seems most of us leave this world in the same way and that was evidenced by my own family very recently. Within the span of one week, my small family gathered to say goodbye to a loved one and welcomed a soon to be new family member.

It started with the funeral of a widowed, elderly aunt who at the end of her life needed the support of her family to get through each day. Plagued by a myriad of health problems in her waning years, dementia became another cruel blow for someone already struggling.

She passed away a few months ago, but living in another state, it took some time to make arrangements for her funeral back home.  My family is indeed small, but hers was even more so and as I arrived at the cemetery I realized that I didn’t recognize anyone.  The cousins I should have been close to had become virtual strangers to me, yet by the time the day was done, I had reconnected.  The children I had last seen were now adults with lives and families of their own and the day that started with sad tears ended up balanced by laughter as stories from our childhoods were exchanged and the family was reconnected.

The sadness of her passing weighed on me until just seven short days later when my family joined with the family of a young man we had come to know and love in celebration of a niece that is soon to be his bride.  As with the funeral, the faces of the soon to be in-laws were unfamiliar and small talk about the weather and lack of rain dominated the conversation at first.  It was to be a long day of trying to say something of interest to complete strangers until the bride began to open her shower gifts and as each lovingly wrapped present was unveiled, stories were shared until soon the entire room was awash in smiles and laughter. 

We will wait until the fall to see the true balancing act when this lovely young man becomes part of our family, and when he does, we will have gained an extended family in his mother and siblings and their families. 

Looking back at this past week I reflect once again about the balance of life. A week that began in sadness and tears has been balanced by love and joy. It is the way of life and something to remember when sorrow overwhelms us or when our lives seem to be perfect. As with spring and fall and summer and winter, life is a balancing act and the best we can hope for is that we experience more good than evil, more highs than lows and more happiness than sorrow.

As we begin a new week, a week when none of us knows what happiness or sorrow awaits, I wish for each of you peace and tranquility, happiness and laughter and more than anything – love.

Be well my friends….

~BAL

One Nation

Today is the Fourth of July; a national holiday celebrated with parades, picnics, family, friends and fireworks.  More specifically, today is our Independence Day.  The day the refugees from a tyrannical king crossed the ocean in the hopes of finding one nation, united under God, where all men were created equal.  Sound familiar? 

As a nation we have come so very far, but now it seems we have hit a roadblock and while it is easy to blame a certain person or a certain political party, I believe the fault lies with all of us.

After centuries of being the most powerful country on earth, we have become complacent. Our national identity has become eroded and the unity we now so infrequently display is disappearing. America united, when it was us against the evils of the world, is becoming hard to find. We are so consumed by the infighting between the left and the right that we have forgotten there is another option – the middle.

The middle is not sitting on a fence, it is the art of compromise where those on either end of the idealistic spectrum give a little so that while some lose a little, even more gain a lot. It is reaching across the aisle to work with those of opposing views for the betterment of the entire country. It’s letting the democratic process work so that when you are outvoted, you graciously accept that the majority felt another way. It’s being strong enough and good enough that you look inside your soul and do what is right rather than what is easy or profitable. It’s remembering that our allegiance should and must be to our country and not to a political party or someone with even more power.

Is this the last Independence Day for the United States of America?  Of course not, yet I can’t help but wonder what the future will bring for us as a nation.  In the past couple of years, our nation has been tested in ways that should have been unimaginable.  We have a good process for making change, yet for many it seems, the process either doesn’t work or isn’t worth the effort. 

If you are unhappy with the way this country is going, you have two legal and powerful ways to make change.  First, if you think you could make better decisions than those in office, fill out that affidavit of candidacy and plop down your filing fee.  Second, and this is something each of us can do at no cost, vote! 

Before you cast your ballot, do your research.  Remember that not every campaign ad you see or hear is truthful.  Remember that just because an incumbent voted against funding for schools, doesn’t mean they are against funding for schools.  What else was buried in that massive funding bill that needed to be voted down?  Does your chosen candidate truly respect and believe in the issues that are important to you and your family or is it simply that they had flashier ads and a brighter smile? 

Finally, remember few candidates if any, will meet all of your requirements. Your chosen candidate will more than likely have a different view of something that is important to you. The challenge for us as voters, is to find the candidate who will work with everyone else in power to find a solution that works– a candidate that will give a little in order to gain a little. The country can’t continue to flip-flop or worse yet, come to a complete standstill every four years, as power switches between red and blue. Progress must continue and the only way to do that is to work together.

As you celebrate today with parades, streamers and flags flying, please remember that democracy is hard work and we can’t take the liberties we have for granted.  It takes good people of all points of view to stand up and work peacefully together to make this country strong.  We must agree to disagree on some things and celebrate our achievements in working together even when we disagree. 

May your Independence Day holiday be fun, but may we all remember what it took to get here.

Be well my friends….

~BAL

When You Say Nothing At All

There is a saying…something about when good people do nothing….that I haven’t been able to shake since watching three of the January 6th Committee hearings the past couple of weeks.  That’s usually the sign that I need to get my thoughts out by writing about it.

Those of a certain political party will almost assuredly have a different take on what the Committee is revealing.  Either they believe it is all fake or they just don’t care because in the grand scheme of things, they believe what happened that day was the only way they could preserve what they felt they deserved.

As an Election Official myself, I have a much different opinion and have had since way back in the 2016 campaign when a candidate for President of the United States started laying the groundwork for a loss by repeatedly and very publically stating that if he were to lose, the election would have been rigged.  (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/donald-trump-s-rigged-election-claims-raise-historical-alarms-n667831) Lies, when repeated often enough, often become the truth for most people.

While there certainly is never an error free election, to believe that an entire country of election officials had somehow banded together to rig an election is ludicrous.  Those are statements made by people who have no knowledge of how the system works and the checks and balances that are in place to prevent such a scenario.  It is an affront to every single Election Judge and local and state Election Official who works so hard to follow the laws of their state and ensure democracy is preserved.  But I digress.

As the planning for what eventually happened on January 6th progressed, and it became clear the President was desperate to stay in office even after a safe, secure and quite legal election that resulted in him losing, many of those in the White House, including those in his inner circle, said nothing at all to stop his lies about the election being stolen. Some even became complicit in spreading the lies and fueling the divisiveness that was spreading across the country based on those lies. It seemed currying favor of the man in the oval office was more important to them and their future careers than doing what was right. The people who every President needs to keep him/her on course, cared more about themselves then they did about their country.

When they said nothing at all, going way back to those comments in 2016, they gave away their souls, but for what?  A job?  A career?  The prestige that comes from working in the most historic building in the country?  Was what happened on January 6th and what is happening since worth it to have said nothing at all?  Can they sleep at night?  Unless they are truly bad people, I don’t see how that is possible. 

Watching the hearings, I have shed many tears over how such a great country, how such a great democracy, could have fallen so dramatically. When, in 2016, that president promised to “drain the swamp”, it appeared he was doing so in order to fill it with even worse creatures who, like lemmings, were expected to do his bidding no matter what the cost. Those sycophants – the ones who said nothing at all when our country’s constitution was in jeopardy – those people are the ones we should fear the most.

I have often said that it doesn’t really matter how smart a President is as long as they surround themselves with smart people – people who will not hesitate to tell the President what is right and what is wrong. The 2020 White House just proves how true that is.

Not everyone in the 2020 White House was bad. Greg Jacob, the Vice President’s legal counsel and one of those who has testified at the hearings, struck me in particular.  He gave thoughtful and sound advice about what the President asked the Vice-President to do on January 6th and, while it was ignored, he spoke up and repeatedly pointed out that the Vice-President did not have the power to decide who the next President was. 

When I reached out to express my appreciation to Mr. Jacob for doing the right thing, his simple response was, “We just did our duty…”  It’s too bad other people in that White House forgot that their duty was not to the man in the oval office, but rather to the country they all served.

If what happened on January 6th and probably well before then teaches us anything, it’s that when good people stand by and say nothing as bad people do bad things, evil wins.  Our nation can boast many people who spoke up when evil was at hand even though doing so came at great personal cost.  I hope and pray that if that day comes for me, I will be among them and maybe this post, as insignificant as it is, can be the first step on that path.

Be well my friends….

~BAL

The Lure Of Social Media

I’m one of “them”- the thousands of people who post on social media and then stew over responses. Years ago, when I resisted entering the social media fray, I scoffed at those people who lived and died based on how many likes or clicks or retweets they received. Now, I am one of them.

It started out simply enough. I wrote a book; a book that needed to be marketed during the time of COVID lock downs when the mere thought of book signings and author events or even speaking face to face with a store manager about carrying my book was a mere pipe dream. Having people talk about your book is how book sales happen and so I turned my fledgling and little used social media accounts into marketing tools. I started an author Facebook page and an Insta account and converted my personal Twitter, something rarely used and even less understood, into my COVID “word of mouth”.

The accounts grew in fits and starts and then stagnated when it appeared I had nothing much to say other than “please buy my book”.  I get it and totally understand.  After so many posts about the same thing, it’s easier to snooze someone or block them completely rather than have your feed filled with things you have already seen and dismissed.

Then the second book came out and, because my publisher is big on social media presence, I became more creative and tried ads targeting audiences outside of my admittedly small social circle. Other authors offered tips and tricks and while the marketing of my second book is still in its infancy, and the coveted reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads are still in the low numbers, the book is selling. It was incentive enough to try a boosted Facebook post containing what I think is an attractive ad aimed at the summer beach crowd. Thousands of people have seen it and done the Facebook thing of liking in one of the many categories.

However, this is when I knew I had become one of “them”. My boosted post has thousands of blue thumbs up and hundreds of those coveted red hearts and…………..three of the angry face emoji’s. Three out of thousands and for the life of me, I am beyond frustrated by it. How could an innocent post these three complete strangers saw for one brief moment have elicited an angry face?! How did I so offend them that they clicked on that emoji that appears so far to the right that they had to move their finger to do so?

Worse yet, why am I not focusing on the thousands of positive responses to the post?  Why am I not happy about that? 

Probably the single most painful part of being an author is critique. Hearing negative things about your work is painful and certainly not for the faint of heart. When those responses become public, the pain is only magnified and that’s what happens with social media. One three star review among dozens of four and five stars can become a knife in the heart.

That’s the way it seems to be for those who are really into social media.  An innocent post, taken the wrong way, leaves you open to anger, spite and vitriol that defies the old adage of “when you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all”.  People hide behind their social media accounts and say the most hurtful things without remorse or remembering that there is a living, breathing human being on the other end of that account. 

Of course, the immediate reaction is to post a retort, but I learned something back when newspapers were the way to express opinions.  “Never argue with someone who buys their ink by the barrel.”  Don’t get into arguments on social media.  When you’re outnumbered by people who believe differently, you’ll never win and in the end, you’ll feel worse and it’s important to remember there are consequences to this very public way of arguing.

In the extreme, those who are subject to such undeserved anger may harm themselves rather than continue to deal with the posts that never go away. On the other hand, like me, they may lose a couple hours of their life stewing about a negative response before remembering that life is not lived on the pages of a social media account but rather through face to face interactions with other people who may have different opinions than ours.

To the three people who responded to me with angry face emoji’s, I apologize if something about the ad you saw for my books was difficult for you.  I hope whatever you were feeling the moment you clicked on that angry little face has passed and your life is better today.

For myself, I will try to remember yet again that everyone is different with different likes and dislikes and in the grand scheme of things, social media is not the real world. More importantly, the next time I don’t like something or have an extreme response to something I see on social media, the best response is to say nothing at all and to simply move on.

Finally, if you have begun to feel like social media is ruling your life and you can’t put your phone down for a moment, it may be time for a break.  Give yourself a month without social media and, if you can’t go that long, try it for even a day.  Rediscover the physical world around you and the people in your life.  Rediscover how wonderful your life could be without the lure of social media and pick up a book!

Be well my friends….

~BAL

Life Is A Risk

If you have read other posts on this website you will have seen my attempts to write about serious topics in an uplifting manner, at least until recently. The school shooting in Ulvalde , Texas seems to have changed that for me. I am heartbroken for the families; angry at the misuse of guns; and stunned by the United States inability to collectively find a way to do something to prevent this horrible tragedy from happening again.

I’ve been been binge watching a lot of old Grey’s Anatomy episodes lately and what I realized as I watch the weird and incredibly serious illnesses the characters on this TV show deal with every day, is that life is truly fragile. Of course every time something happens to somebody that I love I’m reminded of that, but like most of us I suspect, the realization that life could end in a millisecond is just too enormous to deal with on a regular basis.

Each morning I get in my car for the short drive to work and from the moment I put on my coat, there are any number of ways my life could end. I could get caught in the sleeves of my coat as I’m heading down the stairs and stumble and break my neck. Upset about the near fall I could be so distracted that I run through a red light or swerve into oncoming traffic. I could get struck by lighting or my car could explode in a ball of flames. And all that doesn’t even take into consideration what others could do to cause my death.

So what is it that keeps us from leaving our houses and living our lives? Why don’t we all just lessen our chances of death by curling into a ball on the couch wrapped in cotton wool praying 24-7 that we make it through another day? What is it that propels us to take risks to drive fast, to not wear a seatbelt, to jump out of a plane, to hurtle our bodies down a snow covered hill at 50 miles an hour?

It seems obvious that the answer is we need to live our lives and for life to mean something, we can’t do it from the couch. Life has been a risk since the Garden of Eden and humanity will always find a way to inflict sorrow on each other. Yet the moments of joy when a baby is born, when a father walks his daughter down the aisle, and when nineteen children and two of their teachers are remembered and loved are what bring us off that couch and into the world.

We are eternal optimists. We believe that the world can change and we can somehow make it better. But believing is not enough. It takes action and making hard decisions. Words are not enough and solving this epidemic of mass shootings will take all of us to give a little and remember what we are here for.

Life is not a tv show. We all deserve a chance to get off the couch and live our lives in peace and safety. Let’s work together to find a way for it to happen.

Be well my friends…

~BAL

What Is The Solution?

It happened again.  Another shooting.  More lives lost.  More outrage.  And nothing will change.

Even as I write these words I can’t help but wonder what is wrong with the United States of America that we can’t see something has to be done.  Gun control?  Mental health services? What is the answer? 

While the initial and visceral reaction is to control guns, that may not be the only solution to the mass shootings that are happening around the country. 

When you were a kid and you were playing with matches what did your parents do? They took the matches away so you wouldn’t hurt yourself or someone else. When someone has been drinking too much what do friends do? They take their friend’s car keys away so they won’t hurt themselves or someone else. Taking away what could hurt someone is the responsible thing to do. When we allow deadly weapons to get into the hands of someone who is unstable enough to willingly fire those weapons on innocent people, we are not being responsible.

But it’s a multi-pronged approach in my view that will solve this issue and we need to recognize and get help for people who are struggling mentally. We need to stop marginalizing children and adults who many not fit in and treat everyone with kindness and inclusion.  And, knowing full well that there will be people who slip through the cracks of mental health screenings, we need to tighten up the rules and regulations related to purchase of a gun.

We are told the shooter in Uvalde, Texas legally purchased the weapons just days before. If there had been a three month or six month or even a one month waiting period before he got his guns, could tragedy have been averted? We’ll never know of course, but taking time to do a really thorough background check and allowing for a cooling off period for someone who is having a mental health crisis seems a logical requirement does it not?

There is no easy answer especially when our constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but consider this.  In 1787, when our constitution was established, could they possibly have known that those arms would be used in such a manner?  Just because something is a “right” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have to meet certain standards to have that right.  We have the “right” to vote, but there are conditions.  Just because you have a right doesn’t mean it has to be easy to access.

That brings me to my last point in this multi-pronged approach of dealing with these shootings. It comes on election day. Each of us has the power to cast our vote for someone who can change the law so that these tragedies don’t happen again. Harness your power by voting for someone who will do something to stop it. Don’t vote for someone who will simply stand in front of a microphone and express their sympathies. All the platitudes in the world will not bring a loved one back. It’s time to elect legislators who will act no matter how powerful the lobbyists are and no matter how much they lose in campaign donations. We need legislators who will do the right thing.

There is no easy answer to solve these massacres, but solve it we must. Lives depend on it.

Hug your loved ones and be well my friends…

~BAL