Friday, October 31, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want - A Lesson for All of Us

No matter what our age, whether we're 6 months or 106 years old, we humans tend to  be self-centered; we want what we want, when we want it. I guess it's just the way we're made. But, as we travel through life, we learn that our wants may not always be beneficial to us or to others. And, hopefully, we learn this sooner rather than later.

As a mother, I know that a big part of my job is to help my children become kind, responsible adults who make a positive contribution to the world. And my boys, now ages 6 and 11, are smack dab in the middle of figuring out the boundaries between their wants and needs and the rights, needs and wants of others. They're learning, but, as any mother can tell you, sometimes it's an uphill climb.

I found this video and loved it so much, I had to share it with my kids. I watched their faces as they listened to the song for the first time, and it was like magic. Poof! All those years of me explaining this concept to them didn't hold a candle to the impact that this song had them. Hey, whatever works, right? They loved it so much, we listened to it again and again.

They both looked at me and smiled. Nicholas, my oldest, wiggled his eyebrows at me like a miniature blond Groucho Marx, and asked, "Mom, are you copying the words of this song? Because I heard you say this stuff before." He got the whole point in that one little song and this was his way of showing his newly-found and accepted knowledge and some humor back at me in that very moment. 

We made a game out of it all weekend. Whenever the boys requested something that I declined, instead of just saying no, I sang softly, "You can't always get what you want." It was such a fun way to bond with one another and it put a pretty quick end to their habit of repeating requests, even after I've said no. The usual wining and complaining were replaced by chuckles and smiles.

Will this miracle last? Who knows? I'll be happy if we can keep it going for the next 30 days.

But, for me, the most important part of this experience is the lesson that I learned. 

It's all in the delivery.

With love,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 15

Every person has an idea of what their life should be like. And, it's safe to say that these ideal life visions don't involve having any problems, not significant ones, anyway.

For most people, problems are the unwanted stumbling blocks that keep us from having and being what we truly want. And the truth is, they can be. It's hard to find the value in problems like disease, major misfortune, the death of a loved one. I'm not here to say that we should accept these problems with open arms and welcoming smiles.

What I am saying, though, is that this thing called life comes as a bundle of joys, sorrows, highs, lows and in-betweens. It's a package deal, folks.

We're handed a life and we hope that we do the best with what we're given. Do we make mistakes, often very foolish ones? No doubt about it. Would we have done things differently with knowledge gained from the results of our mistakes? Yes.

And there's the rub.

You don't know better until you've learned. And you can't learn until you go through the experience of making the "wrong" choices. As Tom Bodett famously said, in school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.

Is this fair? Probably not.

But, all of our complaining, resisting and protesting won't change the rules. It's like being unhappy about the weather - shake your fist at the sky all you like, if it's gonna rain, it's gonna rain, and the clouds don't care one bit that you just had your car washed.

So, it seems to me that the wisest course of action is to learn as much as we can from the problems in our lives, whether they are created by our own thoughts and actions, or they just seem to happen to us. Take what's valuable from our experiences and leave the rest behind.

Maybe we learn that our unkind words cause serious rifts in our personal relationships and, as a result, become more careful about the words and tones of voice we use to express ourselves. Or we learn that letting our taste buds dictate our diets leads us into obesity and disease. If we have a physical or mental affliction that makes life more difficult for us than for the average person, perhaps we become more sensitive to the plight of others, leading to a more compassionate and helpful outlook.

There are as many problems as there are people in the world, and I wouldn't dream of thinking that I know the best way for anyone to navigate the treacherous seas of life.  I do know that we can make the best, or the worst, of the circumstances we encounter. We can choose to make the same mistakes over and over.  We can choose to live with anger and regret about our life circumstances.

I'd rather make the best of things. And that includes giving my problems the chance to teach me something.

Besides, can you imagine the complete boredom of a life with no problems? Picture getting everything you want, when you want it and how you want it. There's an old Twilight Zone episode about that very topic, you may want to check it out sometime. Maybe even right now:

With love,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Artificial Turf - Is it the Next Asbestos?

Have you ever heard of "ChemGrass"? No? Well, that's the original name Monsanto gave to its artificial grass product, which later became famous as "AstroTurf" after being installed in Houston's Astrodome in 1966. Fast forward to the year 2000, and the new incarnation of artificial turf - styrene butadiene rubber, or "crumb rubber" - began to be made of tiny black crumbs of pulverized tire rubber poured between artificial "grass" blades.

This crumb rubber seemed to be the answer to a multitude of problems. The loads of discarded tires that would otherwise be taking up space in landfills were put toward a useful purpose. Untold millions of gallons of water, harmful pesticides and fertilizer would no longer be needed to maintain the grass for athletic fields. In addition, the rubber from the tires added a significant cushion that was absent from the much less forgiving "AstroTurf", preventing serious injuries like broken bones and concussions. Crumb rubber is widely used in park playgrounds and soccer fields, among other places.

But, much like other innovations that were made to solve existing problems but ultimately created a whole new set of problems, crumb rubber may not be the miracle product it was designed to be.

It turns out that crumb rubber contains substances that aren't exactly good for us to be around, among them benzene, mercury, arsenic, carbon black and lead.  According to this article by NBC news, there might be serious cause for concern.