Friday, December 30, 2011

Five Minute Friday : Open




Open might be my word for 2012.  Reading the definitions and synonyms made me realize that I need to be more. . .open.



Open can be overwhelming, but ultimately, open is. . .




Open can be scary
and make us feel
small and defensive. . .





Open helps us deal respectfully with one another because being open means that we are. . .



and




When we really become open, we are then. . .










Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Look. Give. Laud. Outlove

In July, I posted a few thoughts (you can find those thoughts here) that were sparked by my friend and fellow blogger who was inspired by one of our favorite singer/songwriters: 

. . . to look for the light in people (and things!), to give them the benefit of the doubt, to laud their beauty, to outlove unloveliness. ~Andrew Peterson



I condensed these thoughts into four words that have become my personal mantra:  Look.  Give.  Laud.  Outlove.  These four words and what they mean were not just a passing thought; they have changed the way I handle situations: increased my compassion, steadied my reactions, and given me a new way to understand people around me.

Unfortunately, I am not perfect and I fall very, very short most of the time.  I fall short especially when I know I need to Outlove unloveliness.  Sometimes it seems there's too much unloveliness.  In those situations, I have learned that practice makes perfect and there are times when my unloveliness needs to be Outloved, too.

This is my New Year's resolution of sorts.  Not the type of resolution where I charge forward with an unreachable goal and fail by February, but one where I carefully consider and implement Looking, Giving, Lauding, and Outloving into my daily life. 



An excerpt from the original post:
To look for the light in people. That means ALL people.


To give the the benefit of the doubt. Gah! That's difficult, but when I receive the benefit of the doubt from others, it's magnificent!

To laud their beauty. I looked up the word laud. It is not just another word for praise but the definition also says to sing praise. To laud someone's beauty is to really appreciate it and make it known to them on a deeper level....to tell them they are worthy. My Grandpa L-F does this. Everytime I see him, he walks toward me, undistracted and takes my face into his hands. He looks, really looks at my face, into my eyes and tells me that I'm beautiful or sweet or he just smiles and says, "I love you." And I believe it. There's no distraction in this exchange, no agenda, just a grandfather telling his granddaughter that she's beautiful and worthy from the inside out. What if we treated more people like this?

To outlove unloveliness. This is the part of the statement that struck me the most. What a lovely thing to outlove unloveliness, there sure is a lot of unloveliness in this world.

Look. Give. Laud. Outlove

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Blessed Are You. . .

I realized after posting this picture that I performed the menorah lighting "dyslexically" on the fourth night.  The candles should be placed from right to left and lit from left to right.  I did the exact opposite!
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.
Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, shehekheyanu, v’kiyamanu vehegianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.

On the fourth night of Hanukkah, I received great news about my health and was very thankful. "Blessed are You. . .Who has kept me alive, sustained me and brought me to this season. . ."




Friday, December 16, 2011

Spider Webs: Realizing Connection








I'm taking part in The Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday.  The topic issued was "Connected".  So, for 5 minutes I am going to write about whatever comes to mind (perfect for Mind of Me) regarding "Connected."  Here goes. . .

There are moments when you realize just how connected you are to the people around you whether by choice or by accident, and how even the smallest connection(s) can change your life.  I had this realization on Wednesday when I was lying on the floor of my office, my head resting on a backpack, ice packs on my hands and behind my neck.  The office was dark, my laptop closed, piles of paperwork on my desk.  I layed there, trying to catch my breath, staring out the window above me pretending I was in the cloudy, grey sky, flying. 

A few moments before I had barged into my boss's office.  He said something funny and normally I would have laughed. Instead I sat down and croaked, "I think I need to go to a hospital."  He shut his laptop and seriousness entered the room.  For hours I had been struggling to breathe and my chest was growing tighter and tighter until finally I went to the one person who would understand what was happening to me.  The one person who wouldn't think I was crazy or dying, who knew what anxiety can do to a person.  He knew because he had been in the same situation three years ago.  Except that when he went through it, we all freaked out and called an ambulance, which was probably best, but the doctor's ended up giving him a shot of something, told him he has terrible anxiety and to try to de-stress his life. 

My boss, I will call him West for purposes of anonymity, started talking me down, made sure I was taking deep, slow breaths, and was calm.  He quickly brought me ice packs, scrounged up an empty backpack as a make-shift pillow, and created a place on my office floor where I could lay back and relax.  He shut my phone and computer off, turned a fan near where I was laying and calmly told me not to worry about work, just to allow myself to calm down.  He sat, in a suit, next to me on the floor for a few minutes, I assume making sure I was steadily breathing.  We were connected. Connected not just in that moment, but in the shared experiences with anxiety and the realization that work is not everything.  Even during the busiest of days or when faced with deadlines, it the person who matters and ultimately his or her health.

In the hours followed, West scheduled a massage appointment for me (and paid for it!) with a mutual acquanitance of ours.  I went to the appointment the following day and felt nearly 100% better afterward.  As it turns out the massage therapist is married to our financial advisor, who is best friends with one of our owners (the brother of West), who's wife is my best friend and who is also West's sister in law.  Deep connections and small connections collided and I had the help I needed when I needed it.

There is nothing quite so humbling as finding yourself on the floor, in a dress, at work trying to recover from an anxiety attack except for when you find that people really care and will pull strings to help you.  I like envisioning my many connections in this world as a spider web:  symmetrical, delicate, beautiful and purposeful.

We're all connected.  We can use our spider webs for personal gain or we can use them to support and lift one another up in a time of need.  I choose the latter.  I'm glad my connections did too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Portion of the Sky

We were no different from the doves above us.  We could not speak or cry, but when there was no choice we discovered we could fly.  If you want a reason, take this:  We yearned for our portion of the sky.
-from The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman


I received a bike for my fifth birthday.  It was purple and I remember excitedly picking it out at the store.  I had so much fun riding my training-wheels-clad bike with my older brother at the playground behind our elementary school. However, my fun was always ruined when my dad wanted to teach me how to balance without training wheels.  He would hold the back of the bicycle seat and I would pedal along miserably, knowing he was going to let go. At the first feeling of instability I would freak out and jump off!  After a few forced attempts of riding without training wheels I had finally had enough. 

"I just want to ride my bike!  I don't care if I still have training wheels!" 

End of discussion.  Every once in a while, over the course of weeks or months, my brother or my parents would ask, "So, you want to have training wheels forever?"  Well, no, I didn't but I would retort with, "Yes; I don't care." 

The truth was and still is that I hate to fail.  Sometimes the fear of failure, and especially of other people witnessing my failure, causes me to quit before I ever start.  I second guess myself, I magnify all of my flaws and shortcomings, imagine every worst case scenario and then I let my dreams die.  The death is completely justified, in my mind, and I try to convince myself that I prefer my current circumstances when really I hate them. 

One summer day, my right foot on the pedal of my bike and the left foot on the ground, I was positioned at the edge of the sidewalk in front of our duplex.  Moments prior, I had found my dad's tools and removed my training wheels. It was all or nothing. After having verbally and mentally defeated myself and coming to terms with the fact that I was going to depend on training wheels until I turned 30, I was ready to prove myself wrong.  I had prepared for this moment by spending countless hours watching my brother and our neighborhood friends ride their bikes, memorizing how they positioned themselves sitting or standing on the bike, how they leaned forward or to the side.  I memorized when their calf muscles flexed and envisioned myself making all the same balanced, fluid movements. 

Before launching myself forward, off of the sidewalk and down the "hill", I set a goal.  If I could just balance on my bike, without pedaling, and make it to the fence at the back of the yard, I would attempt the ride again, pedaling.  I took an exaggerated deep breath in, pulled myself up onto the bike and off I went toward the fence.  Wind blew my hair back, a bug collided with my cheek, and I felt a freedom that I can only compare to the first time I flew a plane years and years later.   It was like being stuck between two worlds:  one full of status quo and the other full of possibilities. 

I let the fence stop the bike and I toppled to the side but I had succeeded!  I ran my bike back up to the top of the yard and made the trip again, this time pedaling.  I gained speed and instead of riding into the fence I decided to try turning as I had watched my brother do so gracefully on his bike.  I turned the handlebars, leaned ever so slightly to the left and pedaled back the distance of the yard to the sidewalk.  I yelled for my mom, who came out of the house with my baby brother to watch me ride all around the yard.  "Watch me!  Watch how fast I can go!"  I discovered I could fly.

My life is like this.  I've learned enough about myself to know that I succeed at things when and how I want to succeed at them.  I evaluate and analyze and then, in the quiet by myself, I take what I have learned about what I want to conquer and I develop a process for it and then I own it.  I own the face off of it! This is true in any job I've ever held, hobbies, singing in public, leading and teaching, traveling, college, boxing.  It's a much quicker and less rebellious process than when I was five and learning to ride a bike.  In fact, it looks and smells a lot like confidence.  Apprehension is what catapults me into flight.  The first feeling of fear is what makes me leap and the assurance that I've done my research is what carries me through.

I am in between two worlds lately.  I am leaving the current world of status quo and leaping toward my goals in the world full of possibilities armed with research, observation and experience. I have prepared for this.  If you want a reason, take this:  I am yearning for my portion of the sky.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lightning Strike-- Or Not?

My hands were wrapped tightly around the paper cup filled with hot coffee.  The coffee being the only source of heat at that moment, I reluctantly let go with my left hand to quickly grab the dollars bills being handed to me out of the drive through window.  The warmth from the coffee cup on my hand was turning into a distant memory.  Just as soon as the money was within my grasp, the cashier pulled it back and grinned at me sheepishly.  He began to flip and turn the bills while also smoothing them and then handed them back, in a perfect stack.

"I couldn't hand them to you wrinkled and with the Presidents facing opposite directions.  Sorry, it's a quirk."

For a split second I entertained the idea that this was the lightning strike from God.  The lightning strike that meant this guy was The One.  Fortunately, I quickly realized that I was not attracted to this cashier at all. The only connection between us was the possiblity of my receiving a discount at Starbucks, that he was supplying me with a much needed legal, addictive stimulant, and that we share a quirk--arranging money.  His nerdy glasses were sort of awesome too, but I have a known and strange obsession with glasses which is often confused with attraction to the person wearing them, and is almost never the case.

Once the caffeine passed my lips and absorbed into my system, rationality returned. 

Moral of the story:  Don't allow yourself to think before consuming at least one cup of coffee.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gray Contemplation

I found this recently.  I wrote it September 25, 2007.

Gray Contemplation


Cold rain poured from the sky creating the most spectacular gray mist as it hit the hot ground. Trees were greener, grass was greener, but everything else was cast in gray. Beautiful gray.

I couldn't help but smile as I stood barefoot sipping my coffee while still in my pajamas-it's the first time in a long time that I had absolutely no where to be. The smell of autumn moving in. The sound of thunder, rain hitting the wooden balcony, streaming through the metal gutters. Lightning stabbing the sky in the distance, quickly and precisely. Chill in the air.

This was created for me. This moment. The air, the trees, the unexpected beauty in the middle of a city. The extraordinary shades of gray.

Nothing compares to this humble realization. No problem defeats it. No confusion scrambles it. I cannot deny that my Father in Heaven loves me, knows me, and has a plan for me. It was as if He was letting me know to hold on; wait out the uncertainty. Be still in the knowledge that it's all under control.



Monday, November 7, 2011

Gluh : A Disheartening Post

To shake or destroy the courage or resolution of; dispirit.  Dishearten.

A stolen compliment. A snide remark.  Negative focus.  Humans so easily and willingly dishearten others, especially, for some reason, those who actually need a good dose of support or positivity. It happens in the simplest of ways, in the most innocent of scenarios, with the people we claim to love. 

"Oh I'm just teasing"

Gluh.

Left Behind: Items Found in a Cubicle

Thinking about quitting your job and not sure how to properly clean out your cubicle?  I'm here to help!  Let's keep it simple by going over what not to leave behind. I thought that common sense and decency would play a natural role, but apparently it does not.  The items in this box proves that:


 

You should avoid leaving behind items that 1) gross people out and 2) could spread an infectious disease.  For example, a used toothbrush, an unwashed butter knife, ear buds, and band-aid wrappers.  My skin crawls just looking at these items.  I imagine molecular sized germs springing back and forth from object to object and then crawling all over the box.  I resorted to wrapping my hands in saran wrap before removing this box and dumping it and it's contents into the garbage.  Hand sanitizer was then used in excess.

Happy Handwashing!




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Strike

A man, standing along the exit ramp from I-435 to State Line Road, respectfully waited for drivers to make the first move.  He held no sign; he did not look pleadingly at the people sitting in their cars waiting for the light to turn from red to green.  He stood next to his backpack, stuffed full of all of his worldly possessions, with a look of determination and shame.  Passersby knew why he was standing there so there was no need for a big production or sob story.  One by one, five drivers in a row rolled down the windows of their BMWs, Jeeps, Chevys, Mazdas and Saturns and handed the man dollar bills and coins.  He nodded humbly at each of them, held their hand in both of his as he accepted the money and as the light turned green, and cars started to roll forward, he brushed his hand over his eyes and walked slowly to his backpack. 

What's his story?  Imagination and first impression led my mind to believe that he is newly homeless, in a phase of coming to terms with his situation and realizing how easily it all slipped away.  Maybe, as he stands next to his backpack, he mulls over how he got here and wishes he could go back in time while realizing it was probably actually out of his control.   I will never know.  What I do know is that when I handed him the only cash I had on me, four dollar bills, he gave two of them back.  He held my hand in his and said, simply, "In case you run into someone else."

A few miles away, a few days later, I drove past the Honeywell Kansas City plant where machinists, on strike, were lined along the road waving and holding their professionally printed signs high.  The only words I could read as I cruised by were Machinists  and  Unfair.  The word unfair piqued my interest.  What could possibly be happening in the plant that would be so unfair people would stop working to hang out and wave at strangers?  Is it a sweat shop?  Did the company cut benefits or do away with them completely?  Are they forcing workers to kick puppies?  Did they start hiring underage children to work 18 hour days with no breaks?

I'm not going to get into the details of why the machinists are striking or attempt to start a debate about unions and labor practices and what is or is not fair; however, if you would like to read about the strike, click here.  I will state that I do not support the strike.  In fact, I can't even drive down Bannister Road because the sight of the strikers infuriates me.  The conditions surrounding the strike are not extreme or inhumane. They are based on unfair labor practices.  To be clear, unfair is not the same as illegal.  I would like to stand across the street from them with a sign (I can't afford to have my sign professionally done so it will be handwritten on a posterboard) that says:

Solution:  Maybe find a new job.  Oh wait, the Kansas City Metropolitan unemployment rate is 8.7%. . .so get back to work!

My job isn't always fair, is yours?  Do you have the luxury to stop working and while you are not working, do you expect to continue receiving benefits and to go back to your job once you get your way?  I didn't think so.  For most of us, if we stop working our employers shrug and replace us, as they should. Many Americans, who never voluntarily stopped working and who were loyal employees have been laid off of jobs.  Many of these jobs are the type that most of us would consider suitable only for teenagers, or those without college degrees, and yet individuals were attempting to support their families off of those hard earned, very low wages.  And others, who may even have college degrees, would now do anything to have one of those jobs. Want to talk about fair now, union machinists?

There is a man, standing somewhere along a road or interstate, who knows the reality of what unfair means all too well.  He understands it so well that he selflessly gave back money that he needed in order to be fair to someone else who might need it, maybe even more than he does.  Difficult to imagine.  Difficult to forget. 


Monday, October 24, 2011

Girl on Fire

The first memory I have of my cousin Luke is from when we were toddlers.  My parents went on a canoe trip with friends and family leaving my elder brother and I with Luke's mom.  Luke was fun but I remember his mom getting on to him quite a bit and feeling shocked when he deliberately disobeyed.  I was shocked yet drawn to the behavior because it was the total opposite of me.  He was fearless and unpredictable; I knew this even as a 4 year old.

After warming up to one another, Luke, my brother, and me were playing nicely in the backyard when suddenly, Luke dropped his pants, whipped around and peed all over us.  I stood there horrified as he laughed and laughed and continued to pee.  Suddenly I was whisked into the house by Luke's mom, drenched in urine.  All the while, my toddler brain was thinking that my parents must be playing a joke to have left me in a situation where some kid would pee on me, for no reason other than to laugh hysterically while doing it.  After a quick bath, I had to sport Luke's little brother's clothes until mine were washed and dried.  Luke was banned from playing the rest of the day.  I was glad and a little sad.  Something about that kid was captivating. . .but terrifying.

And so, our relationship commenced.  I lived in Kansas City and he lived in Arkansas but when my family would visit once or twice a year, Luke was the first cousin I sought out.  I was always careful to watch for signs of a pee attack, but luckily he never tried that again.  He did, however, live to prank me.  Prank is probably the wrong word.  Torture and terrify are more accurate descriptions of our time together.

Once, when were nine, we went floating down a creek on a blow up raft with my brother and cousin, Sarah.  We were all city-kids so Luke paddled the raft.  "Have any of you ever rafted off a water fall?" Three nervous "No's" were spoken in unison.  "It's really fun!"  Luke paddled faster and faster toward the waterfall and gave us instructions, "Now, when we go over the edge hold onto the raft really tight.  Can you guys swim?"  We tried convincing Luke that it wasn't a good idea, told him we would get in big trouble.  My cousin Sarah and I then started yelling, "Let me off!  Let me off! Right now!!!"  He did.  He paddled over to the muddiest part of the bank he could find and dropped us off.  We immediately sank, thigh-high, into the mud.  The more we struggled to get out the further we sank.  The situation was made worse when our jelly shoes were sucked off of our feet in the struggle and we just knew we were going to be attacked by snakes.  Luke laughed and laughed and paddled away with my brother and yelled, "I wasn't really going to take you over the waterfall!"

When we were 16, he drove his jeep out onto a frozen pond and did donuts.  I was imprisoned in the vehicle and calmly tried to talk him out of it, justifying that if we lived in Alaska this might be acceptable because it's much colder there but there was no telling how thick the ice really was on this Arkansas pond. "Ohhh, it's fine."  So, I resorted to my nine year old tactics.  "Let me out!  Let me out!  Right now!!!"

With Luke, I have army crawled across snow covered fields, rifle in hand, to avoid a farmer, whom Luke claimed would shoot at us if he caught us on his land.  I still don't know it that was true, but I army crawled anyway.  I have been chased by a bull, barely clearing a barbed wire fence into safety.  I have walked across an icy log over a raging creek, while on the brink of having an asthma attack.  I've been pushed off of cliffs, shot at with a homemade bottle rocket launcher, and ended up reaping the consequences when Luke's mom came home and found us shooting rifles at targets outside through an open window in the kitchen. 

Needless to say, over the years, Luke has desensitized me.  He's less terrifying to me now and I still sort of crave the adventures of hanging out with him.

A few weeks ago, sitting around a bonfire with family, Luke started hitting the left side of my chest.  It didn't phase me.  I continued talking to my other family members thinking, "Really, Luke?  We're nearly 30!"  Then, my family members started yelling FIRE! and some of them jumped up to run toward me.  Confused, I slowly realized the reason Luke was hitting me was to smother a large ember that had escaped from the bonfire and landed on my hoodie.  When he did, it scattered and burst into flames.  I decided to continue to remain calm and let him beat the fire out until someone yelled, "Her hair!"  At that point I started yelling too, "Get it off!  Get it off!  Right now!!!"

Everything ended up fine, my hoodie was a little melted and I had a few small burns near my neck, but it mainly resulted in a good story.  It's funny how the person who makes you think you could die at any moment is the one who saves your life, or in my case, my face and hair.  It's a good thing he relentlessly attacked the fire because if he would have just yelled, "You're on fire!"  I would have rolled my eyes, "Whateverrrrr" and would now have a half melted face and burnt hair.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fear Itself

"Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease.  Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry.  Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that.  Faith did that.  People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that.  But fear itself?  Fear herds us into a prison and slams the door." 


I read  this quote a couple of years ago in a book by Max Lucado called Fearless.  It took me 6 months to read Fearless because everytime I read a portion of it I, ironically, experienced major anxiety.  I would read a bit and then have to put the book down and convince myself not to burn it!  I would go days and weeks before picking it up again. 

Fearless is about letting go; having faith. The act of letting go, or the lack of the appearance of control is what causes me to experience anxiety, so the very essence of the book makes me nervous.  There were times, when reading the book, that I thought maybe Max Lucado had been stalking me because his examples and scenarios were right on point and lined up with my life.

I am admittedly a fear-based individual. Not fear-based in that I hide out or am afaid of the dark.  In fact, most of my friends and family would prefer that I check in with them more often, spend less time alone at night, or cease taking random trips without letting them know. Some of my earliest memories are of fearful situations.  Some of my earliest coping skills were derived from handling situations no one should ever have to handle, especially at a young age.  I struggle, yes struggle, with anxiety, both situational and chemical and tend to think in a worst-case-scenario mindset.  Fear.

It's tough for someone who doesn't experience random panic to understand all that's involved; the energy it takes to get through every day and experiencing heart palpitations in your twenties. That lack of understanding is why I often joke about anxiety or am anxious about sharing about it in a real way.  I don't like having to justify it, hide it, show it or listen to everybody's opinions about how to "fix" it and I definitely do not want to be labeled by it.  If I can make it funny then there's some relief.

Everybody has something that they have to deal with.  One of my "things" is anxiety and panic attacks.  I realized  recently there are people in my life who deal with this same issue. Reading through the last couple years of my blog posts, I discovered multiple, vague references to anxiety, OCD and panic.  While this coping mechanism of deflecting how serious it is might work for me, I think it may be an injustice to anyone out there who may be dealing with the same types of issues but who may not find any humor in it.  Someone who struggles with it may just need to know that someone else is struggling or coping, too. We have different coping mechanisms and varying triggers but I hope we can relate to one another.  The hope is also that those who don't struggle with or relate to this topic in any way will at least gain a topical understanding and have compassion.

Mind of Me is obviously a blog about what's on my mind and what makes me, me.  I try to be real; I try to take individual experiences, good and bad, happy and sad, funny or devastating, and transform those experiences to appeal to the masses; to help us relate to one another.  In order to be true to that, I have to acknowledge that I also have to be real about anxiety, the triggers, my past.  It can't always be funny or topical.  Sometimes, it just is. . .what it is.  That becomes all too apparent when you freak out in the check out line at Whole Foods, for no reason. 

While difficult to deal with, anxiety also makes me stronger.  My defiance towards it makes me adventurous.  Anxiety is the reason I purposely put myself in scary or uncomfortable situations and the reason I take on new things; to prove to myself that I can.  I refuse to be completely owned by it.  I refuse to live in that prison Max Lucado referenced in his book. 

Every part of me wants to give a thousand disclaimers about how much I've grown, what I can handle, that I'm not crazy, but you know what?  I won't.  Disclaimers are ultimately fear-based, preventative measures to possible negative reactions from others.  If nothing else, this post is just to get it off my chest and to hopefully inspire someone else to feel okay with themselves despite the struggle.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Power of Reese's and Nerdy T-Shirts

Have you ever had the type of day that leads you to imagining, for one glorious second, that leaping at someone, wrestling said someone to the ground and waxing his/her eyebrows off of his/her face is totally acceptable in retaliation to their complete lack of common sense?

Me too.

But in the midst of a whole week made up of days like that, I  discovered that someone anonymously left a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup on my desk.  I arrived home yesterday, after a weird work day and a frustrating and disheartening trip to the doctor, to find a package from my BFF Arizona that included not just one, but two (!), handwritten cards and quite possibly the coolest and nerdiest t-shirt ever.  Funny how a nice gestures and perfect timing fix everything.

Happy Friday!



Geek Chic



**Disclaimer:  I would never leap at or wrestle anyone to the ground and wax his/her eyebrows off his/her face nor do I condone or promote such behavior from others.  However, I do suggest that you eat and share ridiculous amounts Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on a regular basis. Reese's makes the world go 'round.. . .and so do BFF's who send random, t-shirt filled packages.

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Extremist Word Lover's Take on a Children's Book

Words are priceless and powerful, both spoken and written.  The things we profess and confess, the inflections we use and the structure we choose to organize words with influence everything around us.  Words are used to inspire peace, sacrifice, hate, and war.  Words educate, formulate imagery, stir our emotions, bind us to one another, and segregate us.  Words can be used to build up and to tear down.  I fell in love with the power of words and sentence structure as a child through books. 

Books took me to other lands and cultures, introduced me to new ideas, inspired me to investigate the world around me, increased my vocabulary, and taught me how to relay stories of my own, effectively.  Some of my most valued possessions are my books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and my eight thesauruses.


My 4 year old nephew has always used correct speech, which is something I am proud of.  He emulates what he hears, as do all children, and since the majority of my family speaks very well, so does he.  He is consistently and gently corrected when he does not speak correctly.  When he tells a story and says, "I rided my bike," an adult, without fail will say, "You rode your bike" to which he responds, "Yes, I rode my bike."  It's a simple teaching process and he responds well to it. 

This past weekend, my little well-spoken nephew kept using the word ain't  and would say no more  instead of any more.  It was an obvious regression in his normal speech and was, for lack of better words, driving me crazy!  After a full day of periodic correction, I finally asked him, "Why are you speaking incorrectly?  Who do you know that says ain't and no more?" 

To my horror, he exclaimed, "It's in my BOOK!"


I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont, is a cute, colorful story that lends to learning about colors and rhyming.  However, the cuteness of this book is overshadowed completely by the fact that the book is based on the grossly grammatically incorrect phrase, I Ain't Gonna Paint No More. The phrase is repeated throughout the story.  Rhyming and color comprehension aside, the book is a detriment to children who are in the early years of forming proper speaking skills. I am positive there is another way to tell this story without ingraining improper speech into a child's head.

I do not understand why a children's book that is so blatantly grammatically incorrect would be written and published in the first place!  What were they thinking?  I'm sure it was meant to be light-hearted and many of you probably think I am nuts for feeling so strongly about this.   But I will give you three guesses as to how I feel about that.  If you guessed that I do not care, you are correct. 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

FFOZ | The Weekly eDrash : Never Will I Leave You

I loved this so much that I just had to share it.  Then I discovered that in order for you all to read it in it's entirety, you would have to sign up to receive an eNewletter so I've included the text below. All credit goes to those at First Fruits of Zion who wrote and published these thoughts. 

FFOZ The Weekly eDrash : Never Will I Leave You

Nitzavim/Vayelech - נצבים/וילך


Torah : Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

Haftarah : Isaiah 61:10-63:9

Gospel : Luke 24:1-12/Luke 24:13-43



Thought for the Week:


"Be strong and courageous. ... He will not fail you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). The High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are primarily about our relationship with God as individuals and as a common people. These are appointed times for reconciling with one another and with our Father in Heaven. If we take the opportunity to turn to God in sincere repentance in the name of His Son, He will receive us.

Commentary:

Moses encouraged the Israelites not to falter on the edge of the Promised Land, as the previous generation had done. He told them to "be strong and courageous," and he comforted them by telling them that God would not fail or forsake them.

Jewish tradition teaches that a person's income for the year is predetermined at Rosh Hashanah. The writer to the book of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 to encourage His readers to rely on God to provide for all their needs. He tells them to avoid greed and avarice because God has already promised not to forsake us:

"Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said [in Deuteronomy 31:6], 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,' so that we confidently say [what is written in Psalm 118:6], 'The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

People who have been abandoned or abused by a parent or spouse sometimes suffer with anxiety about their relationship with God. They might project their hurts and fears from human relationships onto their relationship with God. They fear that He will withdraw His love from them. Such a view of God makes a true faith relationship almost impossible. God wants His people to know that He will not fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Even in times when God punished Israel for disobedience, it was not as if He had abandoned them or cast them off. He punishes Israel as a father disciplines a beloved son. God is faithful to His people. Even when He sent the children of Israel into exile, He did not send them out alone. The rabbis teach that God's Dwelling Presence went with the people of Israel when they were driven from their land, and that He will return with them when they are gathered back into the land.

We can trust our Father in Heaven. He travels with us even in the lonely places of pain and exile. He will not fail us or forsake us.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Potato Starch and Pedialyte

Intrigued?  You should be.  Since I no longer have to dedicate my brain cells to school work I have been dedicating them to things like napping, reading, and organizing drawers and shelves that have gotten away with being messy for four years.  Annnnnd when that eventually gets boring, I do things like learn how to make my own Pedialyte and attempt to make gluten free cookies from scratch. Yummy, right? 

I hear gluten free cookies can be yummy.  I like gluten free bread, crackers, and muffins so why not cookies?  Why?  Well, maybe I had a bad recipe, but my cookies basically tasted like poop and that's an understatement.  All I did was substitute flour with potato starch.  My only advice to you is don't do it!  Don't put potato starch in your cookies!

The finished product was weird and crumbly.  In fact, if I had written the recipe I would have stated, place tablespoon blobs of dough on the cookie sheet, with some kind of equal spacing, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until weird and crumbly.  Instead the instructions said something like, place rounded spoonfuls of cookie dough, two inches apart, on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until light golden brown and Martha Stewart-y.  Okay, so I added the Martha Stewart-y part for added snark value, but you get the point. 

I bake.  I love to bake and have been good at it since I was very young.  I spent summer vacations and winter breaks from school baking cakes and cookies and pies and feeding my masterpieces to my brothers and the neighborhood boys.  I loved creating new recipes and altering my favorite recipes from my mom's cookbooks.  As an adult, I eat super healthy and try to limit, if not completely do away with, my intake of sugars, preservatives, fats, etc. so I thought I could combine my love of baking with my love of healthy ingredients.  This is what I learned this week:

Only eat "healthy" desserts if someone smarter than me can use healthy ingredients and actually make them taste good OR just eat the sugar, butter, shortening and gluten loaded goodies as is.  It's dessert for goodness sake!

I am now also making my own Pedialyte.  Since I am plagued with frequent episodes of migraine induced vomiting (I hope you aren't eating any desserts right now, gluten free or otherwise) I keep Pedialyte on hand, always, so that I don't die from dehydration and so that I can find enough strength the morning after to crawl around and get ready for work.  $5.00 a liter plus a girl who pukes at least bi-weekly = lots o'money.  I googled "homemade pedialyte" and I now have pre-made baggies full of dry Pedialyte which I can add to water, when needed, and remain hydrated and alive. Each baggie of dry contents costs around $.60 cents versus $5.00.  Boo-yah!

There are tons of homemade pedialyte recipes out there, but I prefer the recipes found on this site:

http://www.ourlittlemonkeys.net/2010/01/26/homemade-pedialyte/

I am going to have to channel my extra time toward something besides baking experiments and electrolyte remedies soon, but for now, this is fun!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nothing to avoid

It turns out that I am at my most creative and/or inspired when I am trying to procrastinate or avoid another task altogether.  How did I discover this?  After four, long, horrifyingly inconvenient years of college I am finally finished with my Bachelor's degree. (I don't have my grades back yet and I'm surprisingly superstitious so don't get excited). 

This past year, especially, I've been burning out quickly and procrastinating like it's an Olympic sport and I'm trying to get on the team!  The fact that I produce better results under pressure only justified the procrastination, which is unfortunate, and I'm convinced, very bad for my heart.  In the middle of writing a research paper I would suddenly have to STOP, minimize my Word doc and start typing a blog post, usually at midnight.  Then, afterward I could focus on my paper again.  It was a terrible way to complete school but it made for some good posts, I hope.

This past week, I have been free.  I go out with friends spontaneously, I hang out with my nieces and nephews, I go to bed at a normal time,  all the while never having to say to anyone, "I can't; I have a paper to write."

I thought that having all this extra time on my hands and a clear mind would inspire me to blog like crazy, but instead I have 19 unfinished drafts just sitting there, taunting me.  I hate them and their smug unfinishedness.  Blah.  Since I have nothing that I want to avoid right now, I can't seem to focus on blogging. 

But maybe it's a good thing?  It's kind of fantastic that there's nothing in my life that I want to avoid.  Well, nothing besides dating.  I'm avoiding that like the plague, but that's a whole other blog post that is currently in draft form. Until I'm inspired to polish my drafts or to write about anything new at all, I am just going to live.  That is the most freeing thing I've said or felt in a long time. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Other Mama

My niece, Little E, is a very bright, witty, and matter-of-fact two year old who never ceases to amaze me.  A few months ago, I was visiting with Little E and her brothers and parents.  During dinner, Little E pointed across the room at her parents and said, "That's my daddy." 

I nodded.  "I know.  I love your daddy." 

She pointed at her mommy, "That's my mommy." 

Again, I nodded.  "I love your mommy too." 

Then Little E cocked her head and looked at me very seriously before asking, "Are you my mother?" 

Taken back a bit I said, "No, Little E, I'm your Jessica!" 

She insisted that I'm her mother and that her mommy is her mommy.  Where she came up with this, I will never know but I'm sure it's going to cause confusion when I am out in public with Little E and her mommy!

Little E has since been openly and consistenly referring to me as her Mother, Mom or Other Mama.  It is the weirdest thing.  She defintely knows the difference between me and her mommy and she still calls me Jessica and sometimes calls me Aunt Jessica too.  She just decided one day to include me in the mom category.  We (her parents and I) all laugh about it. We have no idea what sparked this little phase in Little E. 

Today, I was telling a friend about this phase, exclaiming about how cute it is and then I was reminded of a doctor's appointment that took place about a year ago. At the appointment, I was told I would probably never be able to carry a child to term, or would at least require a lot of medical assistance to do so.  I wasn't crushed, mainly because I'm not even sure I want kids.  I mean, I love children and anyone who knows me even a little bit can vouch for that, but if I never have my own I'll be okay.  However, there is that natural maternal part of me that caused me to be a little sad that I don't even have the option.  With all that said, the fact that Little E thinks enough of me to consider me her "Other Mama" is kind of awesome.

Me, Little E, and her brothers Sky-bye, and T-Rex

Sunday, September 11, 2011

55 Minutes

Ten years ago today I was 17 and a senior in high school.  I, like so many others, remember the tragedy and turmoil of the terrorist attacks like it was yesterday.  And, like so many others, I cannot fully explain what that day felt like, what it did to me, how it changed me and that's unfortunate.  It's unfortunate because those who are transitioning into adulthood in the next few years were in their early elementary years, or younger, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center September 11, 2001 and may not fully understand how significant those events were.

This is not a "I remember where I was" post, although I have one of those drafted.  Sitting on my patio this morning, everything is silent.  Even the geese that normally honk incessantly are waddling around, silently.  There is a peaceful stillness so unlike what was felt in 2001 at this time that it caused me to scrap my original draft and type this instead:

We watched television all day at school after hearing about the attacks.  We saw, over and over and over and over, the planes hit the World Trade Center towers.  We saw people suffocating in the streets of New York, trying to escape the dust and smoke.  We heard the cries, watched news anchors break down as they reported the events, and we talked about it in shock.  We cried.  The day was raw and terrifying.  Class after class, we tuned in to what we knew was going to be a major part of our history and our teachers justified the viewing as such.

Toward the end of the day, I walked into my French 4 class and sat down, emotionally exhausted.  My classmates joined me, quietly, and the bell rang.  I don't think I can watch anymore, I thought.  Then again, I felt like I would be a terrible American if I wasn't able to watch and mourn with the nation. 

After taking attendance, my teacher turned the television off and said, "Today is important.  Today is significant and you have been watching history in the making.  You will catch yourself in the future, telling others where you were when--,"  her voice cracked and she waited a few moments to compose herself before speaking again.  "Don't forget this day.  But I hope you will forgive me if I can't watch anymore today.  We will be watching this and keeping track of it for the next weeks and months and even years to come.  I want 55 minutes; I want to give you 55 minutes of normalcy."

We spent the next 55 minutes going through French vocab drills and constructing sentences, and reading portions of a French novel aloud.  In the backs of our minds I am sure we were all still thinking about the events of the day, but the distraction was nice.  The use of some other part of my brain, was nice. 

To this day, obviously, I appreciate what Ms. Schneider did for us.  She gave us a break and a chance to process.  Sitting here on this beautiful morning, this anniversary of a terrible day, I am peacefully reflecting.  I am using 55 minutes to focus on remembering that day, how thankful I am for my life and the freedoms I enjoy, and praying for all of the people who lost so much that morning and for those who put their lives in danger, every day, to protect us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

For the Times They Are A-Changin'

Bob Dylan is helping me sort out some things today; isn't that nice of him?  He probably didn't realize that his song, Times They Are A-Changing, would be stuck in some girl's head on a pre-Autumn morning in 2011.  I woke up humming the song, my brain set on 'repeat'. 

I rushed around my apartment this morning.  I lost the companion to my favorite black heels and crawled around, one-shoed, searching under my bed and couch for it.  It was in the kitchen.  I lost my iPhone, which has yet to be located, my keys (again this week) and had all kinds of thoughts running through my head mainly the two extremes of joyful and fearful.  Finally, I found my shoe, grabbed my purse, laptop, water bottle, sunglasses. . .and stepped out the door.

After quickly turning the key to lock the door, I paused.  To my right, through the breezeway of the apartment complex, I saw the parking lot.  There's nothing significant about it, it's just a parking lot, but it's part of my daily routine.  To my left, the yard and sidewalks leading to other apartments.  It struck me how very happy I have been for the past few years.  Early morning sunlight spilled in and touched me where I was standing, warming up my face.  I felt the cool air of a newly approaching season and smiled.  It was then that I acknowledged the lyrics to the tune that I had been humming and realized that they eerily fit into what I have been experiencing lately. For the times, they are a changin'.


Things are changing for me and many others around me.  It's part of life.  We change in little ways everyday but there seems to be seasons in our lives where significant change happens and if we don't take notice soon enough, it can become overwhelming.  Not only am I realizing that my life is heading in a new direction, but so are the people in my life who are closest to me.  The changes that they are experiencing will ultimately change my life and vice versa.  Standing there in the breezeway, with my world paused, I took notice of everything.  My apartment, my surroundings, how I felt rushing to work, my routine, my lifestyle and the constants in my life.  It's all about to change, in most ways for the better, but change nonetheless.  Notice this for a reason.  Appreciate it.

The changes I'm referring to are seemingly positive.  People are moving on and headed on to new places, new relationships, adding little ones to their lives, new jobs.  Our relationships with one another will change a bit and that brings some sadness with it.  So, with all of this positive change comes a feeling of mourning too.

The first verse of Bob Dylan's song seems almost like a reminder, or even a warning to me, that I need to recognize what is going on around me and be prepared for what's coming.  I know he wrote this song in a different context but I feel like if I refuse to accept exciting changes that are approaching and try to preserve everything 'as is', I will be hit in the face with it later and will have given up the opportunity to rejoice for myself and others. 

Come gather 'round people



Wherever you roam


And admit that the waters


Around you have grown


And accept it that soon


You'll be drenched to the bone.


If your time to you


Is worth savin'


Then you better start swimmin'


Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'

Friday, September 2, 2011

San Diego Morning

This is me at 6:30 AM, in the hallway of the Catamaran Resort and Spa in San Diego, California.
I felt like what I assume a child feels on Christmas morning:  giddy and excited, impatient and hopeful.  It was Sunday morning, the morning of our last day in San Diego before returning back to normal life.  The trip, thus far, had been perfect and amazingly fun.  It gave me quality time with two of my best friends and refreshed my overworked brain.


I woke up that morning to illuminated palm trees framing the balcony of our room.  My friends were still asleep and I contemplated getting some extra rest.  As I layed back and gazed outside, I reflected on how awesome it was that I was sitting in such a place, waking up to palm trees, with the ocean just a few steps away.  It was then, that I felt the ocean pulling at me.  Dramatic, right?  It's true though.  The entire time in San Diego, as soon as I could hear or feel or smell the beach I had this weird inner NEED to be in the sand, in the water immediately.

In a sense of quiet urgency, I slid out of bed, rummaged around for a room key and crept out into the hallway, pajama clad, and then proceeded to jog to the stairwell, down three flights of stairs, and out into the perfect San Diego morning.



I walked quickly, yet purposefully, along the winding paths that led from our hotel to the private beach.  I wanted to get to the ocean quickly, but I also wanted to enjoy the sites along the way knowing I wouldn't see them for a very long time.  I stopped to visit the coy pond, took a few pictures of the ducks, the trees, the fountains.  It was a nice, quiet, refreshing stroll. 

Finally, I could see the bamboo gate which would lead me out of the resort area and to the beach.  I could barely see a glimpse of the water as I approached, the fog blurring the line between water and sky.   As  I approached the gate, the scene took my breath away:


The only other people on the beach that morning was a man and his son.  They were quietly swimming and paddling out into the bay on a surfboard.  The main called out to me, "there are plenty of seashells at the edge of the water!"

He was right.  I searched for the prettiest shells and found mainly broken pieces.  My intention was to find some shells and make one of them into a necklace for my friend back home who wanted to come along on the trip but wasn't able too.  I prayed silently that I would find something she would like, feeling even in mid-prayer, that it was a silly thing to pray about.  I walked a few feet more and saw a shell, completely intact, and picked it up.  The water had worn a small hole in it, in the perfect spot to hang from a necklace!  This is what the finished product looks like:



I appreciated my alone time on the beach that morning.  It was really a spiritual experience.  The calm and quiet was like nothing I've ever experienced, the rhythm of the waves gently lapping up against the sand, the pier and against my legs seemed to remove every stress from the past year, every newly forming line in my face, every insecurity. 


 video

We finished out our trip by visiting the beach at Coronado Island; it was truly majestic.  I couldn't have asked for a better vacation with friends and will never forget the peace of that final morning, basking in the intricacies and wonder of creation and leaving, knowing that something as insignificant as a seashell was given to me because I asked for it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are You Sure You Want To Delete Everything in this Folder?

No!  No, I'm not sure! 

Rewind:

So it's my last full day before my short vacation.  I'm preparing my bosses and co-workers for every possible scenario:  payroll is prepped, offer letters for hypothetical future employees are written just in case one needs to be written or sent in my absence, I've distributed document templates, pre-written emails for others to send on my behalf, all with the required legal verbiage IF certain situations arise.  My brain hurts.  I've detailed my processes, broken them down further and even created a version I secretly refer to as the "Dummy" version, and then ended every last email with ". . .but seriously, if THAT happens just call my personal cell and I'll log in from San Diego." 

I do this to myself everytime I take a vacation.  I know the world won't end if I'm not here, but it would be difficult for others for a while, without these instructions, if I were to be eaten by a shark. 

Anyway, while proactively preparing for the worst and arming my colleagues with wisdom (and also annoying them with my anxiety driven  "just double checking" emails), I ended up running into an issue that could only be resolved with a document that only one of our executives has in his possession. 

He's out of town. 

No worries, I thought to myself, we map our personal drives to virtual servers so....

So, my plan was to use my system administrator rights to reset said executive's password, access his files, retrieve the document and move on, with his permission of course.  Was the document stored in his mapped drive?  Nooooo.  It was saved to the hard drive on his laptop.  (Just in case you are wondering, this is not best practice). 

New plan:  Log in to the physical machine, retrieve document, email it from his Outlook to myself, log out, and then. . .move on.  Everything was going smoothly, although I did  notice his electronic files were not efficiently arranged and categorized and I had to fight the urge to re-architect the files. Then. . .dun dun duuuunnnnn

The question of doom popped up as I was exiting his email:  Are you sure you want to delete everything in this folder and sub-folders? 

Those sitting in the cubicles outside of his office heard an audible "Gah!  No!  No, I'm not sure!"  I know my way around technology and have no idea why that popped up.  This has to be a joke!  If it had happened under my own account I would have been fine, and would have calmly clicked No, but imagining having to tell Mr. Exec, "Ummmm, so I deleted all your stuff.  That's cool, right?"  made my anxiety skyrocket.

I frantically clicked No, logged out, and backed away from the laptop and out of his office as if it could explode any moment. 

Have I mentioned lately that I'm looking forward to vacation?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans are often foiled by situations and things that seem out of scope but end up being way better than the original plans.

The closer my trip to Phoenix and San Diego gets the more I realize that I need a vacation.  It's like the universe is throwing extra stressful, extra tedious, extra annoying things, tasks and people at me so that I really appreciate the upcoming time off.  All I can think about is sitting.  Sitting on the beach.  Sitting on the beach with no make-up on (okay, maybe a little bit of make-up).  Running on the beach.  More importantly, I look forward to being on vacation with two of my very best friends, enjoying. . .whatever it is that we decide to do. 

I made a spontaneous <insert anxiety and heart palpitations here> trip to visit family this weekend.   My original plan for the weekend was to pre-pack, make packing lists, revise my pro/con list for my work and departure schedule on Wednesday, sleep, catch up on school work, sleep, work out, work out, and sleep.  Instead, I packed a bag and drove through the night to southern Missouri so that I could attend my great-uncle's 80th birthday party.  My g-Uncle is one of my very favorite people so there was no way I would miss the celebration; however, I am not a spontaneous person.  I like to plan spontaneity.  So while I was excited about the weekend, in theory, all I could think about was my upcoming, very needed vacation and the fact that this little weekend excursion was not in my timeline nor in my budget.

BUT.  I love when there's a "but".  My weekend excursion was not in my timeline nor in my budget. . .

But I arrived at my parent's house and got to spend hours of one on one time with DudeGuyMan (my younger brother).  He's a freakishly talented musician so we listened to some of his latest recordings and laughed hysterically, about random things, until the early in the morning.  It is only with DudeGuyMan that I make midnight ventures out to Taco Bell. . .and actually eat Taco Bell, which I later regretted.  My head was like, "You know better than to eat fake, overly processed fooooood!" and then it applied excruciating pain to my temples.  It was worth it.

But I was able to spend a few hours with my sister, who had to attend a rodeo to take photographs for the county newspaper.  Quality time with my sister AND experiencing a rodeo=priceless.  Rodeos are not my thing, but cowboys might be?  I'm just kidding. . .I was definitely out of my element and every part of me screamed, "I'm a city girl!!!" to the locals.

But I got to sit outside with my mom and eat ice cream.  I got to drink coffee and eat breakfast with my mom, sing with my mom, just spend time with my mom.

But I spent time with 5 generations of relatives, some of whom I haven't seen for years, and who all used to be constant, integral parts of my life.  It was like nothing had changed even though so much has changed.  These are my people.  These people taught me how to hug, how to really love, how to make bottlerocket launchers on the 4th of July. . .etc.


My mom, my aunt, and me

On my drive home today, I spontaneously took a different route home with the help of my iPhone navigation system.  It turned out to be a much shorter, much prettier drive AND the speed limit was 75 mph which means setting my cruise control on 80 mph was totally acceptable!  The route also took me by a few different small municipal airports so I was able to view single engine planes and gliders taking off, descending to land, or just flying freely above me.  As I neared home, to my left, I saw several hot air balloons floating majestically in the sky, with the setting sun behind them. 


Turns out, in addition to needing a vacation, I also really needed every spontaneous and unplanned, unbudgeted part of this weekend.  I was provided with everything I love:  family, time, the privilege of watching flight, alone time (in the car during my trip), and the realization that it really is the simple things in life that make me happy.  If not for spontaneity ruining my plans I would have missed out on all of it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Way of Regarding Situations, Facts, etc, and Judging Their Relative Importance

I love the definition of perspective even more than I love the word perspective.  I love it because, to me, perspective is a "growing" word and it's still always subjective.  Often when our perspectives change, it's because we have gained more knowledge or experience or have been open to at least understanding another way of thinking as it pertains to our situations, facts and judging relative importance.

I spent Sunday night through Monday morning (8:00PM to 4:00 AM) moving furniture, storage bins, clothing, shoes, baby seats and toys, photo boxes, etc. out of my soaking wet closet and bedroom after discovering my water heater had been leaking for days.  It wasn't fun.  It wasn't fun discovering the wet floor, trying to figure out the source of the water and quickly moving heavy furniture with a newly healed, formerly fractured hand. It wasn't fun staying up until the wee hours of the morning (on a work night) waiting on maintenance to show up.  It wasn't fun sitting on the living room floor blow drying my shoes.  It wasn't fun having to throw out letters, photos, kid artwork and cards that I stupidly stored in a cardboard box.  It wasn't fun, but it was necessary so I did it.

The majority of my experience, looking back, is humorous and sleep deprivation makes it even more funny but I'm not going to go into the funny stories associated with the Great Water Heater Flood of 2011.  I am going to talk about a way in which I now regard the situation, the facts, and how I judge their relative importance.

My perspective changed when I arrived home from work yesterday.  Maintenance had been in my apartment most of the day ripping up carpet, changing out the water heater, and they left behind a few ginormous fans to finish drying the floors out.  The maintenance guys had also taken it upon themselves to move my bedroom furniture back so that I wouldn't have too.  Yay!  My shoes were finally dry so I began arranging them, in pairs, in the corner of my kitchen.  I made quite a few trips with musty smelling shoes stacked and spilling from my arms. 

Perspective:  I immediately thought of the kids I know personally in Honduras with only flip flops to their name.  Or the people I saw with no shoes or wearing someone else's worn out hand-me-down shoes, sizes too big or too small.  Here I am with a kitchen floor full of multiple pairs of cute heels, boots, flats, tennis shoes, flip flops, slippers, and sandals.  Multiple pairs.  Some I don't even wear; I just keep them around because I might wear them again.  I don't feel wrong owning all of these shoes; however, I do regard my situation differently.  The night before, when armed with a blow dryer and feeling frustrated that my shoes were wet, I kind of felt sorry for myself.  Now, I realize that I'm lucky to have shoes to damage or lose in the first place.  I have things to miss, while so many others don't even have the essentials to live comfortably.

That change in perspective, or reminder, led me to take another step back and look at the Great Water Heater Flood of 2011.  Water.

Perspective:  Anyone been keeping up with the crisis in Somalia (and other famine stricken parts of the world)?  Anyone ever been to a third world country?  We take water for granted.  I knew this and learned to take it less for granted after visiting Honduras last year, but I still take it for granted, obviously. 

While I don't want water all over my apartment, I realized that I have a crazy abundant supply of water.  I have so much water I didn't know if it was leaking from the sink, the bathroom plumbing, or the washer.  I'm so unfamiliar with everything that houses and processes water for me that I didn't even consider it might be the water heater for a good hour into the clean up.  I have a tank of constantly heated water while people are dying because they don't even have a sip of water to drink.  People are dying because they can't water their crops, hydrate or feed their animals, and so they starve.  They suffer.  And I have water all over my apartment floor. 

My situation on Sunday night/Monday morning wasn't fun.  Water damage can be bad and can create mold.  I have little irritations toward the maintenance crew who waited what felt like an eternity to show up, but at least I have a maintenance crew.  I had someone to call.  I didn't have to handle the whole situation totally by myself.

Regarding my situation in a different way, weighing the facts and judging their relative importance, this is what I've decided:

If my only complaint is that the situation wasn't fun, that I'm exhausted, that I had to apply some muscle to salvaging my stuff and go to work sleep deprived, then in the grand scheme of things my situation wasn't that important.  I have more than what I need and am thankful to have been reminded of that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Captcha: One More Way to Feel Self-Conscious

I would like to focus your attention on a couple of things in this picture.  First, the captcha letters (or so-called letters), used to verify I am not a spambot, and secondly, the text in the pink box.  Would you like to know how many times that box snickered at me while telling me that the text I entered did not match the security check?  I think eventually it added, "idiot" after please try again.

Dyslexia and captcha security checks are not friends!  I could maybe identify the letters, in the correct order, after a moment of scrutinaization IF the letters weren't also wavy and blurry.  I still seriously cannot tell if the last word has 5 letters in it or 6. . .or 7?!  The other difficult aspect for me is when I do finally identify the letters or numbers, I often type them incorrectly, usually in the wrong order but when I compare what I've typed to the letters it looks correct, even though it's not!  Gah.  So, then I get a new captcha to decipher and the viscious cycle continues.

Granted, I've always had issues with numbers.  My whole life, printed numbers would scurry all over the page at school, making math difficult for me.  Even if I understood the concept or process of solving the equation, I would almost always mess up the numbers along the way.  Math up through middle school was a breeze becasue it was pretty basic, but once I hit algebra and geometry where numbers met up with letters and symbols, it was all over for me!  I had to work my booty off to pass those classes with a D-, and up until that point I was an A and B student. 

I even process numbers, given to me verbally, incorrectly.  Once, my co-worker was reading off numbers for me to write down.  87 12 71 14 30.  This is what I wrote:  87 12 71 42 30.  When I read it back to her, I read it off correctly, even though it was written down incorrectly.  I heard 14, wrote 42, and read back 14.  Crazy weird.  It took us 20 minutes to figure out why there was a discrepancy in our numbers.  She had to come over and look at what I had written.

I have a love for english and writing.  I legitimately love spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure.  I love editing.  I loved spelling bees as a kid.  I love words!  So who cares if I have to work harder with numbers?  Double and triple check everything?  I have letters! 

I wasn't always dyslexic.  This is still a relatively "new" issue for me.  Up until I was 19, I never had an issue with letters; never had to doublecheck my spelling, etc.  That was until I had a small stroke, now called a TIA. Back then it was called, "Ummm.....we don't know what happened?  We're going to call it a migrainous stroke.  Here are some drugs that will likely make you feel worse or kill you.  Good luck." 

That episode changed my life, forever, in a number of ways. One of the many long term effects?  Dyslexia.  Eight years later it still makes me self-conscious; even though I am considered mildly dyslexic and should recognize that I'm blessed not to be severely dyslexic, I'm still self-conscious about it and get mildly annoyed when I can't figure out a freakin' captcha check! 

The great thing is that there are work arounds for both dyscalculia and dyslexia; most people don't even know I struggle with either.  Now I guess everyone knows, but that's okay.  I'm successful in my job, I do what I love.  Some things just take me a little longer than most people.  One of the greatest positive aspects is how awesome my boss is about triple checking my numbers at work (I handle payroll and have NEVER made an error) without making me feel like a moron.  :)

That being said, Captcha is still my arch nemesis!  Hmmm.....I might have a new idea for a Post-it Art blog post.  Yes, it involves spandex and capes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Beach as Your Backdrop

This is the best thing I've read all day year!  "Our quaint beach bungalows are inches from the ocean, with no roads between the rental and the beach! Right out your front door you have a shared patio to enjoy with a barbecue, patio furniture, and fire ring, all with the beach as your backdrop!"



Oh dear sweetness. . .I can't wait to be in California, going to sleep to the sound of the ocean, having coffee with my two BFFs in the morning, walking barefoot in the sand, and really relaxing.  Two weeks is too long to wait!  The only downfall is that I have to submit payroll while on vacation, but for real prepping and submitting payroll in a cottage by the ocean, with the beach as my backdrop, is going to be a lot more fun than from my office in the Midwest!