Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Near Death Experience

Yesterday I had a near death experience. I was driving on a back country road at about 50 mph when a lady in a full size Chevy pickup comes barrelling around a corner at well over 60 mph. She was fully in my lane. I laid on the horn and swerved hard to the left. She swerved to the left and ran into a ditch. I watched her through the rearview mirror and saw that she nearly flipped at least twice. I stopped, backed up and ran to check on her. She had already exited her vehicle and was running around frantic in the middle of the road. I could smell the alcohol when I got within about 10 feet of her. I was pretty mad at this point. Anyway, the cops came and all that.

After the event was over, the adrenaline subsided and I started thinking about things. What was the last thing I said to my wife, my son, my neighbor? How would those close to me remember me? How would those NOT so close to me remember me? Would they remember me? Do I care if they remember me? Did I do enough to ensure that my son knew for the rest of his life that I loved him? I don't think we fully appreciate how close we are to death at any given moment.

We go to bed, wake up, live a mediocre existence--wash, rinse, repeat. How do I stop that cycle? What am I doing to make my life extraordinary? What am I doing to make someone else's life extraordinary? Can I make life extraordinary without spending a ton of money or travelling to exotic locales?

I wrote a Facebook post the other day about a crossing guard at my son's school. She lives an extraordinary life as a crossing guard. EVERY morning she helps kids get to school and parents get away from school without anyone getting injured. No matter the weather, she has a smile on her face--a real smile--a really big smile. She does her job well and she waves back if you wave to her. If you wave to her, her smile gets even bigger. That is someone living a normal life but making it extraordinary. You can't help it, her smile is infectious and for just a few moments, your life is better because of her.

So again, are you living an extraordinary life? It has nothing to do with circumstances but everything to do with outlook, attitude and choice. You decide if you want to be extraordinary. You decide if you want to make someone else's life better. You decide to make every moment count for something. You decide how others will remember you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Changing the World One Rude Comment at a Time

I know you have all seen them or maybe even participated in one--a Facebook argument. Is it just me or does it seem Facebook has reduced the tactfulness of  your friends? It also seems to embolden people to get into "discussions" that they would never get into face to face. Why is that?

My theory is that people assume some level of anonymity online--even if it is Facebook and has their pictures, name, etc. People will type things into a comment box they would never say out loud and would definitely never say to someone's face where they get instantaneous feedback with all the non-verbal parts--emotion, tone, body language, etc. The comment box has taken away a lot of the consequences that have typically kept free speech civil.

See, the First Amendment says the government will not punish you for things you say or ideas you express (and even that is somewhat limited). It does not guarantee speech with no repercussions from society, individuals, businesses, etc. The digital environment gives us freedom from a lot of the uncomfortable situations that have typically kept people nice in their discourse. You don't have to see the person start to cry when you say something that hurts their feelings. You don't have to see their face turn bright red when you embarrass them. You don't have to feel the angry tension in the air when you say something just to get someone riled up. You just type it and walk away from the computer or set your phone down or whatever. It almost seems like the old adage has changed to "if you can't say anything nice, then just post it on Facebook."

I read comment after comment after post after comment from my "friends" that are just downright mean. Sometimes you might think they are being playful mean or just joking with someone. The problem is that the same loss of non-verbal cues that embolden you to make the comment also make the tone of the comment flat so it is impossible to know if it is a joke or not. The scary part is that I am starting to notice this online phenomenon creep into the non-online society at large. People seem to be forgetting how to have a discussion civilly. Maybe I am too sensitive but I don't think so. There doesn't seem to be as high of a value on "niceness" anymore. Is this a symptom of an online culture--de-sensitized to rudeness?

Would love to know your opinion on this, and don't hold back! Does the online environment (and not just Facebook either--it's just an easy target) contribute to an erosion of manners and "niceness"? If it is worth reversing, how does one go about doing it? Am I making a big deal about something that is not really a problem?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saving the Soup

So Tuesday morning was like many in the Harmon household. I didn't set my alarm so Cindy assumed the responsibility of getting everyone out of bed (which is unfair, by the way, and I am working on it, ok). As is fairly typical, we were running "right on time"--not early, not really late either. There was certainly a sense of urgency in our demeanor (at least in mine and Cindy's, the kids are oblivious--or are they????). Cindy doesn't always handle this type of pressure very well (and especially since she was righteously displeased with me for not setting my alarm), so I volunteered to take Maggie to the sitter's house.

Before going any further in this story, let's properly set the stage with this bulleted list of items you need to know to fully appreciate this story:
  • Tuesdays are sales meeting days for me--must be in Green Hills by 9:30
  • The weather on this particular day was not optimal and I was unsure of the actual conditions
  • It was 8:05 or so when I finally realized I was not in Cindy's good graces at the moment
  • I like to be on the road to the office no later than 8:30
  • The sitter is approximately 8 minutes away from my home
  • Did I mention the weather was terrible?
One other very important part of this story is that I had planned to make a wonderful vegetable beef soup in the crock pot this morning for our culinary delight this evening. I pre-cut all the veggies on Monday night and just needed to assemble, turn on the pot and depart. By the time I realized that it was in my best interest to take the kid to the sitter, I had already assembled and turned on the pot. If I left at 8:10, I would get her there before 8:20. I would chit chat for a few minutes and be on the road by 8:33 at the LATEST. That would still give me almost an hour for the half hour trip--should be no problem.

So I volunteer. I pack the kid and all her accessories into the car and check the clock--8:08--fantastic. I drive to the sitter's house. I get there at about 8:15--awesome--must have been speeding a bit. I take her in and chit chat a little extra--check the clock--8:21--still ok. As I am headed out, the sitter asks for the milk I was supposed to bring. Crap. I have to make a decision. I decide I do want Maggie to be hydrated and nourished. I check the clock and see 8:23. If I go home and come back, I can still be on my way by 8:40 or 8:45. Acceptable. I head back to the house agitated that my good deed has been "punished" by this avoidable inconvenience. Talk about a bad attitude!!!

I roll back into the driveway and head up the stairs. I find the milk cup and get the milk carton out of the fridge. I can't resist peeking at the completely full crock pot on the counter next to the fridge. That's when I notice that the pot full of veggies, stew beef and seasonings is still as cold as it was when I left. I had combined the ingredients and turned the pot on but never PLUGGED IT IN.

That's when it hit me. My spiritual lesson of the day. God saved the soup because he loves me and loves my family. He will sometimes intercede even in the small stuff because of his love. He turned my frustration at being slightly inconvenienced by the milk into thankfulness for saving me the tremendous inconvenience of spoiled meat, no dinner and an emergency back up plan after a long day. I was immediately humbled as I thought about how worked up we get over little stuff and how God sees the small stuff and helps us through it because he cares. In reality, both of these "problems" are minuscule when considering the overall state of the world. I know that. Frankly, that fact is what makes this so humbling and at the same time so empowering. My tiny-insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things issue was enough for God to intervene. He took a 10 minute adjustment to my made up schedule that had become a huge burr in my saddle and used that to avert what would have been a much, much bigger annoyance. All I could say at the time was "thank you."

As you go through the day, take a fresh look at the annoyances in your life. What pot of soup might God be trying to save with your 10 minute, unplanned, inconvenient milk run?

P.S.--The soup was DELICIOUS

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stress-- Promotes Growth or Kills It?

So this is a post asking for your opinion and discussion. For you, does stress promote personal growth or kill it?

I know it can vary from person to person and I know it depends on the source of the stress (is it a terrible boss or just the demands of the job) but in general, what is your reaction to stressors?

For me, in general, stress makes me grow and learn. If there is a particular source of stress that I can cut--I cut it. If there is a source of stress that I cannot cut, I learn how to adapt around it and try to either accept it and make the most of it or figure out a way to minimize the stress it produces. There are times when stress can become almost debilitating. I can relate to times when stress becomes so overwhelming the motivation to act is greatly diminished. Typically in those situations, I just "suck it up" and push through.

I don't really have a magic formula for dealing with stress. If it gets to be very strong I might go outside for a few minutes or might hide for a few minutes just to collect my thoughts but, in general, I just push through it. I would love to hear some actual tricks for "dealing" with stress better. What are your tried and true methods for coping with job stress, kid stress, life stress or any other type?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I started this blog as a means to gain more exposure. I continue to write this blog because it has turned into a sort of therapy for me. I spend a few minutes each week writing on a topic that is interesting to me right then. Maybe I am mad about it. Maybe I had an experience that makes that idea fresh in my mind. Who knows what it will be. I have discovered that it has become a sort of therapy for me. It's good to spill an idea into words and put it out there for people to see, comment on, judge, argue with, whatever. I enjoy it. I would definitely NOT call myself a "writer," just someone who likes to occasionally write. I don't have a "style" of my own or anything like that--just put words down.

This year I am trying some new things in writing. I am writing notes and cards to people that don't expect them. I am going to maybe increase the frequency of my blog posts and I am keeping a journal. The journal is on a specific topic so it should be easy to keep. I do not plan to share the journal (necessarily) so it should be very therapeutic. I'll let you know how it goes.

What about you? Do you like to write? What do you write? Do you share it or just do it for yourself?