wisdom from the words of others

Often, I need the thoughts of others to touch my perspective, to renew my spirit, to balance my focus.  Sometimes I would like to send these words to others who in my limited observation appear to need them too, need them for the same reasons I do.  So, I share some I value and humbly suggest how they may affect other readers.

For all those who are over-stressed and over-booked, always with an i-phone in hand, those who think life is a race to be won, not a privilege to enjoy, I’d send the words  of Nicholas Sparks: “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls.  The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity.  And you are keeping all of them in the air.  But one day you finally understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  The other balls — health, family, friends, and integrity — are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.  And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginning of balance in your life.”

To all my teacher colleagues in any area of education, I’d send the words of Haim Ginott: “I have come to a frightening conclusion.  I am the decisive element in the classroom.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  As a teacher I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.  I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

To those of us who are concerned about where our culture is headed, I’d send the words of Gandhi: “Things that will destroy us are politics without principle, pleasure without conscience, wealth without work, knowledge without character, business without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”

To those who want the word “Success” chiseled on their tombstone, the words of Emerson speak: “To laugh often and much.  To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.  To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends.  To find the best in others.  To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.  To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”

And to those of us who are at the stage of life where we say, “Okay, now what?”  because of retirement, health, age, I’d send the words of John Wesley: “Do all the good you can by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

There are also a few adages I like whose speakers are unknown:

War does not determine who is right, only who is left.

You have a right to your own opinion but not your own facts.

Life is not a contact sport.

You never get ahead trying to get even.

You do not learn by talking, only by listening.

We judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.

And my favorite:  Love is the answer; never mind the question.

I’ve read that people who think make others think… that is what the Intramuralist does, and hopefully these shared words with do that too. 

Thanks for this opportunity.

Respectfully…

DL

perspective… change.

Perspective is a very personal, unique part of ourselves. Perspective provides a wonderful motivation to make change but can also hinder our ability to change. Our perspectives change as we glean more information on a subject or become more “solid” as we become overloaded with too much information. The interdependence between the two are intriguing.

Historical perspective is the understanding of the social, cultural, intellectual, and emotional settings that has shaped people’s lives and actions in the past. This requires comprehending the differences between us both in the present and the past. Historical perspective has an impact on who we are, how we view ourselves, how we view others. Our perspectives impact change.

Recently, my husband and I were watching an Australian murder mystery that presented not only a traditional academic view but also a strong Indigenous point of view regarding an archaeological dig located in northwest Australia. Although the show’s plot was fictional, it presented moral and practical dilemmas regarding a dig on the Indigenous People’s land. 

The University staff were trying to preserve bones and artifacts that would prove life existed on this particular location longer than anyone in the academic world had thought, thus securing the department’s future funding. The local people who had inhabited the lands for thousands of years saw the dig as intrusive for they knew through their strong oral tradition how long their ancestors had inhibited the lands. They knew their place in time and history. Ironically, there was a changing tide pattern threatening to sweep the bones away into the sea in six weeks. 

The Indigenous community did not want their family members displayed in a case or in a traveling exhibit. The question arose: don’t ancestors have the right to rest in peace?  The Indigenous community brought up the point that the scientist only cared when there was something in it for them. The scientist argued that the rest of the world would have this new knowledge and if these items were not recovered they would be gone forever. Different perspectives. Who was right? Who was wrong? Or were they both right?

I found this an interesting dilemma. Each perspective was compelling. How many of us have good intentions looking in, but do we really understand? Do we want outsiders digging up our great-grandma only to display her bones in a museum far away from the land that she nurtured? Where is the reverence for the dead? Do we only care when it is about us?

It also got me thinking about the many questions that have been raised the past few years regarding the teaching of the history of the United States. Here are some questions that came to mind.

  • Who owns history? 
  • Do we want to be ”economical” with the truth? If so, why?
  • Does everyone deserve their connection to the past?
  • What is our relationship to time? 
  • Should healing be a part of teaching history? 
  • Is revisionist history healthy?
  • If it is the truth, why are we afraid to reveal it?

We are a nation with changing perspectives. Not everyone’s history has been recorded in the history books. What is wrong with recognizing the contributions of several? Why are we afraid to know that some of George Washington’s teeth were taken from slaves and not made solely of wood? Forty-one of the fifty-six Founding Fathers owned enslaved people. Women basically could not own property when this country was formed and could not get a credit card in their name until the mid-1970s. Standards of citizenship, property ownership, marriage and several other rights have evolved differently for different people as perspectives have changed. Our founders understood that their way was not going to be the only way of doing things. 

Gouverneur Morris, the “Penman of the Constitution,” wrote regarding the mindset of the framers of the Constitution that “Surrounded by difficulties, we did the best we could; leaving us to take counsel who should come after us from experience, and exercise prudently the power of the amendment, which we had provided.”

Unrest and events that have caused our nation to have different perspectives have been a part of the beginning of this country …Boston Tea Party (1773), Trail of Tears (1830), Stockyard Strike (1904), Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (1911), Matewan (1920), Puerto Rican Cancer drug trials (1930s), Institutions of Wartime Civil Control (1942-1946), Tuskegee syphilis study (1946-1949), Puerta Rican birth control pill trials (1950s), Emmitt Till (1955), March on Selma (1965), Stonewall Riots (1969), Legalization of Same Gender Marriage (2015), George Floyd (2020) and many more. 

Your relationship to the time of these events can have an impact. The rapidness of change impacts perspective. 

The 2020 U.S. Census showed for the first time in the history of the U.S. Census since 1790 that the white population has not grown, and race-ethnic minorities are responsible for all national growth in the United States population. The white population is declining among the total U.S. population years ahead of the expected trend. 

Consider how rapidly population rates are starting to change. The U.S. was 88.9% white in 1910 and 88% white in 1970. By 2010 the white population was just over 70% and is approximately 60% in 2020 census. I have to wonder how this has impacted all people’s view of their perceived power and their standing in society. Has this demographic change impacted perspectives on the many changes that have happened the past 20 years? Maybe. 

The United States is a tapestry of people with different perspectives. There is great strength in the diversity of strands. For my beautiful multiracial, multi-ethnic grandchildren, I hope America recognizes them as more equal partners to be valued for their rich, diverse heritage. Their unique heritage and perspective will help them and others be the courageous problem solvers this beautiful country needs. They need to be full participants, part of the evolving change we are witnessing. Their perspectives are needed for the change that is ahead.

Respectfully…

VEE

_____

(Intramuralist Note: we are experiencing technical difficulties in this posting and are currently unable to edit our “person/quote” of the day. Allow me to introduce you to VEE…)

VEE

_____

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I can’t remember a time when VEE and I weren’t friends.  From endless summers debating the old N.L. West and who was better — Garvey or Rose — VEE and I grew up together. In fact, I would suggest, we are still growing up together. 

Perhaps one of the most empathetic hearts one will ever meet, even though our life’s journeys have taken us via different routes, I have always had tremendous admiration and respect for VEE. Her positive attitude, zest for life, and genuine love and concern for other people make her a blessed gift to me and many.

failure is prosperity

The Story…

I remember sitting there in awe. Joe talked about how they went to San Francisco and the school was paying for it. They visited companies like Google and Apple. The group was Honors Cohort, a selective honors program in the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. I was only a freshman, so I could not apply until a sophomore. Joe was a member of the program and made the experience sound unreal. From that day on, Joe had me sold on applying for the program. So I got as involved as I could from day one… working on campus, leading blood drives, joining a sports club and fraternity… other things. Yet I did not think any of those would prepare me for the real world like Honors Cohort could.

Flash forward to sophomore year. I had two things on my mind: applying to Honors Cohort and finding a summer internship. With summer fast approaching, I updated my resume, threw on my newly-bought suit, and headed to the career fair. While I spoke with numerous companies, most of them shared I was too young for an internship as an underclassmen. However, one company, known as Vertiv, gave me a shot; we planned an interview for the future. At the same time, I submitted my application for Honors Cohort, which included essays, interviews, and other short answer questions. I could not wait to find out if I made it.

I will never forget the week before spring break, my sophomore year. Certainly it was exciting knowing I was headed to south Florida for break, but regardless, it was a big week for me. That Wednesday, I was supposed to interview with Vertiv for their marketing internship. Additionally, the results of my Honors Cohort application would come out, two days after the interview. I was a bundle of anxious, nervous, and excited. With Wednesday approaching, I reserved a quiet room on campus for the upcoming phone interview. The nerves I quickly left, however, when I read an email from my contact at Vertiv, saying they cancelled their marketing internship. I felt betrayed, since I did not even have the chance to prove I was a reasonable candidate… still promised an interview. It not an ideal situation. 

Although I was upset about Vertiv, I was not entirely distraught. I just had to keep applying. That next day, I applied t maybe 25 internships on Ohio State’s job board. I was simply motivated to find something for the summer. I was not even sure what companies I applied to. Motivation, however, was secondary to the excitement I had about Honors Cohort. I was not one to check my email, but as soon as I woke up that Friday, at the bright hour of 7:00 am, I was spamming my refresh button and I finally found it: an email from the Honors Cohort Director. Only it was not what I wanted to hear; it was exactly what I wanted to shut out. I did not make the program. I was denied. 

Getting denied from Honors Cohort and Vertiv was not a positive way to begin spring break. I started asking my friends and classmates about Honors Cohort and their upcoming summers. Turns out, most of them had internships. Whether it was with JPMorgan, L Brands, or another company, most people knew what they were doing for that summer. Also, my former roommate let me know he was selected for Honors Cohort. He pointed out how his friend, who he considered to be an average student at best, also was chosen. It really felt as if I was on the outside looking in when it came to this honors program and summer internships. To be honest, I did not really know what to do, so I did the only thing I could think of… 

When I was growing up, I did not take criticism well. I am not exactly sure what kid does take criticism well, but I definitely was not one of them. As I grew up, through resolving conflicts with my brothers and playing sports, I realized that to get better, to grow as an individual, you have to realize what you are not good at. Later on that Friday, the same day I had been rejected and lost significant motivation, I emailed the Honors Cohort Director back. My email read as follows: “I thank you for considering me for Honors Cohort. If you feel I could have bettered myself during this process, in any aspect, please let me know. I believe any constructive criticism can help me in my future endeavors as a student here at Ohio State and beyond.” I simply assumed if I was not succeeding, I needed to do something about it. 

The director actually did not get back to me until after Spring Break, but he was honest and direct. I was not good at interviewing, he told me. I did not communicate well in the interviews for my application and I did not compare favorably to the interviews of other candidates. I would not say I enjoyed hearing this, but it did give me a place to start. I called my friend, one of those who had his internship secured for summer. I told him I needed help interviewing. Fortunately, he obliged, and helped me improve my interviewing skills. 

When I think back to sending that email to the director of Honors Cohort, it may have been the smartest move of my college career thus far. It targeted my focus. It allowed me to look at my failures as reason to improve, not to be sad or demoralized. While it was not easy to admit I was bad at interviewing, I had to. I needed to improve and was fortunate to have a friend who would help. A few weeks after I sent that email, I remember doing homework; finals were only a few weeks away. Out of seemingly nowhere, my phone rang. To my surprise, it was a representative from The Coca-Cola Company. The representative said he saw my application and wanted to ask me a few questions. I most definitely did not remember applying to their company at that moment, but I was not going to mention that. After the call, we set up a second interview. 

Interestingly, the day after I was denied by Vertiv, when I applied to multiple jobs, I applied to The Coca-Cola Company. If everything would have worked out with Vertiv, I never would have even applied to Coca-Cola. After numerous interviews, Coca-Cola offered me an internship in their sports marketing division. I enthusiastically accepted it. I thought back to being denied from Honors Cohort. That program was a dream. I thought it would set me up for 

success! And truthfully, it did. Honors Cohort made me realize what I was not good at and prompted me to fix it. I would have undoubtedly failed once more in the Coca-Cola interviews if my interviewing skills were not improved. To this day, I am so glad I sent that email. 

I was recently reminded of this experience because of another company I have been interviewing for summer: PlayStation. One part of the interview process was to create a potential marketing partnership for the company. After crafting my idea, I called my former boss at The Coca-Cola Company. He helped me iron out the Powerpoint I would send to PlayStation. One thing he emphatically stressed was including the cost of the partnership; he said I needed to include the potential cost for the project. So I obliged and sent it to PlayStation. 

Sitting in my bed the other day, I scrolled through my Instagram feed and found my old roommate, the one who was selected for Honors Cohort. Looked like they just took their annual trip to San Francisco. It certainly seemed like it was a great time. Sometime after, I got a call from PlayStation. They really enjoyed my presentation but said one thing stood out: I was the only applicant to include a potential cost for the project. I was offered the internship a few days later. 

It is hard to believe all that has transpired in the past few years. First, I was denied from Vertiv. That made me apply to The Coca-Cola Company. Next, I was denied from Honors Cohort, which helped me vastly improve my interviewing skills and secure a position with The Coca-Cola Company. Because of the relationships I created at The Coca-Cola Company, I was able to get an internship at PlayStation. Oh, and did I mention where the PlayStation internship is located? San Mateo, a city 20 miles south of San Francisco. I truly could not be more thankful for the failures and struggles I had early on, as they have led me to where I am today. 

The Commentary…

Looking back on that story I wrote, it was one I could not be more proud of. I went from being rejected numerous times to an internship experience that would benefit me for a lifetime. It all played out perfectly… that is, until it did not. As it turns out, my life would take another turn. The internship would not last a lifetime, nor even a day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my internship was cancelled. It was gut-wrenching. I thought I had it all planned out. I had overcome adversity; why was I not rewarded? Truth be told, it was not the best reward I could get. 

I have always thought that satisfaction can be tied back to expectations. A great example is the game of golf. Now I am nowhere near proficient at this sport, but I have played numerous times. When I started, I expected bad shots. I had never played; why would I be good? When I hit a good shot (every 1 in 100 times), I was astounded. Compare that to now, where I hit a good shot more often, I get significantly more frustrated when a bad shot comes off my club. Why? Because I expect to play better. 

I urge you not to make consistent life metaphors out of golf, because the frustration will only build, but I think it makes a solid metaphor here. The cancellation of the PlayStation internship hurt most because of my expectations. I expected to be spending my summer in sunny California, marketing video games which I had played since I had been a kid. Instead I was stuck at home with nothing to do, or as it seemed. 

I mentioned earlier that the spring break of 2019 was an impactful moment for me. Coincidentally, A year later, the United States was introduced to the coronavirus. I sat at the 

dinner table with my family sometime around then, not knowing what to do that summer. I almost felt as if I was in the sequel of some movie. Stay with me here, but in the first movie, I faced a number of conflicts, whether that be Honors Cohort or Vertiv, and like any good entertainment, the story concluded with a happy ending. I faced a bigger conflict in movie #2 and I had to make my own happy ending. Well, not my own, but my brother’s. If you do not know the kid, Josh is an eccentric 19 year-old with a flavor for entertaining the masses. I took that and pledged to make Josh famous on social media. 

Making a person famous is certainly a unique task. Nonetheless, after a year and a half on the social media platform TikTok, Josh has right around 1000 posts, over 240,000 followers, and right around 7,500,000 likes (I write similar stats in my cover letter if you are looking for marketing help). While I direct, edit, and produce his videos, Josh is the star of the show. Whether it is dancing, comedy, or just something random, the kid has a knack for entertainment. I’d say the sequel to the original plot is going quite well. 

The Reflection… 

One of my more humbling moments is that I was wrong in all that I wrote above. I thought I could get into the Honors Cohort. I could not. I thought I could get a job with Vertiv, but I was wrong again. I thought my internship getting cancelled was just a second wave of conflict. Truth is, there is no sequel, trilogy, or (if you’re a Star Wars fan), 9-part series on life’s problems. We have to face them everyday and how we respond significantly influences the impact of the conflicts we face. I probably could have used that advice before I got to college, but here I am nevertheless. 

I have always liked writing. As a kid, I used to try to come up with poems, songs, or anything else I thought would be fun to write. That’s probably why I took the chance to write this piece. This is my second time doing such and I hope I get the chance to do so next year. If so, I’ll check back in. Not to share how my new job is going nor the exciting, new career opportunity I have, but ask me about my younger brother, and I certainly have some words. Love talking about that kid. 

Respectfully…

JT

PERSON/QUOTE

JT

both sides are wrong

They tell us we have two choices. One side tells us we have to embrace everything the Black Lives Matter/Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/Social Justice movement represents, or we are racists. The other side says we have to reject everything the movement stands for, or we are socialists.

Both sides are wrong.

Do you know what BLM represents? Their own websites say not only restorative justice, empathy, loving engagement, and diversity, but also globalism, queer affirming, trans affirming, and disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure. BLM believes that all black Americans should receive a guaranteed minimum income and free healthcare, schooling, food, real estate, gender reassignment surgery, and abortion. They seek to bring “an end to all jails” as we know them and form a “global liberation movement” that will “overturn U.S. imperialism and capitalism.” For whatever reason, they thrown in legalizing prostitution and the “possession and sale of all drugs, no matter the quantity,” paying “reparations to all people who have been adversely impacted by the drug war and enforcement of prostitution laws.”

All but the most maniacal readers at this point have to recognize that’s just nuts. And the agenda has certainly strayed a fur piece from the alleged goal of valuing black lives.

But what about the other side? They say we can’t prove that the killings of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, or Brianna Taylor had anything to do with race. They object to renaming the Washington Football Team or Cleveland Guardians, prioritizing the history of a game to being sensitive to a people group. As such, they are aligning themselves with the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. It’s no wonder the other side thinks these people are racist.

Those put off by the Trojan Horse of BLM risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Many of my white friends who appreciate the economic engine that is American capitalism reject the neo-Marxist agenda of BLM, and with it reject its claims of discrimination.

That is just as equally patently false, and it is plain to see.

Google “discrimination statistics.” The list is endless. Blacks are twice as likely to be suspended from school or not to have enough food. Blacks are more likely to be arrested; once arrested, more likely to be convicted; once convicted, receive sentences about 20% longer for the same crimes. Whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rates, but blacks are six times more likely to be arrested for it. Whites get better healthcare, are more likely to be hired, and are paid more at the same level of education and experience.

Both sides are wrong. Discrimination clearly exists. But I don’t have to embrace an agenda of perverse socialist anarchy to believe in equal rights and in making special efforts to help those who historically have had the odds intentionally stacked against them.

I don’t know why the issue is presented in this way. I suspect it has something to do with the vitriol of today’s partisan politics. People who think the other side is evil write bigger checks to help save the world from them. I would think BLM would recognize that embracing these fringe issues discredits their completely valid core. Then again, I have long suspected that many of those whose power has come through fighting racism don’t really want it to end, lest their power do the same.

We simply have to resist being sucked into making race a binary choice. Both sides are wrong. The radical agenda of the BLM movement should be soundly rejected, but voicing a single word of denial is fast becoming not only politically incorrect, but socially unacceptable. Meanwhile, those who deny discrimination in our society are at best sticking their heads in the proverbial sand and associating themselves with those who do so malevolently.

I urge us to find a different path, one that recognizes the discrimination that clearly has and continues to happen in our society, joins hands not only to put it to an end, but to assist those who have been harmed by it, without rejecting the principles that have made this country the greatest nation and economic power on the face of the earth.

I stand in the middle, criticized by both sides. Please join me. It’s the only place to find a workable solution.

Race is not a binary choice.

Respectfully…

CAZ

a life well lived

Along the winding back roads of Kentucky you can find, nestled in the foothills of the Cumberland River Valley, a community of people who are a bit peculiar.  A people so fully aware of the cares of this world, yet, they are so unencumbered by those same cares. They are a people so untouched by the world’s seeming nonsense that one can do nothing but slow down and take it all in.  

On this particular day in late April, I am the one who has chosen to slow down. I want to be the one to soak in every detail of the moment… from the womenfolk talking quietly in the kitchen to the menfolk in the next room reminiscing about days long ago… even the grandchildren, mustering up every ounce of restraint that they can find, working hard to honor Grausedawdie’s wishes of quiet respect for the moment when all they really want to do is to find themselves knee-deep in a wild game of King’s Base with their cousins. Even the lone, retired FBI agent, who has found a quiet place to land amongst this community, has come to be part of the moment.

So what has drawn this rag tag group of individuals together? The “link,” the “draw” if you will, is a life well lived — a life lived as a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, an aunt, a wife, a mother, a grandmother (grausemommie), a friend, a mentor, a mid-wife, a child of God. Lizzie Ann (Yoder) Schwartz did what a rare few will ever be able to accomplish. She squeezed every last ounce of life out of every last second she was on this earth. She did not have to do it with pomp and circumstance; that was not her style. She did it in unassuming strength and grace. She did it in acts of service and giving to her fellow humans. She did it all because of her devotion and commitment to a steadfast and good God.

Strength and grace are two words that aren’t always synonymous with sunshine and rainbows; however, without them there would be no sunshine or rainbows. Lizzie’s 53 years of a committed marriage saw its share of heartache and rejoicing. Strength and grace are what carried her through the valleys of life that helped her bury three daughters way before their time. That same strength and grace brought much rejoicing with 5 sons, 7 daughters, and 55 grandchildren, all healthy and happy and part of a living legacy. That is a life well lived.

Service and giving came as second nature to Lizzie. It was nothing for a knock to be heard at her door any time, day or night. Such is the life of a midwife, especially an Amish midwife. Those hands-hands of service and giving-have caught many a baby in many a communities through the years. The most amazing part of all, aside from helping to deliver at least 38 of her very own grandchildren, not one baby was ever lost on Lizzie Ann Schwartz’s watch. That is a life well lived!

Steadfast and good are the last two elements of how it is that Lizzie was able to squeeze every last ounce of life out of every last second of her life. An unwavering belief that the great big God of the universe is really who He says He is and He will do ALL that He says He will do. Realizing that she was nothing without God’s grace and that her life was void outside of the steadfast goodness of God, Lizzie Ann knew that these two factors alone were a bedrock for the strength and grace that carried her through the highs and lows of her life and became her motivation to serve and give so freely to ALL she came in contact with here on earth. Now that is a life well lived.

From the women in the kitchen, to the men reminiscing about days gone by, to the grandchildren longing to play King’s Base, even to the lone FBI agent, all of us — in our own way — slowed down for a bit that day to reflect and breathe in a touch of that life-giving force…

… of a life well lived.

Respectfully…

LJS

P.S. According to Wikipedia: “In 2020 there were 31 states of the United States that had a significant Amish population. 

The Amish have settled in as many as 31 US-states though about 63% are located in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. The greatest concentration of Amish is in Holmes and adjoining counties in northeast Ohio, about 78 miles south of Cleveland. Next in size is a group of Amish people in Elkhart and surrounding counties in northeastern Indiana. Then comes the Amish settlement in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. According to Albrecht Powell, the Pennsylvania Amish has not always been the largest group of U.S. Amish as is commonly thought. 

The Amish population in the U.S. numbers more than 270,000 and is growing rapidly, due to large family size (seven children on average) and a church-member retention rate of approximately 80%.”


wind and solar power is not the answer

Let me start with what this column is not.  It is not a denial of climate change.  Some people think that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are an existential threat.  Others believe there have been varying temperature levels throughout the earth’s history and there is nothing to worry about.  I fall somewhere in between.  Nor am I suggesting that there is not a place for wind and solar power.

What I am disputing is the idea that wind and solar are feasible replacements for coal and natural gas as sources for our base power.  The federal and state governments are spending billions of dollars annually to subsidize a move away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.  At face value, it seems like a good idea.  Yet, digging just a little deeper shows that increasing our reliance on wind and solar power will result not only in a waste of your tax money, but consumers will end up paying more for less reliable electricity and the environment won’t be better off.

(A point of clarification:  hydroelectric power is also considered a renewable.  Hydroelectric is awesome, but moving bodies of water can’t be harnessed in all places and thus it can’t meet all our electricity needs either.)

The key to understanding why wind and solar power is not the answer is some basic knowledge about how electricity works.  You cannot store electrons at scale.  Electricity must be used at the instant it is generated.  Utility companies must constantly monitor and predict electricity usage to ensure the supply meets demand at all times.

An obvious but vital point:  the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.  These energy sources simply cannot be relied upon when you need them the most.  Thus, every single wind or solar power installation has to have a back-up source, usually fossil fuels.  That means if your objective is to have 25% of your electricity come from renewable sources, you must maintain 125% of the needed electric capacity.  Wind and solar advocates claim those sources are cheaper, but that’s only looking at part of the equation.  The total cost of an electric portfolio with wind and solar power is more than one without.

The renewables proponents’ solution to these basic realities is batteries.  Just store up reserve electricity when it’s windy and sunny to use for the times it’s not.  Unfortunately, battery technology isn’t anywhere close to satisfying the demand that would be required.  Maybe there is a massive technological leap just over the horizon, but wouldn’t it make more sense to wait for those advancements to occur before spending all those billions?

Many states are going farther than that.  Thirty have established Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), requiring a minimum percentage of electricity that must come from renewable sources at some point in the future.  Ten states have set their RPS at 100%, to be achieved in the next 25 years.  This is pure fantasy.  Some states are exacerbating the situation by requiring more electric vehicles (EV).  Again, looking at only half the picture, EV’s have zero emissions on the road.  Yet, they create more demand for electricity generation which as a practical matter means using fossil fuels.

The irony in this green energy push is that wind and solar aren’t all that good for the environment.  It is true that the United States has led the world in the reduction of CO2 emissions over the past decade, but that decrease was not due to increased use of renewables.  It was caused by a shift from coal to cleaner burning natural gas, made possible by fracking.  Wind and solar’s positive effect on air quality is nominal; however, their impact on the land is quite harmful.

The lifespan of wind turbines and solar panels is not that long, about 25 years.  Wind turbine blades are made of fiberglass which can’t be recycled.  These huge blades end up in landfills. Yet, at least they don’t contain toxic chemicals like solar panels that have the potential to seep into groundwater.  Furthermore, solar panels (as well as batteries) are composed of rare earth metals which must be mined in other parts of the world with fewer environmental protections.  Miners in the Congo employ child labor for this dirty work, and China is suspected of using for ced labor.

We actually already have a viable, proven electricity source that works in all kinds of weather, day or night, and would reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere if we expanded its use.  Nuclear power has a much smaller footprint, produces zero emissions, and its waste is manageable.  instead, Congress seems inclined to continue subsidizing a transition to less reliable, more expensive, less environmentally-friendly wind and solar power.  Sadly, more and more states will experience blackouts like California and Texas due to over-reliance on these undependable sources.  Maybe then Americans will finally push back.

Respectfully…

PJM

A Case for Counseling: Five Things I Gained Through Therapy

“Maybe later,” I thought to myself as a college professor recommended to my classmates and I that we all go see a mental health therapist at some point in our college careers, even if we hadn’t been through any major trauma in our lives. I also thought, “If I just… don’t deal with any of that it should just go away… yeah… that should work…”

Reader, it did not work.

Discussing and actively caring for our mental and emotional health can be so stigmatized, and I totally understand, and definitely empathize with, people who are hesitant about taking the leap of going to see a therapist. Approaching pain? Baring your deepest self to a stranger? Talking about your feelings? And, not to mention, paying somebody so you get to go through all of that? It doesn’t exactly sound like a winning deal on the surface, nor is it always easily accessible or affordable.

It took me getting married, living away from home, choosing to take time off from school, entering the workforce full-time, moving halfway across the U.S. (all before the age of 23), and an imperfect childhood to stir up a storm of depression and anxiety big enough inside of me that was impossible to ignore. My husband encouraged me to consider going to see someone (bless him) and now I’m here on the other side to tell you that yes, it is so worth it. You might not believe me right now, and that’s okay. I was there, too. Even though it looks like there is so much to lose in choosing to go, I want you to see, too, that there is SO much more to be gained.

Emotional Skills

A huge part of therapy for me was learning basic, foundational emotional skills and concepts. Like a lot of people, I wasn’t taught about feelings growing up at home or at school. I experienced them, sure, but I had no context for the purpose of my emotions or how to manage them in healthy ways. Our feelings are not bad or anything to be ashamed of. They’re simply our bodies communicating with us. Once I learned that, I was able to see my feelings as allies rather than enemies. I learned how to be aware of what I was feeling in the moment, what that feeling was telling me, and how to care for myself in response to that feeling. Those skills became the foundation for emotional coping mechanisms and strategies that I still use to help manage strong feelings as I experience them. Breathing exercises, anyone?

Self-Compassion

Who knew being kind to yourself would be so hard? As someone with strong perfectionistic tendencies, I know how instinctual and harmful it can be to be your own worst critic. This practice has been just as difficult for me as it’s been vital. The best piece of advice I’ve been told when it comes to self-compassion is to talk to myself how I would talk to someone I love, especially when I make a mistake or don’t feel happy. Those words are always filled with more grace, more love, and more compassion, and we are just as deserving of all of those things as the people around us.

Assertiveness

A vital and true equation: Pursuing what you want ≠ selfishness.

Also, saying “no” does not make you a mean person.

When assertiveness isn’t a behavior that’s modeled for you in healthy ways, practicing it can bring about feelings of guilt and discomfort. You feel as if you’ve fallen far on the other end of the spectrum, when in reality you’re probably just approaching a healthier middle. Gaining assertiveness has helped me have tough and necessary conversations, to stand up for my thoughts and desires, and to take major steps in pursuing my education and career. 

Healing

In my experience there’s trauma, and then there’s trauma that I didn’t even know was there until I went to therapy. Nobody’s past is perfect. Nobody’s family or upbringing are perfect. We all have trauma and messy struggles in our pasts, and no matter how big or small they are it’s our responsibility to do the work of healing from them. The professional help that I had through counseling is the only way I would have been able to process my stuff because thankfully, counselors are professionals at this! This is their job! They’re trained to help us! And though healing isn’t a cure for our trauma (is anything really?), what it gives us is a healthy perspective of it. In processing through it the pain often becomes more manageable and is no longer a heavy burden that holds us back or weighs us down.

Empathy & Sympathy

Learning the difference between empathy and sympathy through therapy has transformed how I see other people and the world. (Go ahead and look it up—it’s so important!) Therapy taught me how to express empathy and sympathy in effective and helpful ways. It taught me to see emotions in others and value them just as they are rather than avoid them or try to “fix” them because I might be a little uncomfortable. 

Fortunately, it seems like the stigma around mental health is declining. Conversations about mental health therapy aren’t as taboo as they once were, especially among the Millennial and Gen-Z generations. A short search on social media can lead you to so many different accounts focused on this topic, both serious and even funny (but funny because the content is relatable, not because it’s something to be embarrassed about! See? Progress!).

If anything, I hope you hear this today: Taking the step to see a mental health counselor is one of the bravest, most loving things you can do for yourself. You have so much more to gain on top of this short list. This part of you matters, and though it may not have been cared for in the past, you can care for it now. You deserve it.

Respectfully…

Rebecca

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

We’ve come to one of my fave times of the year!

As is our annual Intramuralist practice, each year in late summer we creatively model one of our most deeply held beliefs…

It is wise to listen to far more than self.

I would not be who I am today if I only listened to me. We would not be where we are today if we only listened to we.

It’s difficult — arguably impossible — to grow in solid emotional, intellectual and spiritual maturity if “we” are our singular source of knowledge and reason.

Sometimes we convince ourselves we actually allow other influence in; however, those other voices are oft pre-approved, with their primary credentials being that we already know they think similarly. 

To be respectfully both blunt and clear, imporous likemindedness serves only as mental insulation and thus an obstacle to growth. On life’s most pressing issues — i.e. Is love, love? What lives matter? How do we show it? What rights are actually inalienable? How big should government be? What do I believe about Jesus? How do systemic impact and individual responsibility fit together? How does one person’s freedom infringe upon another? What’s the wisest response to crime? Who gets to define such? — on these issues and more, if I only listen to me or those knowingly already members of my so-called tribe, I will have stunted my growth by discounting the different experience of another. Friends, our experience — no matter how commonly shared — does not equate to everyone else’s reality.

That said, it is wise to listen to far more than self.

Today, therefore, we enthusiastically introduce our annual Guest Writers Series. What a joy! And what an insightful opportunity.

Over the past dozen years, we’ve had the privilege of hearing from many distinct, diverse, and creatively articulate and passionate voices. Each has had a valid perspective to share. 

Note that I didn’t say “each has had a perspective that I agree with.” That’s not the point. And it’s never been a requirement for our annual series. The point is that each writer has agreed to communicate in a way that is respectful of the entirety of our audience. Respect, my friends, paves the way for better communication. Better communication paves the way for learning and growth.

Some of our 2021 guest writers are repeat contributors; for others, this is their first time wading into the Intramuralist arena. They are demographically diverse in multiple areas, noting especially, for example, that they range in age from the active Zoomers of Gen Z to the strong Silent Generation. They are passionate about varied topics and issues. They have great stories, insights, and words of wisdom. They’ll talk about energy, race, even a contemporary look into the Amish community. The bottom line is they will provide perspective that is different than “me.”

In the meantime, I will engage in a brief respite, a time in which I restfully and intentionally ponder and pray about what we’ll talk about next. One of my greatest growth realizations of the past 5 years is the need to incorporate intentional, regular rest into our days. That’s not wise simply for the older generations who we sometimes think of as having to slow down; that is wise for all — including you and me. I learn more when I slow enough to not be distracted by my daily to do list and responsibilities. One thing I’ve learned, for example, is that one of the sweet beauties of rest is gleaning how important those other, dissimilar voices actually are.

So enjoy this series, friends. These guys are great! They have much to say — starting this Wednesday!

Feel free to engage, comment, and encourage.

Feel free to ask questions.

Feel free to even disagree.

When we disagree and converse respectfully, we grow.

Here’s to this growth-filled series. Believe me… I can’t wait.

Respectfully, always…

AR

Iggy, Swaggy & the biggest beauty

Allow me to introduce two good-natured friends of mine: Iggy and Swaggy…

We’ve only known each other for a year or so, but we communicate regularly — weekly, in fact. And we have great conversations.

We talk most frequently on the weekends, but sometimes during the week, too, when one of us needs a little extra assistance. We reach out via text. It’s short and sweet. There’s grace in the time necessary to respond. But as soon as one of us is aware of a need at hand, it’s immediately addressed. With efficiency and respect… yes, always, respect.

Most of our conversations remain fairly short. None of us are especially verbose, and we each have other priorities in our lives to attend to. But it’s a unique friendship in that we get to the point, make ourselves clear, while listening well and being as actively attentive as our days allow. We listen well to one another; it’s a known, shared value.

We joke around. Laugh a little. We ask good questions of one another. We’re serious, too. Our friendship is good, balanced, and interactive.

Truth told, Iggy and Swaggy and I are great, authentic encouragers of one another.

That’s prob the word I like best there — “authentic.” Even though I’ve had arguably no friend groups quite like this one, our communication is very good. It’s real. It’s honest. There’s a strong thread of intentional selflessness that runs through every conversation.

There are others in our friend group — Liz, Geet, and Fireshark, for example. They sometimes chime in; they are always welcome, of course. We work hard to make sure no one feels omitted in conversation or importance. Granted, Iggy, Swaggy and I do most of the talking.

No doubt the way friendships have formed has changed in the 21st Century. Instead of the days where relationships evolved primarily from those in our surrounding, physical, tangible communities, creative technological advancements have made it possible to develop deep relationships far away — even across the globe. That’s what paved the way for my friendships in this newfound friend group. What a beauty to be in regular touch with my friends — one who lives near in Central Florida — the other far in Kuala Lumpur — each something we only recently realized.

But there’s an even better beauty between Iggy, Swaggy and me.

The reality is that even though we talk and converse most every weekend, even though we actively encourage one another, I really don’t know hardly any physical, tangible details about them. I’ve never seen them. Not even via a Zoom call.

I don’t know how old they are. I don’t know what they do professionally. I don’t know their ethnicity, what they look like, what family entails…  I don’t even know whether they are male or female.

And as I am known by them only by my initials, they know such not of me either.

Iggy and Swaggy and I — in addition to Liz, Geet, Fireshark and about 44 others — met through an online word game. It’s sort of a combination of Boggle and multiple crossword puzzles. I love a good, nerdy word game! I feel like it helps keep me sharp.

Each weekend there’s a tournament hosted by the app’s operators in which teams compete against millions more in an online community, in which players can sporadically enter/exit throughout the weekend — whatever works with their individual schedule. You compete both as an individual and as a team. Iggy, Swaggy, et al. and I are on the same team. 

We get going, check in, ask for clues, boosts and assistance, and actively cheer each other on. We congratulate one another on a job well done. And, on those weekends where we struggle or simply don’t have time to participate, there’s great grace added to a spoken enthusiasm for the next time we will join forces together.

That’s the biggest beauty. None of the details of our lives — none of the descriptions or stereotypes, pre-made judgments or things we supposedly find our identity in — none of them get in the way. We don’t even know those descriptions or stereotypes. And yet knowing isn’t necessary for authenticity to run rampant in relationship.

The biggest beauty between Iggy, Swaggy and me is that encouragement, respect and genuine care flow freely. No matter what.

Respectfully…

AR

do we really believe in free speech?

In 1992 Nat Hentoff penned a fascinating work. It was entitled “Free Speech for Me — but Not for Thee”… an interesting thought, indeed.

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” That’s Amendment number one.

What does the right to free speech actually mean?

According to Cornell Law School, “The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without government interference or regulation.” 

According to the ACLU, “The First Amendment guarantees our right to free expression and free association, which means that the government does not have the right to forbid us from saying what we like and writing what we like.”

And according to Wikipedia, “Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.” 

The First Amendment declares that the government can’t restrict our speech except in specific, substantially-justified situations, such as incitement speech, for example; the government can forbid speech “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action.” There is also little to no legal protection for obscenity and child pornography. 

But it seems increasingly more, we begin to wonder whether reining back the right to free speech would be wise for far more than the above exceptions.

Note a Politico Livestream conversation from just last week, in which Facebook censorship board member and former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said: “How do you moderate content and how do you find that balance between human rights and free speech, which is a human right, but also other human rights because free speech is not an absolute human right; it has to be balanced with all the human rights…”

What else do you hear there?

What other rights are being intruded upon by the freedom of expression?

And what does the social media executive perceive to be prudent in disregarding an amendment which has stood the test of time for the last 230 years?

Nat Hentoff actually keenly questions if we really believe in free speech…

Are we a little hypocritical, friends?

Do we really just want to silence those we disagree with?

Or…

Do we consider what we say to be truth and what another says to be opinion?

Do we deem our harsh words as necessary and another’s to be filled with hate?

And what if speech offends? Is it only ok if I agree?

Allow us to share the complete title of Hentoff’s insightful work. With its subtitle, the book is called: “Free Speech for Me — but Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.” Hentoff gives multiple examples of persons on the left and right who change what they think, say, and believe about free speech based upon what is said and who is saying it. 

Writes Hentoff, “Those who created this country chose freedom. With all of its dangers. And do you know the riskiest part of that choice they made? They actually believed that we could be trusted to make up our own minds in the whirl of differing ideas. That we could be trusted to remain free, even when there were very, very seductive voices — taking advantage of our freedom of speech — who were trying to turn this country into the kind of place where the government could tell you what you can and cannot do.”

Again…

“… that we could be trusted to make up our own minds in the whirl of differing ideas…”

I continue to pause, soberly seeing a little more how the First Amendment is less about what we can do and more about what the government cannot.

Respectfully…

AR