Monday, December 23, 2013

Unexpected Joys


Anyone that knows me knows that regardless of the general malaise regarding Christmas around me every year, I persist. I love the Christmas season. It is shiny and sweet and heart warming and generally designed to make us all feel hopeful about life and the coming of the light and longer days. Every year I am gifted small tokens of Christmas cheer that keep me in the good fight. This year, it was offered to me backstage at the Eugene Ballet's Nutcracker. It was the Sunday matinee, the last show of the season and early morning in company class. Everyone looked tired. The ballet mistress was playing Christmas music for barre. And then, in the middle class, in the middle of dancing, the guys started singing along to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. By the end of the song they had most of the company singing with them and the rest of us in fits, still dancing. They kept at it for the next two songs. Christmas cheer had won out over fatigue, sore feet, being far from home, and a long Sunday at work. Try to let it happen to you too.

To help that along, watch and maybe sing along to this, one of the best Christmas vignettes I have ever seen:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Angry Tirade


Pssssssssst. Hey, you there, with your finger hovering over the "post" button, why don't you just slowly back away from the social media site. That's right, just take a step back before you post another little tirade or tired list of complaints. Let's talk. First, you should know that your feelings, in all likelihood, are valid. Or at least most of them. Maybe you really did have a bad day, the other drivers really are terrible or someone has blocked the bike lane or your degree program is not fulfilling or someone with political views diametrically opposed to yours was interviewed, it happens. The thing is though, you are really just complaining. In public. A lot. Sometimes for days in a row. I know, there are leaves in the bike lane, again. You can't find enough hours to fulfill your residency, and someone is talking loudly on their cell phone. Life is full of irritations and unfairness. But you are the one complaining and ranting and generally bringing everyone down from wherever they are in dealing with their day which I promise you is filled with all kinds of annoyances. So stop complaining in public. Recognize your behavior for what it is, an expression of neediness, a desperate grab for attention, and a cry for validation. You can get those things from positive interactions too. More importantly though, that "share" button is rightly named. So consider what it is that you are choosing to share with others with your constant griping or negative posts and try to share something else with all of us before we drop you from our feeds, block you, or write you off as a wacko. Thanks, and have a nice day!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Among The Dead


I am not a habitual obituary reader but I do try to take a look at the end of the year compilations of pictures that news agencies put together highlighting the notable people that pass each year. This year, I am struck by what seems to be three distinct categories, old people, those in their mid forties to fifties that die of preventable conditions such as heart attacks, and suicides. As I page through the pictures and remembrances I am absolutely sure that I want to be in the first category, old, when I die. This seems like a simple task, avoiding, of course, unexpected accidents or other circumstances beyond my control, it really does seem like I have an enormous influence over which group I end up in.  But then, many of the people pictured were successful, with families and support systems in place and good medical care and information. I wonder about the disconnect between our daily choices and our own long-term self-care. I wonder about why it can be so hard for me to keep my eye on the greater future, and if it is that hard for everyone else. I worry over my choices, the ones already made and those I will make in the future. I try to remind myself that no one is perfect and even all the good choices and prevention in the world is not a guarantee. I try to have compassion for myself and my weaknesses. Then, I tell myself to get sorted. Life is long, but not always. Ultimately, your life, and how much you get of it, are up to you. Use it wisely.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Paying Attention


The New York Times this week quietly published an extensive piece investigating the role of advertising and pharmaceutical drug sales in the recent rise of ADD and ADHD in the American population. The article takes an open-eyed look at the correlation between increased marketing, both to prescribing physicians and the public and the rate of prescription for those conditions. According to the CDC, more than 3.5 million children are being medicated for ADD or ADHD. As with any medical diagnosis and treatment there are many people that genuinely suffer and are in need of these drugs, but, it also seems like a fad. I know that there is a good market for Adderall and Ritalin on the recreational drug scene, and prescriptions come from diagnoses. I also know that the symptoms and definitions of both ADD and ADHD are broadly defined and easy to fake. And the ads, they promise parents good grades and a happy home, no tough love required. These are powerful drugs, and there are a lot of us taking them. I cannot help but wonder what role our collective addiction to medication plays in all of this. It would be wise for us to have an honest discussion about behavior, expectations, and parenting in conjunction with the widespread medication of our children before we wake up and discover we have a generation built on pharmaceuticals. 


Monday, December 16, 2013

Me Too Iguana


One of my favorite books as a child was Me Too Iguana. Written by Jaquelyn Reinach, it was part of the Sweet Pickles series which featured a friendly city populated entirely by animals. My memory is that there where 26 books in all, one for each letter of the alphabet, and that they could be purchased via mail. The books arrived in a school bus shaped box with a lunch pail handle so you could take them with you wherever you wished. They were great. 

Each book focused on a particular moral or ethical quandary or life lesson with a different animal as the primary character. My favorite was Iguana. In Iguana's book, Me Too Iguana, Iguana has low self esteem. She thinks that she would be prettier with Lion's long mane or Zebra's stripes and goes to great lengths, manufacturing a mane out of a mop head and painting herself with stripes, to be like the other animals. It seems wherever Iguana goes, she wants what others have, if for no other reason than they have is and she does not.

Finally, because it is Sweet Pickles land, her friends become worried about her. So the animals decide to throw a big costume party and invite Iguana so she knows how much they like her. Iguana, of course, makes a costume mashing up the best attributes of her friends. Her friends, they ALL DRESS UP LIKE IGUANA so that she knows that they think she is beautiful and worth emulating too. In the end, she decides that her green skin and spinal bumps are pretty cool after all.

I think we all have a lot to learn from Iguana. It is easy, especially in this digital age to see what others have and think, "Me too! Me too!" But your life and body and path are yours and yours alone and no amount of copy catting or imitation will turn you into someone else. Each one of us possesses valuable and desirous traits, we should lean into these things, not grasp at the strengths of others. 

Be authentic,


Friday, December 13, 2013

On Being A Gentleman


The companion list, for men that want to be gentlemen in the modern age.

1) Call. A text is not the same. A phone call shows that you care and that the other person has value.

2) Open the door. Really. This small act of deference and others like it (pulling out a chair, offering a coat) will never go out of style.

3) Keep it to yourself. The guys do not need to know the details of your date, so keep it to yourself and allow her to retain her dignity, especially if you intend to keep her around.

4) Own a suit. Job interviews, weddings, and funerals still happen and a good suit lasts for years. Sometimes it is just important to look the part. Be prepared.

5) Pick up a check. Not all of them, but some, and especially in the beginning. It will set you apart and establish you as having generosity.

6) Listen. Most women want to be acknowledged by their companions, so listen and respond so that she feels important and intelligent.

7) Lend a hand. To the older woman hauling groceries to her door, the guy that has a flat tire, or the neighbor that needs the snow cleared from their walkway. Small acts of kindness are the mark of a true gentleman. 

8) Avoid discussing money and purchases. Verbal one-upmanship and boasting never impress the way they are intended to and only produce resentment in your listeners. Be cautious about money discussions and sensitive to others' situations. 

9) Know your limits. Stop drinking before you pick a fight, start an argument, become boorish, or have to be escorted home by your date. Everyone else will remember the incident far better and longer than you will. It's just not worth it.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Being A Lady


There is some fuss about a post going around the interweb which lays out guidelines for being a gentleman and a lady in 2014. I think most of it is utter nonsense, but I appreciate the attempt. My own version, in no particular order.

1) Learn how to cook. Your parents will not always be around to make holiday meals so you need to be prepared to take over that task. Also, having something home-made to bring to events shows that you are human, and you care. Finally, cooking at home is cheaper, healthier, and provides important family time.

2) Say please, thank you, and excuse me. Frequently.

3) Do no post pictures of yourself or your friends drinking or drunk. Also, do not take to social media to rant. About anything. The internet is forever.

4) Be a hostess. Whether this means book group, a dinner party, or just having a friend over for a cup of tea, reach out and invite people to your home.

5) Do not discuss politics, religion, or lifestyle choices unless in company that you are sure already agree with you.

6) Stay home when you or your children are sick. In the post-antibiotic age, prevention will be the key to all of our health. Do your part and do not pass your bug along.

7) Say positive things to and about yourself and others.

8) Send thank you cards. For all the weddings and baby showers I went to in my twenty's I do not think I received a single actual thank you card. It is not a bygone era, thanks never goes out of style, and it makes you stand out for your efforts.

9) Master a craft or fine art. There was a time when women were expected to be able to embroider, now, we are expected to have no artistic skills whatsoever. It is a shame, and shows a lack of effort, interests, and refinement. So play the piano or paint or make bread, but have a craft and become good at it.

10) Keep your cooter to yourself. This includes when getting out of cars, at beaches, on the interweb, on stage, and generally whenever anyone else is around :-) Just sayin'.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Soup Kitchen


It has been three days of biting cold. Here on the hill, under the constant shade of Douglas firs we still have six inches of soft, powdery snow. Everything waits for the melt. Our house, with it's bird feeders tucked up under the eaves has become an oasis, a soup kitchen of sorts, for the wildlife. We have birds; more of those that are familiar and whole groups of new birds, wrens and flickers that are usually not so bold. During the day the deer linger around the house, eating the rhododendron leaves the birds have cleared of snow as they queue up for the feeders. At night families of raccoons sit outside on the deck munching on fallen seed. And we have turkeys. I woke this morning eye to eye with a pair of massive wild turkeys feasting under a high feeder with five or so of their friends. They are massive, imposing creatures, with apparently no other place to go. I am happy to provide this simple service.

Where is your small soup kitchen? What small service can you provide today?