Life=Mankind 101

Life. Let’s break it down.

Life (yours specifically) can be broken into smaller stories in several different ways. First, you were an infant. Then, you became a toddler. After that, I’ll bet you probably became a child. At some point, childhood drifted away and you moved up in graduating class at Life University. Eventually, you become a teenager, and this is where we run into some problems. Some grow out of that, and some don’t. Some people seem to drop out of life around this age, while others seem to keep trying, but in some areas they lag behind and never reach the next set of courses. In each set of divisions, we begin to see more and more “break-downs” of humanity. We don’t just have children in the world. We have children that are healthy, some that aren’t, some are girls, and some are boys, but the point here is that each human being is tasked with the lessons and experiences that were specifically designed (in this writer’s opinion) for them.

Understanding the goal.

When you enter high school or college, there is one goal. Graduation. The thing we forget sometimes is that we didn’t just graduate from a high school or university. Before that, some of us graduated from preschool. Then, we finished elementary school. Middle school was next, and this is where most of the people I know were introduced to the idea of graduation or commencement. Some lucky people were graduated in formal ceremonies from preschool and beyond, but this is a practice that was rare until recently (as standards for preschoolers entering kindergarten were raised, a celebration of their achievement was introduced). Unfortunately, we tend to forget that regardless of the number of degrees you hold from Life University, we’re all studying for the final exams, the final degree…Ph.D in Death.

Live to learn, learn to live.

If we focus our attention on our studies, we’ll be able to look back over our various degrees when we finally stand at the front of the class to accept our Ph.D in Death and be proud of all that we accomplished. There will be no mourning the loss of time and attention, we won’t wonder if we might have been something greater and we certainly won’t care about the mistakes we made during “class” or the exams we failed. It won’t matter that you didn’t learn how to fold a fitted sheet, and nobody will care that you never learned how to speak another language. It won’t matter one bit if you didn’t make it all the way to Paris, and nobody will contest your right to the Ph.D in Death just because you didn’t vote Republican in that one election. Your choices don’t make you who you are, contrary to popular belief. Your reaction to life is what makes you who you are, and if you aren’t learning something from the coursework of your life, then you might be facing regrets later on, and making the rest of your coursework more difficult.

How to earn extra credit.

The easiest way to earn extra credit at Life University is to study individuals while you study Humanity 101. We all have to learn about humans. We learn that some are wonderful, some are terrible, some love power, some love people, some don’t care about anyone but themselves, and the list goes on and on. There are more than seven billion distinct individuals in this world, all with a different set of challenges to complete before they graduate to the next level in life. Pick one. Help them achieve the next goal. Help them study, and watch them graduate to the next set of courses. Don’t do anything that would hinder their progress. Offer help when you can, encouragement when it’s needed, and don’t forget to ask lots of questions. Asking questions is how we all learn. Also, remember that just because someone asks you a question, it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to answer. However, our overall goal is to learn, and helping others do that by being a study buddy is the best way to earn extra credit. It won’t help you get that Ph.D sooner (but really…who wants it soon?) and it won’t make you better than anyone else, but it’s an extra lesson. It’s more learning. It’s more experience to enhance all those degrees you’re carrying around. What’s the point in having a degree in fishing if you never have a fish fry with your friends? Why earn that degree in sewing if you hide that sewing machine and never make a blanket for a baby in need? Be intentional about being in people’s lives, and you will be exercising the skills you have while building a new skill set. Not to mention you’ll make some friends along the way, and your mutual studies will help both of you in the end. In other words, be a teacher and a student. We’ll all get further that way.

Humanity 101 and you.

Be aware of what your story (your life, choices, reactions, etc) teaches. At the end of the day, people are learning something from you. Whether they learn how to overcome or how to fail at life is entirely up to you. Pay close attention to what you say, do, think, feel, and how you behave in every situation. Learn to deal with your emotions in the appropriate ways, and learn how to use your struggles to strengthen yourself and others. When you make mistakes, learn how to share those as well, because sometimes the easiest lessons we learn are the ones we learn from other people’s mistakes. For example, I watched my father struggle through drug addiction. This persisted through my entire life. I learned early that I didn’t want that. I bypassed the practical exam, and took the written test instead. However, I am pleased to add that my father is now clean and sober. He’s healed, after years of abuse…because someone shared their story. Someone helped him finish that course in Life University. He put in the hard work to complete it. [Congratulations, Daddy. I’ve always been proud of you, but now I have proof that my dad is a rockstar…because he beat addiction’s butt.]

Life will go on.

As you journey from one class to the next, from one set of trials and tests to another, just remember that your “grade” doesn’t matter. What matters most is what you took from the lesson. Did you learn something? Did you help someone else learn something? Do you know now the things you need to work on so you can accomplish that goal and graduate that class the next time your cosmic teacher (in my case…God) hands you another pop quiz? Keep learning. Keep living. Don’t give up. If you miss a lesson now, it could hurt you later (think of trying to do algebra if you had never learned to count). If you aren’t learning and growing…you are missing out and asking for trouble. Keep going forward, and grab a few hands along the way.

 

ALBUM RELEASE: Wandering Daisy by Erica Perry

Erica Perry, a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader turned country music star, releases her debut album today. The first single, Unexpected, is out on YouTube, and the album itself can be purchased from iTunes.

Download Wandering Daisy today!

 

 

Aside

Watching stuff means learning stuff.

I’ve spent the last three days having seizures. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. I’m running on something like auto-pilot, and I’m sick of it. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating, and if you cross me the wrong way right now…we’re probably going to fight. I’m not going to feel anything anyway. I’m numb approximately 85% of my day, so you’re not going to hurt me, and as for any pain you may inflict when I can actually feel my skin and stuff, it certainly cannot be worse than what I’m already feeling.

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When I started working yesterday, I started with coffee and some of those delicious tea biscuits you see up there. I had to plan a last minute meeting with the newest member of the Writing Compulsion staff. I’ll introduce him properly in another post, but for now you just need to know that he exists. His name is Jesse Moore, and he’s one of the weirdest guys I’ve ever met. That’s how I’m positive he’ll fit in around here.

The meeting was planned, I set out for the evening to go to this meeting, and I start having more seizures. Now, I understand the difference between a seizure that is going to render me incapable of driving a car and one that will merely pester the crap out of me until it goes away. This was an annoying one, so I wasn’t exactly worried, but the possibility always exists that this thing (seizure) will spread to other parts of my brain and then WHAM, I’m out. I know when I’m in trouble though, so I keep an eye on myself (weird figure of speech) and continue towards the meeting.

Jesse needed a ride. Then he didn’t. I can handle that. I didn’t want him to walk in the rain, but if he found another ride then that’s less gas I have to burn. I get to the meeting. Jesse, of course, isn’t there. I suddenly have no signal on my phone. I can’t get in touch with him. Great. Hey! At least the seizures were gone by this point.

I finally contact Jesse, and find out why he’s late. He needs a ride. Of course. I set out to retrieve the Jesse. I meet Jesse at Publix. That’s kind of his thing. That’s where you’ll usually have to take him or pick him up. It works for him. In this instance, it works for me. It’s time to work. You know, after Jesse sighs and complains about having a meeting. You get to be around me, Jesse. I don’t understand the problem.

Every meeting runs over, right? No. Not mine. I plan for an hour when I usually only need about fifteen minutes. Why? Because the Jesses of this world are plotting against us. That and I’m always late to stuff. I figure if I schedule for 11 PM, I might get started around 11:30 PM. When you factor in the Jesse variable, we’re looking at 11:45 PM. We speed talk anyway. Meeting ends by midnight, and as it always does…concludes with some good, old-fashioned, life talk.

It’s important to me that the people in my life understand that I’m there for them. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you need to vent, I’m here. If you need to punch a cactus, I’ll be there with you. If you feel like you just need a few minutes of peace and you have nobody to watch your kids, I’m your girl. I look for ways to improve the lives of those around me, but sometimes it’s hard to focus that attention and I’m running all over the place trying to help everyone.

This is a rare instance where I can focus all of my attention on my brother. He’s my friend, and he needs to talk about what he’s going through. I decide by the time this meeting is over and the personal side of our friendship is tended that Jesse seriously needs some prayer. I can’t imagine the things he’s going through, but I try…and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I drive home a short while later feeling sad and disgusted by the state of the human heart these days.

I get home and collapse into bed next to my wonderful Hubby. I should have finished this very blog post and I should have tried to study a bit (forever a student), but I was numb, I was achy, and I just wanted to let go of all the troubles and worries that had been added to that. If those around me need to unload their burdens on me, I’m okay with that. I’ll take some of the weight they can’t carry, if it helps them grow stronger and keep fighting through this life.

At the end of the day, I know where to lay every burden.

Coming soon: Dominoes+Beer= Fail

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Aside

Celebrity Suicide: I Don’t Care

I’m reblogging this for a few people, including my grandfather, Rev. Edward Britt, and my husband’s cousin, Brandon Lee Conner, both lost to the tragedy of suicide. This is also for my brother and friend, Jesse Moore, one of the survivors that prove there is hope, and for countless other friends and family members battling this illness with every breath.

Shabbat Shalom…thank you, GOD!

It’s been one of those weeks. You know the kind. On Sunday, you’re making plans, and you’re ready. Bring it, Monday, you say to yourself (or maybe to Monday, because you’re bad like that) as you settle into your cozy bed too late…or in my case way too early in the morning to make any logical sense. Nobody should be capable of surviving on the kind of sleep I get. Even when you think I’m sleeping, I’m probably just thinking about my story and desperately attempting to think one of my characters out of the idiotic situation I’ve managed to tangle them up in all kinds of crazy ways. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s one of those weeks.

I had a great week, but it was one of the exhausting weeks where too many things happened all at once. Hubby found work, we started shopping for a new home (it’s not what you think, Mom-in-law…we’re not running away yet), and so much of my story finally spilled out of my head I’m starting to panic over not having anything to panic over. The audience for my manuscript widened this week. It’s in reader reviews, and I’m terrified. These are people that have no incentive to be nice to me. They don’t know me. So, basically…they don’t care about my feelings. So far, everyone loves it. Everyone wants more and I think I’m going to take a long vacation before I finish Book Two. Yes, that one is already working its way out of my head. I have about half of the first draft finished–and I hate it already. [That’s a good thing. It means the second draft will be better.]

When I woke up this morning, the last day of work before I could just get some freaking sleep, I was hopeful. I couldn’t help it. Everything was great, until Little Dude and Littlest Dude decided that today…this very day that we were supposed to catch up on math and science for the week…is the day they make up for all the fights I’ve been able to squash before they caused any problems. It kind of sounds like Littlest Dude is holding Little Dude captive in some corner of the house, weapon in his hands, while Little Dude cowers and cries like a baby. Little Dude manages to dart around him from time to time, but instead of coming to get someone that can help, he runs to another corner.

All right, kid. I get it. You’re waiting for your shot before you come get me. I don’t break up every fight, but I’m going to let you know that I’m watching. I hear you. I see you. Even if I’m suddenly transported to China, I know what’s going on. I see everything. I know you just tossed a book the size of Kansas at your brother’s head. I know this, son. You aren’t fooling me. They make it clear that they seriously DO NOT CARE. They don’t care what I see. I grow worried that the Littlest One might be looking to see blood today.

No school today. Until we figure out why these two are trying to kill each other and anyone that gets too close, I have to channel my inner Prison Warden and keep these two separated. It’s uncomfortable for everyone, except the two older kids that decide to take their unexpected day off and use that time to catch up on their TV shows. I look forward to sunset when I can finally turn all these noisy electronics off and just be with my family. I’m tempted to start now, but then I remember all those things I still have to do and I glance around at my children as if they might volunteer to do my laundry or make my bed. Knowing my kids, they probably would, but this time…no such luck.

That’s the moment I remember that I’m supposed to be running some errands for a friend that is out of town on…ministry business…? Vacation…? Something. She isn’t here, and she asked me to do some things for her while she was gone. I snag the keys and head out the door. My list is growing because I forgot a bunch of stuff, like the fact that I’m supposed to get my nephew from school and bring him home so his father can pick him up. Okay, I got it under control. Go run half this girl’s errands, pick up the kid, drop him off with Mom-in-law in case his dad shows up early, and then go finish running these errands. Except I had to get lunch for everyone first, and then I was able to get going.

This means I have to wait until ALL of those things are accomplished before I can come home and eat. I’m not even hungry, but normal people are hungry right now, so I should probably try to eat something. I try. I can’t remember what it tasted like, but it was food and it will probably keep me going until I’m actually hungry. I’m back at my desk, kids are chilling in the living room, and I’m finally ready to get ready (yeah, ready to get ready) for sunset. I’m ready for the day to be over. But…it’s not.

We’re anxiously waiting for Daddy to get home, because as soon as he walks in I’m lighting these candles, eating my bread and drinking some wine…and I’m going to REST! Do you hear me? I’m going to sit back, not think about my story (yeah, okay…) and I’m going to enjoy some time with Hubby, the Diva, Big Dude, Little Dude and Littlest Dude. We’re going to have some kind of family fun tomorrow unless Daddy has to work and then I guess we’ll do all that on Sunday. I don’t know. I just know there is still a bunch of laundry waiting, kids to feed, too many emails to answer all by myself, and about a hundred different stories I’m working on all at once.

I’m satisfied with our work for the week. Even if the week isn’t over, I feel like we’ve accomplished more than we intended since the last time I lit our Shabbat candles. The better we do, the more drama we deal with, and the happier we are, the more people want to see us frown…but who needs them? I’ve managed to make it through this many years without your approval, and I think…almost positive…that I’ll manage the rest of my years without it.

Now, I’m going to go track down my intern and talk her into doing some of my research while I finish the laundry and beat the Littlest Dude for jumping on the bed. [It’s sarcasm…I promise. I won’t actually beat him.]

Welcome to Polk County, the black hole of Florida…

There are certain things that happen in your home town that you just don’t hear about any place else. We all have those stories from “back home” but none can compare with the stories told of my stomping grounds. Polk County, Florida is by far the saddest place to grow up, and the kinds of things you hear about in this place…well, they don’t surprise any of us, but they often sound like the kinds of things that should be happening in big cities. It is roughly 2010 sq. miles of ridiculous inhabited by a little over 600,000 creatures parading around as human beings. It’s really sort of sad, but that’s just the way it is around here. Today, I thought I’d highlight some of the recent news stories, and give my opinions (duh) but first…let’s talk about the county itself.

It’s nothing special, to be honest. It’s a tourist trap thanks to Highway 27 linking North Florida to South Florida through us and the Devil’s Interstate (I-4) running through the northern part of the county. This interstate runs from Tampa (think Ybor City, Busch Gardens, etc) to Orlando (Disney…Universal…you know where Orlando is…) and beyond. Right in the middle of the state, halfway between those two major areas of tourist traffic we find Polk County. Lakeland, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Davenport, Lake Alfred, Haines City, Lake Wales, Babson Park…all of these places offer something to these tourists and they flock to us year after year, season after season, sinking money into this county that none of its residents will ever see. It’s really sad, but that’s life here. We can’t change it, so we struggle on through it.

As a result of the booming economy–Thanks, Tourism!–(and we’ll let the residents of Polk County stop laughing before we continue), we have beautiful parks, wonderful roads, and plenty of golf courses. We have public transportation. We have amazing trails, state parks, and plenty of places to shop. The night life, arts, and entertainment this county offers doesn’t compare to our neighbors down the Devil’s Interstate, but we hold our own. Unfortunately, something you don’t see when you’re being herded through the tourist hoops here in Polk County…is reality.

For example, when I tell you that we have a drug problem here, I’m serious. I’m not talking about pot. I’m not talking about prescription drugs (though we have problems with these around here too…big problems) and I’m not getting into the debate about whether or not alcohol counts in drug statistics. Just take a look at this story that didn’t surprise anyone I know. We were kind of shocked that this made the news. Interestingly, the same day all this went down…I watched another team from the Sheriff’s Department getting ready in Lake Wales to bust somebody’s door in. It didn’t even strike me as strange until I read this story. That’s when I wondered if the two things may be connected. Maybe it was, but that’s not the point. The point is, we watch this stuff happen all the time. Nobody is shocked by this. This is NORMAL around here. So, check it out for yourself. Look at what we’re used to around here–$2 million worth of meth seized in massive drug bust in Polk County.

It isn’t just drugs. We’re not just battling that demon. We have all kinds of pedophiles here as well. In fact, I can call to mind seven women just at this moment that were sexually abused as children. That took me all of three seconds to come up with all those names. I bet if you give me a few more minutes, I could compile a list of women and men that were abused, assaulted or molested as a child that would make you sick. The length of such a list for this place…it would make you vomit. We’re just talking about kids. We’re not talking about the adults. I know of three people right off the top of my head that were victimized as adults in this county, myself included. What do we do here to people that are just plain sick? Look for yourself–Pedophilia Author and This Guy.

Remember, none of these things shocked us. This is the norm. That’s just what happens around here. Even murder isn’t weird, even if it’s a teenager that commits the crime. We have women stabbing their children (attempted murder). Then, there was the murder of Ryan Skipper, a close personal friend of mine. He was murdered because he was gay, and interestingly…even this didn’t surprise me. I knew one of the men responsible, albeit not very well. He was a friend of a family member, and none of this tragedy seemed even remotely out of place in this county. That’s just what happens here.

You may think I’m just being negative, but look over the news that comes out of here and tell me you wouldn’t feel slightly negative if this is the stuff you grew up in and around. The next time you’re thinking about vacationing in Florida, give me a call. I challenge you to take a look at the real Florida. The one Disney doesn’t want you to know about.

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