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Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer: Think

Buddha statue covered in snow
Photo: courtesy of Lorie Sheffer

 

The challenge isn’t having the backs of those with whom we agree. The real challenge is stepping back and trying to apply our kindness, forgiveness and non-judging feelings to those we do NOT care for, or those with whom we disagree. When we feel angry or frustrated or upset, that is when the real test of our values begins.

I like to sit back and observe. It’s amazing, the things we can learn if we just watch and listen. I have noticed a strange phenomenon; there seems to be more than a few people who actively promote things like kindness and love and not being judgmental, but then in the next breath they will lash out at those who they don’t like. They don’t necessarily do this to people they actually know, but rather to celebrities, lawyers and doctors, ‘those people’ or especially politicians from the party they revile. The non-human segment of society, I suppose. While it could be a passive aggressive way of dealing with their friends with whom they disagree, I see it more as a lack of self-awareness; of a disconnect between what they are saying and who is listening to their words. Social media has really shown an incredibly bright light on this, for me anyway. “Share” posts promoting love and kindness and prayer for goodness, followed by attacks and accusations and name-calling, especially fascinate me. Recently, my jaw dropped to the floor when someone spoke about how they are “old school respectful” and then the very next day they went on an incredibly vile tirade, complete with false accusations and childish name-calling. This wasn’t an example of respectful disagreement; this was an example of rudeness to the extreme, complete with Hitler mustache. WWJD? Probably not that, I’m guessing.

I feel we can always learn from what initially upsets us, but to do so we must not take things personally. We must detach and observe and think. Most of all, we need to make sure we see our own behavior with the same clarity with which we are able to see others.

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Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer: Nuts

Black walnut husk

 

(photo Lorie Sheffer: Black Walnut husk)

Now that my own two kids are adults, my grandson is in high school (YIKES!) and my father’s health has greatly improved, I finally have time to do what I want. This has not been an option for me since I was 19 years old. Judging from conversations with my friends, this search for adventure is not an uncommon occurrence when we hit midlife.

One of my most recent interests happened by accident while walking the dog. About a month ago I started to slide on walnuts that were starting to drop from the trees. They fall in their husks, and look a bit like greenish ping-pong or if you’re lucky, tennis balls. The husk needs to be removed and the nut cleaned and dried for a period of time to cure the nut inside. Black walnuts are tough nuts to crack; no pun intended, they would break a regular nutcracker. These devils have to be placed on concrete or a rock and pounded with a hammer, or cracked in a vice. But oh, are they worth the effort.

My original intent was to collect enough, approximately a cup and a half of shelled nuts, to bake one of my grandma’s black walnut cakes for Thanksgiving dessert. Presently, I have a milk crate waiting to be hulled and several mesh sacks hanging in the garage to cure. What can I say? Word got out and now people are expecting them from me, the only person brave (gullible?) enough to very literally get their hands dirty. As in stained for weeks on end. What I wonder is why the squirrels who compete with me in my harvest don’t have broken teeth and horribly stained fur.

The bottom line is this: When we have careers to focus on and kids to raise and parents to care for and chores to do and there seems to be no light at the end of the To-Do tunnel, we may find it a bargain to pay $13.00 a pound for these little treats, IF we can find them. When our days are our own, we STILL may rather pay for something that we can get for free, considering the effort involved. All I can say is, there is something relaxing and satisfying and somehow restorative about getting in touch with nature.

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Open minds, by Lorie Sheffer Guest blogger

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If we want to air out our home, we open a window. If we want to take a shower, we have to turn on the water. If we want to learn, we have to open our mind.

I have found that the best way to learn is to listen. If I want to learn the most, I listen to people who have different opinions from me. Sometimes I will leave the conversation being even surer of my original views, sometimes I am a tad more in their corner, and sometimes I actually change my original thoughts on the subject.

Always, I walk away having learned something new. It’s not about winning an argument; it’s about learning why the other person views something so differently.

If we always surround ourselves with Yes Men, we tend to lose sight of the larger picture. We become blind to every perspective but our own.

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Benched, by guest blogger Lorie Sheffer

medical paperwork

I’ve noticed a brotherhood forming among boomers lately: the over-50-but-under-65-year-olds who have been hit by layoffs. These days applying for a job is a whole new game from the days of searching the Sunday paper for career listings. Now, more often than not, jobs are searched for through listings by agencies via the Internet. Most times we aren’t even sure what company is posting the job. There are standard forms asking at what salary we left our former jobs, but no place for us to say that we would work for less, as what we basically need is something to supplement savings or tide us over till we reach the age at which we originally intended to retire. We don’t often get to speak to a real person, our application going out into cyberspace, never to be heard from again.

Aside from the financial maneuvering that is required to reevaluate our future, we also have to deal with the emotional impact. Men and women alike are not only at an age where they begin to face their own mortality, but now they must also deal with what basically boils down to being told they are no longer wanted or needed.  I’ve listened to friends whose identity was tied to their career, and who now find themselves looking for busywork to fill those long hours. Most of us were raised in an era when company loyalty meant something. Our fathers retired from the same place they began their careers. Now the days of the gold watch and retirement dinner are relics of days gone by.

One financial expert I spoke with said that corporations are doing well, but will likely not start hiring until the foreign markets are much more stable. In the meantime, they are piling more hours onto their already overburdened staff, while the “old timers” are sitting at home surfing the Internet for a glimmer of hope. What a crying shame that so much talent has been sidelined.

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Seeing through the eyes of another, by Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer

compassion
Seeing through the eyes of another (photo: Lorie Sheffer)

Poor urban women have been drying out urine soaked diapers and reusing them. Diapers aren’t something you can buy with food stamps and many other assistance programs, and so these desperate moms are doing the only thing they can; they reuse diapers.

I had a discussion about this with a friend of mine. She couldn’t understand why these mothers didn’t just use cloth diapers. She had used cloth on her own children. Through the eyes of a suburban or rural mother, this option seems very simple. I told her that most moms in large urban areas are not fortunate enough to own a washer and dryer. She countered back that they could wash out the diapers in a washtub and line dry them. She hadn’t had a dryer, and she managed just fine. I reminded her that many of these women live in apartments that have no outdoor area in which they can line dry clothing. Well they surely must launder their clothing SOMEWHERE! So why can’t they take the cloth diapers to the public laundry facilities? After double-checking with my urban dwelling son and his wife, I informed her that if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford living in a building that has a laundry, most leases specify that you may NOT wash soiled diapers. The public Laundromats employ attendants that make customers adhere to strict rules about washing those items. If the mothers live in a home or building that does have a back yard or area to hang laundry, items such as cloth diapers are routinely stolen from the lines, either to be sold or used by other desperate families with babies. And so the diaper drives and donations by diaper manufacturers continue.

It is so incredibly easy for otherwise kind, reasonable people to judge others simply by viewing the problems of others through their own eyes. It is so easy to say that there should be mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. Stereotyping aside, it sounds logical. But what happens if someone fails that test? Are they then left to die on the streets? What about the children who may be depending on them for food? Would there be accessible treatment available? Or do we just consider them to be human trash, their deaths a burden lifted from society?

I have always remembered a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird. In it, Atticus Finch tells his daughter; “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”