This We Believe

Separated by Differences, United by Beliefs

Protect Yourself from Lemons

In 7 years I damaged between ten and fifteen phones beyond repair; my phones have been fully submerged, the screens have been cracked, I even flattened one with my car, and that was before touch screens.

My first touch screen phone purchase was at an electronics store. So of course, while my delicate, high-tech, mini-computer was activating the sales representatives were pitching the ‘extended protection plan’ spiel. I planned on purchasing phone insurance anyway, so I listened intently while the sales associates compared this service to my carrier’s insurance.

I know what you’re thinking right now, I heard those news programs too. I wasn’t about to be taken advantage of, but they can’t all be bad, right? The problem is that these plans are offered on such a wide variety of products that it can be difficult to determine if the extended protection plan is a good buy. Uninformed or misinformed customers were persuaded into purchasing services they would never use. But that’s just it! I needed protection on this phone, especially with my track record.

I didn’t want to purchase this service and later realize that it wasn’t going to serve the purpose I intended, so I asked a lot of questions and read over the pamphlet.

“Wait, there’s no deductible?” I asked amazed and excited.

“Nope …And there’s no replacement limit.”

Well, I thought, this might be the better deal then. “OK, how much is this?” I accused.

I was satisfied with the depth and clarity of the knowledge the sales associates shared with me. So despite the stories I’ve heard about extended protection plans, I couldn’t pass up this screaming deal, and I bought it.

I was more responsible with this phone, mostly because it was more expensive, but I got a dud anyway. I am so thankful I took the time to listen, ask questions and compare service plans, because the charging port stopped working, a manufacturers defect that my carrier’s insurance would not have covered. I was able to swap out the phone, saving me the hassle of an unexpected $600 purchase, for damage that, for once, I didn’t cause.

As with any other purchase, I believe it is the consumer’s responsibility to know the available options and make an informed decision. I believe that extended protection plans are underestimated, because these services can provide a safety net which adds a sense of security to a high priced electronics purchase.

Isn’t that what we all want? To feel like we’ve got options, to feel protected, to have something we can rely on?

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Wrestling With Decisions

As a defensive football player in high school, my defensive football coach suggested that I should go out for the wrestling team to get tougher and improve my football skills. In my mind, thinking about that going to wrestling would be ruining my chances of missing workout sessions in the winter. My view was that getting stronger would help me be successful next fall on the football field. I thought that wrestling was going to be in the way for me to be involved with football team for the rest of the school year.

My coach believed that participating in other sports except golf would be helpful to be prepared more for your sport. By taking the coach’s advice, I went to go try out for
the wrestling because I was afraid to say no to my coach.

Next day, I was in wrestling for the first time as a junior. We had practice in the second gym in the school. I was really nervous about this experience because the only wrestling I had ever seen is wwe. We ran around the mats to get warm up and stretch to be prepared for practice.

After preparing, we had to wrestle an individual at our certain weight class. I was matched up with one of my football teammates that were already on the wrestling team.
I feared that was going to hurt going against an experience wrestler because I had more football instincts than wrestling. I was doing ok during the match up until I was taken down to mat. I felt like a sitting duck trying to get up from my base. My teammate was a strong and muscular wrestler that was dominating me. He got flat me on my stomach and then pinned me. I had to escape from the pin but I was clueless on what to do. I felt a tight squeeze by my teammate’s arm. I started to panic because it was really hurting my head and neck. I cried my eyes out so he can get off. I found out that wrestling was not going to be a walk in the park. I felt more determine to improve as a wrestler.

Throughout the season, I realized that the decisions I make will determine my success as an individual throughout my life.
I believe in building character

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Horses Have Superpowers

“Remington is not eating anything! He usually inhales his food!” These are the words that I spoke when I first discovered Remi was sick. I had just put him in his stall to eat his extra large helping of grain and hay. Remi is a rescue that was starved, so it was very unusual for him to have no interest in his food what so ever. I called my trainer over to take a glance, and after inspecting his extra ghost-like, white gums and listening to his suspiciously quiet stomach, she concluded that Remi was very sick and needed to see a vet.

The emergency doctor on call showed about 30 minutes later. After a painful several minutes of complete silence of listening to Remi’s stomach and heart, the vet diagnosed him with colic. “Remington is not passing anything in his intestines,” explained the doctor. At that moment, my heart sunk to the floor. Every horse owner dreads the word colic, and after hearing it I prayed that he would survive it.

After a long and challenging process of sedating Remi, injecting medication, and pumping electrolytes and oils into his stomach through a feeding tube, he responded positively to the treatment, and the doctor concluded he would make it.

Though Remi has had some major ups and downs, he is the reason I am excited to get up in the morning. Although with each new day, comes a new stress, worry, or doubt from either school or work, when I go to the barn, all that negativity disappears somehow. Remi has a way of making me forget everything that is bothering me because when I am at the barn it’s not about me, it’s about him. When I drive up to the barn, he runs to the gate to greet me, and when I walk around the corner to his stall, his head jolts up and he whinnies almost as if he is saying “Hi mom!” When I walk through the barn doors, my reality leaves me and Remi’s reality becomes mine. In other words, I have discovered that for once, someone else depends on me more than I depend on myself, and there is no greater feeling than that.

After Remi’s colic, I realized that not a single person would have discovered he was sick. But I did because I am the one that is with him everyday. I am the one that shares a bond with him that is so thick that I was able to listen to what he was telling me even though he didn’t speak a single word. These are the moments that set a person free, and these are the moments that explain why everyone needs their own “horse.”
I am not trying to convince anyone to buy a horse, but I am trying to explain that everyone must find their own, or that one thing that temporarily releases you from your own reality. The past four months with Remi have been a journey and I am so thankful and appreciative for every moment. I believe that when a person finds their “horse”, they will also believe that horses really do have superpowers.

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Singing in the Car

I believe in singing in the car.

Being an atheist who is also rather averse to materialism, it has become difficult for me in recent years to truly get into the spirit of the holidays. I go home, enjoy seeing my family, do my best to avoid being asked to go to church, and largely miss that mystical feeling that I remember growing up with, even long after I’d stopped believing in Santa Claus.

Driving back through the snow after visiting our hometown this past Christmas, my boyfriend and I had a long road ahead of us. We contemplated putting on the radio, but knew it would be flooded with songs we weren’t fond of to begin with and had grown to loathe over the last couple of months. Instead we decided to sing some of our favorite songs to pass the time and make the dark road more interesting. Somewhere between our dramatic outpouring of Piano Man and laughing at ourselves for forgetting the words to American Pie, I felt it-that spirit that I’d almost forgotten. In a flurry of gods and gifts I had found something to hold on to.

I remember singing in the car with my father as a child. My dad is a quiet and rather reserved person; it generally takes a lot to make him comfortable, even with the people with whom he is closest. I remember driving somewhere with him in the middle of the summer-I think we were going fishing-the windows were down, the cassette player was blasting and we were singing along to his favorite music. I remember looking over at a man who was often quiet, sometimes stern, but in this moment he was full of joy. I recall feeling a carefree sense of safety and an atmosphere of closeness to my dad that was rare and special.

Singing in the car has done a lot more than get me through some long car rides- it has helped me bond with my friends, it taught me that there are many sides to my parents, and it got me through my mother’s death. There is no debating the value of these moments, no belief system one must belong to in order to identify with the pleasure, the excitement that comes from realizing what it means to be alive at that most basic level. I know that singing in the car can’t possibly be for everyone what it has been for me, but I do believe everyone has the chance at feeling that simple magic, the kind that can only be derived from the deep appreciation of everyday experiences.

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Common Ground

“Birds of a feather flock together”. This is a saying my dad always says to me whether it is about friendships or relationships. Many say “Opposites attract” and that’s where this sequence of events really comes alive. My belief is that differences need to counterbalance similarities with all relationships.

Commonality is what brings us together in life; it’s what makes us “like” each other and find interest in one and other/get along. But yet, in order to become in common with someone else, sometimes differences need to counterbalance with the similarities. I believe common ground can make friendships and relationships last longer, but also the differences can tell us its okay to be diverse and it can help us “click” right away. Sometimes differences have more of an impact and help us grow and be more involved in one and other. My life story is about a friend and I that met in Pre School and have been friends ever since. Even though she is my complete opposite, we are still friends after all these years even though it’s rough sometimes to get along, we have each other to depend on and make us realize who we are and how our differences help us get along.  Sometimes it’s healthy being opposite.

I have personal experience with this. Over the years, I never truly had a best friend. I couldn’t call anyone my “bestie” or my “BFF”. I was hard on acquaintances. For a long time I thought I was just being mean and picky. Then I realized that “birds of a feather, flock together”, and it all made sense. I realize today, at 20, that common ground is absolutely everything. My belief is that common ground will result in longer friendships and relationships. My eldest friend I’ve had since Pre School is nothing like me. Sure we both have similar pastimes and hobbies but nothing in common with our social and family life. She dreads life, I live life. That is something dear to my heart and always will be. I am often described as being “high on life”. Not literally “high” but I live to live like there is no tomorrow. So I questioned myself why would I want someone to drag me down and mope about life when there is so much of it to live?

I’ve realized over the years that my friend has always been part of my life. I would often get mad at her for personal reasons and because she is so different. But yet, she is still here in my life. As my classmate said, “It is those differences that bring us together, bring out the best in each other”.

Common ground is everything.

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Optimism: A New Way to Cope

Silence filled the air that morning in Daytona Beach, Florida. I noticed the dark overcast looming above my head while leaving my apartment. As I approached my vehicle, my footsteps became progressively slower with every stride. A swift explosion of fear unleashed inside of my body. Reality was difficult to comprehend while frantically searching my surroundings. It was gone – my car was stolen! My stomach knotted while fearfully walking towards the place where my car once stood. There before me laid nothing but the bare cement of an empty parking space.

This left me with two options: stay angry, or figure out a solution. Being penniless with no money for another vehicle sent me on a search for a bicycle. I eventually arrived at a garage sale to find a gorgeous black bicycle propped up on its kickstand. “How much for the bike?” I said to the man in charge of the garage sale. “Hmm, how about forty bucks?” he responded. Only one twenty dollar bill stared back at me from my wallet. “Well, all’s I have is twenty dollars, but let me tell you a funny story…”

The warm breeze combed through my hair while speeding home on my new bicycle. “Riding a bike for transportation isn’t so bad after all!” I thought to myself. Suddenly, my shoulders released tension as that single thought seemed to liberate me from the weight of my stress and worries. For the first time in my life, an unfamiliar sense of serenity overcame me. I realized that my own thoughts were controlling my reality. If I could learn to be optimistic, then the chaotic state of my emotions would be manageable.

Overcoming pessimism was extremely difficult at first. I endured a five mile journey to work every day, and my bicycle made the trip somewhat easier. The hot Florida sun always seemed unforgiving as it forced every molecule of sweat out of my body. Negative thoughts constantly consumed me, and fighting them proved to be a difficult challenge. “This bicycle ride is terrible… But at least I am getting good exercise!” I would reassure myself. Continuing to be angry at an uncontrollable situation seemed irrational. I refused to let stress and worry deteriorate my quality of life any longer.

I believe in constantly remaining optimistic. Sometimes we focus so much on what is wrong with our lives, we forget to appreciate what is right. Negativity holds us hostage from attempting to change our way of thinking. I learned that optimism helped me cope with my misfortune, and freed me from the emotional struggle I experienced. By concentrating on how my thoughts influenced my attitude, I was able to rise above negativity and continue living a satisfying life. When we are unable to control the outcome of a situation, we can always control how we react.

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Belief Itself

I believe in the Bible, and I used to wonder if my belief came too easily.  My family has attended church as long as I can remember.  I was brought up in Sunday school where I heard the Gospel message and made lasting friendships.  In the 5th grade, I came to accept the Gospel on my own after reading a fictional series depicting the Book of Revelation’s “end of days” theme.  After which I prayed to God that he would save my soul, and from that point of I have grown steadily in faith.  That’s what I call my 30 second testimony.

This testimony fit perfectly during High School.  My grades were good, my moral was high, I set goals and accomplished them, I was involved all over the community, and people considered me a leader.  I testified my belief through involvement in church and the high school chapter of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes).  All of the encouragement and success gave me little reason to doubt my belief.

However, it was in college that I found the diversity that rural America does not offer.  It was there that I met many people of diverse backgrounds and lifestyles; many who did not share my belief, and this caused me to consider the path that I took to attain that very belief.  Was it all too simple?  Was I simply in the right conditions (coincidental or not) to be set up for that belief?  There have been many a testimony telling the tale of hardship and struggle before coming to Christ, but in my case I simply believed.

The summer following my freshman year of college, I found my answer.  I had plenty of spare time while on the job as a valet at the local lake club.  Time that I spent reading what many Christians might claim they don’t read enough: the Bible.  Within it I found and rediscovered so many parables and lessons that had rung true to me throughout my life.

Looking back I see that I doubted what was and still remains most important to me, my belief, a belief in which I hadn’t ever doubted before.  My belief explains to me the diversity that I encountered, and it guides my life.  The creation of my belief didn’t require life altering circumstances or tragic tales of depressing circumstances, but instead I see that I had the great fortune of coming to that belief in a simple manner.  Such a short testimony shares the fortune that I had in obtaining what lengthy testimony bearers realized they were missing for so long, and so I believe in the Bible.

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Die Before You’re Dead

When you wake up and realize you aren’t dead, you begin to live.  It is something that, at some point, everyone and everybody must realize.  Until you do, you have not lived.

I believe that death is the Great Motivator.

In 2009, I was deployed to Iraq to find and capture the people who were making bombs.  One night would forever change my life.  Parked on a narrow canal street in an oversized behemoth of a vehicle, it became apparent that this could be my time.  We were surrounded by darkness except for what our spotlights lit up.  A known explosive was somewhere ahead in the road and if we ran into trouble, there was nowhere to go but forward.  My team knew it, and the enemy knew it.  We had to properly and effectively deal with the large bomb placed in front of us.  Three homes were nearby, and off in the distance, I could see movement on our night camera.  The night had the feeling have something going terribly wrong.  I braced myself for the worst.

After a tense moment of watching the local gazers, we sent to mechanical robot to do the work.  Unfortunately, because of the pitch black night and small road, the robot drove off the side of the road and got stuck.  Now, having a feeling of being rushed, we had to walk down and investigate it in person.  A teammate of mine suited up in his bomb gear and rushed down to the site.  We anxiously watched from the camera what we could.  Radios were rendered inoperable during this time since even its signal could set of the explosive.  After a few minutes, my teammate stood up and slowly walked back.  He had planted more explosives to detonate on top of it.  We cleared the area and began our countdown.  If anything went wrong, it would wake the neighborhood and compromise our mission.  He pulled the cord…BOOM!  We waited for the dust to clear and pulled through the area immediately afterward.  The rest of the drive home was quiet.

Once I faced and overcame the fear of death, it became my best friend.

People see death and life as black and white; good and evil.  Death can give you wings and let you fly.  It can lead you to the daily grind, or the daily adventure.  It can envelope us, or it can free us.  What it does is our own personal choice based on your actions, and one that no one else can make those decisions for us

Find your death and start living.

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Built to Last: A Friendship Created by Rock N’ Roll

We were 18 years old, standing in the front row, singing every word of every song. I think it’s safe to say, we got the rock n roll blues! This is the start of the story of how two young men took a simple connection of liking the same music and made it into a great friendship. I believe that music is an extremely powerful force in building lasting friendships. The most important thing music gave to me was the opportunity to find a person that I could trust and call my best friend.

My friend and I met at Muskego High School our junior year. Picture two of the shyest guys in a school of 1,500 people. Throughout four years we only ended up having one class together. The odds were stacked against us, but we saw that we shared a common interest, music! Through music we built what has become a great friendship that has given us more than we probably thought it would 6 years ago.

Anyone who likes music understands that it affects our day to day activities. Music has the ability to change moods and help people through hard times. Often times people miss the underlying situation music can create for us: an opportunity to build lasting friendships. Music can be a common denominator between people and generally speaking just about everyone has an interest in music. Like I previous stated, the odds of my friend and I meeting and becoming friends were slim. But because of music we hang out all of the time, go to concerts together and partake in the afternoon ruckus of watching a football game. We based a friendship on a passion we shared and I honestly believe that the people who struggle to find good quality friends should do the same thing I did.

I continue to find ways to integrate music into my life as well as the lives of others. I have such a great understanding of the music that I love that it is important to me to share this understanding with others. I usually end up encountering some great people I can share my passion for music with. I think that if people voice their interests and passions to others, they will have the ability to connect with more people than they ever thought was possible.

When all is said and done, because of the power of music I was able to open the door to a new part of my life that a lot of people struggle with: finding true friendship. Friendship is an important part of many people’s lives and through music; anyone can find a best friend!

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The Rock to Everything

Patricia Krumenacher, my grandma, was not only my best friend, but also the rock to our family. This amazing lady kept together all 40-sum of us. She was the type of women anyone would have loved to meet because of her genuine personality and very contagious laugh. She’s one that you could talk to on days on end and never get bored and know she was listening to every word. Whether it was just talking to talk, or talking because she was the only one you felt comfortable talking to, she was always there for you.

One night a week, I would call my grandma to talk about my week or to tell her about something important that may have happened in school. No matter what it was that we would talk about, our conversations lasted an hour or more. My grandma was the number one person in my life. She and I had this special bond that could not be compared to. What I remember the most was always doing homework with her, reading to her before my bedtime and her being the one to fall asleep, and playing old maid or go fish. She still holds a big portion of my heart.

Half way through 5th grade year, our whole family found out devastating news. Her breast cancer had come back for a 3rd time. Even though this was so devastating, she was the biggest fighter I knew and had extreme faith she could again, kick cancers ass. Sadly, that wasn’t the case this time. Half way through 7th grade, my grandma learned the cancer had spread and she was dying. I was absolutely terrified. She was my only person I felt I could talk to. She was the rock to our family. Who was I going to talk to? Who was going to keep our family so close and together? So many questions were running through my head.

My grandma started getting weaker. Knowing the fight was over, she moved into a hospice where she shortly thereafter passed away.  I felt like my world was coming to an end. I had just lost my best friend.

As our family grieved and helped each other through this difficult time, I noticed my grandma was sending me a message showing me what I now believe in today. I believe in the power of family.  Since her death, other situations have come up and through those times, I’ve received outpouring love and support from my cousins, aunts and uncles. We are able to continue to have family gatherings and carrying on traditions started by my grandma. Even though my grandma was the rock to our family, she showed me, what it truly means to be family. Through the good and the bad, we stick together and are always there for one another. Even without her here today, she guides me to the right person to talk to, reminding me that my family is and will always be there for me.

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God Made Us Sisters, Heroin Made Us Friends

As I stood in line at the county jail, I remember how angry I was, how embarrassed I was.  I had told myself I would never come see her here and yet here I was.  How could she end up here for playing around with drugs, we all got the talk about how drugs are bad.  And really, heroin? She must be some kind of new stupid, I thought.  I got to the front of the line and I’m asked,

“What’s your first and last name and who are you here to visit”

Embarrassment and anger flared up inside of me again, but I was already there so I decided to finish going through the process, I responded with my name and told them I was here to see my sister.  The lady didn’t even look up from her computer.  I went through the door and found myself in a room full of TV monitors and phones.  I sat down at the numbered monitor that the woman directed me to and picked up the phone but I was not prepared for what came next.

There was my little sister in an orange jumpsuit, her beautiful long hair was cut off and she was so happy to see me.  This made me angrier; I remember thinking how I couldn’t believe how much anger I could hold inside of me.  I had 20 minutes to talk to her and 20 minutes to build up more anger towards her and everyone else.  As our time came to an end she said “I love you” and started to cry, and the picture faded from the screen.

As I got in my car, I felt so tired and worn out from all the anger I held inside.  Then as I turned the car on, God played a song on the radio just for me.  It was called forgiveness by Mathew West.

I immediately started crying and then I couldn’t stop.  Right then and there I decided to forgive her.  She has made her share of mistakes and she continues to make them but she will always be my sister, my family.  I have made my own mistakes too, so who am I to judge someone else because their sin is different than mine?  When we think of life we always hear, life is short, that who knows what will happen tomorrow.  I realized that day life is too short to let anger rule it.  I still find it hard especially since I am so stubborn and once I make up my mind it is very hard to change it, but I have learned to believe in forgiveness.  Let forgiveness in.

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