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Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words

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Been through a lot in my life. Bullied throughout elementary school. Sexually abused in college. Widowed at 29 when thieves robbed and fatally wounded my beloved husband. Near death experience About five years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes…. But!!!
(I just love buts…. They wipe out all that came before. ) but today, this year, this day, this moment is full of joy. I am alive and grateful for all the bumps and bruises and the ever-emergig gray hairs. They are proof, evidence, that I’m a survivor.
That spirit is in all of us. Obstacles, someone said, are those nasty little things that pop up when we take our eyes off our goals.
Never give up on your dreams. Let nothing and no one stop you from bringing your own special beauty and light into the world.
Keep on pushing!!

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Be Grateful And Wise

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Gratitude Should Be Your Attitude!

Gratitude is always in order, but especially on Thanksgiving. It’s one tradition that has persisted, and rightly so. It’s rooted in our national heritage. The first settlers owe a huge debt of gratitude to the First Americans –the Indian tribes that graciously shared their crops with the starving Pilgrims. What might have happened to the Great American experiment had all the Pilgrims starved to death? Thankfully, they didn’t because of the kindness of those First Americans.

 Wisdom Is In Order Too

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes. Some of my readers have shared their stories, as I have, about their struggle to manage the disease. The problem is so many millions more are not even aware they are pre-diabetic, meaning they will likely develop Type 2 diabetes without significant lifestyle changes.

So Be Grateful And Wise!

So on this history-rich day that we still celebrate with calorie and carb-rich foods, let’s be wise. There are some great tips for a successful Thanksgiving day at DiabetesCare. Find them at: diabetescare.com.
Be grateful for all your blessings of life, health and strength….and be wise as well!

(c) 2012 Virginia A. Stanley

Election 2012: A Vote For Democracy

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Not A Nail-Biter 

The 2012 Presidential election was not the nail-biter it was projected to be by the Republican party. They thought it was going to be a landslide in favor of their candidate, Mitt Romney. Clearly, their optimism was based on fantasy rather than cold-hard reality.
America Is At A Crossroads

The reality is that America is at a crossroads. On the one hand, there’s the mentality that led to the election, in 2008, of Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president. This mind-set is in direct opposition to another mentality that has characterized the American political landscape for a very long time. It’s a conservative ideology that mixes capitalist notions of personal responsibility with Social Darwinism, racial stereotyping and legalistic religious dogma, into a political agenda that was popular in the pre-civil rights era. In other words, it’s an ideology, a political philosophy that, historically, divided the country, instead of uniting it. It’s the Republican agenda.

Three Entrenched Problems in American Society

Dr. Jillian Jimenez, a renown social scientist, argues in her book, Social Policy and Social Change:Toward the Creation of Social and Economic Justice, that social problems in America stem from the intersection of three factors that are difficult to refute.
In their efforts to address the various problems facing our nation, the Republican party seems to have embraced, rather than distanced themselves from these realities that, as Dr. Jimenez convincingly demonstrates, contribute to our problems. I believe their refusal to face these realities, led to their defeat in the 2012 Presidential election.
According to Dr. Jimenez, these factors are, first: deeply entrenched ideologies, such as individualism, (alternatively known as personal responsibility or pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps). Second, the free market economic structure in the U. S. which requires the presence of a permanent underclass that is also permanently undereducated and underemployed. Third, the legacy of discrimination against various ethnic groups, is a shameful but undeniable part of our collective history as a nation.
(Jimenez, 2010, Sage Publications)
We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

Taken together, these realities outlined by Dr. Jimenez, inform the current Republican political philosophy.  The problem is the nation has evolved.   The  Human Genome Project has clearly demonstrated that there are more things that unite us as human beings, than that distinguish us. There is no place for racism and discrimination in America any more. It serves no useful purpose .

Rather than promoting fear with the same old claims that any changes to the economic status quo will turn us into a socialist country, we need to look at ways to modify existing economic policies so they provide realistic opportunities for all Americans  to meet their basic needs. The free market economy is a misnomer.  It is neither free,nor effective, in resolving the country’s problems with unemployment, health care, or our rapidly expanding elder population. And the democratic ideal of freedom and equality for all that gave birth to the nation in the first place, still has the power to unite us.

Obama’s Election Was Still A Decisive Victory

President Obama’s re-election was not by a landslide, but it was still a decisive victory. Every vote for the Democrats was a vote in favor of what’s good, positive and worth fighting for in America. The Republican party would do well to reconsider its basic philosophy.
(c) V. Stanley 2012

What Does It Take To Make A Marriage Survive?

Recently, the NY Times revealed it had devised a mathematical formula that could predict the longevity of celebrity marriages. It claims that it had accurately predicted the demise of the union of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline as well as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher way back in 2006.

Shockingly, it also predicts the demise of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s marriage, before their upcoming 15th anniversary. Khloe Kardashian Odom and Lamar Odom, as well as Jessica Simpson and her beau, they claim, will share the same fate. They did predict a 60% chance of success for Beyonce and JayZ, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The royal couple, Will and Kate, they predict, have a marriage built to last.

Celebrity Marriages Are Known For Their Lack of Longevity

We all know celebrity marriages are notorious for being short-term projects, much like the movies they star in. But its not just celebrity marriages that have been dissolving as rapidly as sugar in water. Increasingly, marriages between heterosexual and homosexual couples are failing. There’s now a 50/50 chance that, within 5 years after someone says “I do”, they’ll say “I don’t” (Five years is not a given either as illustrated by the coupling of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, which lasted a total of 72 days.)

This bothersome trend, and the fact that it seems to cross all ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, raises the question: just what does it take to make a marriage survive? And the related question: Is monogamy unnatural?

Warning: The Following Views Are Counter-Cultural!

Let me begin by saying the views I am about to express are mine. I am a heterosexual, Christian female who believes that monogamy and marriage are not only natural, but desirable and that there are several important ingredients that contribute to their longevity and survival.

Christian vs. Non-Christian Marriage

First, let me address Christian couples for whom the Bible is the first and last word on the subject. For Christian couples, five ingredients are essential to the survival of any marriage relationship:

1. Jesus Christ: He is at the center of the marital union. His sacrificial love for His people is the model for all Christian marriages. A husband is to love his wife the way Christ loves His people: selflessly and sacrificially. And the wife submits to her husband’s final decision-making authority, not because he is superior in any way, but out of love.

2. Purpose: The original purpose of marriage as defined by God was to populate the earth and to be stewards of earth’s resources. Bringing little souls into the world and training them to be good stewards of those resources has always been the goal and objective of Christian marriage.

3. Relational intimacy: God is a God of relationship and in His essential being, He reflects the idea of connectedness. Having been made in His image, we are hardwired with a deep need for intimacy. Marriage and monogamy are uniquely designed to fulfill this need. Logically, intimacy is greatly reduced the more one spreads oneself among various partners.

4. Commitment: Marriage is a covenant. Although this word has gone out of use and fashion, its modern equivalent, commitment, is very clear, despite people’s issues with it. A covenant is a contract, an agreement that binds one by word and deed to the terms of the agreement. When two Christians marry ( and that by the way, is also the Christian model, for two people who both believe in Jesus Christ to marry), they are agreeing to follow Jesus, to love God, each other and themselves and to support one another in their joint mission as stewards of God’s resources. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “Wholeheartedness is demonstrated by perseverance.” If your heart is in it, you will stick it out through the inevitable ups and downs that come with such a significant mission.

5. Love: Love is absolutely a critical ingredient in any marriage. The fact that it is last on this list is no indicator of its importance. Christian love is not the flimsy, fickle, little word used to describe our feelings toward everything from french fries to a pair of shoes. No. Love, as it is used in a Christian context, is a verb. It is an action; specifically, a commitment to do no violence or harm to another creature, but to treat others with the same respect, concern and care we would like to receive ourselves.

With these five ingredients, the grace of God is available to Christian couples to face the challenges of life in this fallen, sin-ridden world.

Non-Christian Marriages

Now, for non-Christian couples, true Christian marriage is the ideal, the highest and best model, but the reality of modern day American society is that more and more people are choosing to avoid organized religion of any denomination. They are devising their own models for what a happy, successful marriage looks like. The problem is non-Christian marriages fall apart at about the same rate as their Christian counterparts. So what does it take for their marriages to survive?

I submit that the ingredients a Christian marriage needs to survive are the same ones a non-Christian marriage needs:

1. Jesus Christ: to take away their sins; to teach them their purpose, how to commit to one another; to nurture and protect the relational intimacy they both crave and how to love

2. A purpose, not just passion, or more accurately, lust

3. Commitment to the growth and development of the relationship and each other

4. Relational intimacy: Monogamy provides the space each person needs to grow and develop by establishing a nurturing and emotionally safe environment

5. Love: the decision to do no violence or harm to the person we are married to.

In The End, It’s All About Survival

While the NY Times formula claims to have accurately predicted the demise of various celebrity unions, it offers no guidance or assistance to couples who are either already married or contemplating entering into the marital state, as to what it takes for a marriage to survive.

Survival is all about overcoming obstacles. It’s about facing challenges head on and making the decision to fight with everything you have to stay true to your purpose. It’s about doing the work that comes with that decision: the work of continually examining and evaluating yourself to be sure you’re living intentionally and with honesty and integrity. That’s the kind of work too many people don’t want to do.

In marriage, ( as with anything that challenges our natural desire to do whatever we want, whenever and with whomever we want), survival demands a choice, a decision for the marriage. A marriage cannot survive if each person doesn’t choose to nourish it with what it needs to survive.

It’s not easy but in the end, it’s worth the hassle.

(c) 2012 V. Stanley

Desert Flower: A Story Of Ultimate Survival

The Desert Flower

Desert flower…..The words conjure up images of struggle and difficulty.  In the desert, everything is a struggle.  Much of what we in America and other places blessed with easy access to water take for granted, requires herculean effort to obtain in the desert.  Yet, the desert flower thrives.

      It struggles daily for its very survival.  It lives in an environment where the sun is abundant but water is extremely scarce so it has to dig its roots deep into the dry, brittle ground to find what it needs to live.   Its struggle is a graphic depiction of the struggle all survivors face to overcome  challenges and live.

Wasir Dirie, “desert flower”

But it is also the story of Wasir Dirie, supermodel, author, actress, wife and mother, and human rights activist for the horrific cause of FGM, female genital mutilation, also known as infibulation.

 Before Wasir’s story was told in the National Geographic movie, “Desert Flower” (which is what Wasir’s name means),  more than 8,000 girls a day, some as young as three years old,  were forced to undergo the brutal and inhumane female circumcision, in which the clitoris and labia are removed with dirty, crude cutting instruments.

Victims, like Wasir herself and her own two sisters, are stitched after the crude surgery with thorns and  left with a match-head sized orifice for urinating and menstruating.  Some die of massive infections from the dirty and unsanitary conditions under which the circumcision is performed, while others die later in childbirth.

 This barbaric practice can’t be blamed on religion or religious zealots. Female circumcision is not mentioned in the Bible or in the Quran.  Instead, it seems to have been devised by and for fearful men  in some patriarchal Muslim nations,  ( including Somalia, where Wasir is from, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan) where men enjoy almost total control over women’s lives.

But thanks to the courageous efforts of supermodel Wasir Dirie, who was appointed special U.N. Ambassador for the cause, numerous countries have condemned and outlawed the practice.

The Movie

“Desert Flower”,  the movie which tells Wasir’s story desertflowermovie.com  was produced by National Geographic and is not your usual dry, boring documentary.  It avoids the usual, narrated, oh-look-at-the-poor-natives tone and opts, instead, to follow little Wasir from her birth in the desert of Somalia to her monumentally treacherous trek through that same desert to freedom and a new life as a supermodel in London.

Anyone who has suffered a life-changing experience, whether through illness or injury, will be deeply affected by this movie.   It is impossible to watch it and remain calm.   It will stir every instinct within you to fight, to push, to press toward the destiny that lies within you, just as Wasir did on behalf of the  young victims of male insecurity.

As Wasir said in her speech to U.N. delegates, in which she shared her amazing story, “The last camel in line walks as quickly as the first.”  In other words,  whatever happens to the least of us, has an affect on all of us.  The movie reminds us that the freedoms we take for granted in America, as women, for example, are not common around the world.

I encourage you to watch it and to join the cause to have this horrible practice outlawed wherever it is still practiced.  So many young desert flowers are depending on us.

(c) 2012 V. Stanley

Find Your Healing Place

Sometimes life gets us down.  It comes with  the territory.  Some days, weeks or months, even years, can be absolutely wonderful.  Some can be downright awful.  These are simply seasons of life

Making It Thru The Seasons of  Life

    Whenever I have found myself in one of those seasons I wish I could just zoom right through and not look back,  I have always found a way out, a way through by connecting to one of my healing places.  I have a few.  

“MY” Healing Places

       My all time favorite healing place was, is and will probably always be, the beach.  I grew up in a tiny little city called Glen Cove, on Long Island, a suburb of New York City.  There was a beautiful beach  named after the banking magnate J. P. Morgan,  where you could swim, clam, surf, or waterski and manicured park grounds where you could lay down a blanket and just chill or grill hotdogs and hamburgers ( or steak and ribs if you preferred).    Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single picture of this lovely place (that I could use for free) that holds such an important place in my memory.  If anyone has a picture, especially of the gazebo near the park entrance, I would surely love to have it.

No matter what, or in those days, who, was bothering me, just getting to the beach would calm me down and center me.  Maybe it was the rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves and the tide that put my racing heart back in sync.  Maybe it was just the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean that seemed to go on forever that took me out of my own self-centereredness so that I could put things in perspective.  I don’t know.  I just know it worked then and it still works and that’s all that matters.

       Another favorite healing place was, and is,  the mountains.  A group I belonged to in high school–the International Conference of Christians and Jews–traveled to Europe each summer to meet with other like-minded students who wanted to make the world a better place.  Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain and England were just a few of the places we visited.

To this day, I can remember our jaws dropping in awe at the mountains in these European countries.  They were breathtaking…. which is not to say we don’t have some equally awe-inspiring mountain ranges in the U.S.  I just hadn’t travelled to too many places at the time, either in the U.S. or out.  Whatever  disagreements our little group of international students  had among ourselves seemed small and silly compared to those majestic mountains towering in the background.

Even now, watching the Winter Olympics, or a movie filmed in the mountains anywhere will cause my jaw to drop.  I forget everything for a few minutes.  Their sheer size is enough to shift my perspective from myself to the much bigger picture of reality they illustrate.  My situation, and I , are so small compared to the mountains……

       Last, but in no way the least of my favorite healing places,  is anywhere in the world the sun is setting, or rising.  That beautiful, reddish gold glow makes me feel warm and tingly inside.  I feel a connection to everyone everywhere because I know that somewhere in the world someone is or will be watching the same sun rise, or set.   Somewhere in the world someone is or will be going about their business, or laying down to rest with the sun as a backdrop.  And none of us, no matter what ethnicity or socioeconomic group we belong to,  can dictate its arrival or departure.  It helps me to  understand and accept that there are things not under my control but under the ultimate control of the Creator and it gives me peace.

These are my healing places.  They have worked and still work for me during those uncomfortable but necessary  seasons of life.  They might work for you when you go through a difficult period in your life.  They might not.   I only offer them up as possibilities.

There is a healing place for everyone.  You just have to find it.

(c)2012 V. Stanley

Seizing The Day

A CONVERSATION WITH A SURVIVOR

Bobby has been around for a while now, and he’s glad about it.

A leaner, wiser, new and improved Bobby

I   ” sat down” a  few days ago with Bobby on  Facebook.  He had read my story about facing the challenge of diabetes and wanted to share his own story.  According to him, back in 1999, he couldn’t party like it was 1999 because he discovered he had a clot on his brain.  He went under the knife for 8 hours.  Three months later he was back at work.  He survived but had a series of seizures and strokes, over the course of  the next  5 years.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

”   1999 Seizure (2) hospitalized (3) days.……God is good

2001 Seizure hospitalized (2) days …..God is good

2003 Seizure (2) hospitalized (2) days ……..God is good

2005 Stroke hospitalized (8) days motor skills affected 3 %……God is good

2005 Seizure hospitalized (2)……God is good

2006 Stroke hospitalized (7) days motor skills affected another 3%…….God is good

2006 Seizure hospitalized (2) days…….God is good

SEIZING THE DAY……EVERY DAY

   During these trials I was able to work and go to school and maintain a 3.3 gpa…. God has shown me what love is.   Thank you God!”  “There’s value in every situation in life.” he said.  You can only say that once you’ve experienced life in all its duality.

That was 6 years ag0.  It’s 2012 and now, he’s partying like it’s 1999.  Well, truthfully, he’s not partying that much anymore.  At least, not like he used to.  His parties are a lot less wild and crazy and a whole lot more sane and purposeful.  He’s got work to do: he’s got to seize the day and squeeze it for all its worth!