For reasons I can’t explain, I thought it would be a good idea to watch all the Star Wars movies in succession and then go to see the new one when it came out in December of 2017.  It seems easy enough, doesn’t it?  Except that there is some controversy regarding the order in which to view the movies. 

After reading various opinions online, I went with the recommendation of my cousins and watched Star Wars IV A New Hope, followed by The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones, Revenge Of The Sith, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

You might think that all of this was just to be able to go to the Clinton Theater to watch The Last Jedi and snack on the delicious organic popcorn with real butter.  And of course, you’d be right. But that’s not the point I want to make today. 

Even though I saw the first three Star Wars movies back in the day when I was but a youth and I’ve seen bits and pieces of the following three, I couldn’t help but feel really disappointed in the heroes of the first six movies.  My crush on Luke Skywalker didn’t stand the passage of time and I found him to be a whiny baby who felt he was getting the shaft.  There’s nothing wrong with having ambition and a desire to see the world outside of your hometown but make a plan and do it. And Anakin Skywalker? It seemed like he was crying every five minutes, at least when he wasn’t breaking the Jedi rules and doing the wrong thing.  It’s not wrong for a man to cry, but sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and do the right thing, even though there will be pain and life might not turn out the way you’d like it to.

It’s not just Star Wars, though. It seems that some of today’s ‘heroes,’ both on screen and off just aren’t.  Once I made that statement, I felt it was pretty presumptuous of me unless I could actually define what it means to be a hero.  According to the dictionary, it’s a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.  Hmm, not that helpful.  What achievements are outstanding, what is courage, and who determines what qualities are noble? 

Instead of drilling down further on definitions, I decided to take an informal poll of people of varying ages, sexes, and backgrounds.  The youngest kids – threes and fours named a Superhero, which didn’t surprise me.  That’s their experience – heroes are Captain American, Wonder Woman, Batman.  The kids that were a little older had a slightly broader definition – someone who defeats the bad guys using their strength or super power. 

Among the adults (with a couple of exceptions – like the smart alecks that said a sandwich), the answers were surprisingly similar.  A hero is someone who is self-sacrificing, willing to give up whatever they have – even their life – for someone else or for the greater good.  It didn’t matter if the someone else was a stranger or a loved one.  The other thing that came up over and over was that a hero wouldn’t expect any recognition, publicity, fame, or even a pat on the back – the hero would do the right thing because it is the right thing without expecting anything in return.  A couple of people also mentioned that that a hero stands up for something when no one else does, something they feel is wrong or right but that no one else is doing anything about so they decide to be the one that does something.

Most touching was the response of a woman who felt that anyone could be a hero – and in her life, it was her two grandmothers – one who was a widow that raised three children and the other who married, ran a farm and household, and raised six children having only one arm.

Here’s the best thing I learned about heros from these wise people. Any of us can be a hero.  There are many things that are terribly wrong in the world right now and there are millions of people that need rescuing – not necessarily from the clutches of an evil villain, but from the struggling and suffering in their day to day.  You and I – and even better – you and I together, can make a difference and be the hero in someone else’s life.  Not for the fame, not for the glory, but just because it’s the right thing to do.  We don’t need a movie to show us a hero, we just need to be one.

If you’re feeling like you don’t have what it takes, here’s a song by Matthew West that I think will help to put things into perspective. 

What’s stopping you from being a hero today?

January Spending Fast Update

January has come and gone and February is going by at an alarming rate! Even though the fast is over, I’m still doing my best to eat food that I have at home without buying extra items.  The main reason for the continued fast is because I’m planning something special at the end of the month, which of course, I will talk about then.

Overall, I spent about half the amount I normally spend on groceries. Nothing was spent on clothing, though I did have an unexpected home repair bill.  Thankfully it was a small amount so there wasn’t a big affect on my budget.  It’s also the month that I pay a year’s worth of car insurance, so even though it’s a large amount, I planned for it and it only hurts a little to see that money disappear from my bank account.

Technically, I didn’t spend any money on entertainment, but I did use a ‘gift card’ I got from my cousins to see a movie at the Clinton Theater.  It was a very generous amount so I was able to see a couple of movies AND have popcorn and a soda at both and I still have a little leftover!  Since I’m the one making the rules for the fast, I’ve decided that using my ‘gift card’ doesn’t break them.

One of the best gift cards I’ve ever received!

Thank you to those of you that reached out to be to let me know you’ve been struggling with debt.  It’s very difficult to admit and for most people, it comes with much shame and self-hatred.  I know because I have been there, I’ve berated myself for allowing myself to get in over my head, had buyers remorse, told myself I was an idiot and worse.  That doesn’t help and doesn’t make the situation any better. 

More than once I’ve sat at my computer to write my debt story – I’ve got several paragraphs and think there will be multiple installments of it.  Here’s the thing, though – when I relive those days and those decisions, there’s a lot of darkness there and I find myself needing to take a break from it.  While I don’t beat myself up about it anymore, it’s hard not to think about how foolish I was, especially for someone who knows better.  Even writing all this makes my throat constrict and I’ve got a strong urge to make a joke or add a twist – anything to stop feeling it.  That tells me that I need to finish that story, write down all the gory details and share it.  That’s where the healing happens.  And again, if you are identifying way too much with what I’m saying, there is a way out.  Just send me an email or a private message if you want to talk.

Screen Free Bedroom Experiment Results

It’s been thirty days since I embarked upon the Screen Free Bedroom experiment and took my computer, iPad, and iPhone out of my bedroom. There have been several times when I’ve regretted not having my phone, namely when I’ve gotten text message at night after I went to bed or early in the morning before I’ve gotten out of bed.  Generally, I’ve let the late night texts go without getting up to check my phone, even though I’ve been very curious about what they might be.  When I’ve received early morning texts, I’ve gotten out of my nice warm bed, stuck my feet in my slippers and tiptoed shivering to the living room to see what’s what.  There’s no logical reason for the library to text me at 6:30 AM to let me know my books have arrived, but yet that’s when they let me know.  Other times it’s been family members and I’ve been happy to endure the chilly January weather.

Speaking of the weather, it bothered me at first that I didn’t know the temperature or the windchill before I headed outside to see what the chickens were up to and to take Hannah for a walkabout.  Then I realized it didn’t really matter – it’s January in Michigan and it’s cold.  Knowing the actual temperature or windchill is irrelevant – I am still going to wear all the clothes I can.  If I go out and the weather is warmish – what a delightful surprise!

The main reason I decided to do this experiment was to see if my sleeping pattern and quality of sleep would improve, and while I would like to say there’s been no difference, sadly, that’s not the case.  For many, many years I’ve been able to fall asleep within a few moments of deciding I want to go to sleep. Many people have told me that they are jealous of this ability, but it’s one that I had to cultivate over time.  Going to bed used to consist of worrying about things that had occurred during the day, things I needed to do, things that I feared, things that I wanted, things I was planning to say to people, really lots and lots of things.  Somewhere I heard or read that instead of worrying about the same things over and over non-stop, I should determine to worry for just ten minutes.  This seemed logical since, after all, I did worry about the same things day after day and the same thoughts swirled constantly through my mind.  After some practice, I was able to limit my worrying to ten minutes and over a time, it seemed silly to even worry for ten minutes, because as Matthew says in his gospel, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” The answer is no, so why do it?

Where I struggle, however, is with staying asleep. If I wake up really early, it’s difficult to fall back asleep, which is why I typically reach for my iPad and start the daily ritual of checking my email, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn if I’m wondering what my former colleagues are up to, the news, playing a game of Scrabble or Free Cell, or reading an eBook. Flitting from app to app would fill the hour or two (or sometimes three) of time before it was time to officially start the day.

Without that slim device within my reach, I’ve been able to sleep longer and even when I woke up early, was able to fall back asleep about fifty percent of the time.  My normal six hours of sleep has increased to seven, and that’s after just one month. The other weird thing I noticed once I borrowed my Mom’s old wind up clock was that I’m now able to sense what time it is rather than just using the digital display on my iPad.  Initially I had no idea how long I had been reading and would get out of bed multiple times to see what time it was.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that I feel calmer.  While flitting from app to app was very entertaining, I think it had a detrimental affect on my brain.  I’d get out of bed with a million things on my mind, feeling like I had tons of stuff to do and that there wasn’t going to be time to do it all. It’s as if I willingly gave control of my day to someone else and now I’ve decided to take it back. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have read so many books this month, about twenty-six so far.  Since I’ve been wanting to have more time to read, this has been a huge bonus.  It also seems like I’m able to remember more of what I’ve read, likely because I’m not trying to get through it so I can move on to something else on my iPad.

So where have I landed with this experiment?  It seems that the benefits have outweighed the inconveniences so I’m going to keep going, at least for another sixty days.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get to the elusive eight hours of sleep that we are said to require. Hopefully the library will be okay with me checking out eight books a week for the next couple of months . . .

How about you? Do you keep your phone, tablet, computer, or TV in your room?  Do you think it affects how well you sleep?  Do you think it impacts any other area in your life?  If you’ve done a similar experiment, please share in the comments or on Facebook.