Call Me Lonely Hearts, the Valentine Grinch

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In about two weeks, thousands of people, young and old, will be scrambling around looking to purchase items in pink and red.

Flower sales will rise as will the sales of greeting cards, lingerie, strawberries, poorly made stuffed animals and chocolates wrapped in heart-shaped boxes.

Children will be licking the frosting off of pink sprinkled cupcakes while possibly exchanging tiny superhero or princess cards with one another at school parties.

Many men and women will feel the heat, not from a deep meaningful relationship, but from the pressure of making sure everything is perfect on Friday, February 14, as to avoid the possibility of tears and a potential argument.

(Personally, I’ll be feeling the heat by graduating to a new belt in Taekwondo that night, which to me, is far more meaningful than a goofy eyed monkey professing his love and dark chocolate covered truffles, but that’s another story.)

Like many teenagers, people around the world will be adopting the festivities, without even an understanding of what this day represents, simply because other people are doing it.

Those who (think) they have found that “special someone” to share it with will have a night to remember. Whether the memories of the night end up being good or bad is also another story.

Which brings us to everyone else. The Naysayers. The Day O’ Love Grinches. The people who reject any form of romantic comedy. The ones who shuffle their feet in the dirt as they walk by mumbling their annoyances at all things cute and cuddly. The Lonely Hearts.

Which makes me think about and observe my surroundings. As I sit here, getting my oil changed, I witness the disconnect of the human experience. Customers are making certain there is ample seating space between them, staring at tablets or screens, creating a see-through shield, not unlike myself.

Suddenly, I feel someone staring at me. I look up to attempt eye contact with a smile only to receive the quick “Damn! She caught me looking” turn away in return. Uncomfortable, I decide to take a quick bathroom break.

Not even five minutes pass when I return to find my seat was immediately stolen by the customer who pulled the ol’ “look away”. There are plenty of available seats. He was sitting in one. Why did he get up and cross over and take mine? Was it some weird attempt to connect. Was he even looking at me in the first place? Perhaps he was coveting my chair the whole time? Maybe he just wanted to get closer to the old school western that was playing on the waiting room television.

Whatever the case may be, it’s irritating, I hate my new seat and I’m definitely not going to take his old one.

Regardless, my own hang ups aside, calling a spade a spade, I am equally as guilty as everyone else when it comes to wanting to keep to myself.

My inanimate screens have “got my back” for those awkward moments when I just don’t want to talk. They are a means of escaping discussions I know I shouldn’t have. They are a way to create the “please don’t approach me” line of invisibility almost, at times, as harsh as the old school “talk to the hand” gesture but far more passive-aggressive.

On the flip side, my devices have also been there for me, like a reliable friend, in the moments I felt ignored or not needed by others, acting as a safety net, a digital wingman and quick access to a willing person on the other side waiting to connect through social networking or texting.

Bottom line, I’ve felt the empty awkwardness of loneliness and being out of place, even when surrounded by many others who are seemingly having a good time.

It’s safe to say, we all have.

As of 2012, there are reported to be 7.064 billion people on Earth.

7.064 BILLION.

With so many people, how can I possibly ever feel lonely?

How can anyone?

Why are there people out there who feel so lonely that they can’t stand to live another day? There is always someone in close proximity to talk to, right?

Is it our obligation to at least try to make sure that extreme loneliness in others doesn’t occur? Should we be the ones to welcome others into our worlds, even just briefly? After all, everyone, at some point, just needs to be heard.

With 7.064 billion of us out there, surely we can take a few minutes out of our day to be there for someone, whether we know them or not, to let them vent, to let them cry, to make them laugh to help them smile.

We all have the ability to be sources of comfort.
Comfort for the young.
Comfort for the old.
Comfort for those who are like us.
Comfort for those who are not.

Regardless of our commonalities or differences, we all have one thing in common, we’re all human beings who feel lonely one time or another and the more we are there for each other the more together we’ll all be.

That being said, it’s amazing what five minutes of genuine attention can do.

What’s the Skinny, on Jeans?

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Skinny.

Super Skinny.

Rock-star Skinny.

Boyfriend Skinny.

Always Skinny.

Any way you slice ’em or dice ’em the supply of pant options with the title “skinny” attached to it is incredibly “plump”.  Just the names alone make me cringe.

Over the past few years, while the Skinny Jean style took off, those around me heard my dislike for the trend that just keeps on giving, most thinking my disdain for this cut is because of personal preferences. I’m not one to put importance on another person’s fashion choices because I’ve been nothing but a fashion victim for most, if not all, of my life. For me, it’s not what you wear but how you treat others that matters. 

When the trend first reared its head I was cool with it.  No one was forcing me to wear them.  No one was forcing me to buy them.  I could easily walk past the skinny rack and pick up a pair of “Relaxed”, “Wide Leg”, “Loose” “Straight”, “Flare” or “Boot Cut” jeans. 

But things changed, like an infestation the “Skinny Movement” took over.  “Wide Leg” the first to go followed by “Loose” and next “Relaxed”.  Before I knew it “Flare” jeans were a thing of the past leaving only the “Boot Cut” which eventually became the “Skinny Boot Cut”.  

For me it’s not about disliking the fashion, it’s about disliking the lack of providing options. 

It’s one thing to introduce something new and allow the freedom of choice.  It’s another thing to introduce something new and take away all the others flavors that added spice and creative expression to our world leaving us with, literally, very slim pickin’s. 

Walking into the mall over a year ago to replace my old tried and true “relaxed” fit jeans,  I was floored when my favorite shop told me they were discontinued. Obviously disappointed,  I asked the clothier to direct me to my options.  Imagine my surprise when my options all had the word “skinny” attached to them.

Needless to say,  I left empty handed yet hopeful. Hopeful because I was in a shopping mall and shopping malls are chock full of clothing stores that are chock full of options. Little did I know my only choices would be the type of color or wash I preferred rather than the fit. 

I left confident that online shopping would serve me well. 

I logged off feeling defeated.

Rather than give in to the skinny, I gave in to sewing, poorly might I add, the only proof of relaxed fitting jeans possibly left in existence. 

Seeing skinny jeans everywhere I turned made me question if I was the only person left who wanted a relaxed or loose pair of jeans.

By it’s very definition relaxed means 1. Not rigorous or strict. 2. Free from strain or tension. and 3. Easy and informal in manner. How could no one want a pair?

And skinny, by it’s very definition, means 1. lacking in flesh  2. consisting of or resembling skin and 3.tight

Add “super” to the mix and we are essentially looking at a product that is “extremely tight lacking in flesh”.  Throw in “Rock Star” and we stress the importance of achieving “celebrity status”.  While we’re at it, toss in words like  “boyfriend” and “always” for more pressure, so in the end we have a product that, whether we like to admit it or not, sends a message to our youth that in order to be included and accepted, you have to “always be extremely skinny, with a rock star edginess in order to be loved (because we all know what great role models most rock stars are).  

What no “Girlfriend Cut” for the fellas?

So what’s really being pushed here?  A simple pair of jeans?

Ask any preteen or teenager in today’s world and a majority of them, if answering honestly, will tell you they worry about their body image. Not in the sense that they want to be healthy and physically fit but in the sense that they want to be accepted and adored by others.  They want to be sexually desired by those around them. They want to be who and what they see on television, in movies, on stage and in magazines, leaving very few of them wanting to be or evening knowing who they are themselves.  And the fashion industry, by taking so many options away, has chosen this pressure filled lifestyle for them, dictating what they should wear, by giving them only one style with a zillion variations of it.  

We live in a world that heavily bases worth on looks and sexuality.  If we give our youth a variety of different options, these options will promote creative expression, intelligence and an understanding of oneself, if we continue to promote the mantra that sex sells then that’s about as far as they’ll get. 

At this point, what choice do they have?

It’s not about their fashion, it’s about their options.

Twenty Fourteen: Conflict Resolution with New Year’s Resolutions

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The last, and probably the only, time I cared about a New Year’s Eve Countdown was when MTV promised to air “Nirvana: Live and Loud” in ’93.

Whoa!

Who just got smacked in the face with a passing of time wake up call?!

This gal!

I better go out and buy a power suit and heels to prove my maturity and years of success.

Change my personality to one that meshes well with the Joneses.

Add to that list, less cursing, lose weight, quit smoking (which will be super easy since I actually don’t), read more, write more, Facebook less, curb my phone addiction, enjoy the outdoors, enjoy the indoors, listen to my parents, be kind to others and save the world.

But wait, don’t I have enough demands and responsibilities to worry about? Don’t we all? Don’t you?

There’s not a single one of us who doesn’t bare the heaviness that life presents us with.

A death.
A life.
An illness.
An accident.
Financial gain.
Financial loss.
New loves.
Old flames.
Loneliness when we’re surrounded by people.
People surrounded by nothing but loneliness.
New friendships. Broken ones.

Responsibilities to our families. Obligations to our friends.
Love to our fellow human beings.

Eventually, our glasses spill over and personally I’m ready for a couple of straws in mine and am willing to share.

Time on Earth is limited, wouldn’t it be in my best interest to live day to day? I don’t know what next year will bring. I don’t know what will be brought within the next hour. What I do know is that whatever is meant to be will happen whether I welcome it or not.

As my father wisely told me yesterday, as we drove quietly to the beach together, “We must make peace with our Creator before we make peace with His creation.”

My father has a way with words. Even though we were in the car together for over an hour, all it took was that one sentence to get me to truly think. The remainder of the ride was spent in thoughtful silence.

That being said, I wish you strength, patience, joyful moments, love, shoulders to cry on, health, blessings, true friendships, happiness and peace, not only in the new year, but every day from this moment forward.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me because apparently if I’m planning on giving up smoking I’m going to have to start but only after I save the world first.

New Years Bring New Books: Presenting Graphic Novel Blades of Hope’s First Book Trailer

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Book trailers, not so new for authors and avid readers, particularly in the young adult sect. Do a google search and you are bound to find a plethora of trailers for books soon to be released.

In 2014, Jabal Entertainment will bring to you book one of the graphic novel “Blades of Hope”. Complete with intelligent and strong female characters, fraught with martial arts skills, “Blades of Hope” is not only geared towards female young adult and adult readers but all gender readers who are not yet accustomed to reading comic books or graphic novels as well.

But fear not, avid comic books fans, the creators of “Blades of Hope” have also kept you in mind.

Though we have not yet released artwork from the book, we have put together our first “Blades of Hope” book trailer/teaser for your viewing pleasure, until we release our official book trailer later this year.

Until then we present to you our first teaser:

Happy Merry! My Somewhat Secular Life

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Religion.

Just by typing the word I feel like there are already some people becoming uncomfortable reading this blog.

I’ll be honest. I’m kind of uncomfortable writing it.

The way I see it, however, when people become uncomfortable in any given situation, the wheels of stimulation are turning in their heads and that is good enough for me.

I’d be lying if I said my thumb isn’t considering hitting the delete key on my phone. But I’ll resist (for now).

After all, it’s discomfort that can create truly deep conversations, providing all parties involved are showing mutual respect towards one another.

The inspiration of this blog actually happened because of two encounters at toll booths on December 25.

The first toll booth I pulled up to hosted a woman wearing reindeer antlers and a blinking light necklace. Obviously, I knew when she handed back my change a “Merry Christmas” was sure to follow. When she placed the money in my hand and gave the obvious greeting I replied with my standard greeting, “Happy Holidays!”

The second toll booth I pulled up to hosted another woman wearing a Hawaiian styled shirt. Our exchange was nothing but “Have a nice day!” and my reply “You too!”

Let me clarify, I am both a religious and spiritual person with a deep faith in God. Like everyone else, I have my views of life and a structure to which I live.

And for me, I’m not one to engage in religious discussions unless I’m specifically asked and the ground rules for mutual respect are firmly placed.

Typically, my religious thoughts and views stay in my mind and in my home. To me there is no compulsion in religion. Meaning, I don’t believe that anyone should be forced to follow any specific religion.

That being said, I’m not certain as to when any holiday greeting, religious or otherwise became offensive.

Now, I say I live a somewhat secular life because, as stated before, religion and God are very dear to me. At the same time secularism is as well.

Living and being born in America, I have been blessed with a nation that hosts all cultures, colors and faiths.

Living in America, I’ve thankfully been given the opportunity and have taken the important steps of going out of my way to meet and form bonds with people of all cultures, colors and faiths because what I hear and read on the news doesn’t cut it for me.

I’m a person who must experience things first hand, from reliable sources, before my thoughts on any given subject are formed.

And because of my willingness to do so, I’ve gained respect for those around me and an understanding that even though we all have differing views we can still understand one another, without having to agree with one another, in very peaceful ways.

That being said, I prefer life outside my doors to be completely secular. Not only for my sake but for the benefit of others.

Do I get offended by the use of “Merry Christmas”? Absolutely not. I understand the intent behind the greeting just like I understand those expressing it are expressing their beliefs even if they are assuming I am right there with them.

Do I prefer the use of “Happy Holidays” instead? Absolutely, because I prefer people don’t assume things about me. (Though I’ll admit guilt to making a plethora of assumptions about others myself.)

The use of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” will always be a staple in my life, for all those around me, because I respect we are a nation of so many differences through and through.

I believe in being inclusive in my well wishes particularly since we are, fortunately, a country that claims to be inclusive.

If we truly are a nation of inclusion, people of any faith should not be offended when various religious greetings are used around them.

My hope is that those who wish a “Happy Hanukkah”, “Merry Christmas” or “Ramadan Mubarak” at one time of year truly don’t get offended when hearing “Happy Hanukah”, “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Merry Christmas” another time of year.

For me, it’s all (faiths respected) or nothing.

“Merry Christmas” may come from
Christianity.

“Ramadan Mubarak” and “Eid Mubarak” may come from Islam.

“Happy Chanukah” may come from Judaism.

And many other greetings, that I’m admittedly ignorant about, come from many other religions.

Providing you are not Atheist, we all have one thing in common, belief that we all come from God.

Regardless of who you are, where you are from, and what you believe, my stance remains that all human beings deserve love, inclusion and respect.

Until, we are a nation that comfortably accepts that we are different, believes in true inclusion and genuinely respects one another it will always be “Happy Holidays” or another variation from me. And know when I say those words they come straight from my heart.

So, Merry Happy to everyone.

Now where’s that delete key?