The Differences

I have slacked on the observational side of the differences between the Pacific Northwest and the South. Here’s the two biggies that come up in conversation: the weather and health care.

Many conversations start out by mentioning my accent—the first cue I’m “different”—and end by talking about those two subjects.

First off, I wouldn’t want to lose my accent—ever! It’s the greatest conversational piece an extrovert could ask for. 

 The weather is also much different from the South. And it’s actually quite a picture of how vast the climate can be from one area to the next—even when the areas are only miles apart!

I live in a microclimate; imagine a snow globe but substitute the snow with rain.

The summers are relatively short with weather that’s often too beautiful for words. The winters are cold and wet with one or two snow days in between. Compared to the region surrounding me, I live in one of the “warmest” places. I only put quotation marks around warmest because I think of warm in Southern terms. However, it is a true statement that it’s the warmest place.

 That leaves health care…a sore subject that has ruined many a conversation.

I realize that this is the hot topic buzzing around the country, but many citizens are woefully uninformed. And that’s why this health care “reform” was passed in the first place. The number of individuals who think critically are few and far between.

I do not want to do this topic an injustice, so be looking for my thoughts on health care to appear next week.

Here’s a question to think on this weekend:

What are some of the differences you can think of between the Pacific Northwest and the South? 

Embrace Quiet Times

It’s a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet upstairs. There’s nothing big planned for the afternoon and no one is coming over for dinner. I’d call this a perfect moment, a time of reflection that isn’t taking place in distress or chaos.

These times are the best for making decisions and casting vision for the future.

I’m not bashing in-the-moment choices because these are necessary too. However, there’s something special about the quiet moments that occur before big life events.

For example, I now live in a subtropic region. Come late September the weather will be easy to predict. It’s going to be cold, wet, and overcast until late May or early June. That’s why this summer has been so busy for me. Some things have to be done while it’s sunny, so priorities shift during the brief summer months.

And it’s another reason why this rainy day was needed.

I’ve been living at such a fast pace trying to accomplish my summer to-do list that it’s taken a rainy day to finally slow me down. One thing I’ve learned recently is that there’s no point in whining about the snail paced times of your life.

Human beings live in a constant state of transition. You’re either coming out of a time of transition or you’re entering one.

It’s that simple.

The only people who do not live by this model can be found in the cemetery.

Why not take the seemingly “boring” times of minimal change to plan?

Quiet moments don’t come around very often. Try making some decisions when the world isn’t moving like a race car in the Indy 500.

Things look a lot different when they aren’t blurring all around you.

Planning Vs. Living

It’s easy to look ahead—way ahead—and make plans. And there’s nothing wrong with plans. But all plans are subject to change at a minute’s notice. I cannot concretely tell you what I will be doing tomorrow or even an hour from now.

Some things are simply out of my control.

 That’s hard for me to accept. I want to perfectly map out my day, my week, my life.

I constantly have to say, “STOP! I don’t have to have everything figured out today!” That usually keeps my brain from exploding.

Here’s another thing that’s helped: I take a good look around me. I play a game with my siblings. We laugh and have a great time. I splash around in the pool with them and realize that they’re growing up before my eyes.

How much have I missed being so worried about tomorrow? Or today? Or next weekend?

 Because the truth is that I could drop dead at any moment. I know it’s a sobering and somewhat depressing realization, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Now don’t go pitch your calendar and watch out the window. Don’t stop making plans. Just take a minute to ask yourself a few questions.

Are you glad to be alive today? 

Are your kids or grandkids or siblings growing up unnoticed?

Do you spend more time planning your life than actually living it?  

Beware of Faulty Perceptions

I remember a game frequently played in my elementary school. The class would sit in a circle and a student was given a certain phrase by the teacher such as “Susie Q ate beef stew.” That student then had to whisper the phrase into the next student’s ear and so on. By the time it went around the room, “Mark W. liked dogs.” 

If you’re thinking, “That’s a lot like gossip!” You would be correct. It is gossip plain and simple.

And gossip is not an acceptable means to discern a person’s character. I’ve been working extra hard to not let the things I hear about someone affect my opinion of them before I even meet them.  

Let’s take this a step further: Have you ever shared a cup of coffee with a friend you thought you knew only to discover your perception of them was completely wrong?

This has happened to me several times and I’ve walked away shocked at how much I didn’t know.

I’m not talking about a topic that is foreign. Judging someone based on rumors, gossip, and hearsay has been going on since there were more people than just Adam and Eve on the earth.

All I want to do is stop it from poisoning my perception of others. Many friendships are left uncultivated because of a faulty perception and I’m tired of missing opportunities!

Furthermore, let’s extend some grace to each other.

I’m not always perfect. And I bet if you were being honest, you aren’t either.

It’s easy to throw someone else under the bus and forget that last month, last week, yesterday…you needed a good dose of grace too. Don’t be afraid to ditch gossip and extend grace. It could make all the difference. The bottom line is that perception is not often reality.       

Take a good look in the mirror. What is it not saying about you? 

Let’s Look Past the Differences

I spend a great deal of time reading. For this reason, I am always open to book and article suggestions. Something I have come to learn, however, is that most people are not this way. This realization astounds me for many different reasons. I do not want to waste my time discussing the disadvantages of the close minded, but I often wonder if constant aversions to change only add to the growing problems of developing friendships.

How can you get to know someone if the mountain of differences makes conversation impossible? I understand that everyone on this planet knows at least three people who make them cringe when they walk into the room. However, if I find offense with everyone I meet, I will be a very lonely person.

Lots of people want to label race, religion, or sexual orientation as the boundaries that separate the masses. While it is true that these factors do lead to obvious differences, I strongly believe that the true problem lies within each and every one of us: fear. We do not want to expose our own weaknesses or, if I may be frank, ignorance. Let me help you out: There will always be someone out there who knows more than you or is better at something than you.

This is a good thing. I find that I am challenged to do better, to be better by my friends. It is not always a verbal, “Get your act together, girl!” but I have learned a lot through observing my friends’ successes and failures.

I am not asking anyone to compromise their beliefs or commit major crimes. All I want to do is encourage others to not let differences become insurmountable. We have a lot to learn from each other and whether you want to believe it or not, we all need each other as well.

Sometimes It’s Good to be Unplugged, Take II

If you read my last post, you know that I was given the opportunity to write for the Marion Times-Standard. Well, they asked me to write an editorial for the paper every week! The editor told me that he could not guarantee that my editorials would run in every edition–and it’s unpaid as of right now–but it’s a start! Also, I get to write about whatever I want, so that’s awesome as well. I sent in a picture and get this: The title of my column is the same as my blog. Isn’t that cool?

This post may sound familiar toward the end. It’s actually part of an older post combined with some fresh perspective. This is my first submission for the paper as a regular contributor. Please leave your comments below and suggest some things you would like to read about in the editorials.


Building relationships is hard work. I am starting to understand why people find it easier to park their cars in the garage and never speak to their neighbors. For one thing, there are a lot of awkward pauses and silences when you first get to know someone. It’s like a bad job interview that never really ends.

Once you get past the general questions—Married? Single? Have kids? If so, how many?—all that is left to do is stare at each other and scope out appearances. Well, he or she is clean and has good style, so they must be decent human beings…right?

I realize this example seems a bit extreme, but I know that I am speaking the truth. However, I am still hopeful that all is not lost. Not everyone lives in Mayberry, but developing meaningful relationships is possible whether you live in Marion or New York City.

The truth is that most people do not listen. It’s time to put down cell phones, to close laptops, to turn off televisions. Why not look someone in the eyes when carrying on a conversation? Then that person might, just might, be convinced that you are actually listening to them.

Technology is awesome, but I’m afraid that it is also ruining relationships. It’s so, so easy to be a lazy communicator when texting can get the job done just the same. When you opt out of social events to play video games or surf the web. When you like someone’s status on Facebook, but never talk to them in person.

Does anyone else see a problem?

Sometimes it’s good to be unplugged. It causes you to pay attention, to really listen. Don’t get me wrong. I love technology just as much as the next person, but technology CANNOT replace common courtesy, conversation, and personal relationships.