June 2019: At a Glance

Howdy, Friends and Readers!

It’s a really peaceful day for me, and somehow I am magically on top of chores (How’d that even happen?) so I thought I’d write an update on what kinds of stuff is swimmin’ around in my world currently.

Teacherpants!

First of all, I am becoming more and more antsy to get going on my student teaching this autumn. At this point, I’ve completed all my coursework for my master’s degree, all my coursework for my credential, and almost all my coursework for my emphasis in classroom technology. Just a course or two more, plus student teaching, and I’ll have completed my Masters in Education and be the proud owner of a shiny new preliminary teaching credential!! As excited as I am for the completion of this program (and I’m sure you can tell I’m excited), I’m even more excited to get into the classroom and start honing my skills in helping students. I knew teaching was important work going into it–now that I have gotten through my program and done countless hours of substitute teaching and observations in classrooms, I’m more convinced than ever of the difference a teacher can make to young scholars. So many students need an adult in their lives who cares, who believes in them, and who respects them enough to expect and foster the goodness and innovation within them. Some kids need that one teacher who can just listen. I can’t wait to give that to students.

Wedding Status: Loading……..

Those wedding bells are still a-chimin’! A few days after writing this post, Eugene and I will be celebrating a whole year of being engaged. We have grown so much as a couple! From spending time in California together to spending time in Argentina together, sweating, researching, and praying through this visa process, and hard work during and after the premarital retreat hosted by my church, to getting to know each other’s origin families, a road trip or two, and great fun running around and getting into mischief–it’s been a full year. Isn’t it amazing how these changes in our lives shape and mold us? I’m so happy, grateful, and proud of Eugene, and of my own work– and what Eugene and I are doing together.

Book Sales!

This blog is many things for me, one of which is to provide a platform for talking about the book I wrote, The Ten Minute Quit.

I’ve had six new readers this month so far, with some awesome feedback, and I’m so excited to share! The response for this book was so unexpected to me–I mean, I hoped it’d help bring some positivity and hope to folks who need it during their nicotine recovery, as I did. Something else happened, though. I find that many of the people reading this book aren’t even cigarette smokers! Isn’t that bananas? They are telling me that this book has been giving them real skills to help them quit bad habits like self-doubt, unhealthy eating patterns, negativity, or even as an infusion of inspiration for the things they are already passionately working on like getting through college or being a more organized and positive parent. Neat, right? It’s an honor to be helpful. I can’t think about it too much without becoming sentimental. If you’re a reader, just know that I love you, and I thank you, and I’m humbled, truly.

Pins, Pasta, Pumpkin Spice….and Homicidal Robots! In Space! THE SEQUEL!

I’ve always got other odds and ends going around in my mind, too, such as:

  • How cute are those “Gibson Girl” hairstyles?! I’ve been growing out my hair for the wedding, and I think they’ll be the perfect thing to keep the darn stuff out of my face (and out of my coffee, out of Eugene’s coffee, and literally everywhere else I turn). I’ve been watching tutorials on Youtube, and I keep on watchin’ them without actually trying it, like I’m getting hypnotized by the poofs or something! C’mon, Nelson, grab some bobby pins and get practicing, already!
  • In other news, there is nothing–I repeat, nothing–more lovely and delicious than homemade pasta. I made some ravioli the other day, and it was mind-blowing, no joke. Recipe coming in future days.
  • Also, it’s June, and I’m already starting to get excited about Halloween. Does this happen to anyone else? I want apples and pork and candles and spoopy movies, and falling leaves, and good books, and full moons. I’ve been working on a “spookified” Halloween apple pie recipe, and yes, this recipe is imminent as well, so stay tuned once you start smelling that pumpkin spice in the air.
  • Finally got around to watching 2001: Space Odyssey with Eugene, as well as the sequel. I’m just going to have to read the books, because I have questions, people!!!
    *SPOILER COMING*
    Mainly: Why on Earth (see what I did there?) would this so-called superior race tell human beings NOT to go to Europa? If they truly knew human beings, having been present at all significant developmental periods of our evolution, wouldn’t they know that telling a human NOT to do something is actually exactly like begging them TO do it?!?!?! See what I mean? Something’s fishy about the whole thing.

If you’ve stayed with me so far in this post, you certainly deserve a high-five.

It’s the end of my update! Thanks for stopping by and having a peek at things as they are in my world today. If no one has told you yet today: you’re awesome! You are important! I love you and believe in you! And wherever your day takes you from this point onward, I hope you have a great one.

Love,

Maggie

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Real Talk: Choosing Friends

I am lucky in my friends. They span near and far. Some are close to my heart, and some are dear to my heart.

I was asked recently about things I think about when choosing friends.

Most often people just say “Well, you need to get out there and meet people,” but we all know it’s more complicated than that. Sure, if I meet hundreds of people, I’m bound to find a few that I click with. But especially since I turned 30, I just have zero time or desire to wander through the masses looking for superficial friends.

I pick exceptional people that inspire me, people I admire a lot, and people that I genuinely am true fans of.

Wondering How to Find Your Tribe?

For me, I can sum it up by saying that friendships are nurtured when we give and accept the freedom to be authentic.

Friendships are nurtured when we give and accept the freedom to be authentic.

Maggieothevalley.com

There you have it! Post over! You really don’t need any more than this to understand my philosophy.

But, if you do want more information, keep reading I’ll unpack this idea in the post below:

Authenticity: Both Sides of the Coin

Here’s a thing I keep in mind, and the good news is, it starts with someone much smarter than me.

This lesson comes from Dr. Maya Angelou. She said this famous quote:

When people show you who they are, believe them.

Dr. Maya Angelou

Notice she’s saying show, not tell. When people show you who you are, believe them. The first time.

So, I have news for you, and you might not like it. People are always showing you who they are. Let’s talk about this so you can see if you might just be overlooking some things in your circle.
Unless you change it intentionally, the framework of your relationship with someone now is the framework you will have for the entirety of your friendship with that person.

What to Expect From Their Side

This does not at all take into account what you may or may not bring to a friendship. This is just something to consider when you are evaluating the messages that your friends or prospective friends are bringing to you.

  • Friends with a gossiper? They are going to be involved with gossip for as long as you know them. When you stop gossiping with that friend, do you think they’ll still feel as close to you? No way! Gossip is part of the framework of your friendship. And here’s the thing: a gossiper is a gossiper. How much do you want to bet that person gossips about you? If you’re going to remain friends with this person, you’ll have to stunt your maturity and remain a gossiper forever, which does not sound like a very fun idea to me.
  • If you are friends with someone who doesn’t initiate communication, you need to know that in your friendship, you will not be able to rely on that person calling you first. Ever. Being occasionally delighted and/or surprised by a call? Great! But that’s not the default framework of your relationship with that person. Knowing that could help you accept and love them better, or at least prevent you from feeling embittered or embarrassed if you’re always the one reaching out. The framework is the framework; if you’re going to remain friends, you’re signing up to be the one to call first, period. My artist and musician friends are so very much like this! I find it a charming part of their free-spirited character. Creative types really suffer with these types of expectations, so I place none. This is how you accept this person for who he/she is, and give them the respect and freedom to be who they are. Your choice of behavior should honor who YOU are, so react to this accordingly.
  • If you’re friends with someone who refers to you as her “best” friend when she’s lonely, and then simply a “good” friend when her other friends are back from wherever, you need to know that’s a framework of your relationship. Is this person still your friend? Heck yes! But it could be that this person is still figuring out what friendship means to them. That is ok! You can accept and love this about her, maybe even help her explore what friendship means to her! Be a buddy. I have friends like this, and it’s not because of any other reason than they don’t keep “best” friends, they keep honorary sisters, and that’s a truly high honor. It’s also something I relate to. Conversely, I have other friends like this, and the underlying issue is that they often feel burdened by what other people think, and it makes me feel that they must worry about what I think a lot too. If this is who you’re dealing with, why not give them the great gift of freedom from having to worry about what you think? Why not just accept and love them as they are? When you offer this, they’ll sense it, believe me. It’ll be like giving a thirsty person a cool drink of water; sweet relief from the pressures of what other people think.
  • If you have spent quality friendship time with someone but they still don’t find reason to share the things that are going on in their lives with you, chances are they never will. It’s not a part of their framework. Hey, they have every right to decide that with you! Just like you’d have every right to decide that for someone else. If you remain friends with this person, just know they like having their own world that you’re not a part of, and they’ll tell you they’re “fine” when you ask how they are. If you want to know more, you’re signing up to be the one to ask! And if you don’t that’s your call too. I have ended friendships with a person like this simply because I felt after ten years of trying to reach out in friendship, he should be able to tell me basic things about his life, but that’s my standard–one that I am responsible for. I have also ended friendships with people like this who have not only not offered anything about their basic day-to-day, but when asked, they have lied. That’s not the sort of garden you want to water, if you know what I mean. You just don’t need a friend like that.

These are just a few examples of literally millions of possibilities out there. Evaluate the people who are influencing you in your life. What can you learn about them based on what they show, regardless of what they say?

Some Good News

  • If you have a healthy friendship framework with someone, it is more likely that you will be able to keep it healthy, no matter what life changes come your way.
  • If you have a healthy friendship framework with someone, it can grow and change without becoming lost. This is because you have been able to love and accept them for who they are, but also, you’ve found someone who is willing and able to do the same for you! Way to go, both of you!
  • Healthy friendship frameworks don’t falter with distance or time. These are the kinds of friends we can love all throughout our lives.

More Good News

It’s not a one-way street! I’ve talked a lot about which friends to choose, which to hold on to, and why.

You want a healthy framework for friendships with people? Make one! You’re half the equation, after all.

BE AN INTENTIONAL FRIEND!

If you want to meet interesting people, you can start by being interested in people.

If you want to be a friend that is cool to be around, learn to accept people as they are. You may not like the framework you have with someone, and you’re not obligated to invest in a friendship that your heart isn’t in. But you do have the power to let people “do them,” as they say. Accept them. Appreciate what there is to appreciate, and keep yourself moving right along. Don’t gossip.

If you want authentic friendships, go for quality, not quantity. It’s far better to have four quarters than it is to have 100 pennies. Don’t get me wrong–you might wind up with 10 or 20 quarters, and boy oh boy, that’d be reason to celebrate!

How about being a friend to yourself first? It’s that age-old rule, you can’t give away what you don’t have. Make sure you love yourself, and if you don’t yet, then start by respecting yourself.

Be a Fan

Giving and accepting the freedom to be authentic means you’ll probably start to genuinely appreciate the friendships you do have, and that’s a win! You might not encounter a bunch of people you’d want to have as friends. The thing about freedom and authenticity in friendship is, when you do find excellent people, you’ll genuinely and sincerely admire them. You’ll be able to wish them well and mean it. You’ll be able to encourage and pump them up, and mean it. You’ll be able to be happy for them, to want to help them, and you won’t ever have to worry about “keeping score.” You’ll just think they’re awesome!

Feel shy about meeting people? I bet you wouldn’t if you had the mindset of truly appreciating people in this way. Think of all the people out there just waiting, whom you are going to find truly awesome and inspirational? And I mean it, you’re going to think they are the bees knees!

What If I Have Friendships That I Want To Improve?

We never throw people away. I’ll repeat: we never, ever, ever throw people away. Got that?

We can decide to eat at different tables, and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you deem someone as worthless or meaningless.

The only exception to this is if you are dealing with someone who is abusive. If you are friends with someone who is abusive, I’m sorry but that is unacceptable. It will never improve. Got it? Never. Eat at a different table. And they are not allowed to sit at yours. That is the line that can’t be crossed, capiche?

If you have healthy relationships with people but you need a tune-up in your framework, you’ve got options. You can:

  • Tell them about what you want to change in your friendship, and what you will be doing going forward. They can accept this in you, or not. They have a right to either.
  • Put that friendship in a “time out” category. That means you’re going to take some distance, and you will return at a later date to rekindle the friendship under terms that you feel are more appropriate. You are taking on the acceptance that you won’t know what is going on in their lives during this time. And, they have a right to accept your new terms upon your return, or not.

Summing Things Up

People are good. People are best when they are free.

If you want to be a good friend, let people be free with you, just free to be who they are, how they are.

Call them if you want, show them the kind of love that you know how to give people, as best as you can, and do better when you learn how to love better, yes?

If they need freedom to go be who they are, give it to them, and use the time to love, nourish, respect, and be a friend to yourself. Peace is possible, and it’s all good.

Good friends kind of take care of themselves in this way: with this mindset, I find that I sort of naturally gravitate to people who are interested in life, and who only make time for things that are authentic. I find that these types of people are closer to me too. Inauthentic folks, or folks who aren’t ready to be real, simply aren’t interested in me, which is ok because I don’t have time for that anyway. Wish them well, and let them go.

The Right People Will Stay, and the Wrong Ones….Won’t.

I have a different understanding of what you might call “best” friends. In regards to the folks in my circle, if they weren’t the absolute “best” people I knew, people who were authentic and accepting, around whom I could be myself, an extension of my family, part of the village that I found, and people who helped me be closer to God, they wouldn’t be in my circle of friends in the first place. They are my friends, and this fact just shows that there is no higher compliment that I could give them. I truly admire them, I’m their biggest fan, and I feel happy for them totally sincerely. They’re the family I’ve found so far in my life, and they make my world so much bigger. It’s such a blessing. I’d be such a self-centered person if not for them. They make me feel so very grateful. Plus, these are people who feel as deeply as I do about friendship, which means I am given the grace to contribute good things to their lives, too. It’s an all-around blessing. We are kindred spirits, and that is so very valuable to me.

And for the folks I’m not meant to have a kinship with, honestly they just aren’t much interested in me, nor I in them. I have reached an age where I’m really no longer concerned with what others think about me, and you shouldn’t be either. If people are going to talk, they’ll talk, no matter what you do with/for/around them, so you’re better off just being you. Things will happen naturally from there. They’ll zig. You’ll zag. No problem. Wish I’d known that when I was 20, believe me.

A Tribe Just for You

You may think that this limits you to only having a few good friends. My answer to that is: well yeah, maybe. If that’s the personality you have, the life you have, the friends you have, then maybe that’s your circumstances, and that’s all good.

Maybe you’ll have a life that leads you to real, authentic, meaningful friendships with lots of people, and that’s entirely possible too!

You might even experience both sides of this coin over the course of your life! Life changes, and we all go through periods of loneliness. That’s a part of life, and it doesn’t mean you are friendless. You are transitioning. You can still make a tribe wherever it is that you’re going.

My point is, don’t limit other people with rules that really don’t mean anything, and don’t limit yourself with ridiculous conventions, either.

If you go for what is authentic and see people for who they are, you’ll wind up liking all kinds of different people. Some of your new friends will be married. Some will not. Some will be mothers or fathers. Some will not. Rich, poor, fat, thin, from your country, from not your country, your same sexuality, not your same sexuality, from your religion, from a different religion, inter-abled. You can make friends and neighbors of them all by having the courage to be uniquely you, protecting AND expecting the freedom to be authentically individuals with everyone you are friends with.

Just love people. Expect what is good within them. Treat people with respect, and you’re more likely to get respect back. Value differences. Assert yourself. Avoid saying anything to your friends unless it is useful, fun, or a value to them. Take no crap.

And most of all, be grateful for the friends you do have, while you search the world for more. Your tribe is out there, yes, but the secret that I want you to remember is that your tribe is already forming around you.

Resources

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As a former bookseller, you guys know I often look to books to help me explore ideas in just about everything. Here are my book recommendations for learning more about friendship!

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A Beautiful World: Viewing Life As A Traveller Passing Through

I learned very early that the world was a colorful, wonderful, curious place.

A World of Beautiful Things

Growing up as the daughter of trade confectioners (among my parents’ MANY skills and careers over the years), it was exciting enough that ice cream was a part of the family business.

Now picture my whole family going to county fairs in city after city over the summer, selling gourmet ice cream and other special treats. Hot summer days, ferris wheels, selling ice cream, riding elephants, and parking our trailer in a different city every two weeks over the summer. It was an exciting and vibrant childhood.

My family had a beautiful trailer for life on the road. Very often, the ferris wheel wherever we were was my nightlight as I drifted off to sleep.

The County Fair of My Childhood

In those days, the fair was SO MUCH DIFFERENT than it is now.

Now it’s seedy, commercialized, and cheap. In those days, it was different. It was a place for families.
It was perfectly respectable, for example, to find your teacher at the fair selling ice cream or fresh local-made pie as a summer job.
All your neighbors had pigs, chickens, or livestock competing for a blue ribbon at the county fair.
Clowns were the good guys (and on occasion, some of the more fun babysitters I ever had).
Travelling acts came through each city with their caravan of trailers and buses and paparazzi, and some of them launched huge musical careers this way. Others stayed in the circuit, with their trick divers, zydeco bands, exotic bird expositions, magic shows, pan flutes, acrobatics, elephant training, and fire-breathing.

If you’ve never heard of zydeco, this song from Buckwheat Zydeco provides a great example of this dance-inducing Louisiana style of music.

All these people were friends of our family. All these people were my neighbors. The carnival was my neighborhood. And I was so very free.

What kid wouldn’t want one of these in her back yard?!

I learned lots of life skills–to this day, I can sense a fight in a crowd before it happens. I can walk through a sea of people and they’ll hardly notice I was there because I won’t bump into anybody. I can sell a bridge to a bridge-builder. I am unafraid to look people in the eye, even when (and especially when) they are trying to be aggressive. I learned what it looks like to be targeted and followed by strange men (very important to know, especially as a little girl). These were things I learned from the general public. Most people trust the public, and look down on the fair folk, but let me tell you: in regards to quality, the truth is actually reversed. I was always in more danger from the general public.

The fair folk were my extended family.

Some real Roma folks were always around ready to read our fortunes, but as our families saw each other multiple times a year, my parents and they became familiar and always had a kind and neighborly word for each other. We girls sat while the grownups drank coffee and chatted.

But I also learned a ton from the other families like mine–the ones who travelled, who belonged to this circus-ish world, who saw each other in every city at every fair, and others only once a year at a particular show. My parents were friends with the elephant trainers, who let my sisters and I feed the elephants oatmeal raisin cookies every morning, and ride the elephants any and every time we liked. We knew the people who operated the rides. We sold ice cream to Robin Williams, MC Hammer, and other big celebrities. We knew people who got their start at the fairs, like the makers of those Dippin’ Dots.

Some kids have their height measured on a doorframe. We also had caricatures done every year for fun, and to commemorate our growth from summer to summer.

And clowns? Again: they were the good guys. And at the fair, they were everywhere. If I needed to get to safety or report some creep-o scaring me, or get a message to anyone, anywhere, I’d go find a clown. They’d help me. Suddenly, there’d be a whole network of people making sure I got safely to where I needed to be. They’d look out for and protect me. You certainly wouldn’t find that now, but let me tell you–back then, they were a network of good guys who did what they did because they cherished the innocent. They were performers who devoted their lives to joy, and protection of the innocence in all of us. And you know what? Most of them had regular day jobs, some of which where pretty prestigious. I think my parents knew of a physician and several of his doctor friends who did moonlighting as clowns at the fair. What, you think Patch Adams started that? No way! He may have been the most famous doctor to don a red nose, but he certainly wasn’t the first.

Stupid Stephen King ruined everything, but that’s another post.

Clowns and other street performers provided a guardian angel network of information and safety for all of us “fair kids.”

As for the other vendors, we had the same kind of rows of trailers selling stuff that you see at fairs today. But it was different then. The folks who sold Chinese food were actually from China. The folks who sold Native American jewelry belonged to those cultures–and had tons of their lessons, legends, and folklore to share. The folks who sold Mexican food were from Mexico. The folks who sold grandfather clocks were actually from Germany. Then you had families who had trades and skills passed down from generation to generation. Real leatherwork from families with generations of tanners. Photographers from families who had literally every iteration of the camera in their attic since the invention of the camera. Blacksmiths. Engine builders. Inventors–real ones, with their wildest new robotics and ideas that no one else in the world had heard or seen yet.

Demonstrations like these at the fair always followed with actually getting to meet the performers, who told me all about their families and culture. I soaked it up like a sponge.

And dumb jacuzzi salesmen and ridiculous seen-on-tv guys that the rest of us really didn’t pay much attention to. I wish I had known then that it would have been those cheap commercial guys who were going to take over everything.

My point is, walking from one side of the grounds to the other was like entering dozens of different worlds, different countries. Talking to people was amazing–they’d tell me these stories of how they came to America, what they were doing, how they did what they did. Everywhere you look was a human being of a different color, shape, and size. Each one–no matter where they were from–would tell me how glad they were to be in the United States, because they were free to be who they were. This freedom allowed everyone to live peacefully together, even though we were all different–and we were ALL different, with different skills, religions, cultures, folklore, languages….it was SO wonderful. Everywhere you look, someone was doing something different, had a different skill, and it was all interesting.

I imagine heaven looks something like that.

Diversity is Proof that God Loves Us

That’s how I know what I know about diversity. It was woven into the fabric of my understanding of the world, and of God. You see, diversity is God’s way of showing all the multitude of ways that God loves us. That’s why it’s so wonderful that we are all different.

The Changing Tide

Like I said, things changed. The cost of doing business in this way became higher. Soon it was only the commercial guys who could afford to do business, that and the old-fashioned folk who became crooked and lied and cheated their wealth in order to stay in business. You know how in The Hobbit movie when Radagast notices the beautiful forest becoming corrupted by a spreading evil? That’s what it felt like to see my childhood world becoming darker, greedier, needier. My parents always ran a clean business, so in this new market they very soon were losing profits. More and more, the community turned sour and seedy, since only the more money-mongering, villainous characters were able to afford to stay. There were a couple times when it felt like my family was on an island, and things were green and good and safe where we were, but my beautiful childhood was becoming a dangerous place around me. Twice, I saw one man pull a gun on another man and shoot him. I would have been less than ten years old. A couple times, the crowd became so dangerous that my sister and I had to hide under our ice cream counter until my father came to get us–a couple hours of fearful waiting.

At long last, my family had to throw in the towel, sell the business, and return home. We weren’t the only ones. All my wonderful, colorful, beautiful neighbors in all their shapes and sizes, languages, flavors, smells, countries, all had to return home too, one by one, then handful by handful. Back to our drab tiny little towns, where everyone was the same color and the same religion, and didn’t believe my sisters and I when we said we personally knew the elephant in “Operation Dumbo Drop.”

No one in town understood the beautiful thing we had, the beautiful thing we lost, and the process of that, of what we went through. It was hard.

We still knew a good family in the business, and I worked for them every summer in high school selling corn dogs to earn money for the school year.

To them, we were abnormal. To them, we had returned home and that finally made sense, we would finally be respectable and fit into the boxes that they had always known for themselves.

I Felt Like We Were A Disney Version of The Addams Family

But we never would really fit in. My dad knew way too much about the wonderful diversity of people, and it made him an amazing teacher to hundreds of students young and old. He had seen and met too many people, had too much of a wide perspective to waste his time being pretentious or snobby like so many of his colleagues, even though he was way way wayyyyy more educated than they. My mom knew way too much about global business from, well, being in the globe and from running a business. She kicked you-know-what and became a global credit expert, one of less than 100 in the whole United States. She was simply too exotic and interesting to fit our town’s assigned role of happy pill-popping waspish cheerleader-uniform-still-drycleaned-in-the-front-of-the-closet Christian housewife. Even some of our distant metropolitan relatives clicked right into the mindset of us being back in the sticks, and for the longest time I wondered if they thought we sat around barefoot on the back porch with banjoes.

I’m proud that my parents had such integrity to run a good and honest business, teaching my sisters and I how to work. They also hired a staff every summer, and I never knew anyone who worked for my folks who didn’t come away much better, as they always took them under their wings and taught them life skills, loaned them money, listened when no one else would, fed them hot meals. Even when we returned back to town for good, my parents turned their attentions to the house and garden. They’ve made it a haven, as gorgeous as anything you’d find in a home magazine. Even so, I bet they wished there was someone close by who could have understood everything they had been through.

And my sisters and I? Well we were always seen as odd. For my sisters, they were frequently seen as exotic, popular, desirable. I wasn’t so lucky. Other kids didn’t understand or trust that I would be open-minded because of the color of my skin, and treated me accordingly. My sisters and I were independent, could run businesses of our own. When I grew up and had my turn for management experience, it was almost as though the other folks thought I was too young to be qualified…little did they know I had been wearing an apron and managing money since before I was in kindergarten. While they were on summer vacation, I was working. I was working in heaven, but hey, it was still hard work.

Our elephant friends, Tai and Dixie, had coloring much like this. We were probably the only kids who returned to school saying things like “Our friend is an elephant and she’s moving to Hollywood,” and have it actually be true. Tai has been in tons of things, and features with Reese Witherspoon in “Water For Elephants.”

A Whole New World

Enter the digital age, and PRAISE GOD, too. For the first time since my childhood, I FINALLY had access to the world again beyond my tiny town. Everything changed for me with my first smartphone. I was able to go to school online and compete with people all around the country instead of the little college in my town, and these people really challenged me and helped me grow.

Even my love life was made possible thanks to the access provided by the digital age. In a chat forum, I could talk with people from other countries. How I had missed getting to talk to people from different countries! I chatted with a lady my age in China who told me about university there. I learned about life in Copenhagen from a man who had just moved to the city. Finally, one day I started up a conversation with a man from Argentina.

Eugene, aka the man of my dreams.

(C) 2019 Margaret Nelson. Do not use without permission.

It was Eugene. I finally met a man who understood what it was like to have a concept of home that travels with you, a man who had a global perspective, who knew how to work hard, who had family values, and knew what it was like to have to leave home and start from scratch. Self-made, could pull himself up by his own bootstraps, could make something from seemingly nothing, who knew the same secrets of this wonderful, colorful world like no one in my town ever could. Plus, he’s also a person who made the best and did his best with everything around him, his entire life. Let me tell you–I knew right away that this was a real man! We started just having friendly conversation, and were very fast very dear friends. But even then, I knew Eugene was someone who would be important to my life.

There are two men in a girl’s life who make all the difference. There’s her father, and there’s The Guy. I knew Eugene was The Guy–the only guy that could possibly have been just right for me in the whole world.

And, I get to be his partner! How amazing is that? I get to add to his life as much as he adds to mine…..*mind blown*….

United as Travelers of Exceptional Variety

Now that I’m grown, and the world is so accessible, I find myself actively seeking out new friends and adventures all the time. I’ve met some truly special people who embody my sense of home–you know, there are just some folks who stay with you through your life, no matter where you wind up going. Experiences are that way, too. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I can’t remember the last person I met who didn’t have something interesting about him or her. I love people. I love places. I love different cultures. I love being in a country where we get to all be/do/think different things and still come together to stand in favor of the ideas behind one flag, and have a say in developing those ideas, too!

The Obelisk in Buenos Aires.

Don’t Worry, There’s a Happy Ending

My town in the valley has gotten a ton better too. Sure, in with the angels come some unsavory types. But all in all, it’s a wonderland. I could walk down the street and hear English, Spanish, Portugese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Assyrian, Hindi, Korean, and more, all in the same afternoon. There are people of all colors, shapes, and sizes in my town. Churches of all shapes and sizes. Cultures of all these different wonderful varieties.

The world is a bright and beautiful place that always, always rewards the curious.

I remember turning 18 and absolutely praying for a way to get out of my valley. I had become so bitter about being treated as odd for so very long. But the world changed. Technology changed. We are all now in a digital age, and the world is so very accessible to anyone who may have an inclination to be curious about how other folks live and think. I grew up during the birth of the internet, and there were lots of bugs to work out with it, let me tell you. Kids today have inherited a world that is so much more accessible. I want younger generations to celebrate! Where I was limited, nowadays kids are so free! I want to show them this great access they have been born with. I’m happy for them-joyful for them, even! I want them to feel good about themselves, and to understand how joyous and wonderful it is that they have these technological gifts!

More than anything, I want to encourage them and others to utilize the gifts they have been given–to be curious, to see the wonder and magic in the world. It’s there!

I’m so excited to be a teacher and work with the students from all of these communities. I hope I can open a door to the same wonderful world of my childhood, where life seems so vibrant, and the world just endlessly full of new faces and friends to meet, places to explore, and interesting things to do! I hope to show them that we’re all journeying, we are all moving around, discovering, being human. I hope to show them that being diverse makes it MORE possible to come together under one set of ideals in a Constitution, not less–MORE possible to have respect for each other, not less–MORE possible to enjoy peace and community in a beautiful country, not less.

It’s a wonderful world. It really is. Not an easy world, not a perfect world. But it is beautiful.

This song should be way more popular than it is…it’s definitely one of the anthems of my life.
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Long Flight? Here’s How to Cope

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Don’t let anxiety stop you from chasing your dreams–all around the world, if necessary. Here is my method for making it through a long flight, even with my extra baggage (metaphorically and literally).

Cabin Pressures

For some folks, the idea of being in a long flight can totally break their dreams for seeing the world or traveling far away. I get it. It’s a scary prospect, if you feel you might be overcome with nerves, feel trapped inside the plane, feel restless and insecure about sitting that long.

I’m a big believer in that old Biblical advice of “overcoming evil by doing good.” I see my anxieties as things that detract from the quality of my life, inside or out of an airplane. For travel, I apply the same mentality. I can overcome my travel fears by replacing them with good things instead, which gives me a ton of ideas to share with you.

My Hope For You

If you are an anxious person like me, the world can sometimes seem to be an impossibly scary place. I hope you read this and know that you aren’t alone. I hope you feel validated in regards to any fears or nervousness you may have had regarding travel to faraway places, or even travel to the grocery store.

My hope for you is that you’ll read this post and think “hey, I can do this!” I hope the world becomes more accessible for you after reading this. I hope you feel that it really truly is possible for you to get out there and grant a few secret wishes for yourself. Trust me, if I can do this, so can you.

Here are all my tricks for making it through daunting long flights.

Commandments for Spending Flight Time

If you’re on a long flight, here are some rules to keep for yourself to spend the time:

  • Thou shalt get as much sleep as possible. Seriously. Besides, the more you sleep, the shorter your flight will seem, plus your brain will be nice and rested and your mood will be lifted. Wins all around, unless of course, you sleep through meals, which leads me to:
  • Thou shalt not sleep through in-flight services. My most recent flight to Buenos Aires served a light breakfast before attempting to land. We were unable to land in Buenos Aires due to heavy fog, and we got diverted to Montevideo, Uruguay. There we had to wait for the fog to lift, to be able to refuel, and then to head back to Buenos Aires. The whole process from landing took around five hours, and by the time I was able to get off the plane, I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in over 8 hours. That’s a long time in-between energy boosts. Just think how much longer it would have been if I had slept through breakfast! My point is, if you get an opportunity for fresh food while traveling, take it. You never know if it’ll take a little longer to get to your next meal, which again leads me to:
  • Thou shalt never miss an opportunity for fresh food, fresh water, or fresh bathrooms. Don’t ever wait until “later” to eat, drink clean water, or use a clean restroom. Even if you aren’t famished or doing a potty dance. Keep all your systems as fresh and updated as possible because while you’re traveling, you just never know what can happen.
  • Thou shalt use the airplane restroom every few hours. If it has gotten dirty, tell the flight attendants about it. They’ll clean it right up and restock everything, don’t worry. And don’t feel guilty, either–they’re the ones with the disposable gloves to keep everything nice. They have what they need to clean up and be protected, and you don’t, so it’s better to ask. Use the restroom every few hours, regardless of if you feel like it. Even if your bladder isn’t full, remember the plane has put your body through thousands of micromovements every hour. No doubt your bladder will have something to say about a-movin’ and a-shakin’ during flight. Plus, this is another opportunity to move and stretch, and while traveling you’ve got to take every one of those that you can.
  • Thou shalt stretch often. This comes in several ways. First, you can do breathing exercises softly, which won’t disturb your neighbors. This exercises your diaphragm, which counts as stretching! Plus getting plenty of air will prevent your brain from developing any sort of claustrophobic messages (aka the last thing you need in an airplane). Contract and release the muscles in your thighs. Do a sitting version of calf raises. Lift one foot at a time and make circles underneath the seat in front of you. Stretch your wrists and forearms by making circles with your hands. Do anything and everything to keep your circulation flowing while you are seated. Every so often, stretch and walk around the cabin.
  • Thou shalt tell your brain “everything is all good.” Do this by doing things that will tell your brain your day is normal, as much as possible. This means having a bedtime routine that you can do on the plane, such as washing your face (even if it is just with a face wipe) and brushing your teeth. Put on lotion, if you usually do before bed. When you wake up, wash face and brush your teeth again, just as you normally would. I bring a rosary with me on flights and say it while I am preparing my brain to go to sleep. I simply keep the beads under my blanket and say prayers mentally for an added sense of privacy, which I find calming. Say other prayers if/when you normally do.
  • Thou shalt be a good neighbor. Notice the ways in which your neighbor might be vulnerable. Got an aisle seat? That means you are on deck for making sure your neighbor is able to stand up and stretch/use the bathroom whenever they may want to. I have actually seen people get annoyed about this, and I thought they were acting like spoiled brats. We are all sharing the flight together and some of us get different “jobs” than others. That’s life. Deal with it. It’s also your job to be patient with parents of young children who are traveling. My last flight was the temporary home for a very wonderful toddler who only had one meltdown during the flight. Parents often take toddlers for a walk during the flight, stretching their legs down the aisles, and providing them some entertainment and stimulation looking at the plane. Smile, wave, coo at them. Flying can be scary–little ones need as many friendly faces and happy times as possible. Besides, smiling, giggling, happy toddlers are funny and adorable, and can even give you a mood boost during your flight. So if it helps them be calm and happy, it’s gonna help you have more peace to rest. Yeah, that means if they’re having a bad flight, it’s kinda partially your fault as a co-passenger. Again, life. Deal with it.
    SIDE NOTE: Usually individuals who are nervous on flights are actually the best people to share cabins with. Being sensitive, they are often more in tune with their senses of empathy and consideration. If you have a neighbor in flight that seems scared, comfort them and tell them your name! Say you’re around if they need anything, and let them know that you know how it feels to be nervous.

Use Media to Soothe and Distract

Many airlines offer streaming of newly released movies. This is great news for people like me who don’t often go to the cinema. I usually am able to catch up on movies that my friends have been talking about, which is a bonus for sure.

If you are prone to motion sickness, make sure you keep a steady stream of dramamine in your system, starting right before your flight. Trust me. Watching movies is a great idea during flight, but a bad idea if watching the screen makes you motion-sick.

Remember movies aren’t your only source of entertainment. Download podcasts or your favorite shows from your preferred streaming platform before your flight. I like dozing-off to the sounds of “Little House on the Prairie,” for example. Make sure your favorite music is already downloaded to your phone so you can listen to it without a wifi connection.

Set a Schedule

Ok! That was a ton of information. Here’s how your flight might look if you use every one of my tips.

Pre-Flight: Pop a dose of dramamine, drink a bottle of water.
Boarding: Settle in, get comfy, smile at neighbors, enjoy takeoff.
Media: Listen to music or start a movie.
In-flight service: Ask for a bottle of water to sip as well as your favorite beverage. (I never drink alcohol on flights, too dehydrating. I always get a ginger ale with ice.) Take time to enjoy every ice cube. Remember sucking on ice chips also keeps you hydrated.
Movie Time: It’s officially your job to watch and mentally critique a new release.
In-flight service: Even airline food is something to be grateful for if you decide to savor and slowly enjoy every bite. Remember to chew extra since you are stuck sitting down, and this will help your digestion. Finish your movie while eating, and look–you have dinner and a show! Look at you, living the good life. Way to go, jet-setter!
Post-meal Workout: Calf raises, circles of hands and feet, contracting muscles. Get up and use the restroom. Breathing exercises. Do this slowly–I’m talking at least 100 reps of each exercise. Don’t worry, you do have the time, after all. Plus, counting is a good meditative distraction for your brain.
“Nighttime” Routine: Get up and use the restroom again. Wash your face, and brush your teeth. Drink from your water bottle. Stretch. Breathing exercises. Say prayers. If your airline offers you a sleep mask, use it. Let your eyes get a break from lights and screens. If you can’t sleep, tell yourself you’re going to give yourself what feels like 15 minutes of dark time, just to let your brain get un-stimulated and your eyes get some good rest from light. You don’t absolutely have to sleep, just let yourself rest.
Wakefulness: If you do happen to be wakeful/unable to sleep, repeat everything on your schedule as many times as needed. Yes, you can brush your teeth 3 times over your flight, who would complain? No one is even going to know. A little activity, a little dark-time rest, it’s a good cadence to have, no matter how many times you repeat it.
Rest time over: It’s time for a “morning” routine. Wake up, stretch, wash face, brush teeth.
Movie Time Again: Enjoy another show! I love comedies on flights.
In-flight service: If your flight is long enough, you’ll have another service before landing. If food is offered, follow the same rule of slowly savoring everything, with extra chewing to get those digestive juices flowing more than usual.
Post-meal Workout again: Same as before. Do your mini flight “workout,” use the bathroom and prepare for landing.

Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Bird Now?

If you really imagine yourself completing each step, does it really feel so daunting to schedule a long flight anymore? It shouldn’t. You should feel like “hey, I have so much to do on this airplane, there’s no way I’m going to feel restless.”

When I finally got to arrive in Buenos Aires, Eugene even said to me “Hey: for being on a plane for 20 hours, you sure do look good!” He was amazed. He thought I was magic. I felt magical!

If you do these things, just think about it: You’ll be rested, hydrated, fueled, relaxed, hygienic, and refreshed. What better condition could you possibly be upon arrival? What more could you ask to help yourself face those times when things don’t go according to plan–which so often happens during travel? It’s a lot of work in a schedule. But it’s worth it–especially if you have a nervous disposition. You can overcome travel anxiety by doing good things.

That’s a good rule for life, too.

Resources

Some things to consider:

If you are traveling internationally, you’ll be at a really high altitude, which can make the cabin super chilly. Dress warm for your flight, and use the blanket they give you. You can also look for products like this:

Also, circulation is key. Lots of times people need a little extra support for their legs, but this can be a challenge with limited leg room. Products like this offer a way to convert your tray table into a footrest:

Finally, for travelers with children, an inflatable pillow can turn into a footrest, or a seat extender when it’s time to convert your little one’s seat into a bed for sleeping:

Fear of Flying? You Aren’t Alone

Here’s a great story about a retired Air Force pilot who became a therapist to help others address their fear of flying. Maybe you can relate to some of the things these folks are going through. You’ll be comforted to know that you aren’t stuck with this fear, and there are real actions you can take whenever you’re ready, at your own pace.
Mel Robbins is such a good voice of reason. Here she talks you through the whole flight process–while actually going through it herself. You’ll see exactly what she sees, and she’ll talk you through all the little steps along the way. Well…almost exactly what she sees. She clearly sits in first class, which isn’t anything I’ve ever seen, but whatever, it still counts as good advice.
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Wisdom from the Ancients: Ben Sira

I’ve been curious about wisdom lately–what it is, how we acquire it, and from where we draw it.

I have some initial ideas about wisdom, but after thinking about it, I decided to explore further. I came across a pretty cool guy, as a matter of fact, one whom I had never heard of until adulthood.

This guy was an ancient Hebrew sage, who lived before Jesus was ever born. He wrote an entire book about wisdom, and his son found it to be so valuable and true that he translated it from Hebrew into Greek–which would have been the equivalent of taking Latin church prayers and translating them into English. The result would be wider accessibility to the knowledge, something I am always in favor of.

The name of this man (shortened, since it’s long) is Ben Sira.

Ben Sira had some great ideas about wisdom which I thought were fascinating. His book challenges me often, and ignites my imagination. Not to mention, there are also several rules for good living, which Ben Sira calls wise.

Interesting Points About This Book

  • This book is technically Pre-Christian, since it was written hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.
  • Ben Sira was a Hebrew sage who valued wisdom, the law, tradition, priesthood, Temple, and saw science and creation as a way of worshipping a Creator. Neat, right? This guy was the academe of academes.
  • He refers to wisdom as feminine. How’s that for forward-thinking?
  • He would have been part of a tradition that worshipped God and awaited a coming Messiah. This is an interesting perspective to think about!

Diving Right In

Now that you know a little about Ben Sira, here are two of the things he says that I found interesting.

  1. Wisdom is a gift of God.

The root of wisdom–to whom has it been revealed?
Her subleties–who knows them?
There is but one, wise and truly awesome,
seated upon his throne–the Lord.
It is he who created her,
saw her, and measured her,
Poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty,
lavished her upon those who love him.

Ben Sira 1:1-10, NAB, revised edition

So, who knows wisdom? Only the Lord. And the Lord gives her (“her!” I love it) to those who love the Lord, upon every living thing according to its divine placement.
Doesn’t that make you feel protected and thought about? Doesn’t it make you feel loved to think that a Creator lovingly “lavishes” you with wisdom–a gift understood and preserved only for the divine–on you? What a bountiful, abundant existence it is to be full of love, then!

2. Wisdom brings rewards

Those who love her love life;
those who seek her out win the Lord’s favor.
Those who hold her fast will attain glory,
and they shall abide in the blessing of the Lord.
Those who serve her serve the Holy One;
those who love her the Lord loves.”

Ben Sira 4: 12-14

I love this, because you know, not everyone is Catholic. To me, this is an argument in favor of God loving everyone. If you’re not Catholic, you won’t find any condemnation here. Rather, I would invite you to think about what Ben Sira is saying. Don’t worry right now about “signing up” for the right group to visit on Sundays. Go where wisdom is. Go where truth is. Ben Sira is saying there is no such thing as finding real wisdom without also finding God–anyone who serves wisdom is serving God, because they are loving what God loves.

I’m just saying, next time some Anti-Christian tells you they’re “atheist” because of some cockamamie somethingorother about a vengeful Old Testament God, you go ahead and think about Ben Sira–whom even the “Old Testament Hebrews” thought of as a wisest-of-the-wise-guys–saying God loves you, and that you’ll find God as you seek the things that are true, good, and holy in your life. Why? Because God–even the one in the Old Testament–loves you and wants to lavish you with a love of life.

This is also super progressive of Ben Sira, since the traditional understanding was for a Messiah to come and deliver God’s chosen people, which the Hebrews thought referred to just them. But by these descriptions, God loves and waits to lavish that love on everyone–Jews and Gentiles alike. Go figure, that’s exactly what Jesus fulfilled a couple centuries later.

Neat? You bet it’s neat.

So, on goes my exploration into wisdom. Would I ever really be done? No, of course not. But I invite you to start your own quest.
I invite you to take up your own journey into understanding what wisdom is. Maybe you could teach me a thing or two.!

Resources

Here are some affiliate links to books that could help you explore more about the wisdom of Ben Sira.

Here’s a book I’d actually like to buy myself. I’m currently working through another Bible study about mercy–my first Bible study, in fact. I am hooked on studying Scripture, and if you are Catholic, you’ll know how novel this is 😉

Thomas Aquinas was another wise man who was devoted to the intellectual study of all the theology surrounding the life of Christ. Fun fact: he was also such a fan of culinary pursuits, he had a special table with a moon shape cut out so he could write letters and still have room for his tummy. Smart guy, loves good food and brew, reads lots of books….sounds like the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with, if you ask me.

Finally, it’s hard to go wrong with anything by Bishop Robert Barron. He has been seeking holy wisdom for years, and I would argue it is the main drive behind his entire vocation as a priest. He shares his insights from all his studies with us. This is another book on my wish list.

Closing

If you want to read Ben Sira in its entirety, you can find it in the Old Testament of the New American Bible, or any bible within your local Catholic church.

Really, you have every right in the world to read this yourself, and I hope you do. Remember: wisdom is thinking your own thoughts, finding things out for yourself as best as you can. So you don’t have to take my word for it!

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