Friday, December 26, 2008

The resolution game

This will be the year that I continue my resolution without giving up. What good is a resolution that doesn't last, right? Well I have done a survey of other peoples resolution plans and was shocked to find that many of them aren't participating in the resolution game this year. They know all too well that it is a promise meant to be broken. After all, why set yourself up for almost certain failure and the depression that follows. A resolution might be thought of as an admission of some sort of dysfunction and a desire to correct it. Some may think it's a sort of "to do list" of things we want to do but don't get around to. But I believe a true resolution is made in the spirit of self-improvement. It should also be realistic yet challenging. So here is my short list of resolutions:
1. Daily exercise--In the past I have tried to go to the gym 3 times a week, this has worked out to actually going once a week. I will try for a daily workout and then end up actually going three times a week.
2. Spend less--this is easy, no money=less spending.
3. Be more disciplined and less philosophical--Kolb and many astrologers know it is easier for me to think about the reasons for doing things than to actually do them. This is my dysfunctional personality flaw/habit. In order to be successful at this resolution I will have to surround myself with other highly disciplined people. I will either end up more like them or just stay the same but have a greater understanding of just how extremely lazy I am compared to them.
So there it is, if I fail at two of these goals, I can still take credit for at least one--I think the rules of the game are that you only need to make one resolution. In the worst case scenario, all three fail; then I am just like all of my friends. I guess its a win-win no matter what.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Misery is magnificent

With so much family togetherness during this blissful holiday season, I have learned something about myself. I am not usually happy unless I am unhappy. Not truly unhappy....but just a bit discontent. I find that my road to motivation and fulfillment in life is non-productive when everything seems great. Without neurotic anxiety concerning most life issues, I feel like life is just elevator music. Complaining and worrying are two of my favorite sports. When people ask me how things are going, I may begin with the banal "great, and how are you?' But the truth is so much better. Who really cares if everything is great? It's like those annoying Christmas letters people write to tell everyone about achievements, trips, recognition etc. Isn't that the height of insincerity? I would way rather know about their struggles, fears, doubts and disasters. Then I would know how much we have in common and understand their experience; It would be real. Living like Polyanna is overrated, who ever got anything great done without suffering a little? Although I will admit that real suffering is horrible and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, pseudo-suffering is fun. So my holiday advice is to eat, drink and be merry, and then do some therapeutic bitching. Family members and friends will know and love the real you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I am most thankful for

As a contributor to the current blog challenge here is my top ten list of things I am thankful for this year:
1. My health
2. My family
3. My friends
4. Drakes Cakes
5. New Balance gym shoes
6. My economic stimulus check
7. Chocolate
8. The Beatles
9. Heated car seats
10. My new really fast printer

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bloggers Block

This week I have been working on some writing assignments and have been plagued by some common writing problems. As an experiential process, I have become painfully aware that I detest writing about what I would consider "extraneous information". I like to cover the important points and leave it at that. I remember LIS 301 asking us to dig around and reveal our experiences in a sort of timeline (autobiography). Well, I am digging again and feel like I am revisiting 301 in 451. The things that come to mind as I dig up old information about old classes are: Haven't I covered this already?, Why do you really want to know how I felt about it? and If I talk about myself and my experiences anymore I am going to be sick. Alright, so now it's off my chest, and any scholar would advise me to see the beautiful process of the learning journey instead of the tedious documentation of it. Ok, so now I'll re frame my thoughts. Extraneous information will become flowery prose, writing about my self is really an essential expression of my individuality and all of this is going to create a unified conclusion to the varied courses I have studied. And then the planets will line up and there will be world peace.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Fun

Something really scary happened to me last week, my computer hard drive started to fail. First I had the desktop with no icons, then heard the lawn mower sound coming from the tower. My computer was seven years old, an old timer in terms of technology. The biggest problem is that I was so attached to it. I had stuff on there from way back when. When it came time to copy only the most important files for transfer I became anxious....what if I still need that paper I wrote from five years ago? I am a person who hates clutter but will admit that I have hoarded and saved many useless documents over the years. After coming to terms with my loss, I laid it to rest and adopted a new computer. This new one does more tricks and has more energy (memory) and will not chew up the disks I put into it. I am still teaching it my favorite applications and hope it never megabytes me....sorry!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When the going gets tough....the tough buy one ply

Are you broke? Well join the club, I'm broke too or so I thought until I talked to someone broker than me. My best friend from high school. I visited her apartment and we sat in the dark. I was wondering why she didn't turn on the lights but then realized that she couldn't afford to. I noticed a few other signs of financial despair...one ply toilet tissue and generic soda. But my friend is getting by and dosen't seem to be as depressed or anxious as I would be if I couldn't afford charmin. Then I thought about other people I know who can afford a nice lifestyle but choose not to. They are frugal (cheap). One friend I know regularly orders extra bread at restaraunts and takes it home, he cheaps out on the tip too...reminding me that you don't tip on tax. Another friend brings his wife to company dinner meetings (she dosen't work there) so they both get a free dinner. I have been annoyed at cheapness for years but now I think they are smarter than me or at least have more money. If you can't beat em, join em. So I am learning several ways to survive the recession and become more frugal...these are a few things I will do to try to save money.
1. Eat ramen soup....it costs a quarter
2. Cut my own hair....I already do that
3. Stop giving my kids money...if they complain I'll make them feel guilty somehow
4. Start saving rubber bands until I have a big ball of them....I won't really do that but grandma did it and she lived through the depression.
5. Re-gift this Christmas.....I could send my relatives' fruit cake to the neighbors instead of baking cookies, they will never know...I hope.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Birthday Blog

Since it only comes once a year, I guess my birthday should be celebrated. If that sounds a bit depressive you are right, I'm not just jumping around with joy on my 47th. Earlier today I went out for a birthday waffle and on the way back was stopped in traffic for a funeral procession. My self pity changed instantly as I saw the hearse drive past carrying someone who has had their last birthday. So I am spending the rest of the day reflecting on what I've learned in the last several decades. Whomever said that the only constant is change is probably right. Most things are impermanent. Youth is not always so great. I have had periods of pimply stress and turmoil that I am glad to have behind me. So while young people enjoy joints that don't hurt and the ability to eat cheese fries without intestinal rebellion, old people have perspective. I now know that if I am having a really bad month, next month will probably be better. Being prepared for things that are likely to go wrong is my new approach. With youth comes optimism, but with old age comes preparedness. Older people who walk around looking like they have been beaten by the game of life are really just preparing themselves for whatever is next. I now expect to get a flat tire even if there are no potholes the size of Texas. I also expect to be constantly tired and broke so when I'm not it's a bonus day. Lowering my expectations has made me feel quite lucky. Now if you asked Elizabeth Taylor if she wishes she could switch with me she might jump at the chance. I've never had a brain tumor and have only been married once, so who knows what the future holds.....until then I'm taking extra vitamin C and getting a flu shot because...you never know.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Adage week

This week was a week when I learned that folk wisdom teaches some important lessons. While trying to help out a friend and find reasonable solutions to her problems, I have run into several brick walls of defiance. These are the lessons that I have learned as a result:

1. Neither a borrower nor a lender be (especially don't be a lender)
2. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink (just because you want to solve the problem doesn't mean that the sufferers want it solved)
3. Misery loves company (just go have a drink)
4. Don't worry be happy (oh well)
5. All's well that ends well (but what if it doesn't end well?)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Generations on trial

Political ideologies aside, the two candidates are being measured by their age. Some media sources have decided to emphasize the generational dichotomy and draw conclusions from it. Confused about the issues, an undecided voter might make a voting decision based purely on a candidates age. Some of the reasons to vote young include: Fresh ideas (change), in touch with young peoples concerns, not likely to die soon, hasn't had cancer yet. The reasons to vote old include: Experience, in touch with old peoples concerns, wisdom, a survivor. To balance out the age related discrimination on both sides it is not surprising that Senator Obama chose an older running mate while Senator McCain chose a younger running mate. As the debates begin it is likely that media critics will look for arguments that indicate experience or inexperience, and reveal the vigor of both candidates.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture

While talking to a colleague recently, we debated the nature vs. nurture argument. He felt strongly that a person's environment and upbringing are a greater determinant of their behavior than individual personality. I have always thought the opposite, that most people are born with certain traits that determine their behavior. The most convenient answer to this argument is that both play a role. I was reading about David Kolb's Learning Style Inventory which breaks individual learning styles down into four modes. After sifting through the questions on the Inventory I am not surprised to find that I am rediculously dependent on one of the modes(Assimilating) and seemingly incapable in other areas. This is a bit depressing, but Kolb thinks there is hope for me. All we have to do to improve our weaker skills is to try doing those things we are not good at. So if you normally get a nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach from giving a speech, you should just do it more often. After you are done vomiting and shaking and the panic attack has worn off, you will emerge a semi-confident speaker. I guess it is possible but I'm not convinced.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Talk therapy

In the last few weeks I have been learning about the benefits of talking. I think most of us like to talk, stay connected, thats why almost everywhere you go someone is on their cell phone.....some talking loudly and annoying others. But there are people who don't talk much. I am working on an AST class so I volunteer at a hospital in an activities center where people go for rehabilitation before discharge. One of my duties is to provide one on one visitation to the patients and just basically talk to them for a while. Many patients are elderly and some have been plagued with a long list of health problems. The hospital is not where most people want to be; everything is on a strict schedule...meds, eating, assessments, therapy etc. If you don't feel like getting up at 6:00 to have your blood pressure taken, too bad. If you can't stomach the grey hamburger for lunch one more time...oh well. So in addition to being sick, many are stressed out and they are disconnected from family and friends. So I sit down and ask how they are doing...(sort of a dumb question), and I dig around and try to get to know them a little...something I mastered after years as a hairdresser. Some are a little guarded, but most of the time we make a connection. We share each others company, and for a short time they have a friend and a break from the hospital routine. We talk about anything, and they become people instead of patients. When our time is over, we shake hands and share a smile. Then I walk by another room and catch a glimpse of someone else, I wonder what their story is. Last weekend I went out for chinese food. My fortune cookie read "When you help a friend, you help yourself". I think those cookie people are right.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good luck, bad luck or just your turn

I have become annoyed with probability lately. My son had surgery a few weeks ago to repair a big hole in his radius (big bone in your arm on the thumb side). How did he get this big hole you ask? Well, no one knows for sure. We have done about 6 diagnostic tests to figure out what caused it but after several thousand dollars the doctor shrugged and told us it was very rare. So we did the bone graft surgery, stapled his bones together and are hoping for a complete recovery. This event reminded me of other weird things that have happened to me by chance: rear ended at a stop light twice and hit by a car going in reverse while parked in a parking lot, 2 emergency C-sections (1-3% chance) and a pattern of adopting dogs who seem to need a dog psychiatrist. Despite these chance events I feel extremely lucky. Most things go right most of the time. I guess my glass is half full. I saw this article (shared item) about probability and personal bias and thought it was interesting.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Standing in someone else's shoes

This week I learned about what it is like to do someone else's job. I work in a small music school and generally work with stacks of paper and a computer. This week I was doing more people management due to the absence of the regular manager (my husband). I have experienced the joy of coaching new employees, handling small crisis, dealing with nice and not so nice customers, and juggling lots of details. Things have gone well for the most part but I am feeling the stress. It could be that I am just not used to dealing with so many people, or that my general Zen routine of bookkeeping has been interrupted. I guess this might be called experiential learning. It could also be called wandering into a pit of hungry lions.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The reason grandma won't give you her cookie recipe

For people who love to cook or eat, finding a really good recipe is like finding a nugget of gold in a big cave of rocks. I have only a few good recipes that I go to regularly because they usually turn out edible. I don't cook very much, not much time for food or laundry. But I was in a class once where we were assigned to work in small groups. My group started discussing food and someone said they had a great recipe for red velvet cake. She went on and on about how lots of people thought it was the best dessert they have ever had. She promised to give us her recipe but she made up an excuse every time someone asked her for it. I think she really didn't want anyone else to know it. My own sister has done the same thing. They enjoy recipe envy. Does the knowledge of how to get muffins to come out as delicate morsels instead of tough little balls of Styrofoam mean so much that people have to hoard their coveted food formulas? Apparently, having a good recipe that everyone likes is second only to guessing a winning lottery combination. Everyone adores you because of your coconut macadamia squares. But what happens if someone else can make the same treat? You become very ordinary and your recipe goes in the pile of other banal instructions. So I challenge you to share your best recipe with the rest of the world, or at least with me.
Here is my really easy potato soup recipe.
Put 5 cups of water in a big pot and boil it. Take a bunch of unpeeled red potatoes (5-6) and chop them up into cubes. Chop up a cup of celery and a big onion. Add all the veggies to the pot and cook for 10 mins. Add 2 tsps salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper. Now take a hand mixer and blend the veggies until they are kind of lumpy but mostly blended. Melt a 1/2 stick of butter in a small pan, add 1/4 c. flour to the butter, cook for a minute. Add the butter mixture to the soup and stir. Now add 1/2 c. heavy cream...add a little milk if its too thick. Heat it up but don't boil it.
I like to sprinkle cheddar cheese and bacon on it. Bon Appetite!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Science Olympics ?

I am sure that many will disagree with me on this observation but I just can't stand it anymore. Part of what I think is wrong with the world is the dysfunction of society's priorities. Since the Olympics began I have heard people talk about "the thrill of victory/the agony of defeat" and how amazing it is that records keep getting broken. I will admit that I too am glued to the TV just to see the expression of glorious acheivement or devastating failure the Olympics bring. But after watching a fabulous athlete lose by an hundreth of a second and be described in the next mornings paper as " not golden" with a picture that shows the offender with a shamed look on their face, I feel great disappointment in our value system. Is athletic virtuosity so important that entire countries gain stature from an Olympic victory? Aren't there more important battles being fought? What about medicine or education? I would rather watch a team of scientists or engineers from different countries compete to cure diseases or improve infrastructure that helps millions avoid suffering. They could give gold medals and media recognition to those who truly represent our best; then we could all cheer and jump around when they cure AIDS.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Things I learned this summer

Like many students I took summer classes, sacrificing the luxury of days in the sun, the possibility of successful weed control and catching up on my to do list. Was it worth it? Yes. I have learned that we never can really predict or plan our experiences even if we think we can. Most of us have known what its like planning time off only to find that during that special reserved time we come down with some horrible virus or visit a place that seemed interesting but is actually kind of boring. The opposite seems to be true as well. The ugliness of daily routine can bring unexpected enjoyment. My classes this summer included Abnormal Psychology, Global Health and The Beatles. Among the interesting thoughts I have had about these subjects are: How the Lennon/McCartney collaborative team was successful in part due to their competition with each other, How horrible (socially cruel) the tuberculosis sanitariums were and that just about everyone seems to suffer from depression and anxiety. Who ever really wins the war on weeds anyway?