Friday, September 26, 2008

Don't Keep Feeding the Fear

The news has not been good this week. Financial experts on Wall Street are predicting it will get worse before it gets better.

In the meantime, our federal government is attempting to pass a bailout package that will get this country's financial life recusitated, but that's only if they can AGREE on a package. Once the cameras were off, the gloves were off and it broke down into a shouting match. This is not good news for any of us.

Today, they are looking at all the options, trying to figure out a solution to this problem, to keep us from this country's worst financial disaster since the crash of 1929. With all the political backlashing and finger pointing going on, I don't have high hopes that they will come to a speedy and agreeable solution. In the end, we the people will be screwed royally, once again.

Aren't you all getting tired of this? On the media, there is never any good news. I am getting to the point I can't watch television anymore. If there isn't gloom and doom of the economy going in the toilet, then there is the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the disasters from the hurricanes this year, etc.

I am not suggesting we all stick our heads in the sand and hope it goes away. That doesn't solve anything, and that manner of dealing with the problems our country is facing is how we all got in this mess in the first place! We can't look backwards and say, "Oh, it was this and this that caused this to happen." Sure, we might want to learn from this experience, but now is not the time to analyze who or what is responsible for this mess.

We all need to stop feeding the fear. The more we listen to this crap, all this negativity, all the fear, all the panic, the sky is falling, blah, blah, blah, the more this will continue. We need to stop and look at what is working. We need to take inventory of what we DO HAVE, not what we lost. We need to help each other through this, or we will never get past this.

But most of all, we need to shut off the television. Be informed, yes, but don't keep listening to the point you think the end of the world is coming and you start boarding up your windows and doors. If you need to find some way to ease the panic, here are a few suggestions:

*Be grateful. List all the things you have and all the people in your life you are grateful for. List your health, if you are in decent health, the fact you woke up this morning is a gift in itself. Start from there.

*Stock up on provisions, if you can. If you feel stocking up on canned goods and non-perishable items in your pantry will ease your anxiety, go ahead. Sometimes feeling prepared for any disaster will ease that feeling of no control.

*Find some "good news" to read or listen to each day. Check out Happy News Headlines, a newsletter that gives you only "happy news". Find articles and movies that inspire you. Watch "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, or "The Secret". Find ways to make you feel more positive and enlightened.

*Pray. I don't go to church, but I believe in God. With God all things are possible. I pray all the time, and ask him to help all of us through this. If you aren't religious, then meditate and let go all the negative feelings and visualize the positive feelings and events you want to see happen.

*Help someone else. If you can, find ways to help someone who is in a worse spot than you are. Volunteer. Give a dollar or two to your favorite charity. Donate blood. Clean out your closets and give the stuff you don't need or use anymore to GoodWill or the Salvation Army. When you give, you get so much in return. And it just feels good.

My way of dealing with crisis is to cook. I made tacos, and tater tot casserole, and apple crisp. I also went to the meat market and stocked our freezer with meat. I got the laundry done, and will be cleaning my house, my closets, and my garage and purging out the stuff I don't need or use so someone else can use it.

I also write. Writing has been my salvation through all the good times and the hard times I have been through in my life. I pour out my heart on the page or the screen and it lifts a huge weight from my shoulders. Therapy in a notebook that cost me $1.00 at Wal-Mart. That's affordable. And the pay off I get is priceless.

I also watch a lot of movies. Funny movies, or inspirational movies (Rudy, Rocky, Lord of the Rings), and lose myself in a few hours from what's going on. I also get good ideas from them that helps feed my creativity and my imagination.

But most of all, I remember that "This too, shall pass."

How do you deal with hard times? What works for you? Comment and share. Who knows, you might help someone else, but most importantly, you will be helping yourself.

And remember we can get through this together.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good Things Happen In Threes

I know I might be stretching a bit here, but I am going to look for any signs of light in the darkness. Today we saw three little rays of light break through.

First, today after just over a year, the 35W Bridge opened to traffic. For those of you who don't know, on August 1, 2007, the original bridge collapsed into the river killing 13 people and wounding 145 more. It was devastating on many levels and the fact it opened TODAY, is a miracle in itself. The projected date was sometime in December. This means we have healed in some ways, putting that tragic chapter behind us and hopefully the lessons learned from that will prevent it from happening again. For those who survived and lost loved ones, I hope this helps bring some closure and some peace. Not only will this have an emotional impact, but an economic impact on those businesses that suffered because of the bridge being out. I hope this helps everyone down the line and brings all of us together.

Second, the stock market rebounded nearly all the points it lost yesterday. How's that for a great sign? While it doesn't cure the ongoing problem, there is a nice ray of light coming from there that this too shall pass.

Last, my new "friend" on MySpace, Diablo Cody, accepted my invitation to be a friend and she blogged twice yesterday and once today. I had been wondering what happened to her, thinking she must be super busy writing for her new gig with none other than Mr. Steven Spielberg. But she let us know she is still around, still kicking and put a few of her "haters" in their place. She's spirited, that's for sure, and that's what I like about her. No bullshit. Go to MySpace and search out her blog and subscribe. She's entertaining and original, and she's a "Minnesota Girl", after all. It was like a breath of fresh air, much needed and refreshing.

I hope you all find the little rays of hope that will get you through the day, in any way you can. I look for my own personal "lucky signs": pennies on the ground, a soaring bald eagle (must be the Native American in me), a good laugh, a great quotation that sums up what I seem to be searching for (the words to express how I feel), and another chapter completed on one of my many book projects.

What are your "lucky signs"? Share them with me.

And keep the hope alive, any way you can.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nightmare on Wall Street

I'm not one of those financial wizards that watch the ticker tape go by on CNN to see how my stocks are doing. I'm a writer for crying out loud. I stick to what I know and what I'm good at, and that's trying to offer hope and entertainment in the darkest of days.

I'm interested in the markets for a few reasons, though, and when they show the grim numbers and it makes the news as the top story, over the election and the 2 wars we are in, it gets my attention. I work at a plastics factory to pay the bills. Plastics is affected by the oil prices. QH is in the housing construction field and this winter is looking kind of bleak for new construction. I won't rehash the news from today, we all know what it is, but I want to offer a bit of hope.

If this is truly the bottom, we need to celebrate.

Yes, you read that correctly, CELEBRATE!!

This year has involved me learning the Law of Attraction (I can hear QH groaning right now, please bear with me, honey). What you think about, you attract, whether you want it or not. Why? You put all of your energy behind it and when you think it's the end of the world, what happens? The floor falls out beneath you. So, logically, if this is the bottom, then we may bounce for a little bit up and down, but we will eventually climb out of this and rebound.

"What goes up, must come down," as Newton found out with the apple. We have been heading down, with all of the "experts" predicting the worst was yet to come. Today was that day. It's all up from here.

How can I be so "positive" when the rest of the world is going to hell? It's what keeps me going. I am, have always been, and will always be an OPTIMIST.

The glass is half full and there's plenty more where that came from. We have all been led to believe that there is limitation and lack and limits to everything. But what we have NOT been told is this condition of "not having" is TEMPORARY.

Wait a bit, be patient, ask for what you need or want and then take ACTION. If you are sitting on your couch watching Oprah thinking the Universe, or God is going to just deliver your desires to your lap, well, you may lose the house, the couch and the television set and then proclaim the Law of Attraction is a bunch of crap.

Action is the way. My beloved QH has a saying, "Let's just go DO SOMETHING, even if it's wrong!" Any kind of action is going to take you in the direction of what you want and your goals. Even if you are going in the opposite direction, you will learn something (like maybe you should turn around?) and who knows who you might meet along the way?

A lot of people are going to lose a lot because of this market shift. There are those in Texas and Louisiana who have lost that and more, and are just trying to make it from day to day. I feel their pain. I have felt that loss, that feeling that the world just tipped upside down like a snow globe and you are going to hit the ground hard and it will hurt when the world rights itself again. As I told my son this last week, when he didn't accomplish a goal he set for himself because of some kind of snafu, Life can be disappointing sometimes. Sometimes there is a blessing in not getting what you want right away. It may keep you from some other disaster.

We all need to appreciate what we have, what our priorities are, and find something to laugh about. It will help reduce the stress. It will make you feel grateful and it will bring about a sense of serenity, even if it is just for a moment or two. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for: Your life, each breath you take, your family, your friends, the roof over your head, the job you hate that still pays the bills, the talents God has given to you that will hopefully pay off in a book contract someday (oh, that's mine!). Little things add up, and when you feel the gratitude from your head to your toes, magical things happen.

And turn off the television until the news is better. There is a fine line between being informed and being overwhelmed into depression. Be informed, be grateful, and learn to live with less.

And get a hug from someone you care about. It helps a lot.

If you can, even if it is just a dollar, give to the Red Cross or your local church, or donate to another worthy cause. The feeling you get from it makes you feel like you can make a difference, even in some small way.

Remember, you get as good as you give. We will all get through this together.

Oh, and pray. It can't hurt.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008-Going Home

Morning came way too soon. We ended up at Flanagan's again for the breakfast buffet. It was terrific, and we left to go get things squared away at the hotel. One of the most important things, was the List. Alex was now allowed to have his cell phone, his MP3 player and other things, so there was a list to be followed when I got home.

I had charged my phone up and Alex was able to call my sister and my brother and talk to them. He talked to Travis and my nephew, Cannon, who is 2 years old, and was full of stories. After all the phone calls, I had about 10 minutes of time left on my phone, but that was ok.

We packed up all of our stuff, minus a Cool Whip container lid that suddenly disappeared while we were packing (and hasn't been found since). Alex wanted to get back to his base and get situated with his new environment. We parked and walked on the base after passing security, of course, and made our way to the USO on base. I didn't know there were places for enlisted men and women like this on the base!

It had nearly everything! Books, music room, arcade and game room, prayer room, and an eating area where they were serving up baked goods, drinks, and the flat screen television was playing "A Night at the Museum". There were brochures of events and attractions in the Chicago area, and information on anything and everything you might want to see or do while you are there. What a wonderful place. Kudos to those who are in charge of keeping this place operating for our enlisted men and women, in Great Lakes and in bases all over the world.

We then decided it was time to go. Alex walked us to the checkpoint, and we hugged him goodbye. I was fighting the tears all the way to the car. I didn't even cry until we got home, which I thought was pretty good. For me anyway.

One of the first missions I had when we got home, was gathering the list of things Alex could now have. I had them all in a box and in the mail on Monday, happy that soon I could hear from Alex anytime he wanted to call me. No more waiting for everyone to be "good" before he could call and tell me something. I could call and leave him messages, and once he got a computer, send him emails and pictures, too.

But the hardest thing I had to do, was leave him there, get in the car, and drive home without him. College Moms and Dads, my heart goes out to all of you.

By the way, how many days until Christmas??

Saturday, August 16, 2008-The Navy Pier

The next morning, Saturday, found us heading early in the morning to Flanagan's for the breakfast buffet. We were the first ones there and were treated to scrambled eggs (Alex was thrilled they were REAL eggs, not powdered), bacon, sausage links, pancakes, waffles, french toast, corn beef hash, hash brown potatoes, fruit and juice. And the coffee was hot and delicious!

It was fabulous! Once breakfast was done, we decided to head down to the Navy Pier.

That weekend was the same weekend an Air & Boat Show was going on, so traffic was intense. We found a place to park and then made our way to the pier. Once we arrived, we decided to ride the giant ferris wheel that is there, and took some pictures from the top of the ferris wheel, which is 150 feet off the ground. It took about 8 minutes for the ride to be over and we got our picture taken, so of course, I bought a couple of them. Alex got one, and we came home with the other one.

Another event that weekend was the Turkish World Festival. We saw a lot of people walking around and smelled the most wonderful food cooking. We then saw the band walk by us in full costume, which was really cool.

We then toured the rest of the pier and made our way into the Family Pavilion. Alex saw the Imax Theatre and had mentioned that he wanted to see "The Dark Knight", so he bought tickets for all of us. We then found a place to have lunch, and sit for a while until the movie started.

Let me just say, it's a shame Heath Ledger is gone. His performance and the performance given by Aaron Eckhart (Two Face), were both brilliant. If neither one gets an Oscar nomination it will be a crime. The effects were fantastic and to see them in the Imax was beyond belief. I also saw the trailer for "Watchmen" another superhero type film, directed by the director who made "300", and based on the graphic novel. Unfortunately, "Watchmen" won't be coming to theaters until Spring of 2009. But I plan to see it.

After the movie, we came out and there was a huge crowd of people everywhere! We walked out and began walking along the pier, watching the tour boats coming in and going out when there was the sound of jets, flying over and we looked up to see the Blue Angels!!! I had never seen them before, not in person, anyway, and the Navy sailors on the pier all cheered. It was incredible! They flew back and forth in manuevers and formations for about 20 minutes! We tried to get pictures, but they were so fast, we could barely catch them on our digital cameras. It was a bonus for us, because we heard the show had been delayed and we would have missed the last part of the Blue Angels if it had been on time. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We did some more driving around, then that night we ended up eating the homemade enchiladas at the hotel lobby, watching the Discovery Channel on the flatscreen television there. QH's mom sent along some macaroni salad and I had some fajitas from Flanagan's I had brought back from the night before. After dinner, we decided to get to Wal-Mart so I could get a charger for my phone. Kathy, the waitress, gave spot-on directions and we found the nearest Wal-Mart and got what we needed.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for gas, and while QH was inside getting ice and paying for the gas, I noticed Alex was quieter than he had been Friday night and asked him if he was ok.

"Yeah, it's just weird being out in the real world again, you know?" I realized then, he had been through a lot, and he said it better than I ever could. "For the first two weeks, I didn't even have a thought! Not one, and then when I did, it was like 'Hellooo? It's me, Al', and now, I'm here listening to music, and watching television, and eating REAL food."

"Yes, and you know what? The worst of this is over. You made it, son. And I'm so proud of you, we all are." Since I was sitting in the backseat of the car, all I could do was squeeze his shoulder.

It was going to be hard leaving him here, but in a way, it would be easier knowing he was on his way to bigger and better things. But it was still going to be hard. In that moment, I sympathized with those parents who are leaving their kids at college for the first time, leaving them behind and driving home without them. I prayed for strength. I needed all the help I could get.