July 25, 2009

The List...

I've already posted what my absolute goals are for my life. This is not an inspirational, thought-provoking post; it's just a bucket list-- things I'd love to do before God calls me home. If anyone helps me accomplish these things on my list, I will always be grateful. Do you have a bucket list? These are the things left undone on my list:

Go on a cruise-- specifically Mediterranean or Greek Isles, but I'd settle for Caribbean

Visit my Great-Grandmother's home in Ireland and Mittenwald, Germany... with my family

Go to Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Argentina, and South Africa

Visit Prince Edward Island with my sisters

Become fluent in French

Write children's books

Write a book on singleness

Sell my photography and/or artwork

Create a secret recipe

Open a cupcake shop

Sell my fashions/become a fashion designer

Learn and become good at ballet

Travel the United States' coast in an RV

Live on a boat/yacht and travel around the world

Fix up an old house

Become good at poker

Become good at tennis

Get my Master's Degree

See the Northern Lights

Go to a Crosstown Classic-- Sox vs. Cubs, at Comiskey Park

Go to a Bears game at Soldier Field

Take a ride in a hot air balloon

Go parasailing

Ride a tandem bike

Become a professor and teach a middle school El Ed track at Moody

Get married

Have lots of kids

Have my own dog

I don't think I'll ever really accomplish ALL of these things on my bucket list, but that what's on it. We'll see how many I can knock out before I kick the bucket! Have you made your bucket list yet? :)

July 19, 2009

Ms. Hardt Goes to Washington...

There are times when the Mr. Smith in me wants to go to Washington. I don't think my skin is quite thick enough to endure the life of a politician, but I so often would like to march up to Washington and give them my two cents (instead, I give them much more than two cents from every paycheck, for them to misuse as they please). So many of our elected officials are disconnected from the real world and the impact of their decisions. Untouched by what they pass or do not pass, they sit on their cushy Capitol Hill behinds and watch as the nation slowly crumbles into a socialistic decline.

I wonder if more people would think differently about politics if they really studied history. Everyone knows that history repeats itself, yet few do anything to avoid tragic repetition. When has the decline of the middle class ever been a good thing? When the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, does that ever end well? When nations try to equalize everyone, do they ever succeed? What I see happening to our country is this: a broken system that has limited the freedoms of its people, alienated the people from its government, and crumbled the capitalistic nature of its economy, resulting in a loss of wealth, power, and freedom for both the country as a whole and the individuals who occupy it.

Some issues I would like to have a hand at fixing:
1. "Going Green." As my friends and family would willingly tell you, I am a "green" person. I firmly believe in being a good steward of all God has given me, which includes the earth. I recycle. I turn off lights. I unplug electronics when not in use. I bring my own bags to the grocery store. I do my part. But that is my choice, and my freedom to do so. I have a feeling that under the guise of going green, the powers that be are going to slowly and stealthily strip the American people of their freedoms. "No, you can only use THIS much energy." "No, you can only drive SO far in that car." Don't do this, don't do that, and suddenly we're not a free nation anymore-- we're a nation run by a group of people dictating our actions.

2. Universal healthcare. This is widely debated, but is there a successful working model of this anywhere in the world? Sure it's great in theory, but so is Communism, and we all know from reading our history books how that turns out. The system is broken, and there needs to be a solution for the poor. But universal healthcare is not the solution. It will kill more than it will save, because those who need the very best medicine and medical attention suddenly will not be able to afford it and will die; those who need immediate and comprehensive medical attention will have to wait so long for proper care, and they will die. This is not me being dramatic-- this is me being realistic. I'd like to see another solution. What if we could incorporate some kind of barter system for those who cannot afford healthcare? They provide some kind of useful service to the government, and in turn receive healthcare. So they can't walk... have them make telephone calls. So they can't speak... have them sew military garments. This could have many benefits: providing healthcare for the poor, allowing others to keep excellent insurance, and allowing America to become less dependent on other countries by creating more of our own products. Idealistic, yes, but far less devastating than the idea of socialized medicine. I'd like to try to flesh this idea out.

3. The "I deserve this" mentality. Perhaps the biggest problem in our country is not something that can be fixed, because it comes down to sinful laziness. There are many in America who have worked hard in the past but are unable to do so now, or would like to work hard but can't-- they deserve help, certainly. But a fact that cannot be ignored is that there is a growing number of individuals who subscribe to the mindset that they deserve wealth and health without the hard work that earns it. These are individuals who want something for nothing; parasites who live off of the blood, sweat, and tears of hard-working Americans. I live in a country that was built by people who knew that hard work was the only way they would survive, let alone prosper. I'm not just referring to "founding fathers" and mothers. I'm talking about our grand parents and great-grandparents who came to this land willing to labor in order to make a better life. If our economy and the future of our country is to improve, hard work is the answer, not handouts.

4. Social Security. The term "security" is used very loosely, I realize. What has gone so wrong to cause a system which has worked for decades to decompose so quickly? It seems to me that if the government would simply cease and desist stealing the money designated for retirees, this system could continue to work. If not, if it is indeed irreparable, then everyone under 40 (or whenever the cutoff age is for those who will not receive social security) should be able to stop paying into the system and have the option to independently invest instead. Don't take away my money and leave me a destitute old woman.

If only it didn't take millions of dollars to become a contender for a spot in Congress or the Senate... I would love to be a mouthpiece connected to a large group of Americans who are not only tired of the very wealthy who seem to be unaccountable for their greed, but also the very poor who have the ability to work but would rather be spoon fed. There will always be poor (Jesus even said that, PS), and they are not to be ignored, but we can't cater to the poor. There will always be the rich (either from legitimate hard work or ill-gotten gain), but we can't cater to the rich. We can't cater to the middle-class either, but we can try to mend the system by rewarding those who work hard and helping the truly helpless. The very end of I Thessalonians has excellent instructions from which our country would benefit. The answer to our country's problems is not drastic changes to cater to those who have made poor decisions... it is to go back to the principles upon which our country was founded: freedom and hard work.

July 13, 2009

Lessons Learned While Pulling Weeds...

A shriek of terror rang through the century-old rafters from the second-story pink bedroom. Pounding up the stairs, neck extended and tense, Dad appeared at my bedroom door. His eyes were wide.

"WHAT?!" he strained, sure I had amputated my arm or some such macabre scene.
"...It's a... spider," I replied in a small voice, shrinking away from said arachnid, slightly embarrassed at my obvious overreaction. What followed was this: the shoulders and neck relaxed, the eyes rolled, and the mouth pursed in an "I can't believe this is what the scream was about" shape. Grabbing a random shoe, the offending creature was succinctly squished and tossed, and all was well with the world.
So how did this girl, the girl who didn't cry wolf but screamed bloody murder, turn from her high-maintenance ways?

That's a good question. This is a question I pondered today as I was pulling the Creeping Charlie away from the Phlox, encountering the occasional earwig, spider, and earthworm.

I was a phobic child, afraid of most things and lacking any sense of adventure. I screamed, loudly and often. If I saw a spider, I screamed. If I stubbed my toe, I screamed. In fact, my screams became so commonplace that when my cousin ran his remote control car over my head, entangling my hair in the wheels, they assumed my screams meant that maybe I'd found an anthill. When summer came, the best punishment for me was slave garden labor. What a nightmare-- dirt, sweat, smells, and the bugs-- oh the bugs! This prima donna attitude was mine for years-- perhaps I didn't scream as often, but the phobias remained.

I don't think my maintenance factor lessened until college, when necessity forced me to be lower maintenance. One of my roommates was even worse when it came to spiders. In fact, they paralyzed her. In an ironic twist of fate, I would hear the scream, and now I would come with the random shoe to kill the offending creature. From spider-fearer to spider-killer. Would you believe, I was even the designated bug-killer on a European backpacking trip-- imagine Greek bugs! So necessity brought some change, but I also began to realize that many of the best parts of life required some blood, sweat, or... dirt, and sometimes a cocktail of all three. I suddenly realized that having a mud fight was a lot more fun that I would have imagined, and refinishing a piece of antique furniture in summer's heat was more satisfying than I could have believed. Demolishing the inside of a factory to make a new space for an inner city mission was actually fun, and hiking rugged hillsides in Italy was something I would have otherwise not experienced. What was this new feeling? It was-- gasp-- a thirst for adventure! This one-time prima donna was now traipsing across the world, enjoying midnight snow walks and mud fights, killing bugs, driving on expressways, getting her hands dirty... and loving it.

And so as I was still removing Creeping Charlie from Mom's precious perennials, I began to realize that the key to becoming low-maintenance is realizing that there are too many experiences in life that I would miss out on if I wasn't willing to get my hands dirty, sweat a little, touch a bug, or risk a bit. The screaming banshee girl was gone, and I was glad, because I had lived. Fears conquered = life lived.

July 12, 2009

Goals and Great Gain...

I just had a conversation with my mom, during which I uttered the words, "I don't want to be a 60-year-old woman and not have done all the things I had hoped to do." I don't know why I chose that age, except that it seemed old to me at that moment, but I was speaking about my latest entrepreneurial idea. I've had dozens and dozens of these kinds of ideas-- things I'd love to do, but I lack the funds, the time, and the courage I suppose. I'd love to accomplish even half of these things, but as I sat and thought I realized that there are other, more important things I should be thinking about having accomplished by the time I'm a 60-year-old woman. For example: I do not want to be a 60-year-old woman who has not become a prayer warrior; a 60-year-old woman who has not discipled young women; a 60-year-old woman who has not given of her time, money, and talents to the Lord. Those are the most important things for me to accomplish in my lifetime-- the rest are just the icing on the cupcake. Mostly, as I sit here and type away, I realize that "godliness with contentment is great gain." If I can do these more important things, I think the activities and entrepreneurial ideas that escape me and never get done just won't matter much anymore. So perhaps I'll be a 60-year-old woman who has done little else than serve her church, teach her students, and give her time, money and talents to the Lord. Maybe I will have never opened my cupcakery, or have sold my fashion designs or photography, or even had anything published. If God can grant me godliness with contentment, I will have gained more than the sum of those lesser things.

{Sugar Bloom Cupcakes}

July 10, 2009

Ramblings on a Pirate's Life...

"Now and then we had a hope that, if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates." -- Mark Twain.

While the theological implications of this quote are clearly off, the idea behind its penning is fascinating. What is it about pirates that made even Mark Twain think of that lifestyle as a reward? Is it the swashbuckling? The crusty speech? The ill-gotten gain? In all honesty, I can't remember having a love affair with pirates before watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Until that point there was Muppets Treasure Island (Tim Curry gave/gives me nightmares) and the occasional Errol Flynn-type cinematic treasure that my father probably forced me to watch. And then there was the turning point: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, a character whose creation changed my perspective on pirates forever. Suddenly a pirate's life seemed full of mystery, intrigue, excitement, curiosity, danger, riches, and humor! Though I knew this couldn't possibly be the reality of a pirate's life years ago, I was drawn to everything pirate as Barbosa was drawn to the Aztec Gold.

I dabbled in some research and found interesting tidbits, but it wasn't until the other day when I visited Chicago's Field Museum's Pirate Exhibit that I truly understood the magnetism of a pirate's life.
In the days of little freedom and much hardship, the pirate life was a beacon of freedom and democracy, nevermind the little problems of thievery and violence. Africans, Indians, and poor European immigrants with little to no rights anywhere were offered the chance to have a say in their leadership, an opportunity for advancement, and payment for their hard work. They signed an agreement and suddenly had the respect of their crewmen and a voice among their peers. It was as if on the open sea, there were no racial or economic boundaries as there were on land. Perhaps the pirates were given to a bit of communism (if there weren't enough hammocks to go around, no one slept on a hammock!)... but it can be forgiven due to the fact that they gave rights to those who'd had none. No wonder this pirate life seemed bright and shiny! Africans weren't slaves on a pirate ship-- they had power and position! Even certain women were given position and rank beyond what was typical for the time. A particularly intriguing character is Anne Bonny, who joined the ranks of "Calico" Jack Rackham. I like to think we're related because her father's last name was Daly, a family name of ours, and she was from the area of Ireland from which our family emmigrated. If only.

But what of the pilfering, plundering, and violence? Humankind has certainly proved its love of titilation. We love the sensational. The ancient Greeks showed this with their gladiators. Americans showed this with their love of men like John Dillinger. We show this with our love of reality TV and certain celebrities. There is something about the pirate life that appeals to the basest of our humanness. And yet, what is glossed over and purposefully turned from is the consequences of a pirate life. The gallows. Public decomposition. Disease. Eternal damnation... you know, the basics. So really, I guess I don't want to be a pirate. What I think I really want is a rugged, self-assured, courageous man who is not afraid of anyone, knows what he wants and pursues it, and a life peppered with adventures and moments of bravery. Together we will fight against the injustice we encounter, and stick it to the socialistic man. That may or may not be my psychological reasoning for loving pirates.

July 8, 2009

A Fresh Start, a Clean Slate, A New Leaf... Choose Your Cliche.

I am not new to the blogging scene. In my early college days, about seven years ago now (eek!), I recorded my angsty poetry on the blank pages of this website. Then came Xanga, my virtual diary, the sleeves on which I wore my heart. But Xanga went out with ... I don't know; what went out in the middle of this decade? Finally, there were Facebook notes. And while I love Facebook notes, they never had that "grown-up" feel. So I return to Blogger with hopes that I might share my life and the lessons I learn. Why the "Irish Hag's Hut?" you may ask. The imagery this phrase evokes in my mind is of a spinster woman with frizzy red hair out to here, with wild eyes and a fiery spirit. She sits at the fireside of her wind-beaten hut on the hills of Ireland, writing feverishly more for herself than anyone else. I don't live in Ireland, I live in Florida. I'm not a spinster, but I am single. Despite our differences, I feel like this Irish hag in her hut, writing feverishly all of the many things that float around in my head and my heart. I hope you'll join me-- this Irish hag-- as I type my life onto the crisp, fresh pages of this virtual notebook.