50 thoughts on turning 50: #22 Flowing with the river of life

life is a river

For most of my life, I’ve been consumed with finding my purpose in life. I believe that I’m here for a reason – that God created me for something and that I’m not here by accident. And yet I’ve never really felt like I could put my finger on what that reason and purpose was.

Then a few years ago, I stumbled on a quote by Cardinal John Henry Newman, which reads in part:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.”

I wrote about it in this post, 50 thoughts on turning 50: #17 Be a link in the chain. But I wanted to take that thought a bit further today, after reading an article last week written by local sportswriter Scott Pitoniak, in which he looks back on forty years spent working at his dream job. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #21 Reading the Bible

Judges 19 and 20 - one of the stories in the Bible that still haunts me.

I used a daily devotional Bible and kept a journal of notes and questions. Judges 19 and 20 – one of the stories in the Bible that still haunts me.

Religion, faith and spirituality have played a large part in my life – both good and bad. So it only makes sense that I address the issues as I muse on 50 years.  There’s no way I can tackle them all in one post so I’ll break them up.

Today? The Bible. Or more specifically, reading the Bible.

A few years ago, author John Marks interviewed me for his book, “Reasons To Believe“.  He had introduced himself to me as a former evangelical and he was writing a book about religion and faith. I can’t remember a lot of the questions he asked, because years later I still dwell on the first one: “Do you believe everything in the Bible is true?”

Of course, I told him, but as the words came out of my mouth I felt this check in my gut. Wait, I said. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it like that.

Turns out that a lot of my answers to his questions were “I don’t know” or “I hadn’t really thought about it.” How he managed to actually find enough to use for the book is amazing.

I met John in 2005; over the next year or so we talked many times but his questions challenged me. So I set out to read the entire Bible, cover to cover, to find out if, in fact, I believed everything in it was true.

My answer to that question today: I still don’t know. But I can tell you this. After reading the whole Bible, I have a heck of a lot more questions than answers. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #20 Put a face on the problem

Once upon a time, I had a lot of opinions about stuff. People, religion, politics, lifestyles, sexual orientation. Most of what I believed I learned in books and church.

Then I actually put faces to issues and life changed for me.

This is on my mind this week thanks to news reports about proposals to create local housing for illegal immigrant children out of former warehouses and retail space. A lot of people are questioning where the children came from and why are we taking care of them rather than sending them home.

Illegal immigration is a tough one for me. Yes, I believe in obeying the law. Yes, I believe illegal immigration is causing serious problems - like people entering the US without proper immunizations and sparking a resurgence of diseases like measles; crimes caused by illegal immigrants; the destruction of private property along the border (check out the 2006 documentary “Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration“); the crushing burden on our educational and health care systems.

But there are these other nuances to the issue that, unless you really look for them, would leave you with the belief that the problem can be solved with the wave of a wand.

Like what to do with illegal immigrant children.

A few years ago, I watched the 2009 documentary “Which Way Home“. It completely changed the way I view illegal immigration. The number of children trekking from South America to the United States is staggering. More than 100,000 children were taken into custody every year, on their way to a better life, in search of their parents, or escaping abuse and poverty. And that’s just the number we know about; who really knows how many children die or are lured in the drug and sex trade along the way.

It caused me to think more about the reality of the situation – could I put a child on a bus back to Mexico if I knew they were going back to forced prostitution, for example? What do we do with otherwise law abiding illegal immigrants who’ve been here for years and are ingrained positively in their communities? I ended up with no answers but a lot more insight into an issue that really doesn’t have a blanket solution and can’t be addressed with bumper sticker politics.

The broader lesson? If you’ve got a strong opinion on an issue, take time to put a face to it. Against gay marriage? Befriend a gay couple. Anti abortion or pro life? take someone of the opposite opinion to lunch – once a week for a year. Pro gun? Befriend someone who has lost a child in a gun accident. Anti gun? Take a class in gun safety and learn how to fire a pistol.

I don’t have any answers to the problems or political issues. But I do know that you can’t really have a legitimate opinion on something until you’ve honestly faced the other side of the issue. And the best way to do that is to listen.

I think I’ve developed more compassion and a broader world view, as well as more desire to actually consider an issue rather than just blast an opinion on social media and move on with my day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand on an issue or argue for reform or believe with every fiber of your being that your side is right. It does mean that you move forward with more grace and humility in all areas of your life.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

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50 thoughts on turning 50: #19 Go out of your way to say, “Job well done”

well done 2

I recently went to WalMart to have photos printed and to purchase two small, inexpensive frames. As I meandered through the store, I took a detour through the women’s department, noticed the capris were on sale, and loaded up my cart with several styles and sizes to see if I could find something that fit

I don’t know about other women, but I just can’t buy clothing based on the size on the tag. A size 8 can fall off me while a 10 cuts off circulation to my legs. Something that fits perfectly in blue fits entirely different in a different color of the exact same size, in the same style, and from the same manufacturer.

All of that is to say that when I got to the dressing room, I had a cart full of pants. I was going to be there for a while.

While I tried on and discarded item after item, I could hear the girl who was manning the fitting room and switchboard as she answered the phone and directed calls to other departments. She took a call from a customer who was apparently looking for a filter for their aquarium. I got the sense they didn’t know what size they needed but had other information. .

Almost the entire time I was in the fitting room, I could the employee talking to the customer, making calls to other departments and possibly calling other stores to see if they had the filter the customer wanted, and doing her best to figure out what the customer needed and if the store had it. She was also fielding and directing other incoming calls and letting other customers into the fitting rooms. What struck me was that I never heard her get frustrated or flustered; she was calm and pleasant and helpful.

When I was finally done, she’d gone to lunch. I headed over to the photo department, where I used the photo kiosk to order prints. When I checked with the photo counter to confirm that they’d be one hour, the young man working there told me he’d have them for me in about 10 minutes.

I found my photo frames and went back to the photo counter, where the young man another employee – a young girl – were talking. They were relaxed and chatty, but not in that “I don’t want to be here” kind of way employees  sometimes can are. I finally asked them if they liked working there. Both said yes, and the girl told me that her  job is to help customers, and she enjoyed that.

At the checkout, I had yet another great employee. Usually the cashiers at WalMart are talking to each other and ignoring the customer, or are so surly you just want to get out before someone bites your head off. Not my cashier. She was super friendly, made eye contact, and asked me if I’d found everything.

I can’t remember the names of those four employees now, but at the time I’d jotted them down on the palm of my hand. Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #18 Take a nap

becky

My cousin Becky and her dog. The ability to nap is clearly in our DNA.

I have a friend who insists that she can’t nap. No matter how hard she tries, she says she just can’t relax enough to curl up on the couch, close her eyes and catch a few minutes of shut eye during the day.

I think there’s something seriously wrong with her.

I love taking a nap but I’ve always felt like a lazy slug for lying around in the middle of the afternoon while the rest of the world is slaving away. Then a few years ago, my doctor told me that it’s good to take a nap during the day. Not a big, deep sleep. Just a short, 15 or 20 minute snooze to clear away the cobwebs and recharge your batteries.

As someone who loves taking a nap as much as I like drinking tea, you can be sure I’ve followed her advice as often as I can. In fact, I’m off to take a nap right now.

Today’s lesson? Napping like a dog is a lot better for your life than working like one.

This post is part of my series, “50 thoughts on turning 50″. Read more here.

The ebook of “What The Dog Said” is 50% off through the end of June

what the dog said cover of book

Life is messy business, and that’s just fine with humor columnist Joanne Brokaw. For almost a decade, she’s been musing on life’s ups, downs and inbetweens, taking readers on a journey filled with laughter, dog hair and even a few tears. From her heartwrenching chance encounter with a soldier in an airport to her confession as an office supply addict, from parenting advice to holiday observations penned by Bandit, her blogging Border Collie, Brokaw invites readers to join her again in the mundane (but often hilarious) mishaps and adventures of everyday life

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday, my publisher, WordCrafts Press, is offering the ebook version of my book What The Dog Said for just $2.99 through the end of June. That’s 50% off the cover price.

What The Dog Said is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and everywhere else you purchase ebooks. The paperback is also available online at Amazon and B&N. If you’re in Rochester, NY, you can purchase it at:

Penfield Veterinary Hospital
1672 Penfield Rd
Rochester, NY 14625
(585) 381-2441

A portion of the royalties from every book sale benefits Rochester Hope For Pets.

If you’re any good at math you’ve figured out now that I just turned 50. If you aren’t good at math, my series of posts, “50 thoughts on turning 50″ should have given you another clue. Either way, check out my June column in Refreshed Magazine, where friends who celebrated their 50th birthday before I did shared some words of wisdom.

 

50 thoughts on turning 50: #17 Be a link in the chain

tammy annemarie reunion

Tammy and AnneMarie at the reunion

Two summers ago, in 2012, my high school class held its 30 year reunion. I  had followed the planning on Facebook for the better part of a year. Although it didn’t matter.

I wasn’t going.

I don’t have fond memories of high school, the way some of my friends do. It was a stressful time. I was insecure and dorky and generally felt like I was just taking up space on earth someone else could better use. So the thought of meandering down that memory lane with what were essentially a bunch of total strangers didn’t appeal to me in any way.  (You can read my post about why I wasn’t going in this post.)

At the last minute, I went.

I can’t explain why. It was just this little feeling in the back of my brain that said, “Go.” So about 48 hours before the event, I called Anne, the girl organizing the reunion. I asked if I could still come and if she needed help.

The answer to both was “Yes!”

I suggested to Anne that maybe I could collect information from everyone, like current contact information, where they work, where they live, how many kids they have, stuff like that. She said yes, that she would use it to help give away door prizes (like who traveled the farthest to get there; the winner of that one: from Africa).

But I had an ulterior motive: I was on deadline for a column. When you’ve got writer’s block the best thing you can do is do something different. If I had contact information for people, I could get in touch with them later if I needed to. Continue reading