Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coveting Another's...

In the last few months I have discovered what covet truly means. As a good and faithful Sunday School attendee all my childhood and youth I knew it was one of the top ten. I found it a bit silly; no one could want what someone else has so badly the want will send them to Hell.

I grew up.

I have worked in a profession that is also my passion for 23 years.

Then my friend Dave quit his job and retreated to a cabin in the Rocky Mountains to edit the novel he had written on a previous sabbatical.

I covet his experience.

The introvert me covets the isolation.

The exhausted me covets the time.

The stressed-out me covets the escape.

Every time I encounter an unexpected situation; every time the stress begins to build, my mind asks, “where’s my cabin?” Coyotes, bears, and hailstorms be damned - they’re easier to deal with than people. I ponder the question, “what would happen if I loaded the car and left?”

The answer is immediate: the student loan people will still track me down.

The fantasy ends that quickly, but the coveting does not. I have been working in my house lately to build my own cabin. The garage (too small for a car, I don’t know what the builders were thinking) is becoming a workshop for handiwork crafts. My office finally has enough shelving that I do not have piles of books covering most of the floor, and as soon as I refinish the old wooden desk I have, I will have my personal reading and writing space. I do what I can with what I have.

None of this is far removed from society - I still hear the planes arriving and departing. There are no wild creatures - there are roommates. It is not the high altitudes of Colorado, but when my mind asks for a cabin, I’ll have an answer and maybe the coveting will move to wanting. I’ll plan a vacation accordingly.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The "Sucks to Get Old" Drawer

Recently the time for a change came to the drawers that hold my regular/easy access grooming and personal care products. As much as I dreaded doing it, convenience dictated that I reorganize.

Moisturizer lost it’s place as one of the first products I sought while preparing for the day, and muscle rub took its spot.

The “I Feel Pretty” drawer became the “Sucks to Get Old” drawer.

Potions replaced lotions.

I don’t know if I am more upset that muscle ache relief became such a vital part of my life or that the skin care products upgraded to most of a shelf in my linen closet.

What I really dread is the day that the anti-achey stuff expands to the shelf in the linen closet.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Death and Birth of English



photo from Grammarly
A friend of mine recently posted the photo from Grammarly featuring the quote from Conan O’Brien. The most surprising thing about it is that it is almost a year old and still making the rounds. I have previously mentioned various words of the year as named by various groups. Each so-named word-of-the-year generates the usual pitiful wails from the language purists who remain convinced that Shakespeare, or Dickens, or (insert favorite English author) had the language in its perfect form and we are fools for changing it.

To those purists who have nothing better to do than grouse about the perversion of our language based on societal change I say, “Get over it! English ain't Latin." (Like it or not even spell check knows ain’t is a word.)

Some argue the words selected are too silly or represent a fad. Often they do. Not!* The truthiness** of the Occupy*** movement was challenged by some, but not if they had a subprime**** mortgage. The rise of words expressing the dynamic of society generate the energy that keeps English alive. Rather than killing the language, these words represent the continual birth found in any living language.

Truthfully, those decrying the various words of the year are not attacking the word so much as they disagree with the circumstances that promoted the word to prominence. That is not a question for the linguists who study trends in language but for the society that allowed “selfie” to become a thing. Why are people so preoccupied with taking photos of themselves? I would argue that in a world where everything is social, it’s a cry for attention, “Hey, look at me,” and when the world does not, the selfie offers the illusion of attention, “I’m looking at me.”

Maybe selfie is not so silly.

People, look beyond yourself.

No. Really. Pay attention to the background! No one wants to see your dirty underwear or any of the other embarrassing things captured in that moment of self-affirmation.

In November the various organizations that compile the lists of influential words will again offer their collections. At this point in the year I am at a loss to predict what words will be selected, but I know there will again be the usual uproar predicting the death of our diseased dialects. If it is the typical year, my voice will rise with the others - with the understanding that those cries do not draw us to the funeral parlor, but to the nursery, where we view the continuing birth of English.

*1992, **2005, ***2011, ****2007 words of the year. We may not use them as much, but we still know what they mean.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Revenge...

...of the weeds.

I am convinced a larger cosmic consciousness connects us than we want to believe. Having a superior-to-the-nerds giggle while quoting Darth Vader, “The Force is strong with this one…” lets us continue our denial that the world is out to get us. My too long neglected yard sought to prove it repeatedly as some exceptional weeds, accustomed to reprieves, rioted against the realization the execution of their death penalty loomed as one after another of their fellow annual sprouts had their roots ripped from the nurturing soil.

A few challenged my most muscular tugs. One in particular mounted supernatural resistance. No matter what grip I took or what angle I pulled, I detected no give. My frustration released adrenaline, building my strength.

And this is how I know there is a greater cosmic force.

The force WAS strong with this one.

It recognized my multiplying might and held on until the cosmic consciousness promised justice if it would let go. In the instant the clouds cleared and (I AM CERTAIN) the Google Earth satellite with its ultra-high definition camera passed overhead snapping away, and after giving no suggestion of surrender, the entire root system uniformly slipped the surly bonds of earth, rolling me over, butt-up for the thrill of some future Googler.

Images of people caught in candid - and most definitely embarrassing poses - in the photos taken by Google for their map/streetview programs periodically go viral when someone has a reason to look closely at the picture and then sees, and shares, the unfortunate spectacle with the rest of the Internet. The regularity of those viral images eliminates any surprise that I should expect that every awkward moment gets recorded.

That someday a picture of me, rolled onto my back with my butt up in the air will not surprise me. I will not even be embarrassed. Because…if you pay close enough attention, you will see that though the force of my tug flipped me over, clutched victoriously in my fist is the weed that thought it a humiliating photo trumped its trip to the mulch bin.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Character on the Court

It seems like most of the time sports figures make the news because of their behavior, it usually involves some illegal activity. The San Antonio Spurs, under the leadership of Coach Pop have avoided most of this kind of news, instead being a highly involved organization within the community. 

Coach Popovich is known for being cranky and sharp in interviews - especially those during the game. His conclusion to the interview demonstrates his awareness of and interest in the community - even reporters who are sometimes an athlete's nemesis. When he turns directly to the camera and addresses the hospitalized reporter, his genuine concern shows.

Gregg Popovich Shows His Softer Side, Wishes Craig Sager Well in Interview | Bleacher Report:


'via Blog this'

If Coach Pop can take the time in a playoff game to wish a community member well, why is it so difficult for other athletes to set examples of character? Until they learn how to behave, I will continue to be glad that the Spurs are the nearest professional sports team to me.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fighting the Face

Movember (Moustache/No Shave November) came and went with nary an uncut facial follicle. My facial hair was not planted in any pattern that encourages growing any type of beard. In the last few weeks, though, several areas have revolted by becoming badger-hair stiff and refusing to be cut down to the skin. Even after using a new blade, patches of sandpaper rough bristle jut out from my face.

None of the patches are so long they are immediately obvious to anyone who does not pay as much attention to my face as I do. Nevertheless, I see them and they annoy me.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the rebellious hairs is their color. My facial hair is red and white! The hair on my head is a light brown. Seeing how my dad looks with his beautiful white hair, I have longed for years for my hair to go gray with very little luck. Why then does the hair that is so sporadically placed that I cannot grow it out with any kind of aesthetic benefit do exactly what I want the rest of the hair on my head to do?

As far as the red goes, I confess, I was born a ginger and shades of auburn are visible in the hair on my head in the right light. Otherwise, the only proof of red-headedness is in the beard and other hair that very few a few not many only some people get to see.

Since I started college in the mid-80’s I have preferred using a razor with a blade over an electric razor. My face always felt rough after shaving with the electric razor. Now that I am getting the same effect in patches with the blade, I have considered trying the electric razor again. At least I would be uniformly rough.

This facial hair challenge is just the kind of thing that gets to me. I’ve been shaving over 30 years. I know how to do it. When everything is done correctly and the results are not as expected proves to be a circumstance I find most frustrating. Those unknown variables that change outcomes unexpectedly may provide spice and adventure to life, but I have plenty of that. The universe can leave my facial hair alone.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Priorities

For the last few years I have faithfully participated in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in November by pledging to post [and posting] every day of the month. Since the event started being managed by a for-profit organization some things have improved (daily writing prompt for when you get stuck) and some things haven’t - there’s a NaBloPoMo every month. I only participate in November because that is the month in which the event originated.

Unlike past years when I had the writing prompt planned for each day of the month and jumped into participation enthusiastically, I registered online and began posting each day without any fanfare. I passed the halfway point in the month and all the way to the 26th. The end was in sight and despite not having a daily plan for the posts, I reached the point that I knew I would complete another month.

And then Thanksgiving, holiday company, and the coughing crud that has been making the rounds hit at the same time. I fell asleep typing the post for November 27 ( working title: Earned Exhaustion) and missed the midnight deadline for having a post on that date.

I began beating myself up immediately on waking up and realizing I had missed the deadline. I went into the exercise not fully committed to it, but failing to complete it was tragedy. The emotional self-flagellation continued for over a week when in a moment of clarity, I thought, “why am I upset about this? I write this blog for fun. Putting this kind of pressure took every bit of fun out of it.

I have continued posting since 2005 because of the fun. I expect to participate in NaBloPoMo in future years. Now that I have learned my lesson I will go into it for the challenge, but I will no longer beat myself up over a voluntary challenge. Most of all, I look forward to continued fun as I work on the blog.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Beware (Celebrate) the Underdog

From the beginning, this year’s football season disappointed me. I simply could not find a team or player I wanted to root for. The good Baptist in me kept telling me to get on the Baylor bandwagon and they impressed me in the games I watched - but given Baylor’s history, caution dominated. The thrilling end to the Alabama/Auburn game Thanksgiving weekend gave me some hope that the conference championship games would redeem the season.

The season’s final weekend left me smiling.

Two things that can be said for underdogs is that they are still dogs and they have fight.

In the conferences that have a championship game, both teams competing are there for a reason. Some conferences have disparity between the divisions, but teams rise to the top because they have demonstrated the greatest skill over the season.  That does not go away when they face a team perceived to be stronger. Almost universally, the underdog proved they deserved to be in the game.

And dang my dominating caution. After the earlier Oklahoma / Oklahoma State game eliminated the possibility of a tie for conference champion, I watched what turned into the Big 12 championship game with some Longhorn faithful. Despite our alma mater falling in the game, we all agreed that Baylor deserved the win - and Baylor as a program deserved it after the decades of mediocrity at best.

The competitiveness of the games reenergized what was becoming a lagging interest in sports. The underdogs, several times victorious, returned the excitement to sport. If the projections for the bowl games hold true, then bowl season promises to be as competitive as this weekend. The beginning did not meet my expectations, but if it ends the way the last weeks have been, then I will be happy - thanks to the underdogs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Inspired

At work everyone is tired of me telling them to create a Twitter account and connect it to professional social media pages. They have been slow to adopt the technology as a means of professional connection and education while I am regularly commenting on the different things I read in articles shared by my personal learning network. Their usual response is, “that’s great for you and thanks for passing it on to us.”

I have my elevator speech down for the benefits of using different social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ in particular) for curating high quality connections to resources. Beyond having a stream of useful material at my fingertips, I develop relationships with other highly-motivated professionals. Exchanges can be a highlight of my day.

Personally, I have social networks mostly for fun. I keep up with headline news because it is more efficient that going to the news websites and some people just because the are funny.

Monday I noticed that, without intending to, I had started following a number of Twitter accounts that regularly post uplifting / motivational / inspirational quotes. Monday night I found myself going to the various profiles and reading the streams of messages because I needed a little pick-me-up after dealing with some issues from various friends in the previous days.

After this experience I have added yet another reason I appreciate social media: inspiration.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Inspired NOT Stressed

One of the most eye-opening discoveries in my graduate school counseling preparation was that everything is stressful and has been assigned a point value by Holmes and Rahe  on their stress scale. Even events people regarded as positives in life carry degrees of stress based on the amount of adaptation a person has to do in their life routine to adjust to the event. They connected the measure of stress to a likelihood of physical ailment based on the number of “points” accumulated in a year’s time.

Since the mid-sixties when Holmes and Rahe’s research was published, stress has become the catch-all boogey-man for any type of inconvenience we have (such as performance expectations at work). It becomes the reason for mistakes and the low-quality work. These interpretations of Holmes and Rahe’s work completely misrepresent what they believed about stress: it is necessary for life. Our reactions to the stressor are where the harm lies. Some current research reminds us of that understanding.



McGonigal cites a study that reported on the effects of the view of stress and health consequences, not the stressor itself. They re-discovered that our response to stress determines the likelihood of illness and even death. Holmes and Rahe assigned the points on their scale based on the general reaction people have to the event - not the event itself. That is why the birth of a child merited fewer points than the death of a loved one. Likewise, a promotion at work scores lower than losing a job. We generally experience less disruption to life with the first examples than the second.

Since discovering the work of Holmes and Rahe in graduate school, I have considered situations differently. I work in a stressful field - education. The challenges differ from school to school and some of them are entrenched and cultural. As long as they are challenges, I have the power to seek and implement solutions that may make them less challenging. When I call them stressors, I have given up seeking solutions.

I am glad that some are beginning to reframe the conversation around stress. For so many years so much misinformation spread so widely that if the number of times a lie was repeated changed it to the truth, then stress would be the villain. Replacing the false understanding of stress with a correct one faces an uphill battle at the start, but I believe it will be readily received: the old news about stress was a tale of weakness, but the new understanding is one of power! Shifting the conversation to our response to stress rather than the stress itself puts control over it within our grasp: we control how we react. We control the effects of stress.

We control our lives. There is no longer a reason to use stress as an excuse.

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