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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Growing

Most people don't grow up.  It's too damn difficult.  What happens is most people get older.  That's the truth of it...  But to grow up costs the earth, the earth.  It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy.  It's serious business.  And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail.  And maybe even more, to succeed.  What it costs, in truth.
- - - - -

Had lunch yesterday with my two best childhood friends - Joel and Dave.  It was excellent.  I was thinking about our growing up together and how the two of them would tell me, "You're too young.  You wouldn't understand," when they were talking to each other.  I was maybe a few months younger than they were.  It used to infuriate me.

At lunch, I realized that now the tables are turned.  And instead, I can now say to them, "You're too old.  You wouldn't remember."

Life is awesome.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Jars

For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?
~ Jack Handey
- - - - -

I think you have to be careful if you put out a jar and expect people to put money in it.  They might not.  They might put other things in it (chewed gum, coupons, urine, sand, beets).

They might also just take your jar.  Then, not only do you not have have a jar full of money, you have to use some of the money you already saved to buy a new jar.

But if you go somewhere and they have a tip jar sitting out, you should give them some money - if the service is good.  Like when Joe and Sara and I went to Dunkin Donuts and I took a nickel out of the tip jar to pay for my purchase.  

And then I realized it was a tip jar.  It was actually a cup, I think.  And I asked the person, "Um...  is that a tip jar?"  She said, "Yeah.  But that's okay."

So I put a dollar in the tip jar and said, "See how you being nice worked out to your benefit?"

I like to think that better tip was "Be nice to people," but I bet she thought the better tip was the dollar.  Or maybe a better tip from her might have been, "Don't steal my tip money to pay your bill."

We all have so many good piece of advice to share.  Too bad we can't jar them up and sell them.  Maybe a good company would be, "Advice in a  Jar."  But the label-makers might have typo and our jars might read, "A Vice in a Jar."

(pause)

I bet "A Vice in a Jar" would sell better than "Advice in a Jar."

What does that say about our culture?

Mainly, I think it says that we love stuff in jars.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pride

Too many people spend money they earned...  to buy things they don't want...  to impress people they don't like.
~ Will Rogers
- - - - -

I think that worrying too much about what others think is a dangerous thing.  I think that we can tend to conform to the point of being invisible.  And then the world misses out on us.

I think we should be proud of ourselves - in appropriate ways.  I know my parents always wanted me to be proud.  In fact, they would ask me - often at odd times, I thought, "So, are you proud of yourself now?"  Or, "Look at that mess!!  Are you proud of yourself?!"

That's how I got such good self-esteem.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Iowa

It is true that I was born in Iowa, but I can't speak for my twin sister.
~ Pauline Phillips
- - - - -

Leslie:  I was working on a crossword puzzle and the clue was “Heart of the Midwest.” 
Me:  I hope you got it.
Leslie:  I got it.
Me:  I bet it was Iowa.
Leslie:  It was Iowa.
Me:  Of course there aren’t that many 4-letter states in the Midwest.
Leslie: Ohio.
Me: (silence)
Leslie:  Of course that’s not really the heart of the Midwest.
Me:  No.  I think it’s more the spleen of the Midwest.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Windows

I discovered windows one afternoon and after that, nothing was ever the same.
~ Anne Spollen
- - - - -

I completely agree, Anne Spollen.  The same thing happened to me when I discovered my neighbors' windows.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Wind

Wind does not discriminate - it touches everyone, everything.
~ Lish McBride
- - - - -

Remember that when you feel the wind, others feel the same wind. Or others feel a different wind at a different time but maybe in the same way.  Or they feel a different wind in a different way, but it's still wind touching them.  And wind touches you.  And wind touches me.

And when you break wind that touches me, too.  Mostly in the nose.  And mostly I do not like it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Creatures

Every animal leaves traces of what it was; man alone leaves traces of what he created.
~ Jacob Bronowski
- - - - -

I think we need to come to terms with the fact that we privilege some animals over others.  We have domesticated dogs and cats (or so they would have us think).  We appreciate deer and rabbits - if they aren't eating our gardens.  We even go so far as to build houses for birds.  Birds which are completely capable of building their own houses.

In all fairness my father has built bat houses and butterfly houses, too. 

But what about a skunk feeder?  My parents have a backyard full of bird feeders but not even one skunk feeder.  And I have yet to see a bison house in my parents' yard.

Whatever.  You people are just going to do whatever you want.  Let me just say, though, when the bison and the skunks take over, I'm the one who will get a special house and feeder in their backyard.

So there.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Leading

The road leading you to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.
~ Charles de Lint
- - - - -

I hope I never find myself watching someone leading a double life.  Because that would mean that I was following a double life.  And that seems creepy.  Creepier than leading a double life.  

And don't even get me started on triple lives.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Genius

A talent somewhat above mediocrity, shrewd and not too sensitive, is more likely to rise in the world than genius.
~ Charles Horton Cooley
- - - - - -

Sometimes I wish I was a genius.  Or that other people knew I was a genius.  That I could create or build or do things that would surprise and shock (in a pleasant way) the world around me.  That I can change the way people experience their time and space.

Other times I wish I could find a genius in a bottle.  And that it would give me three wishes.  Really, anything in a bottle to grant me three wishes would be fine.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chair

You can't deny laughter, when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.
~ Stephen King
- - - - -

There are opportunities for us to be creative and use humor in even the most tedious and mundane of moments.  Sometimes we miss the opportunity.  Sometimes we are too busy - or make priorities of other things rather than basking in the fun of the now.

Other times, we do take opportunities to have fun in the now.  I know there are times when I miss other people doing this.  But sometimes I don't miss it.  Like when I saw this Craigslist post a while ago...  Thanks to the person who wrote this:

Sturdy orange chair - $5 (Ames, IA)
We have an older wood-and-orange-vinyl chair we are trying to get rid of. Not much to say about it really - it's a chair. Medium comfortable. Very functional. Will probably outlive me. 5 dollars, you come pick it up. Excellent for seating guests or just piling laundry on - not my business what you do with it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Experiences

A strong and well-constituted man digests his experiences (deeds and misdeeds all included) just as he digests his meats, even when he has some tough morsels to swallow.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche
- - - - -

I love working with people who help me make meaning of my experiences.  There are times that I think I understand things, but by discussing those things with good partners, I am able to clarify my understanding.  Sometimes good others help me realize I was mistaken.  Sometimes they help me be more confident in what I thought was right to begin with.

An example...

Me:  He smells like beef.

Sara:  Really?  I would have guessed pork.

Joe:  Me, too.

Me:  Well, wait.  What's a Slim Jim?  Beef or pork?

Sara:  Beef.

Joe:  And chemicals.

Me:  That's what he smells like.  Beef and chemicals.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Time

When Armageddon takes place, parking is going to be a major problem.
J. G. Ballard
- - - - -

The first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City on this day (July 16th) in 1935. That's right this is the 79th anniversary of the parking meter.  While the traditional gift for an 80th anniversary is oak, I could not find a symbol for the 79th anniversary of something.  (pause)  Maybe it's the parking meter.  That would be kind of a good symbol.  Eventually, it's going to pop up "expired," but until then you've got time to park your butt on earth with that person you are with.

I like parking meters.  Visually, I mean.  They have an interesting shape.  They convey information.  When you pull up to park for "just a minute" and there are 10 minutes remaining on the meter where you park, that is a good thing. 

Maybe parking meters are where "paying it forward" as a concept originated.  They are often at the front or forward part of the parking space.  And if you pay enough, you are paying forward for the person who will park there next.

The word "park" comes from the Old French parc or "livestock pen."  So parking lots are like livestock pens of the modern age.  Instead of tying up our horses at hitching posts, we park our cars in lots.  

Sometimes I just type my thoughts and they don't really go anywhere in particular.  Sometimes there isn't good closure or a line that brings the things all together.

This is one of those cases.  

But I like parking meters.  Happy anniversary parking meters.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Glory

There is no road of flowers leading to glory.
~ Jean de La Fontaine
- - - - -

There is no road leading to glory - paved with flowers or otherwise.  You have to pave that sucker yourself.  And I wouldn't suggest using good intentions.  You won't like where that road will take you.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blame

Some people's blameless lives are to blame for a good deal.
Dorothy L. Sayers
- - - - -

When you want to put all the blame on someone else, you throw them under the bus.  Right?  Why?  Why a bus?

Why not throw them under the train?  Or the tractor?  Or the sleigh?  I mean it would be bad to be run over by any of those, right?  A van.  I had my arm run over by a sled once.  That hurt, too.  And I'm not being symbolic.  I'm being literal.  I literally  had my arm run over by the runner of a sled.  It literally hurt.

I think it would particularly awful to be thrown under the bandwagon.  Because everyone is JUMPING on that thing.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Friendship

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
~ George Washington
- - - - -

I think that timing is very important in friendship.  You have to make time to develop that friendship.  Obviously.  Friendship is not going to be consistently a matter of convenience.  If you're lucky it is convenient occasionally.

I have discovered that some of my best friendships are ones that didn't start out as friendships.  They didn't necessarily start out as enemyships, but they evolved over time.  They took some work.

And what is really awesome about these relationships is that they surprise other people outside of the friendship.  Stephanie and I were having a conversation about this the other day.  She said that some people are surprised that the two of us are friends.  I agreed and said that I think WE are surprised that we are friends.

But we are.  

There's no way we could have been friends 20 years ago.  We were different people then.  

And we didn't live anywhere near each other.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Leading

There must be times when a leader must move out in front of the flock, go off in a new direction confident that he is leading his people the right way.
~ Nelson Mandela
- - - - -

There is a lot of stuff out there about leadership.  How it is done well.  How it is inspirational.  How it can make things better.

But what about misleadership?  We can learn a lot from that, too.  And it's all over the place.  

And what about things besides ships?  I bet someone exhibiting good leadercycling or leaderhangliding would be pretty inspirational, too.  Or how about simply leaderwalking?  Now that's someone I would probably follow.

Unless she was dressed as a clown.  I'm all for inspiration, but I'm not an idiot.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shovels

Inconvenience yourself: Ditch the remote, the garage door opener, the leaf blower; buy a bike, broom, rake and snow shovel.
~ Dan Buettner
- - - - -

There was a huge drama with a bat at Leslie's house a few months ago when I was there.  It ended with Leslie clumphing it with a giant wooden sword and David using a snow shovel to take it outside.  Once outside, the bat started oozing glow in the dark liquid and David had to finish it off by beating it with a snow shovel.

Now, some people might be upset by this.  David was.  Granny was.  But until you have a bat in your house, I suggest you not judge.  People who live in bat houses throw stones.  And wooden swords and snow shovels.

Later that night David was talking about possible careers.  He mentioned nursing, but said he wasn't sure if he could / wanted to do that work.  I simply added, "When you're a nurse, you hardly ever have to beat a patient to death with a snow shovel."

Life experiences happen to us so that we can figure out our own futures and make sense of our presents by understanding our pasts.

And thus.  And such.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Unseen

We do not need more intellectual power, we need more spiritual power.  We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.
~ Calvin Coolidge
- - - - -

There is so much in the world and so much about the people in the world with us that we can't see.  Some of it is stuff we can never see.  

Much of what is unseen in ourselves is that from which we can draw strength.  Our histories.  Our emotions.  Our thoughts.  While these things can surface at times, we are the owners and the only real "understanders" of these things.  And even our own understanding is clouded.

So, have a little faith (and patience) in the unseen.  It is there.  It is there for a reason.  Like underwear.  Or like Leslie's purple peace sign socks.  You can't really see them a lot of the time when she wears them.  But they are there.  And when I commented on them, this was the response:

All warriors wear peace socks.
~ Leslie Lewis

So there you have it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Flowers

A flower blossoms for it's own joy.
~ Oscar Wilde
- - - - -

Me: (looking at an online quiz) What kind of flower are you?
Mike:  I'm not a flower.

And that, children, is when I pretty much quit doing online quizzes.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Communicating

I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up.
~ Tom Lehrer
- - - - -

I agree with the idea that we often see or hear what we expect or want to see or hear.  I think that is actually a pretty good thing for optimists.  Not so much for pessimists.  I know that the optimists would agree with me.  They're like that.  Agreeable.

I like to think that I'm optimistic.  Not always.  Sometimes.  I try.

For example, from the other day...

Leslie:  (mumbles something)
Me:  I'm ecstatic, too!
Leslie:  I said, "I'm STATICKY!!!"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Art

The monster I kill every day is the monster of realism.  The monster who attacks me every day is destruction.  Out of the duel comes the transformation.  I turn destruction into creation over and over again.
~ Anais Nin
- - - - -

I love photography.  That is why I take so many photographs.

I think it is interesting how many times people will say to me, "Wow.  That's a good photo.  What kind of camera do you have?"

(pause)

I guess they don't realize that what I hear is, "Your camera takes good photos."  Rather than, "You have a good eye and an interesting way of looking at things."

I don't think I've ever heard someone say to a painter, "Wow.  That's a nice painting.  What kind of brush did you use?"

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Play

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.
~ John Cleese
- - - - -

The other day I was somewhere and I heard something.  And it was this:

Kid to sister:  Can I bite your nose?
Sister:  No.
Kid: Um... (then to sister) Does my breath smell bad?
Me: (thinking)  Don't fall for it, sister.  You go in for the sniff and you're gonna get your nose bit.

And I was thinking...  How did I know that was the kid's tactic?  To my recollection no one ever bit my nose after asking me to smell his or her breath.  To my recollection I never bit anyone else's nose after asking how my breath smelled.

It's just a thing we know.  We oldest siblings.  We know some stuff.

Also, what if the kid had really bad breath?  Then you've got that smell in your nose.  Of course then you probably WANT someone to bite it off.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Squirrel!

Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.
~ Proverb
- - - - -

I love squirrels.  I like to look at them.  I like it when they look at me.  I shouldn't, I suppose.  They are probably looking at me out of fear.  I don't mean to scare them.  I just like to watch them.  They are always so busy.  Or playing.  Kind of like people.  Well, people without TVs and couches.

The other day I saw a squirrel running around sniffing the ground.  He (or she, I wasn't that close) was looking for where he buried his acorn (or other nut, I didn't watch for all that long).  Anyway, it reminded me of me when I run around looking for my keys.  

(pause)

I don't know why I keep burying them in the ground.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Endings

The feeling is less like an ending than just another starting point.
~ Chuck Palahniuk
- - - - -

I told Wayne that I thought there were two kinds of Student Affairs people: those who like fall and those who like spring.  I like spring.  Actually, fall is my favorite season, but for the purposes of this conversation, I like spring.  That is because I like the end of the year.  People used to say that was because I liked for the students to leave.

That is true.  Every year I am ready for them to leave, and I've always been ready for them to come back.

I just think the end of things is when you get to go back and think about what you accomplished.  The tasks are over and now the reflection on those tasks can start.  What went well?  What went poorly?  What will you do differently the next time?

Kind of like the rest of life.  Not that I'm saying I like when life is over.  Of course, maybe I will.  I can't say for sure right now.

What I mean is that I like the pauses where things shift and you have a moment to look back and think, "Wow.  I did that one thing really, really well."  Or, "Wow, I did that other thing really, really well."  Or, "I had almost forgotten how well I did that thing that one time."

Yes.  Reflecting on the past when you get to endings is fun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Love

I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure.  I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle.  But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
~ Marilyn Monroe
- - - - -

Love is about patience, right?  And communication.  And a lot of other things.  And the mix of stuff for any two people is different than any other two people.  For me, humor has to be a big part of it.  If you can't laugh at me, I can't laugh at you and I am pretty sure I'm going to laugh at you.  Wait.  That's not really what I meant.  

Anyway, I think it's good to know how it works between you and the person you're with.  And to be patient and to communicate well.  

And sometimes you have to help your partner understand when they need to behave or calm down or just be quiet for a little bit.  Because s/he might not always know without your help.  And there are lots of ways to communicate that.  Like I said - communication is important.  Like this...

Leslie:  I don't want to do anything to encourage you.
Me:  Why?  I'm encouragable.  You tell me that all the time.
Leslie:  That's INCORRIGIBLE.

Love is about communication and communication is about words.  And different people use words different ways.  Words are fun.  So is communication with words.  And being incorrigible.  That's super-fun.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Plans

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.
~ Gloria Steinem
- - - - -

I don't like to make plans for my free time.  Once you plan something, it's no longer free.  It's a commitment.  Bound to something.  It doesn't allow for spontaneity.  I don't like that in my private life.  I have enough of that in my work life.

Now, that said, there are times when making plans is a good thing.  Not everything in life can happen spontaneously.  Some things need to be planned.  And some plans are good.  They give you the chance to do fun things.  And to tell people about the fun things you are going to do.

Like last week when Rose emailed me.

Rose:  Do you have any plans for the weekend?

Me:  Yes.  I'm going to go put on a gorilla costume and do a 5K and break a world record.

Rose did not respond for a long time.  A really long time, it seemed.  Then she did.

Rose:  Without seeing your face, I can't tell if you're telling the truth or not.  Because that sounds like something you would probably do.

You know me so well, Rose.  It was something I probably would (did) do.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Writing


Everyone needs an editor.
~ Tim Foote
- - - - -

I try to do a good job when I get the chance to read other people's drafts.  I edit pretty liberally and share my thoughts and try to fully engage with the material.  I figure that if they went to the trouble to write it and share it then I should be attentive and give the best feedback I can when I respond.  

I really like making comments on papers.  And I like doing it in writing rather than electronically.  Sometimes you have to do it electronically, I know.  For some people it might be their preference.  For me, I like to touch the papers and be more connected to the work.  Well, if it is a paper.  If it's a resume or a cover letter or something where "track changes" is more suitable, I do that.

Anyway, all the time people say to me, "You must be a perfect writer since you are so brilliant at giving feedback, Dr. Awesome."  I chuckle.  Not when they say that.  I chuckle because you maybe believed me when I said people say that to me all the time.  They don't.  Should they?  Well, who am I to judge, but yes they should.

My point here is that I sometimes write things that are not very good.  For example, I was just doing an article review and I re-read my comments.  This is what I had written, "This is referenced for the purpose of reference only."

Fortunately, that was an electronic edit.  I deleted it.  Now no one will ever know about it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Happy

I felt my lungs fill with the onrush of scenery - air, mountains, trees, people.
I thought, "This is what it is to be happy."
~ Sylvia Plath
- - - - -
 
Do you know happiness when you are in it?  Have had a truly happy moment?  A perfect moment of calm and quiet and joy?  Or an ecstatic moment of joyous energy and bliss?  Or a happy moment composed of love and being in harmony with a person or people?
 
Or do you only think back to happier times?  Remembering them as moments of perfection, but maybe not lived as moments of perfection?  Do you miss the moment because you are living in the past or the future?  Do you miss the moment because you are distracted and not present?  Do you live the myth of multi-tasking instead of the fulfillment of focus?
 
I encourage you to be happy.  I don't know that there is a better feeling than to be in a moment and think, "This is what it is to be happy."  The hard part is that you can't force those moments.  You have to let yourself be in those moments.  You have to let them happen to you - to let them happy to you.
 
Most of the time letting things is much more challenging than doing or forcing things.
 
Like a mess.  It is much more difficult for me to let someone clean up a mess I made a few days ago than cleaning it up myself.
 
Wait, that's not a good example.
 
A good example would be...  well, I'll let a good example just come to you.  It's more difficult for me, but I'm trying to be a good role model. 
 
Are you happy now?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Strength




We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die.
~ Douglas Coupland
- - - - -

It takes true strength to acknowledge our own stories.  Strength in the form of courage and love and forgiveness and with a power of curiosity not everyone has the privilege of accessing.  There are pieces missing.  There are false leads.  We have to persist to find our own answers.

Others may guide us, but we have to find our own way.  And sometimes our answers may not fit in the prescribed structure of a given day or a given world or life's puzzle or life's question.  It doesn't mean it is wrong.  It is just different.

For example, when Leslie was doing a crossword puzzle and she asked me: What is a symbol of strength "blank -  a - k"

Me:  YAK?

She later calculated the "correct" answer was "oak."

Does that make my answer wrong?  I don't think so.  I think it is just as right.  It may not be as easy a fit, but sometimes we have to overcome cross words with our own kind words.  So, "yak" it is.

Or yak it up, if you will.

Or just yak if you're ill.

Words are fun.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Things

If you desire many things, many things will seem few.
~ Benjamin Franklin
- - - - -

The things around us tell us stories.  The things we keep with us as we go about our days.  The things we keep in our homes and put in places of privilege.  The things we worry about.  The things we desire.  And other people's things tell us stories about them. 

In the photo above, we might single assumptions about people's things.  That a little girl lives in this house.  We might assume that she likes her bike (since she used the kickstand).  We might wonder what her adventures have been on the bike, or if she is inside having dinner.

Or maybe we combine our assumptions and tell ourselves complete stories based on other people's things.  Like the bike story above.  Or that the person with the biggest house and the most expensive car is the luckiest or happiest person in town.  Or the person with the fewest things is the most sad.

But these stories are things we make up.  And probably rarely true.  The things we own probably cause more sadness and stress and the things from which we are free probably give us more joy.

Examples include "having" chickenpox or an annoying neighbor or a car everyone vandalizes.  Or "not having" a lot of taxes or indigestion or a bunch of junk when you decide to move.  The things to which we are not bound tell us as much about ourselves as the things to which we hold on.

So let go of your chickenpox and you will be more happy.