Friday, September 1, 2017

Thought Bubbles

I confess I spend far too much time on pop culture. I have no idea why I find the latest movies and TV shows, the red carpet looks, and nearly any award show endlessly fascinating. I can't tell you my kid's phone numbers without looking them up, but I can tell you all you need to know (and more) about Taylor Swift, her recent video, and all it's Easter eggs and disses of all who have crossed her. There is no article unread or video companion piece unwatched.  So when one of my all time favorite pod casts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, posted an episode on the VMAs and Taylor Swift, of course I was all in.

The panelists were divided on what they thought, but one of them (a female) commented that "She has banging songs, but I don't like her because I don't like her feminism." There is something about that statement that bothers me.  Here's why:

- When I am trying to figure out how I feel about something, or where to set my moral compass, pop culture is not where I turn. Isn't that an enormous amount of pressure for a music star to also have well thought out opinions about the world? No one, of any age, can have it all figured out perfectly, let alone someone whose every comment and out loud thought is recorded and reposted.

- To me, it's very dangerous to only listen, talk to or follow individuals that share your exact thoughts and opinions.  You will start to believe that what you believe is what everyone believes, because everyone around you is saying the same thing as you.

This is something that I struggle with also - listening and having conversations with those outside of my lane, that don't agree with me 100%.  One of my favorite writers, Jen Hatmaker, says this in her new book, Of Mess and Moxie:

"Why is this so hard? Staying reasonable and measured and respectful in the midst of charged conversations is a lost art. The way of our generation is outrage, offense, and polarization - our new common language. The Internet has made us casually offensive (because the repurcussions are mitigated) and quicker to speak.  But dialogue is an activity of curiosity, cooperation, fear and conflict.  This is love, and it is increasingly rare."

As these thoughts were assembling themselves into something coherent, I read an interview with Salman Rushdie (he has a new book out) in the Wall Street Journal:  "I have to get out of the bubble...I have this urge to get on the road and try and have a look at these other Americas that are out know, not composed entirely of people who agree with me."

There is some great writing along these lines.  Check out these pieces from Dilbert creator Scott Adams and Mike Rowe.  And you really should read Of Mess and Moxie.  It has made me think, made me laugh out loud, and also includes recipes.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Year, New Leaf

As I said in June, 4th quarter for my son was tough. Many important lessons were learned, but it left a few battle scars. We had dinner with some dear, dear friends last night and our children were a big topic of conversation.  How do you balance wanting them to learn the important lessons, to experience consequences for their actions, with our desire to help them succeed and set them up for success as adults? If we spend too much helping them succeed, will they be lost when we send them off into the big bad world by themselves?

Our kids are all high schoolers, so the time between now and launching them into adulthood is getting shorter and shorter. There are no easy answers or universal solutions, other than the awesomeness of good friends to talk to, and thankfully, other trusted adults in their lives that are on our team.

For my son, for the next school year, I sat down and wrote an agreement with him. We both wanted to start with clear expectations and a clear plan.  I thought I would share it in case it might help.

2017-2018 School Year Contract
AKA, “The New Leaf”

1.     Always remember that Mom and Dad love you 1000% and our goal always is to support you and help you succeed. Don’t keep us guessing--tell us when you need help! It is never a problem to call/text for a ride because you need to see a teacher after school.
2.     Success is defined as 100% effort. This means: all work complete, all work turned in on time, any opportunity for improvement taken (retakes, extra credit, etc)
3.     Honesty is the expectation. No one is perfect and we are here to help you. This means telling us when something forgotten could be brought to school, telling us when you need more time, telling us when you are having a hard time with any teacher, student, or anyone at all.

1.     Daily homework plan. Set times, then adjust. Get work done first, then chill.
2.     Text Mom and Dad as soon as any long term project is assigned.
3.     Sunday night review CIS, BB, Classroom, etc, and discuss weekly schedule (trumpet, tutoring, practices, getting gym time, rides, logistics, etc). Put any assignment milestones and test dates on the family calendar.
4.     Develop a file system on your computer to capture all homework – pictures/scans of complete work, JLAB codes, anything you turn in!
5.     Make a daily effort to establish a good relationship with your teachers and your fellow students.
6.     Focus on extracurriculars is AFTER school work.

1.     A good first quarter is required in order to participate in the winter production.
2.     A good second quarter is required in order to participate in the spring production.
3.     A good third quarter is required in order to get your driver’s permit.
4.     A good fourth quarter is required in order to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
5.     No yelling, tears, or avoidance. All the cards on the table, all the time.

Note from picture: if you'd like to visit the museum and are a veteran, active duty or a first responder, you and one guest can visit without having a timed entry pass. See more info here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Challenges

My Aunt is my hero for many reasons, one of which is her love of being active. She is 20 years older than I am and committed to keeping on the move. One way she does it is to enter a local triathlon in Denver, the Tri for the Cure. She's done it a couple times, and asked if my daughter and I would like to sign up with her this year. My daughter of course jumped at the chance, and I guess I did too, but for different reasons. 

I've been thinking about this a lot, and really the reason my non-running, never-been-on-a-swim-team self said yes is: I am not ready to give up taking on a challenge as a chance to grow. There is a big part of me that really just wants to lay down and sleep, a lot. Surely I have learned all I need to know to get by in life by now.  But there is also a big part of me saying, "Get off your ass, girl, and show 'em what you got."

I know I will never be someone who lives on 100% clean food and kelp smoothies, or someone who works out for hours every day. Triathletes of the world need not worry that I will threaten their PB times. Despite my best efforts, you will never look at me and think, "athlete." But I knew what I lacked in speed I could make up in endurance and the capability to buy cool new gear :-) 

My prep was no where near as aggressive as it probably needed to be, but the looming date did motivate me to do "something" whenever I could. It motivated me to take an open water swim clinic with people who looked like former Olympians and other things well outside my comfort zone.

The coolest part of the Tri for the Cure is that it is a 100% women event.  Every participant along the race course yelled "Get it Girl" or something similar as I huffed and puffed my way past. It was incredibly well organized and as soon as the race started I was comfortable that I was swimming/riding/running where I was supposed to.  

Am I going to do it again? I think so. I met my primary goal - I finished before the race organizers packed up and went home - but there is plenty of room for improvement.      

(Smiling because we had all finished, but also because we were going home to take showers, naps, and treat ourselves to Dairy Queen after dinner :-))

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Random Round Up (aka interesting distractions :-))

Ack! How did it become August already? Although really it's one of my favorite times of year. August can be ugly hot, but the pace of life seems to slow down quite a bit. It's a good time to rest up before September gets here and we're back in the whirlwind.

When it's too hot to be outside, here are some awesome distractions...

Loved this post from the Pioneer Woman about work on the ranch. "My girls have grown up on this ranch, and while they're distinctly feminine, they've gotten to experience a working world where there is nary a distinction between girls and boys." In between the awesome recipes (like this and this), there is great writing and beautiful pictures. Her Facebook page is an easy way to follow her.

I am reading Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, and really enjoying it. If you set aside the repeated theme of "Democrats awesome, Republicans evil," he has a lot of great things to say about working together. "At the end of the day, the Senate is like any other workplace. You don't always enjoy all of your coworkers, but you're far better off finding a way to get along with them then you are harping on the things you don't like. And being a successful senator is as much about being a good coworker as it is about being smart or well-versed on the issues or a talented orator."

I love the podcast How I Built This.The July 27th episode with Jonah Peretti (founder of Buzzfeed) is really excellent. The June 26th episode with Randy Hetrick, former Navy Seal and inventor of TRX exercise equipment, is great too.

And now for some complete brain candy, I am really enjoying the Who? Weekly podcast, "everything you need to know about the celebrities you don't." It's ridiculous and frivolous and makes me laugh out loud.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Time to Chill

I have a coworker that is a very nice, super smart person, but I can tell she just doesn't get me.  So I have been trying to strike up a conversation whenever I see her, to see if I can build a bridge.  The other day I asked how her summer was going, and she said she didn't have kids or a family, and her boss was always busy, so really summer was no different than any other time for her. Another misfire! Guess I'll have to keep trying.

But it got to me thinking - is summer just like any other time of year when your personal schedule isn't driven by the local school system?  

I have to respectfully disagree with my coworker, for a lot of reasons. Like summer casual (something to look forward to, my uniformed friends), less traffic, quiet work days where others in your office are on vacation, even quiet-er gym time, and lots of daylight so it's not dark when you get home. Certainly warm summer temps force you to slow down a little, find the coolest space in your house, and chill a bit. It's awesome!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Procrastination, My Old Friend

I feel like I am a person that can get things DONE, who can be counted on. The first page in my notebook is almost always a list. But sometimes I fall short. There is always something, way at the bottom of my list, that keeps getting posted to the next week's list again and again. My Aunt (who is a talented and prolific knitter) and I had a great conversation about this - that we feel like we are more creative when we have a deadline looming.  That seems counter intuitive, doesn't it?  We need structure to be creative.

I came across this great article and graphic from James Clear.  His words really spoke to me:

There is something important to note here. As soon as you cross the Action Line, the pain begins to subside. In fact, being in the middle of procrastination is often more painful than being in the middle of doing the work. Point A on the chart above is often more painful than Point B. The guilt, shame, and anxiety that you feel while procrastinating are usually worse than the effort and energy you have to put in while you're working. The problem is not doing the work, it's starting the work. 

So what am I stalling on? Organizing and filing all the paper work for a volunteer treasurer gig I have.

The good news is that I finished the other project I had been stalling on - sewing lots of patches on two new shirts for my son.  He's off to the National Jamboree today, so the looming deadline helped get me started. 
What do you do to kick start something you have been stalling on?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the Bench is Where Character is Built

About 25 years ago, I was at my first assignment in Japan. The only other lieutenant in the squadron was the intel flight commander. We had the two busiest flights, but as the only lieutenants, we got ALL of the additional duties. He and his lovely wife Nancy were battle buddies for sure, as many great memories were made at that assignment both on duty and off :-) Spring ahead to today and that lieutenant is the commissioner of my daughter's rugby club, here in Northern Virginia. Amazing, huh? Nancy is an incredible interior designer (who's stunning work has appeared in the Washington Post), and they have four handsome sons. It's been so great reconnecting with them.

Their youngest son just participated in a national rugby tournament, representing Virginia.  It was a 0-0 tie until the last minute, and they won! So amazing. Nancy had a wonderful take on the excitement of the final game, Her words were so wonderful, I asked if I could share them:

Thinking about my son and his exhilarating finish yesterday and it's making me think. Most people go their whole entire lives without even having an opportunity like that - whether it's the game-saving home run, the last second shot at the buzzer, or being the star of the musical, hearing thunderous applause and knowing you, even for a few seconds, have the limelight. There's a lot riding on it, I mean, you could fail; and then you feel disproportionately responsible. But when you don't, and it all works out, the reward is so incredibly sweet. But most of us never even have that moment that could go either way. Most of us are supporting cast. Most of us ride the bench more than we want to. And I was never really in sports or performing, but watching my kids and their friends, I have learned one huge thing. On the bench is where character is built. It takes so much strength to be part of a team or cast when you are not the star, and especially when you know you never will be. You can't always control the luck of opportunity, but you can control your own character. So here's to the kids that show up week after week saying put me in, Coach. Here's to the dancers in the back row. Here's to the chorus member who will never be the soloist, the violinist who will never be first chair. You've got serious mojo and I think you are the bomb!

I've seen a lot of posts lately in the women officer forum I'm part of about concerns when being moved into a job that seems like a side step, and not a step up. The wonderful thoughts of my friend go for these situations too. Sometimes in life, your job is to take on the unglamorous task so that others can shine and succeed. You will learn so much in this role, trust me. Your teammates (family members, co-workers, fellow volunteers...) notice more than you realize. And you are the bomb :-)