Taking A Break


I have recently taken a break from most of my most politically, socially, and emotionally liberal friends. Some of whom, I have known for over forty years. I am not angry with them, I do not hate them, I don’t think of them as less important or valuable as I am, or anyone else for that matter. I am just tired of dealing with people, though I love them, who are so narrow minded, judgmental, and so caught up in their self serving lives that they cannot, or will not, take the time to learn to be truly accepting people. Accepting, that is, of others who do not profess the same agenda, live the same life style, agree with the same issues, and walk, talk, and do just as they do. I am too old to deal with group speak, group mentality, and group non thinking. I miss the individual thinkers that they used to be.

Political correctness has taken over the minds of so many of my brilliant friends. Highly talented, intelligent, and, previously, interesting people to the last one, they have become mind numbed robots of the politically correct, or they have taken a path that allowed them to steep themselves in unending self victimization as an excuse to be angry at everyone not exactly like them. The odd thing is, they profess, profusely, profanely, and with great pontification that they are accepting of everyone. Of course, they don’t say, “As long as they believe exactly as I do.” We see this playing out on the stage of world politics every day. It has, sadly, trickled down into every day life for many people.

I am reminded of the opening scene in the movie, Joe VS The Volcano where hundreds of men and women walk in near lockstep into a factory of some sort. In the center of the concrete slab that is the outdoors, one single flower grows regardless of the fact that it shouldn’t be able to do so. It gets stepped on, ignored, pulled up, but it still managed to grow and make a single bright spot in the middle of the gray concrete. Not one person notices, except for a man who is miserable with his boring, repetitive life. He notices, and that leads to a whole new life of adventure.

Many of my friends of old, have become those boring people who do the same things day after day They only read the socially approved books, watch the popular movies, listen to the music that is most acceptable by their peers, and never, ever, think for themselves. It seems like they have given up on growing intellectually. Why read history, why bother with anything that you can’t find on the Internet with the newest electronic gadget? Just go with the flow, and accept that you are happy just the way you are.

There is one particular person, that we love very much, and always will. He lives in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world. However, at pushing sixty, he has never lived anywhere else other than to attend college. He lives in the family home, and he is doing exactly the same things he was doing at the age of 25. His life is a world more based in fantasy than in reality. Don’t get me wrong, he makes a good living, and is successful in myriad ways, but his entire life outside of work is caught up in fantasy characters and play. Not on line, oh no, in real life. Yeah, he is the guy wearing the clothes that always look like a costume of one sort or another. Last week he was Sherlock Holmes every time he went out the door. He has a vastly busy social life, on and off line. (But seriously, can one really have 2000 “friends:?) He has a successful marriage, to an equally fantastical woman, but I really don’t think he has a friend he can just sit down and talk with – as himself, bumps, warts, and all. He hides behind that personae and crazy, frenetic activity that is his life. Consequently, he sees anyone who is practical and based in reality as someone who is completely out of touch with the ‘right’ way to live. As a liberal person living in a very liberal city, he has abdicated common sense and turned over his thinking to big brother and others who bother with that sort of thing. Go with the flow, man, go with the flow. Even if it does rip away all his rights eventually. That liberal river is one mean mother when she overflows and takes rights away in a flood of laws and regulations.

On the other hand, I have friends who live such supercilious, fake lives that they think they are living in a movie, and they have the staring role. It is all about cars, houses, clothes, money, gizmos, and doodads. The women get hooked on shoes and the men get hooked on, well whatever they can get away with, be it golf or women. They are like one of those French pastries that looks delicious on the outside, but they are all hollow inside. Under all the chatter and silliness, there is a cut throat competition that would make the Hatfield and McCoy feud look like a tea party. Many of the men in this group are business men. It is all about screwing over the competition so they can feel manly. For the women, it is all about looks and having more than the wife, or girlfriend, or lover of their significant other’s competition. I really, don’t get it. These people can look at a diamond and tell you exactly the karat, cut, and value of it in a glance, but mention something like, oh, Benghazi, and they look at you like you just passed gas at a formal dinner party. They know all the trendiest spas, trainers, cars, places, and things, but rarely have an original thought – and if they do, it scares them to death. The women copy each other, the men steal ideas from each other. They bore me to death. Really, I would rather walk on rocks than go shopping all day, (Bookstores are an exception, but I only shop there on my own.) or spend my time trying to out do everyone around me. Too much work, too little return.

Then there are all my LGBT friends. Yes, I have more than a token one or two. You can’t be in my field of employment without knowing many. I have a few, very few, friends in this group who are as conservative as I am, that just get on with their lives. They honestly do not care one bit who anyone sleeps with, loves, or cohabits with. They are who they are, and being LGBT is not a big deal. They are accepted professionally, socially, and politically – and yes, religiously within their group of friends, family, and community. However, sigh, there is the group of friends who are LGBT first and foremost. They are angry, strident, bigoted, and racist toward anyone who does not bow down to the god of rainbow flags and their sacred fight to be “Just Like Everyone Else.” If you do not agree with everything they do, say, and believe, then you are branded as a hater. Ironic, since they are the people hating to begin with. No matter how often I tell them I don’t care who they sleep with as long as I don’t have to be a party to it, they still think I am a homophobe. I have just thrown up my hands and decided they are all insane and need a time out for anger management. Thinking for themselves is anathema to these people. Just get on the band wagon, in the parade, or carry the rainbow flag and scream about how much everyone hates them already. Oy, can we say self fulfilling prophesy? If you treat everyone as if they hate you just because they think or believe differently, they they just may start walking away in droves. OH, and the LGBT group is evenly sprinkled with fairy dust and delusional beliefs in the first two groups as well. Professional victims still, but vacuous victims.

I have a boat load of friends who are living in the fly over country in middle America. The majority are parents, hard workers who know how to enjoy their down time. Some are city dwellers, some live out beyond the back forty. Some love to travel, some won’t leave their home county, let alone their home state. Some are professional people, from judges to teachers and then some. More are blue collar workers of one sort or another, and another bunch are farmers and ranchers. There are a few things they have in common. They believe in Family First, and included in that is the extended family of friends and neighbors. They tend to be religious, not necessarily church going, but religious. They believe in the greatness of the United States (even those in the south who still lament the late Northern Aggression, aka Civil War.) and they stand firmly for the Constitution and values upon which this country was founded. Best of all, they are independent thinkers, and they understand that history repeats itself if humanity doesn’t protect its freedom from tyranny. Most of them have either served in the military or come from a family that has served. They are patriots.

That’s not to say that middle America folks aren’t selfish and self absorbed. They can be, and some are as vain and supercilious as anyone else. But, at the end of the day, they are less focused on themselves, and more focused on the world around them, and the world far away.

There is something so fun about engaging in a debate with thinking people. Even if we are complete opposites on everything, thinking people take the time to listen and think before spouting the current propaganda and talking points of the day. Like me, these good folks don’t give a flip about who you love, sleep with, or how you live – you are defined by your behavior and how you treat others. What they do care about is the individual, not the lemming behavior of the group. Everyone has incredible potential, and the greatest gift everyone has is the ability to learn, think, and make up their own minds about who they are and what they think. I may not agree with the things they do, or how they think, but it is their right, and they know the consequences of their behavior. The great thing, is we can disagree vehemently and still be friends – not thinking any less of each other or throwing about invectives concerning hate.

So, this self imposed distance from my knee jerk, emotional, lock step, group think, self absorbed liberal friends has done two thing. It made me realize that I bought into their arrogant belief that I simply could not be as good as they are because I am an ignorant hick from Oklahoma, and it made me aware that they are so bogus in that arrogance. They may think they are all that, but deep inside there is a huge hole of discontent and fear. Hiding behind pretend personae and victimization isn’t going to improve anyone’s life. Suck it up people, and learn to think for yourselves. Yes, you might lose a few of those so called friends, but if speaking your mind offends them so much, then they aren’t really your friends.

It took me years to realize no one has the right to tell me to sit down and shut up. No one has the right to tell me how to think. And, best of all, that I am intelligent, well educated, caring, accepting, and willing to lend a helping hand or listening ear. I am not perfect, liberal whiners and moaners annoy me and I loathe the political leaders who are trying to destroy our country. But, at least I am honest with myself and others, and I am not afraid to take a stand and state my thoughts on any topic.

So, my distant liberal friends, I recommend that before having a knee jerk emotional response to every little thing in life, take a deep breath, step back, and think before babbling nonsense. If you don’t know the truth, find out. If you don’t understand, learn. If you are afraid, learn to stand firm even in the face of adversity. Because until you do, my dear liberal friends, you will never be truly happy, content, or who were intended to be.

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Inspirational Women


In my lifetime there have been many women who have inspired me to be a better person. It is difficult to choose one above the others, so I want to share with you, instead, several women who have inspired me.
When I was a little girl, my great grandmother, Sylvia Underwood Vandenburg, set the example of what a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother should be. She inspired me through her unrelenting work to feed, clothe, and educate her family. Grannie raised four children of her own, then raise six grandchildren in her home, when their parents abandoned them, while other grandchildren came and went on an as needed basis. She then raise three great grandchildren when her grandson divorced and needed someone to help take care of his kids while he worked.
Grannie was the finest example for sacrifice and service I have ever known. Her garden provided food for her family, neighbors, and anyone in need of food. She cooked for an army of people every day and lunch at Grannies was an event that stood until a week before she died. Because we are a farm family, lunch was the biggest meal of the day. It didn’t matter if we dropped in at the last minute, or if we brought along friends, Grannie always had enough food, and would just smile and “add another potato to the pot,” to make sure the meal stretched for everyone.
Her garden also provided flowers for everyone from new brides to the old and infirm. Her fingers sewed an unending supply of dresses, shirts, quilts, and dishtowels for all of her progeny and our friends. To have a quilt made by Grannie Vandenburg was the best wedding present any girl in the family could have. And when each of us had our first baby, and sometimes third or fourth, as long as she could see to do it, she made us a baby quilt. Those are held as sacred heirlooms by all of us.
Grannie was a small, quiet, homely, uneducated woman who was widowed at the early age of 50. Her life was hard, especially by today’s standards, but she was a tower of strength when it came to protecting her family. She always had the right advice, loving hug, or swat on the bottom for all of us children. She was wise, caring, possessed a wicked sense of humor, and she was one of the most spiritual women I’ve every known. All my life I have wanted to be just like her. To me, Grannie was exactly what a real woman was supposed to be. She could hoe a cotton field, do all the weekly wash, work in her garden, provide three meals a day, and still have time to sit quietly listening to a child struggle to learn to read at the end of a long day of work. Today, when I am sad or feeling lonely, the aromas of vanilla cookies and talcum powder bring back the feeling of unconditional love and security Grannie gave to all of “little ‘uns.”
When I was 26 I joined the church. In the small branch I attended in Harrison, Arkansas, there was a group of women who taught me what being a member was all about. Andrea Lewis, Mary Tasto, Marlene Lovelady, Ruby Essex, Eydie May Abell, and Candy Lovelady set the example for a very new and insecure sister over the six years I lived in Harrison, Arkansas. Each of them taught me in their own way. The older women, Andrea, Mary, and Marlene, who were each old enough to be my mother, gave me an ideal perspective on how to serve, teach, pray, and do visiting teaching. Mary taught me that the church was a place I could laugh, as well as shed tears and that I was too serious about every aspect of the gospel – something sacred didn’t mean something to fear. Andrea taught me that visiting teaching was much more than a lesson and a quick chat as we served together. She and her husband, Joe, were the couple I wanted Hal and I to learn to be like the most. I learned so much about service from Marlene, and those lessons still stand as my litmus test for how well I am doing. Ruby is the most spiritual of women whose calm devotion and knowledge in the gospel and in her testimony helped me to build on the basic knowledge I had as a new member. All of them are what I call prime examples, and it is my opinion that those four women are, in fact and deed, the best of the daughters of God.
The two younger women, Eydie Mae and Candy, were my first two friends in the church. For six years we raised our kids together, served together, struggled with our testimonies together, and built a friendship that still stands today. We were known for our silly antics, like the time they kidnapped me on my 30th birthday and took me to a big surprise party. We were known for being the terrible trio, because we were always up to something. We served in numerous callings together and shared every aspect of our lives.
In those years of learning and becoming a stalwart member of the church, they taught me to believe in myself, to laugh loud and long in joy, and to weep tears of sorrow without shame or embarrassment. Eydie Mae took the complex doctrines of the church and helped me see that the gospel is really quite simple, we make it hard. Candy taught me about dedication and strength. The two of them became my sisters in such a deep and meaningful way that no matter what happens, I will always stand by them.

Today they both live in Florida, and I live in Hong Kong. I miss them very much on days when I am feeling alone. But, all I have to do is wander in to my memory and find something that brings me joy, a laugh, or a comforting thought. I miss the wonderful small branch in Harrison. It is, and always will be, my home ward. The women there still set an example for me. And I will always yearn for those days when I could sit among them and feel the divine love and spirituality that makes them all so unique.

Finally, the women on the Sister’s List stand out as the most amazing women I’ve ever known. I admire their knowledge, spiritual joy, and ability to join together in the best Relief Society every created. When I am down, or angry, or hurt, or frightened, or worried, I just send an email. Within minutes, or at most, hours, I am sent words of comfort, peace, understanding, and usually a laugh or two. They even get indignant and angry on my behalf, and we all solve the world’s problems regularly, with laughter, and most of all, with compassion. I have learned the power of prayer from them, the importance of sisterhood and the ability to communicate and share our knowledge of the gospel principles. I have learned strength, and I have learned that no matter how hard things are, together we can overcome even the most horrific of worldly things. The awesome power of women who work together to accomplish miracles is proven daily by the women on the Sister’s List.
I am eternally grateful that the Lord has provided us with computers and the Internet. I am grateful that I couldn’t sleep one night and surfed into the LDSCN site all those years ago. I am grateful that my testimony has grown in leaps and bounds by the profound example of the testimonies of the sisters I have come to love even though I have never met them in person, or even heard their voices. I look forward, one day, to traveling to meet them. But if that doesn’t happen, I know I can look forward to meeting them on the other side. I know I will know them, all I have to do is look for a bunch of women who are laughing, and talking all at once.
I am so blessed.