My gratitude list for 2020

One of the ways I like to celebrate Thanksgiving is by reviewing my blessings. So … time to create my annual gratitude list. 

First, I’ve got to be honest. To say this past year has been unsettling would be a huge understatement. The pandemic has upended every familiar activity and routine in my life. Visits with family and friends – cancelled until further notice. Dulcimer group – cancelled until further notice. Choir practice – cancelled until further notice. Stay Fit classes – cancelled until further notice. Groceries – delivered to our home. Church, Bible study, book group and even some doctor appointments – all online. 

Then there’s the stress. My husband and I are considered to be in a “high risk” group because of our age and underlying medical conditions, which means we’ve been staying home since March. As the number of COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed in our community this fall, my anxiety level has risen along with the numbers. 

And yet I do have plenty to be grateful for this year:

My husband. As usual, Pete tops my gratitude list. If I must be stranded on a desert island (or in my home during a months-long quarantine, which sort of feels like the same thing), I can’t think of a better person to be marooned with than my sweetie pie of 35 years. I love that man to the moon and back!

Our kitties. Oley and Champaign have provided their usual wonderful companionship during this shelter-in-place ordeal. They’re cuddly, entertaining, delightfully ornery and endlessly adorable. They make isolation much more bearable.

Family and friends. Perhaps it’s our increasing awareness of life’s fragility, but it seems like we’ve all made a greater-than-usual effort to stay connected this year, even if we can’t get together in person. I’m not sure God expects me to be grateful for affliction – after all, I’m not a masochist. However, I’m certainly grateful for the people God puts in our lives to help us through the scary stuff.

Our church. Although our building has been closed for all but a few weeks since Lent, our congregation has been able to “attend” church online every Sunday, thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers who quickly learned the technology necessary to make our virtual services happen. We’ve also been able to participate in weekly Bible study and book group meetings via Zoom. And our community service committee has developed several creative ways for us to help people in need in the larger community.

Our spiritual director. For three years, prior to her death this fall, our beloved Sister M helped Pete and me with our spiritual development. She listened to my litany of doubts about everything from denominational dogma to God’s existence itself without negative judgment – at least none that I could detect. She was patient as I grappled with questions some would say I shouldn’t even be asking. 

Zoom and FaceTime. These amazing technologies have helped us stay connected with family, friends, our church community and the rest of the outside world in spite of our quarantine. What a gift!

My health. I’ve absolutely stopped taking my health for granted, especially during a year like this one. Because the lockdown has forced us to cook all our meals at home instead of eating out all the time, we are actually eating much healthier these days. 

Our home. If we must shelter in place for months on end, at least Pete and I have a beautiful home to do it in. The large eat-in kitchen, the fireplace I sit next to during my morning meditation, a sunroom filled with plants, and the flower beds in my backyard add up to a perfect sanctuary for our little quarantine team.

Financial security. I’m so grateful Pete and I are both retired and have a secure source of retirement income. This means that, unlike so many others, we haven’t had to worry about losing a job or a business during this pandemic. Nor do we have to go to work and risk exposing ourselves to a potentially deadly virus on a daily basis. 

Essential workers. Thank God for the people who deliver our groceries, provide our health care and otherwise make sure we all have what we need. These amazing generous people continuously remind me that being able to shelter in place and stay safe is actually a privilege, not something to gripe about.

Being alive. God has granted me another year. While many folks complain about aging (and I must admit I do this myself from time to time), today I choose to be grateful I’ve been able to grow old. Especially after the adventures of the past year.

And last but not least … our scientists. A VACCINE IS COMING!!! This quarantine won’t last forever. There really is an end in sight.

For all of this, God, I thank you.

And so, I resolve to keep reminding myself each day: Today is the day our Creator has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Here’s hoping everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Blessings,

An early Advent

Perhaps they’ve been seeking an antidote to the harrowing nature of 2020 so far, but an unusual number of my friends have started the Christmas season early this year and have been posting photos of their trees and other decorations on Facebook.

Most years I make a practice of declaring to anyone who cares to listen, “I don’t even think about Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, folks.” 

And I studiously have NOT shopped on Black Friday for years, both because I hate crowds and because I don’t want to enable department stores that make their employees leave their families in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner so adult customers can get a head start on fighting over the latest must-have toy. (I certainly don’t intend to do so this year either.)

But I must admit I’ve been having more than my usual share of “Bah! Humbug!” moments with the pandemic surging again. In fact, I’ve been so depressed I had seriously considered not even bothering to put up a tree or decorations this year. After all, being in lockdown means we won’t be entertaining any family or friends at our house. 

So I decided it wouldn’t hurt to follow my friends’ example and start observing Advent early this year myself.

We have a small artificial tree that fits on a table, the better to keep curious pets away from the ornaments. 

I love to go all-out in the sun room. The blaze of lights brings so much cheer on cold, dark mornings.

As if it could read my mind, our Christmas cactus actually started blooming early this year. (It usually doesn’t start blooming until December.)

And the peace lily, which usually doesn’t bloom this time of year at all, has decided to add its contribution.

A ceramic Nativity Scene my mother made for me has a place of honor in our china cabinet. Yes, that’s a cat next to the manger. We all know how cats have to be in the middle of things whenever something important is going on, and what could possibly be more important than the birth of our Savior?

At our house, we have an annual tradition of listening to Handel’s Messiah all the way through while putting up the tree and decorations. My favorite part is the Hallelujah chorus, which I could listen to over and over again like a teenager.

There, I’m starting to perk up already.

Recipe: Lasagna

I just l-o-v-e lasagna, but most traditional recipes include ingredients that make it a carb and fat-laden calorie bomb.

For this version, I’ve cut a substantial portion of the fat content by using 90-percent lean ground beef, fat-free cottage cheese and low-fat part-skim mozzarella cheese. I’ve also reduced the salt content by using low-sodium marinara sauce, added fiber by using whole-grain noodles and even sneaked in veggies by adding spinach.

The result? While still not calorie-free (shucks!), the healthier ingredients improve the nutritional quality of this comfort-food favorite without sacrificing flavor.

Lasagna also freezes well, which makes it great for batch-cooking.

This recipe makes approximately six servings.

Ingredients

  • 4 brown rice or whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound ground beef, crumbled
  • 9-ounce box frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • 25-ounce jar reduced-sodium marinara sauce
  • 8-ounce package reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Boil the noodles until al dente.

For the filling, brown the ground beef and drain thoroughly. Thaw the spinach in the microwave oven and add to the ground beef. Add cottage cheese and marinara sauce to ground beef/spinach mixture and stir to thoroughly combine ingredients.

Spoon 1/3 of the lasagna filling into a 9 X 9-inch pan, and top with a layer of noodles. Repeat, then top with the remainder of the filling.

Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top.

Bake in 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Nutrition information

Calories: 390 | Carbohydrates: 24 g | Protein: 34 g | Fat: 17 g | Saturated Fat: 6 g | Cholesterol: 65 mg | Sodium: 590 mg | Potassium: 425 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 43% | Vitamin C: 20% | Calcium: 30% | Iron: 30%

Tribute to a terrific mentor

In a year of losses, I’m now facing another one. My spiritual director for the past three years died this month following a valiant fight with multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Prior to beginning my journey with Sister M, I had found myself at a spiritual crossroads. My husband and I attended church almost weekly, and I had read the Bible from cover to cover, along with shelves full of books on religion and spirituality. Yet I still found myself asking the “big” or “ultimate” questions. What do I actually believe about God and why? What is God’s purpose for my life? What are my values, or what should they be? How do I live my life in a way that is consistent with my beliefs and values?

Several factors had led to this renewed questioning. The transition in focus and priorities prompted by my retirement. The “time is limited” epiphany that comes with being 60-something, losing loved ones and developing chronic health problems myself. Questions about faith and a church’s true purpose raised by reading the Bible and serving on my congregation’s evangelism committee. The internal tug-of-war over my own values brought on by the increasing divisiveness and polarization in our society.

I made a commitment: Develop a better understanding of God, so I can fulfill God’s purpose for my life, discern what my values should be, and live accordingly. Toward this end, I engaged Sister M to help me sort through my bushel basket full of questions. It’s important for me to point out here that seeing Sister M did not replace going to church. Spiritual direction is a one-on-one partnership in which one Christian helps another grow in a personal relationship with God. It’s a supplement to — rather than a substitute for — church. 

Sister M and I met monthly for one-hour sessions. She offered a variety of suggestions for homework assignments, allowing me to choose which ones I might find most helpful. Sometimes she would have me write my thoughts about a topic. Other times she might have me create an image, or take my camera and go for a walk, or read a book. 

I had already developed a morning meditation ritual — sitting in my recliner in front of the fireplace with a cat in my lap and a cup of coffee by my side while I journaled about my priorities for the coming day. I began using this time to write out my thoughts and insights generated by the homework assignments. 

I must admit the idea of working with a spiritual director made me a bit nervous at first. While I hoped this person would ask the hard questions, I didn’t want someone who would merely push me to adopt their own belief system. I needed this person to be nonjudgmental and open to the idea that I was questioning all kinds of dogma, from the spiritual and religious to the political and ideological. 

Sister M, thankfully, was patient as I grappled with questions some would say I shouldn’t even be asking. Her demeanor was very pleasant, and we immediately discovered one thing in common — we both grew up on farms.

One of her first assignments: Come up with an image that best symbolizes my present spiritual condition. I created a Photoshop image of myself buried under a mountain of clutter. A pair of arms juggled several balls in the air — family, friends, volunteer work, the house. More balls had been dropped and were nestled on the ground at the bottom of the heap — my writing, self-care, God.

I listed those areas of my life that felt not-so-well-ordered. My relationships. A messy house. My frantic, overloaded schedule. Health issues. My writing, which seemed to languish. My emotional life, which often left me feeling like a walking bundle of anxieties. The suspicion I entertained from time to time that my life had been reduced to crossing items off endless to-do lists. My spiritual life, with all those questions and doubts.

Sister M listened to my litany without negative judgment — at least none that I could detect. I half expected her to supply some relevant Bible verses about the Godliness of cleanliness and self-discipline. Instead, she suggested I spend an hour each day tackling the clutter — just one hour — and leave the rest for the next day. Baby steps.

One of the first questions Sister M asked me was, “Have you ever questioned the existence of God?” She didn’t flinch when I said, “Oh yeah. More than once.” For most of my life, I had leaned toward the idea that there probably is a God. Yet, nagging doubts continued to creep in from time to time. I didn’t voice them to anyone, though. If the Christians around me ever doubted God’s existence, they certainly weren’t letting on.

As I began taming my schedule and tackling the endless clutter — one hour and one day at a time — a flash of insight occurred to me. A little epiphany, one might say. Could the question of God’s existence be what I was distracting myself from with all the to-do lists, the frantic scheduling, the endless cleaning and the mindless Internet surfing that cluttered my life and unquieted my mind? My spiritual director agreed that I might be on to something. 

I confessed that what I really wanted was the “blinding light” experience the Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus, or the burning bush Moses encountered. I wanted to be like those people who saw the blinding light or the burning bush, just knew what they knew about God, and had their mission in life spelled out for them. 

She recommended I use part of my morning meditation time to be completely quiet. “Listen for God’s voice,” she said. Well, the blinding light hasn’t happened for me — at least not yet. But what has happened is nearly as amazing. 

I walked outside. Dismissing the existence of a God is tempting when so many people who claim to speak in God’s name spew hatred for their fellow and sister human beings while committing assorted hypocrisies and evil deeds. Denying God’s existence gets even easier when watching one terrible event after another unfold on the news. But I’ve found it’s almost impossible to deny the existence of a Creator when I’m outdoors with evidence of God all around me.

Sister M helped me explore various kinds of “spiritual clutter” that was crowding attention to God out of my life — and I eliminated a major distractor by walking away from an incredibly abusive volunteer work situation. As much as leaving the organization saddened me, I immediately felt so much “lighter” — like I put down the 100-pound bag of stress I had carried around for five years. 

When my spiritual director asked me point-blank if I ever doubted the existence of God, her question gave me permission to “go there.” For the next leg of my spiritual journey, I wanted to keep being honest about the questions I had. And I had LOTS of them.

Who, or what, exactly, is this Entity I choose to call God? What is my authority for what I believe? The Bible? Church tradition? Why go to church, when by my own admission, I feel the presence of God most while immersed in nature? What is prayer and how should we pray? Can writing, singing and gardening be forms of prayer? Is it okay to ask God for things? What does salvation mean, actually? How do I relate the 10 Commandments to 21st Century issues? In a world where many “sins” have been reframed as “diseases” or “dysfunctional behavior,” is sin still a legitimate concept? How would liberal Christians define sin versus how conservative Christians define it? Considering that no creed exists anywhere in the Bible and a number of Christian churches don’t have one, do we need a creed? If so, what should be in it? Is there a common core of beliefs shared by most Christians, regardless of sect or denomination? Do all of these denominations offer equally legitimate paths to God? Is there a way to heal the divisions between believers and relate respectfully to people whose viewpoints differ from ours?

That was just for starters. When I shared this list of questions with Sister M, as usual, there were no lectures. She just smiled and asked, “Where do you want to start?”

We explored a variety of prayer techniques. Among them: morning meditation, nature prayer, prayers of petition and intercession, prayers of thanksgiving, writing and journaling as a form of prayer, and practicing better mindfulness in church. While I had used some of these prayer techniques off and on for years, I committed to doing them on a more regular, disciplined basis. 

When it came to my dreams, one goal on my bucket list remained elusive. From age 10 onward, I’d dreamed of writing a book. More than 50 years later, that goal was … still on my bucket list. So, with encouragement from Sister M, I decided it was time. My book — with the working title We Need to Talk — will examine the polarization ripping apart our society and share my personal search for an appropriate Christian response.

My spiritual progress may seem agonizingly slow to some who are reading this. But for me, finding a way to effectively address my occasional doubts about God’s existence was HUGE. Summoning the self-respect and courage to walk away from an abusive situation was an enormous step in the right direction. My creativity has soared. I’ve now written several book excerpts, I recently posted my 100th blog entry, and I’ve discovered a new hobby – nature photography. And while I haven’t yet tamed all the clutter in my house, I’ve gotten much more comfortable with incremental progress. Baby steps, as Sister M would say. 

The graphic I produced for her at the beginning of our work together would now look more like this.

As they say around the tables at 12-Step meetings, we aim for spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. One thing I do know for sure: I’m grateful God gave me the opportunity to make a portion of this journey with Sister M.

Rest in peace, dear sister in Christ. In your honor, I’m going to keep asking those pesky questions.

God’s other book: Fall colors

Fall has to be my favorite season, with Mother Nature putting on her annual fireworks display. Or God’s eye candy, as I like to say.

Here are some of my favorite photos, which I’ve snapped over the past couple of fall seasons.

The view from my kitchen window in the late afternoon.

The trees are competing with each other for sheer outrageousness.

Love the flowers that hang in there and still bloom, even after the first frost.

Roses actually seem to bloom prettier with a chill in the air. These appeared in the rose garden behind our church.

Here’s the street that runs past our house.

Each street presents its own fireworks display.

And we have an amazing park a few blocks away.

With temperatures in the 60s and 70s, there’s no reason not to get out from behind my computer, go for a walk, gawk at God’s handiwork and engage in some serious nature prayer.

Recipe: Peanut butter cup pie

One of my absolute favorite comfort foods is peanut butter. So, a real treat for me was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup pie at Baker’s Square Restaurant and Bakery, a local Midwestern chain restaurant known for its amazing pies. (Alas, the restaurant has sadly closed.)

The dessert, of course, was meant to resemble an actual Reese’s peanut butter cup (my all-time favorite candy), with its chocolate graham cracker crust, peanut butter cheesecake filling and chocolate ganache topping liberally sprinkled with chopped peanut butter cups. Ah-h-h-h!

The bad news: Each slice contained a whopping 830 calories. Even more scary was the delectable dessert’s heavy fat and sugar content – 56 grams of fat and 63 grams of sugar. The online recipes that came closest to duplicating the restaurant version – with their heavy cream and astronomical sugar content – flunked the nutritional test nearly as badly.

The good news: With just a few ingredient tweaks, I’ve been able to improve the dessert’s nutritional content considerably. So, I get to have my pie and eat it too, so to speak. Better yet, this no-bake recipe is fairly simple to make. The pie also freezes well for up to three months, so it can be enjoyed a slice at a time over a period of several weeks.

Replacing regular cream cheese with the fat-free variety cuts nearly 12 grams of fat and 140 calories from each serving. I further reduce the calories, fat and sugar content by using sugar-free Cool Whip, sugar-free vanilla pudding made with fat-free milk, sugar-free chocolate frosting and even sugar-free peanut butter cups.

Bottom line: Sorry, this still is not a totally low-calorie treat – but I’ve managed to cut out about half the calories, half the fat and nearly all of the sugar. And I swear there is NO sacrifice in taste. Plus, this version actually has some nutritional value – about the same protein content as a 3-ounce hamburger patty, in fact.

Of course, one way to further cut the calorie content as well as fat and sugar consumption is to control portion size. Cutting the pie into 12 servings rather than the standard 8 still allows for a somewhat generous slice (in fact, a slightly bigger slice than I got when splitting the restaurant dessert with a friend, which I sometimes did). Below, I’ve provided nutrition information for a smaller slice (12 servings per pie) and a larger slice (8 servings per pie).

Note: I’ve included brand names for some of the ingredients I use because of the marked differences in taste and quality between the various fat-free and sugar-free products. These are the brands that have worked best for me in terms of flavor, and which don’t just replace fat content by increasing sugar content. I always have to watch for this when using reduced-fat products.

Ingredients

  • 8-inch pre-made Oreo pie crust
  • 8-ounce package fat-free Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 8-ounce package fat-free Philadelphia cream cheese
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • Small (1 ounce) package Jell-o brand sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup fat-free (skim) milk
  • 1 cup sugar-free Cool Whip whipped topping
  • ½ of 15-ounce container Pillsbury sugar-free chocolate fudge frosting
  • 8.8-ounce bag Reese’s sugar-free miniature peanut butter cups

Directions

Prepare pudding according to package instructions but using only one cup of milk. Add whipped topping and stir until blended. 

Add cream cheese and peanut butter. Blend thoroughly in a food processor or blend using a food processor stick. (You may wish to add the cream cheese a small chunk at a time or soften it in the microwave oven about 30 seconds to one minute to make the blending process easier.)

Spoon mixture evenly into pie crust and refrigerate at least four hours until pie filling is firm. Or place in the freezer for about a half hour.

Soften frosting by placing in the microwave oven for up to 30 seconds and then stirring. Spread the frosting evenly over the cheesecake.

Chop the peanut butter cups and sprinkle over the top.

Nutrition information

Servings: 12 | Calories: 335 | Carbohydrates: 44 g | Protein: 8 g | Fat: 20 g | Saturated fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 4 mg | Sodium: 400 mg | Potassium: 143 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 7 g | Vitamin A: 1% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 2% | Iron: .5% 

Servings: 8 | Calories: 502 | Carbohydrates: 66 g | Protein: 12 g | Fat: 30 g | Saturated fat: 4 g | Cholesterol: 6 mg | Sodium: 600 mg | Potassium: 215 mg | Fiber: 6 g | Sugar: 11 g | Vitamin A: 2% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 3% | Iron: 1% 

Healthy eating? Piece of cake

One of my priorities — which I reaffirm every New Year’s Day … and the beginning of every Lenten season … and every birthday — is to start adhering to a healthy eating plan.

Alas, since I prefer chocolate-covered peanut butter cookie bars to celery, it is even more challenging for me to adhere to a healthy eating plan than it was for me to quit smoking nearly 20 years ago. 

So I appreciate the abundance of memes that express empathy for my struggle.

I’ve pretty much stopped drinking soda, but I have to admit, I did this for years.

This is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Story of my life.

Note to my sweetie: Don’t even think about it.

Works for me.

They’re right … I’ve never seen this.

What if they figure out a way to make the fries out of cauliflower?

So chocolate is good for you and lettuce will kill you? I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life!

Believe me, I’m tempted. All. The. Time.

If anyone figures out how to do this, they’ll be rich enough to retire within a week.

Book excerpt: Political correctness, tone policing and censorship – oh my!

Note: This is an excerpt from We Need to Talk, my book in progress, which examines the polarization ripping apart our society and shares my personal search for an appropriate Christian response. For an overview of the book and to read my previous excerpts, link HERE.

Implore people to stop the name-calling, gratuitous insults, demonizing of opponents and overall nastiness dividing our society, and culture warriors of all stripes rush to silence us.

“This political correctness is getting out of hand,” conservatives complain. 

“Enough with the tone policing,” progressives lecture. 

“Censorship!” everyone cries.

I understand political correctness, tone policing and censorship exist. But both progressives and conservatives have hopelessly twisted these concepts.

Left-of-center activists first used the term politically correct to satirize their own tendency to adopt uniform opinions and causes, thus poking gentle fun at a rigid insistence on ideological purity. Alas, in recent years, some conservatives have hijacked this term and hurl it indiscriminately at anyone who dares to suggest that common decency and respect for others are still virtues worth cultivating. 

I’ve been told I overdosed on political correctness when I forgot to laugh at a patently offensive joke or sought to debunk a stereotype. The accusations go something like this:

Excu-u-u-u-se me if someone thought that joke was racist. I guess nobody could accuse me of being politically correct.

Well excu-u-u-u-se me, but racism isn’t politically incorrect. It’s immoral.

Or this:

We can’t open our mouths anymore without some member of the politically correct thought police yelling, “Racist! Sexist! Homophobic!” People are so oversensitive these days.

Hmmm. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, guess what it is? I’m not saying oversensitive people don’t exist. However, most people I know would prefer that ethnic slurs not become socially acceptable.

Progressives can be equally guilty of hijacking a legitimate concept and distorting its original meaning.

Wikipedia defines tone policing as an attempt to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the way it’s presented rather than the message itself. One example is to tell people they’re being “divisive” for merely raising an issue that others may be reluctant to talk about, such as discrimination in the workplace. 

But lately, the term gets thrown at us like a hand grenade by some progressives who feel oppressed if we fail to listen while they call us names or scream profanities at us. A Facebook post circulating among several progressive groups illustrates this trend: 

Hearing ‘I hate men’ shouldn’t make men stop being feminist. Hearing ‘f*** white people’ shouldn’t make white people stop opposing racism. Your opposition to oppression should be moral and immovable. Your belief that all humans should be treated with equal respect shouldn’t be conditional based on whether or not individual people are nice to you.

Okay, let’s unpack this. I wholeheartedly agree that we should treat all human beings with equal respect, whether or not every single individual in a particular group acts like a nice person. And I’m not going to stop opposing racism because one person of color says something hateful about white people. But if someone drops the F bomb on me, I reserve the right tell them I find this behavior abusive, regardless of their race/gender or mine.

Here’s another example, making the rounds on Facebook: 

If you use that “background color” shit, STOP! It blocks EVERYONE who relies on screen readers and/or text-to-speech programs from accessing your posts! These programs, for some reason, CANNOT read the text in those backgrounds and thus your blind/low-vision friends CANNOT find out what you have to say! This is an official “yelling at your friends to not be assholes” post.

Whoa! If someone out there really does lie awake nights thinking up ways to exclude and oppress blind people, I seriously don’t want to know them. But I’m pretty sure most people who use the background color feature on Facebook don’t even know this poses a problem, and there are far less abrasive ways to spread the news. 

Regarding censorship, some people – conservatives and progressives alike – simply do not tolerate disagreement well, even honest disagreement, and will consider any expression of opposing views to be a violation of their free-speech rights. I’ve heard variations of the following more times than I can count: 

It’s my First Amendment right to state my honest opinion of [Dumbocrats, Rethuglicans, fill in the blank]. My freedom of speech trumps your hurt feelings.

These people seem to forget the same First Amendment protects our own right to say, “I don’t agree with you” or “I find that joke offensive.” While the U.S. Constitution does indeed guarantee one’s right to say pretty much whatever one pleases, it doesn’t force the rest of us to listen. And dissent in and of itself does not constitute censorship.

Calling a woman a fat broad is not “politically incorrect.” It is just plain rude. Refusing to listen while someone calls us names or engages in other abusive behavior toward us is not “tone-policing.” It is setting a healthy boundary. Deleting rants full of ad hominem attacks from the comments section after our Facebook or blog posts is not censorship. It is exercising our right to set standards for our own publications or social media accounts.

To anyone who thinks their passionate beliefs entitle them to spew hostility, here’s the deal: If you want me to listen to you, please remove your middle finger from under my nose. Then state your concern minus the name-calling, insults and profanity. My attention span will improve dramatically. 

Questions for readers: How has our society’s polarization impacted you personally? (If you live outside the U.S., is there similar polarization going on your country?) How do we become part of the solution rather than part of the problem? I’d love to hear your responses to these questions, as well as your comments on this article. Just hit “Leave a Reply” below. When responding, please keep in mind the guidelines I’ve outlined on my Rules of Engagement page (link HERE).