Relax. I know hardly anything about nutrition except “too many carbs bad, organic good,” so that’s not where we’re going today. I’d rather talk about human nature once again and how two words which are negatives in the dietary realm can be desirable traits in the mortal coils we all occupy.

Summer tends to be a season overwhelmed by activity. You should see my Google calendars (all five of them), overlaying each other with color-coding and alerts so I can try to keep everything straight. There’s rarely a day now where something extra isn’t going on, or when I’m not feeling a bit stressed or spread a bit thin.

That said, I just had a solid week. Each day consisted of interactions with people who I feel very fortunate to have in my circles. Coworkers were dedicated, fun, and made the hours go by faster. Family members were supportive, fun, honest, and dramatic (you know where I get it!). Friends were patient, fun, dedicated, and open about their own successes and challenges.

In the wake of about 72 hours of constant interaction with these people, I realized what kind of wake I want to leave behind. I want my people to leave our interaction feeling that I just contributed something to their life. Whether that’s a new joke or insight, or possibly a feeling of warmth or reassurance – or even a slightly uncomfortable truth – that kind of additive is what I hope to permeate my people with.

Along the same vein, maintaining these relationships is a constant struggle. Remember the five Google calendars? I’m thinking of creating a sixth just for cultivation of relationships (or at least its own color code). While I have a fairly wide circle of influencers in my life, the net of closer, more vital connections is smaller. I hope to coalesce the former along adequately; I need the latter to thrive if I can help it. Thus I commit to being a preservative in my tighter circles with all the gusto I can muster.

See? Told you this had nothing to do with food. And if you’re feeling like I’ve been light on the additives and/or preservatives in our relationship…

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(No, really, come at me. I’d love to hear from you!)

There are arguably a few constants in the universe in addition to death, taxes, and change. One from which none of us can escape, unless we decide to abscond to a deserted island, is interaction with that muddlesome factor of other human beings.

Coping or engaging with others is tiresome. To attempt any kind of adept navigation through the relationships which make each day complete, I often find myself making slight adjustments to my approach for each type of person. Do I lose myself in this? Not at all. But there are nuances to how I choose to engage with others based entirely on the situation, the person, my person, external factors, and so on.

I say all this because getting caught in this muck can be all too easy. As much as I might begin to vent to my innermost circle about a coworker, even engaging in that action can replicate the action I find so annoying in them. I can inwardly judge another for being irrational or hanging on to petty or temporary issues, but the longer I dwell upon it the more similarities develop between me and the person with whom I’m irked.

Here’s the thing:  I hate human muck. I think it can be fascinating to dissect and assess each person’s motivations, but I don’t want to get dragged down into the personal hell someone else has created for themselves which is all too ready to customize a sinkhole that fits me perfectly. And if I were to have any shot at all to help them claw their way out of their own muck, I need to be clear of it myself. (In this instance, I don’t think Leo was referring to situations like this when he talked to Josh Lyman about climbing down into a hole to help him out. It’s a great quote, but a human muck hole can get awfully crowded.)

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How do I stay clear of my own human muck? Well, I laugh. A lot. I seek out humor in just about everything, even if it makes me the target. I get my solid share of feeling stressed or beat or targeted, but I look to the foundations of my life which are, like death/taxes/change/muck, unchanging. I seek God when I’m focusing too much on these temporary issues instead of the big picture He surely has designed. And I always recognize the very real truth that His mercies really are “new every morning.” As each day dawns anew, I gain a refreshed perspective on what lies ahead.

I’m so thankful for my proclivity to all things cheery. I hope I never lose that focus, and more so that I’m able to feed it to others. I realize not everyone can shake off mortal coils of muck as easily as I might. But maybe prayer on my part, as well as a little light shone their way, can clear away a little muck for everyone.

A lot can happen in two years. I’ll just confess right now I was not even remotely thinking of blogging about any of it. Sanity seemed a bit more precious.

So let’s pretend this is a very quick catch-up to bring us ’round to the present, mmm-kay?

Since my last blog post exactly two years ago, we lived with my mother-in-law. We got a cat and named him Scooter Bill (brainchild by me and my son). My husband stopped doing his side mechanic business to get more hours at the bicycle shop. I became disillusioned with my office administration job because the promise of future marketing duties vanished like a puff of smoke, right before the boss who had assured me of their possibilities vanished to her new job. My son took jiu jitsu at a place populated by bitchy moms. My daughter took dance classes and had a recital. We sold our rental house and bought an amazing house, just nine blocks south of our old house. (Enter the shit-eating grins once we had moved out from my MIL’s home.) I switched jobs to get a marketing title, even though it came with a huge commute and psychotically dysfunctional management. I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree with CSU Global. I switched jobs again, six months later, for a shorter commute and one of the most amazing work cultures I’ve ever experienced. And now, in about four days, I’ll finish the last assignment of my last online course to earn my degree.

We good? Now that I have more time and a little more motivation, I think I’ll be around here a bit more often. I also publish on LinkedIn, but that’ll be more of a professional tone. This? This is me. It’s really Rachel.

This morning I presented social media to a board of small business owners, and at least one in attendance expressed an absolute belief in the death of social media as a means of connecting and networking.

I would laugh it off, but then again I never saw MySpace clawing back up out of the grave.  Let’s consider some factors which might incur the playing of Taps for social media:

  • People are starting to care again about privacy.  With the recent $%&@#% debacle regarding the NSA and warrantless searches into the digital communications of Americans etal, it’s entirely possible internet users might – just might – come back around to prioritizing privacy over publicity on social media.  There has even been talk about the privacy value of snail mail.

    Is social media's coffin waiting?

    Is social media’s coffin waiting?

  • The social media giants are getting too – well – gigantic.  When you’ve got players like Facebook and Google hosting and controlling your online activity, you may not realize how little power you have as a lone user.  Doubt me?  Have you ever tried deleting a Facebook account?  And let’s say you succeed; don’t you dare make the mistake of clicking Like or Share on another news story, because whoosh – it’s all back up and running again, and thank you very much for reactivating your Facebook profile!
  • There will always be that holdout you need.  You will inevitably come across connections, friends, or colleagues who will benefit your existence in some way, and they would-not-could-not-should-not join social media.  You’re going to have to lift your hand from the mouse, pick up your phone or car keys, and make contact in a more personable way.

I know what you fellow social media addicts are thinking right now:  “If someone I want to know isn’t already on social media, do I really want to know them at all?”  Been there, thought that.  But then I woke up to the reality – and so will you, hopefully – that your very best social media connections are going to be grounded in real-life associations.  Even a Skype call with someone can add that dose of reality that makes a social connection go farther.

Naturally I have no intention of getting out the spade to dig social media’s grave right now.  But I do wonder if, like legwarmers and shoulder pads, the touchy-feely aspect of human relations might ultimately trump tweets and pokes.

(This post in no way endorses the use of leg warmers or shoulder pads in one’s wardrobe, though the jury is still out on MySpace.)

photo credit: dklegman via photopin cc

Today as I was sitting in church between my two youngsters, I found myself observing them through my peripheral and engaging in something truly mental.  As my son had the under-seat bible open on his lap and was making a valiant effort to follow along with the pastor’s reading, my daughter on the flip side had a hymnal book open and was pretending to follow along with what she thought was a song we had just sang.

As the mind often does, it went through a variety of suppositions and assumptions within a matter of nanoseconds:  knowing my son is now in the fast-pace portion of his reader class and has received a few recent paper rewards touting his reading progress, the thought voiced itself, “He might be the reader.”  In like kind, recalling the repeated instances when my daughter has been softly singing to herself made-up songs or her best remembrance of one she has heard before, as well as how intently focused she was this morning on the guest choir, a similar thought rose up:  “She might be the singer.”

This is right about when I almost physically shook myself out of my reverie and would have smacked the back of my own head to immediately cease these careening trains of thought.  Without realizing it, I had entered into the realm of what I term Pigeonhole Parenting.

Pigeonholes

I gandered at the definition of pigeonhole, and the portion I particularly identified with today was “to classify mentally; categorize.”  That part I found to be fairly innocuous on its face, but then there’s the alternate definition also provided which is likely what made me shudder:  “to put aside and ignore; shelve.”

(If you still need a solid visual on this idea, go ahead and google “pigeonhole.”  I had no idea the term branched into office supplies…and that imagery embedded my angst even further.)

I LOVE my kids and I truly do believe and hope they can be anything they want and try to be.  But by autopiloting myself into a trajectory where I was assigning each kid their respective and assumed label or identity, I could very easily be mapping out a trajectory for them which they might feel they are expected to follow.  “Well, Mom keeps calling me ‘her reader,’ so I’d better focus on that – even though I really enjoy building with my Legos.”  You get the picture.

Look, I’m not saying a reading focus is a bad vector to follow, or that singing and the arts is either.  I’m not even saying that my internal monologue of this morning was some indication that my kids will turn into resentful, one-dimensional teens and then adults who will be filled with regret.  But the better I can be at catching myself in these deliberations before giving them voice or action gives my kids a better shot at really being all they can be – and even more than I can visualize.

My hide is chapped.

No, really – there is actual chappage on my hide which was likely incurred by braving some cold-ass temperatures last night to put in an appearance at my precinct’s caucus meeting… and I just lost you, didn’t I?  For those without a thesaurus handy:

Precinct = neighborhood or zone.

Caucus = gathering or meeting.

Meeting… um, see above for evident redundancy on my part.

Once every four years, they hold these meetings as candidates of my party make their way across the country in attempts to glean my vote as well as the votes of my fellow state inhabitants.  Most of you (98% of this state in fact, at minimum, based on last night’s turnout and stats) are absolutely clueless as to what goes down at these events, so let me enlighten you.

  • Sign in that you attended for your precinct.
  • Grab a cookie provided for free at your table and have a seat.
  • See a few people in the seats next to you who apparently are your neighbors AND of your political persuasion (at least generally).
  • Have a quasi-knowledgeable citizen/neighbor walk and talk you through the agenda which includes:  vote for committee chair, vote for county delegates, vote for state delegates and vote for congressional delegates (PSST, if you become a delegate, for the cost of two venti Starbucks you get to go hobnob with other delegates where actual candidates and political figures will be!).
  • Write down your ideas (collectively) for issues you want to be the platform of the party for election season.
  • Have another cookie.
  • Discuss and debate with those who are verbally capable at your table the where and why-for of your choice of candidate, your thoughts on issues and current events.  (The result is a flavorful concoction of communication enhancement and mind-broadening.)
  • Discreetly grab a few more cookies for the ride home (which will take all of two minutes) and head out of there.

In total, the above list took 78 minutes to reach completion at my specific caucus.  I came away with a free cookie (hey, I’m watching my portions), the title of county delegate and the promise of getting paid $100 to be an election judge on November 6, 2012.  But more than that, I walked to my VW waiting in an ice-glazed parking lot with a sense that I actually put to use the right bestowed upon me by generations of Americans who have bled and even died so I might freely complete that bulleted list above in the company of my peers and neighbors.

There are worse ways to spend a frigid winter evening once every four years.  You might try it once in a while.

 

My husband and I have joked since we got married that he should be newly dubbed The Six Million Dollar Man. 

We can rebuild him; we have the technology.

Since our wedding day, he has had braces (which fixed not only his teeth alignment but also a split along the roof of his mouth), a varicose vein removed that is probably on display at a medical university somewhere due to its statistical importance, a wake-up call from his physician which led to him losing a good 30 pounds and feeling far more fit, and a vastly improved vision plan allowing him some nicer spectacles and prescription sunglasses.

Well, as of this morning, scratch the need for that last.  Mr. Rachel has gone under the laser and has now emerged with his new set of eyeballs.  Once he recovers (if all goes as hoped), he should enjoy vision without the need of glasses or contacts.

Hang on a sec.  I really have to take pause and imagine this.  See, I have never needed glasses for general vision needs.  I got a pair a couple of years ago to assist me during the copious hours I gaze deeply into a computer monitor, but I have no need to squint or focus in on anything if I want to take a gander.  My husband, on the other hand, can’t see me or anything else very well if he removes his glasses.  He has to wear goggles or Rx sunglasses to go bike riding.  He has to deal with fog on his lenses in different weather.  He has even gone through a travesty of an ER visit after inserting a contact lens which happened to have a trace of Bactine on it from the lens case’s prior use.  Ouch.

But that all ends today!  Can you imagine getting something like that???  And even more so, can you fathom that our technology has led us to this point where body parts can be made better, new or even get replaced?  It’s flippin’ AMAZING!

So here’s to technology.  To Flexible Spending Account dollars which can pay for this procedure.  To the new world my husband will get to see starting this week.  And in the spirit of more current media, I can’t wait to tell him in my best (ha) Alan Rickman impersonation:  “You gandered, sir.  You gandered.”  It sounds way cooler to us than a reference to Lee Majors, doesn’t it?

Remember when you were a kid and your biggest worry was like… if you’d get a bike for your birthday or if you’d get to eat cookies for breakfast. Being an adult: TOTALLY overrated. I mean seriously, don’t be fooled by the hot shoes and great sex and no parents anywhere telling you what to do. Being an adult is responsibility. Responsibility really does suck. Really, REALLY sucks. Adults have to be places and do things and earn a living and pay the rent. And if you’re training to be a surgeon, holding a human heart in your hands… Hello! Talk about responsibility! Kinda makes bikes and cookies look really really good, doesn’t it? The scariest part about responsibility… When you screw up and let it slip right through your fingers. Responsibility. It really does suck. Unfortunately once you get past the age of braces and training bras, responsibility doesn’t go away. It can’t be avoided. Either someone makes us face it or we suffer the consequences. And still, adulthood has its perks. I mean the shoes, the sex, the no parents anywhere telling you what to do… That’s pretty damn good.

– as taken from Grey’s Anatomy, Shake Your Groove Thang

Quote  —  Posted: December 27, 2011 in Random Observations
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I’d like to dedicate this year, and in particular this holiday season, to a guy who is the darling of Christmas movie lovers and has been one of my favorite personas in fiction.

It has been a few years since I’ve viewed the movie, but it doesn’t matter since I have it memorized.  From the inaugural scene depicting star constellations “blinking” at one another to indicate their conversation about a single soul on the planet Earth to the final wink directed heavenwards as an entire community sings Auld Lang Syne in unison, I have the entire film of It’s A Wonderful Life memorized.

 

George Bailey

Down to his unmistakeable twang of phrase and deafness in ear, I adore George Bailey and all of the triumphs and struggles he owns in that film.  That might make me a bit worthy of ridicule, but I’ll take it.

Lately my life has been less than wonderful.  Yes, I know – no one ever said life would be easy or idyllic.  While I have always been an optimist, I always have at least a toe on the tundra of reality.  But even my optimism has had a tough line to tow in the face of a slew of medical issues this year, living in a home that isn’t mine, being constantly strapped for funds, trying to balance my family life against work commitments, and generally feeling like I’m losing more of me with each passing day.  While I will grant any inquiring minds that some of my issues are most definitely white people’s problems, some of them are a bit grander and formidable to my general outlook and faith in myself.

But here’s the thing:  I feel that in these past few weeks another force has been at work with the specific purpose of juxtaposition.  As badly as I feel about my current state, it seems that every day I am presented with an unmistakable “it could be worse” scenario:  families homeless during the holiday due to fires; a local father who opted to take his own son’s life and then his own; a woman losing her sister on Christmas night due to a car accident; an amazing couple missing their chance for parenthood this time because of an adoption falling through; a woman having to watch her mother struggle each day for her life without clear explanations; a man visiting with a former employer whose brain and vitality are slowly losing to Alzheimer’s; a mother struggling to provide for her children while they all escape from an abusive father/husband; and on, and on, and on…

George Lassos the Moon

 

This day I literally bow my head in deference to the lives touched by these real-life stories, and I realize that much like my fictional friend George Bailey… I really have had (and have) a wonderful life.  There is so much to be thankful for, in spite of some hardships and chronic problems along the way, and if I have to lasso the moon or pocket some petals to get my groove back on, I’ll do what it takes.  Toe in the tundra and glass more than half full of that rosy outlook.  And yes, you can call me “George.”

I don’t pretend to be a professional human being, but I play one on TV (well, home video).  Through my years on this planet I have slowly learned lessons relating to human nature and interaction, which naturally has to continually evolve since our methods of communication with our fellow man are also constantly changing.  I’m not perfect at it by any means, but I feel my wisdom increases in this area with each and every day, plus I find my blood pressure tends to be more even-keel when I apply the lessons learned.  (In case you’re wondering, this is a prologue to what I’m about to vent.)

Thus my disdain for what are known as knee-jerk reactions.  I have absolutely indulged in them, and I unequivocally admit that almost each and every time I wound up being in the wrong (or, at minimum, wishing I had put a bit more thought into it before I pounced).  More often than not, these types of responses create heightened pulse, attacks on emotions and are effectually a waste of time and energy.  Oh, and-plus-also, they hardly ever lead to an optimal solution to the issue or topic at hand; rather they perpetuate angst and almost outright warfare between opposing viewpoints and those who hold them.

In our local community, I learned of a fairly decent example of a patellar event in a situation where a retired sheriff found himself on the wrong side of the law (due entirely to his own choices and actions) and also on the wrong side of the prison bars… in a jail cell of a prison which happened to be named after him.  (Check out the story, including charges incurred by the sheriff, on the Denver Post website.)  However, be still your hearts (and knees), as this is not the reaction to which I’m referring above.

Where the community knees come into play is the fallout from the fact the building bearing his name – undoubtedly considered an honor and distinction, both for building and body, when it was bestowed – now housed a person whose name is very publicly associated with crimes related to sex and drugs.  Community outcry has now led county officials to consider changing their policies for naming buildings/sites after people.  (See the story on CBSDenver.com.)

So here’s my question:  WHY?  I’d like to hazard what seems to be the only logical guess I can come up with…

Sullivan Ablush with Shame

the building itself is obviously embarrassed to have to provide shelter to an alleged criminal while his name sullies its exterior facade.  I mean, look at that red brick siding… it’s obviously blushing!

OK, that was obviously tongue in cheek, but the question still stands as to why it is suddenly necessary to go to the lengths of assessing and probably changing the method of naming inanimate, uncaring and unfeeling objects after any living person (their new idea is to wait until after a person has died, ensuring no scandals come out before they decide to hang the letters permanently on a wall) simply because ONE lone tool seemed to lack the judgment and honor which prompted the facility’s new name in the first place.

What I love the most about this outcry for change where it’s hardly necessary is this:  skeletons really don’t have a statue of limitations for emerging from closets.  Whose to say anyone is ever going to be “safe” to name a building after an individual when truth could eventually come out about their indiscretions, even after they’ve been six feet under for months or years?

All I’ll say is the honorable workers in the signage industry are probably laughing their asses off at this new development; their industry just got a boost based on yet another knee-jerk reaction.

So how about we all try this (me included, as I can always use the reminder):  before we spring our knee up in ire and steamroll through a situation, possibly quashing any remotely decent ideas, policies or people along our way, let’s perhaps keep both feel firmly planted and put some honest thought into all sides and possibilities available.  THEN, when our pulse is at a steady rate and our heads are cool, determine the best response and roll with it.  I guarantee little Jiminy Cricket, Mr. Conscience, will rest better at night.