How to survive hot summer days

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

My husband and I spent the afternoon in a dark air-conditioned movie theater, while another friend said she and her spouse spent the day floating in their pool. Both are good reprieves from a hot scorching sun.

This is summertime in Texas. I don’t even head to the beauty shop without an ice chest packed with something cool to sip on.

Like my snowbird friends who head south for the winter, we sunbirds head to the hills in search of a cool mountain breeze. Our August trip to Colorado will be a much welcomed respite from the unrelenting heat.

It’s not only sizzling in my neck of the prairie — we’ve gone over 25 days without a soaking rain shower. Dry, dusty days means my house is dirty. And the steamy weather is giving me an “I don’t care” chip on my shoulder.

Instead of cleaning house yesterday, which was my original intent, I spent much of it napping with my dachshund on the sofa under a ceiling fan — I might add — and watching DVDs. This is another pleasant intermission from sweltering temps.

My birthday is coming up, and I told my mom all I want is homemade ice cream. And I gave my daughter my DVD wish list. Now that’s a great way to spend an afternoon when the temperatures are miserably roasting — watching movies while eating homemade ice cream!

And when I can’t have ice cream, I’d settle for a chilly slice of watermelon to take the sweat off my brow. Or a cold glass of lemonade or sweet tea would go down mighty nice, too.

I’m expecting to get my stack of new books read this summer. When it’s simply too darn hot outside to worry about my flowers anymore, reading books is my relief plan.

Of course, there will be days when I must do some shopping. This will entail parking in the covered parking lot no matter how long I must vulture for an open spot. And this will mean going to one of the few indoor air-conditioned malls that remain near me. Whoever had the not-so-bright idea to build all of these outdoor shopping centers has never lived in Texas!

But whoever coined the phrase — “Christmas in July” — must be Texas born. I’ve discovered that Christmas shopping in July is another good way to find deliverance from smoldering outdoor temperatures.

I can still recall my first few summers after moving to the Lone Star State. My favorite way to chill down was sun bathing on a lounge chair completely surrounded by sprinklers. I set the water pressure where I was constantly getting lightly pebbled with water. We didn’t have central air conditioning back then, and our window unit couldn’t cut the mustard once the century mark was reached. This is when water does the job.

I’ve found that any water will do! Times well-spent in a swimming pool, the ocean, lake, river or water park are other soothing ways to fritter away summertime outdoors.

Tempers seem to be shorter when the thermometer goes up, so summertime also brings the need for more patience and tolerance. Consider the possibility that the driver who just cut you off may be riding in a car with a broken air-conditioner. Or the friend who seemed a bit abrupt over the telephone may have been busy trying to find an electrician to come fix the broken air-conditioning system in her house — sometime before next month. Yes, we could all use more compassion on hot summer days.

So, you’re feeling hot, tired, drained and in need of a break? Simmer down, my friends and refresh yourself. It’s summertime and this requires easy living. There isn’t much that needs to be done that can’t wait for a cooler day to do it. At least this is how I plan to survive the rest of my hot summer days!

Wrong again!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

I’ve been proven wrong so many times, you would think I would stop making presumptions.

Presumption has been defined as “an attitude dictated by probability,” “acceptance or belief based on reasonable evidence, assumption or supposition,” or “grounds, reason, or evidence lending probability to belief.” An additional and important part of its definition is that presumptions often become “accepted as true” while yet “not certainly known.”

Undoubtedly, countless myths, bad advice and tall tales have been misleading and misinforming people for years, decades or centuries. When we presume that we know something to be true before we really do, envy, jealousy and false accusation can result. This has been my experience.

Recently, I was surprised — or perhaps shocked is a more accurate word — to learn that someone who I thought was happy, successful and satisfied with his life wasn’t. It turns out that many of the presumptions I held to be true about this person were completely wrong.

So, why the big surprise? The presumptions I believed were not based on personal knowledge or fact but rather assumption and supposition. I’m not so sure that assumption and supposition should ever be grouped in the same category as reasonable evidence, since there is often nothing reasonable about many of the assumptions we make. Or at least my own assumptions are usually lacking reason!

I think the problem is that reason needs the correct premise. Presumptions can be based on a wrong premise, and I think often are. So, no surprise when a wrong conclusion is reached.

Perhaps you’re like me and tired of being wrong so often. It may be time we implement some changes. First, a good dose of humility could be helpful. In order to not be stubbornly certain about something, we can be humble, which can help us remain open-minded, teachable, changeable, flexible and adaptable.

Some presumptions may be based on the old adage — “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” This could be when we look at others and think they are happier than we are, which leads us to conclude that surely life is better down the street, next door or across the country.

Such presumptions speak volumes about our own attitudes. Being envious or jealous of others — or simply paying constant attention to what others are doing — does nothing to improve our lives or make our circumstances better. An attitude adjustment may be what’s needed.

I’ve learned that the only way to change my attitude is to improve my understanding of identity and self-image. And that my friends, requires use of spiritual senses!

While our physical senses may see lack and limitation, our spiritual senses tell us God has given us everything we need and that there are infinite opportunities and resources within our grasp. Our spiritual senses affirm that God has endowed us with talents and abilities uniquely ours — that each of His children has an own important mission and purpose.

Our physical senses often focus more on what we don’t have or what can’t be seen. But our spiritual senses enable us to be grateful for what we do have and encourage our hope and expectancy for the possibility of what is yet to come and be experienced. And our spiritual senses promise good.

Finally, another good practice could be to base our judgments and understanding about something or someone more on actually proven or provable facts, rather than presumptions based on mere hearsay, implications or assumptions.

Perhaps we can become a bit like Dragnet’s Joe Friday when he said, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” Basing opinions and viewpoints on the facts surely will keep us from being wrong so much of the time.

My ultimate plan is to stop assuming and presuming altogether! Making presumptions about others can become a preoccupation that stops us from improving upon our own life journey.

And we do each have our own unique life journey to be about. Yes, these days I feel an incredible freedom now that I’m more focused on my life journey rather than what I presume others are doing or not doing. Something tells me I’m on the right track!

The simple joy of flip flops!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Can anyone remember life before flip flops? I suspect not, since flip flops are at least six thousand years old! I certainly can’t remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t own a pair.

Actually, in the United States, the flip flop caught on during the postwar 1950’s boom — which explains why I’ve always worn them, since I was born in the 1950s. Becoming part of “pop culture,” flip flops became a defining example of an informal lifestyle and came to represent the surf culture in particular. Being a want-to-be beach bum at heart, this is probably one of the reasons why I love to wear them.

What I find especially interesting is that the flip flop has been part of a general overall change in fashion during the past 20 years. Some people call this change the “casual fashion movement.”

In the United States, the flip flop market is estimated at $2 billion retail. It is presumed that most flip flop purchases are made by those between the ages of 5 and 50, which is roughly a consumer population of 200 million. Since I don’t fall within this consumer demographic, I’m here to testify that the flip flop consumer population is at least 200 million and one.

I have a confession, my friends.

I am a flip-flop-oholic. That’s right. I am addicted to flip flops. In fact, I sincerely can’t get enough of them. Just last weekend, I bought three more pairs to add to the more than two dozen on my shoe shelves — or maybe there are more than three dozen on my shelves. I haven’t counted lately. But I really don’t care how many I have. And I have no doubt I will be buying more in the coming weeks, since summertime is upon us!

Lately, I’ve been asking myself why I crave flip flops. Besides the cool and sassy styles, snappy and elegant bling, funky and fancy patterns, and pure, delightful comfort, I think it’s the lifestyle they represent that really whets my appetite.

I’ve reached a time in my life when I want to take life a bit slower and easier. I especially want to take most matters less seriously. And informality is something I want in pretty much every area of my life — church, work, travel, meals or other day-to-day activities.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do think “casual” can be taken too far. I still believe there is a right time and place for formality and tradition. I’m not advocating laziness and apathy. Nor am I throwing self-respect aside.

If you could see my closet, you would know I am very fashion conscious and enjoy dressing in the current trends. Living in Texas, where it’s very hot in the summer, I find it’s a pleasure to not wear hose and to have a variety of flip flop styles appropriate for any occasion — to the pool or to a wedding. Even within the casual fashion movement, there is still protocol and etiquette on what to wear and when. Yet, whatever the occasion, there’s something “footloose and fancy-free” about wearing flip flops to it. And I love anything that helps me maintain a carefree and relaxed attitude.

I wish I had learned how to lighten up when I was a young mother. I think I wasted much time and energy fretting and stressing over inconsequential things. I believe both my daughter and I would have been happier without so many rigid schedules to be adhered to. In fact, if I could do young motherhood again, I would opt for more spontaneity and impromptu decisions. And if things didn’t turn out according to my plans, I would be more adaptable and flexible.

My graduate school daughter is undoubtedly happy to have a more casual and lighthearted mom these days. And my advice to her is to not get so consumed by schedules and demands that she forgets to have fun and enjoy what she is doing. Jobs can be accomplished and done well while still maintaining a sunny and easygoing attitude.

So I plan to continue experiencing my simple joy of flip flops — probably much to my husband’s dismay. It’s all part of my plan to enjoy life as simply as possible. Life doesn’t have to be complicated. And I don’t think it is when you relish the simple joys of life — whatever that means to you!

Why lie?

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

I wonder if any of us can honestly say we have never told a lie. I certainly can’t! Some say that lying is an unavoidable part of human nature, but does this make telling a lie acceptable, excusable and always forgivable?

My first lessons about lying and truth-telling came in childhood with the folktale of George Washington and the cherry tree, along with his famous declaration “I cannot tell a lie.” Then there was the story of Pinocchio with his nose growing with each lie he told. As a young child, I can still remember carefully examining my nose in the mirror after I spoke an “untruth” or in some cases, when there were truths I didn’t admit.

Much has been written on the subject of lying, and there are many viewpoints on the ethics and impact of lying. Some believe that lying is always wrong. And yet these same folks often add — unless there is a good reason for it. This addendum seems to concede that lying is not always wrong!

There are various types of lies, or so they say, as well as a variety of motives for telling them. But one simple definition for a lie is “a false statement deliberately presented as being true meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.”

Of course, there may be times when lying is useful, practical and even necessary. This could be when someone is under serious threat from an enemy.

I suspect “white lies” are the ones that most of us would own up to. Who hasn’t told a friend we loved her new haircut, when we really thought it looked hideous? Or who hasn’t told their mom that her gift was just what they always wanted, when they didn’t mean it?

In these instances whether a lie was told or the truth was omitted, the purpose was to protect someone’s feelings. But sometimes people tell “fibs” to get out of trouble or get what they want.

There have been times when I wanted to avoid an argument and thought it better to leave out a few details. And there have been many more times when I actually hid my shopping bags from my husband to conceal the truth out of a desire to avoid confrontation or a belabored explanation.

So I wasn’t surprised when I read that another reason people tell lies is to protect themselves or to avoid punishment. Other motivations for lying include trying to look good socially and gain politically. So I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked to hear a politician trying to downplay a lie he told as “misplaced words.”

Other words for a “lie” include telling a whopper, a falsity or falsehood, a fabrication or a misrepresentation. And when someone lies under oath, we call it perjury.

Regardless of the preferred word choice, I suspect all lies are not without consequence. And some can result in bad and even deadly consequences. Consider the implications behind Adolf Hitler’s famous words about lying: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

If we all agree that there are times when lying isn’t so bad, I think we must also agree that lying can be harmful.

One of the destructive effects is that lying diminishes trust. And lying can make informed decisions difficult. In fact, lying can result in a decision that would not have otherwise been made.

This may be why some philosophers say lying is bad because language is essential to societies and therefore carries the obligation to use it truthfully. Some warn that lying can become a generally accepted practice and that it can become hard for people to trust each other or to trust the institutions of society.

And some warn that lying can cause social cohesion to be weakened and conclude that society collapses when no one is able to believe anyone else.

I don’t know about you, my friends, but I am one of those wary members of society who doesn’t assume everything I hear or read is truthful. But lately, I’m taking a hard look at myself and scrutinizing the times when I’m tempted to hide or alter the truth. Why am I ever inclined to hide my purchases from my husband, for example? Have I allowed lying to become an accepted practice in my own life?

Perhaps it’s time we listen to the Psalmist who wrote, “Let the lying lips be put to silence” (Psalms 31:18) and consider how our relationships, schools, businesses and society at large can be improved and benefitted by speaking and publishing the truth. At least I am beginning to ask myself, “Why lie?”

What are you looking for?

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Who doesn’t long for a good day, a good time and a good life? Have you ever considered that a good outcome may be more obtainable than you think?

My life has been filled with unexpected “good” outcomes. However, lately I’m finding it difficult to venture forth toward some daring goals, fearing the uncertain success of these goals. A recent photograph has given me reason to reexamine my approach.

A Facebook friend posted a photograph inviting everyone to give it a look. At first glance, it was a forest setting with a close-up of a bush. I assumed I was supposed to be seeing something not so obvious. And sure enough, the more I studied it, there appeared to be a snake hiding under the bush.

My friend suggested we click on the photograph to enlarge it for a more thorough examination.

To my surprise and delight, the enlarged photograph made it easy to see an adorable rabbit peering out from under the bush — not a snake.

It turns out that my friend had been encouraged to take the photograph of this rabbit by a group of children who were playing several feet away. These children had no trouble seeing this adorable rabbit even at the distance they were from him. My friend looked in the direction he was directed and couldn’t see anything until he put his camera in full zoom and scanned the setting for several minutes.

The interesting thing for me was that after knowing this photograph was of an adorable little rabbit, every time I saw the smaller image, I had no trouble whatsoever seeing the rabbit. I don’t know how I ever thought I saw a snake!

I’m reminded of a psychology class I took in college. The book had a photograph with the question under it — What do you see? About half the students in my class answered they saw an old lady, and the other half were certain the photograph was of a young woman. I was in the first group.

After it was pointed out that the photograph was of a young woman, I could see her — no longer seeing the old lady.

Somehow, I think these photographs hint at how our perceptions — and perhaps our assumptions and expectations as well — impact what we see and experience. I can’t help but think that perhaps our attitudes and perceptions can also impact and change an outcome and change it for the better.

Perhaps, too, there is a lesson to be learned from the children who saw the rabbit. While my friend could at first see nothing and I at first saw a snake, all of the children had no difficulty seeing the rabbit.

Even though my childhood had more than its fair share of sadness and difficult times, I have no memory of being afraid that my days were going to be bad ones. On the contrary, my memory of childhood days was that they were carefree, worry-free and hope-filled. And I believed with absolute certainty that anything was possible!

Yes, I think children generally look at their lives through rose-colored glasses — or as the French would say, “La Vie en rose” — literally translated as “Life in pink.”

So maybe the notion of self-fulfilling prophecy is true when it comes to reaching for goals. Perhaps whether our goals are accomplished or not has everything to do with what type of glasses we are wearing while we endeavor to reach them — rose-colored ones being the most ideal.

Wearing rose-colored glasses while going for our dreams enables us to envision the up-side and bright-side of our journey. And I would venture to say that a brighter and lighter view would make for a more pleasant ride, too. But I also think that maintaining a more positive outlook would help us keep expectations lofty, attitudes sunny, assumptions favorable and perceptions promising.

How could we not therefore accomplish that which we hope for?

I think if my friend and I had been wearing rose-colored glasses when we first looked at the rabbit, we would have seen him and most definitely would not have mistaken him for a snake!

I think I’ll get some of those rose-colored glasses and look for the good and what’s possible every day — including what’s possible with my daring goals! At the very least, I’ll see and experience “pinks” instead of the “blues.”