Posts tagged: passion

Ignorance is a Choice

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Calvin and Hobbes on Ignorance - Bill Watterson

The Ugh-ly Truth

We live in interesting times. We have to work hard to keep up with the way the world is changing. Some of it we like. Some of it we don’t. We may have very good reasons why we won’t accept this change or that different way of thinking, doing or being. But we do have a choice.

We can open our minds to what others think and be tolerant and accepting. Or we can choose to shut down, get angry or refuse to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The former requires us to change, personally. The latter is merely reacting.

The Kids Are Watching

Worse yet, whether or not we accept others points of view becomes a generational tendency. As parents, if we are unwilling to work to change, then that’s what we teach our kids. They don’t do what we say, they do what we do. We are role models. Ignorance is choice.

Image Credit:  Bill Watterson

You’ll Understand (When You’re Older)

i wish it was summer already :\

 It Doesn’t Make Sense To You Now

Remember when people said this to you? “I can’t explain it to you, you’ll understand when you’re older.” That answer is infuriating, isn’t it? In some ways it’s true and in other ways, it’s bullsh*t. I am acutely aware of how we “older people” talk to younger people. I don’t mean little kids necessarily, but even with them, we don’t give them a ‘straight’ answer. We say, “Eat because children in Africa are hungry.” We don’t say, ” There are children who live 2 miles from us that are hungry.” We don’t drive them over to this neighborhood and show them how to help others. Look, this isn’t a lecture. Each of us has to raise our children the way we see fit.

They Know the Truth

What I’m pointing out is that I’d like each of us to consider how we talk to our children and not just those that live in our houses, but all young people. They know the truth. Much more than we want to admit. Kids are very sophisticated these days. We can argue about whether this is good or bad but there’s no turning back. They have a computer in a phone, they have way too much stimulation and are aware of what is good and bad in the world beyond where they probably should. Denying that there are problems doesn’t serve them. Acting as if they have no power is useless. It takes courage to be a good parent, good citizen, good role model. And it takes hard work. With so many things in the world to worry about, how do we tell them the truth without causing them undue worry and harm?

I’m Older and I Still Don’t Understand

Even though my next birthday will be a ‘speed limit’ (65), I am dumbfounded at how much I don’t understand the world. My goal is to take action, to do what I can to change what I can and I pray to know the difference between what I need to accept and what I can do something about.

Image Credit: Sophie in Red Hat  Mike DelGaudio 

With Walls of Purest White  Erin MC Hammer

Outside Looks Inside

When I go out for a walk, there is so much that makes me happy to be alive. Breathing. Not thinking. Observing. I am grateful beyond measure to be part of it all. There are trees. Glorious and consoling. Changing with the seasons. Reminders that all things change. And change again.Maria Kalman

The Case For Outside

This post is making a case for walking. Outside. A few years back my doctor told me I had to get regular exercise. I hate going to the gym and frankly the cost of the gym that is near my house is ridiculous. So, I decided the only way I would be able to make sure I got exercise everyday was to get a dog that had to go out everyday. This strategy worked for me. The dog is almost 4 and I go outside, 3x a time, in all weather.

There were multiple side benefits to this but the most profound was that I relearned how to appreciate the outdoors. The older I got, the more excuses I found to avoid taking a walk. Wrong shoes, too cold, too hot, too windy, whatever. What I found is that by walking, I had a quiet 30 minutes to myself. I didn’t have to do anything but walk. In fact, I couldn’t do anything but walk.

The Case for Outside, Inside

What have I learned from this adventure? It’s teaching or reteaching me how to be quiet. For me, this is a big deal. I work at a computer, I listen to music, watch TV, watch YouTube videos – you get it. My discipline for quiet is shot. I’m so used to noise, I’ve forgotten the power of quiet. I’m not sure I 100% understand the benefits to my insides, but I assure you, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye. How do you get quiet?

Image Credit: Maria Kalman  A Walk in the Cherry Blossoms

But I Had No Choice, Did I?

I liked both of these images! Why not put them together..??

It’s unlikely you have no choice. More likely: There’s no easy choice. No safe choice, that also embraces your potential. No choice you can make that doesn’t cause short-term misery in exchange for a long-term benefit. Seth Godin

Do I or Don’t I?

When I hear myself say, “I had no choice,” I know that I’ve stumbled. In my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize, I always have a choice. (ok, you can probably think of some time when I might not… but I’m talking about “most of the time.”) When I say, I had no choice, that means that I..

  1. Didn’t see any choices
  2. Didn’t like my choices
  3. Didn’t want to admit I was wrong, change my attitude or stop blaming someone else

But What If I Don’t Like What Happens

I’ve spent the past several years learning to understand that I have choices and then taking responsibility for the choices I make. I’ll admit, it’s been painful and hard. It was much easier to blame someone else for my divorce, my unemployment, my blah, blah, blah. Once I learned that when I default to the choice that is obvious, it’s often NOT great. When I take the time to consider my options and act responsibly towards my own well being, things get better. I could blame my parents. I could tell you a story about their addiction. But the truth is, once I got to be an adult, the responsibility was mine to get help and make my life better. If I’m not happy with my life, I need to make it better.

One fear is that if I make a choice, I might not like the outcome. In some ways, whatever the bad things are, they are “known” bad things. And the “unknown” bad things could be worse. Fear kept me stuck.

Choice is Freedom

When I see I have choices, even if I don’t like the ones I have, I am free. Freedom isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s also accepting responsibility for understanding my choices and then acting on them. It’s often not popular to make certain choices. When you rock other people’s boats, they get hurt and angry and if I change, then people close to me must also change. I’ve learned, when the choice affects others, that I need to act slowly and thoughtfully. But I still need to act. I’m grateful to be free to make choices. Good or bad.

Image credit: Fork in the road   Jrdn7730


When I was young, my dysfunctional family made daily life very chaotic. While I wouldn’t wish that type of churning nuttiness on anyone, it did several positive things for me. One was that it made me adaptable. I certainly wasn’t going to have things my way, so I had to learn to go along and get along.

I remember reading this:

Creating Change Makes It Easier to Manage

I knew that the best thing I could do, was always be ready to change. To always be looking for a way to improve and create something better. This way, change wasn’t thrust upon me. I noticed that when change happened TO me, I was resentful. But if I was part of the change process, I was ok, even joyful at the chance to try something different. I learned to be somewhat of a ‘victim’ from some people in my family. It’s a most unattractive and problematic position to be in. The victim doesn’t have to do anything, the victim can just blame someone else. But even true victims need to be responsible for taking actions towards their own healing.

Turn and Face The Strain

If you’re out of practice with creating change, try these:

  1. Practice daily gratitude. I kept a gratitude journal for about a year. Everyday I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for. The habit of focusing on all the positive things in my life (my eye sight, ability to walk, breathe, laugh) became second nature.
  2. Find a way to meet new people. I know, I hate this idea but when I do, I learn so many things about myself. The easiest way for me to meet new people is by volunteering.
  3. Stop acting and being so grown up. If you have a chance to be around small children, do it. If not, look at things the way a small child would. Stop being all “judgy” and prissy. Act like a fool. Who care if someone sees you? They’ll just be jealous anyway.

What are your favorite ways to help create change in your life? Look out you rock n’ rollers…

Image Credit: David Bowie Masayoshi Sukita

Self Respect and the Joy of Self Reliance

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“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — this is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion Slouching Towards Bethlehem

But I Don’t Want To…

I hate discipline. I mean, I like it and appreciate it and then again, I loathe it. Why do I have to do so many things I don’t want to do? Dishes, listening, talking to strangers, doing my job? Why can’t I just do what I want, right?

The Journey to Self Respect

Maybe I can get self respect from having stuff, maybe I can get it from other people’s admiration of me (fame, money, position), maybe I can get it from ______ (fill in the blank). I can only speak for myself:  there is a direct line from discipline and self reliance to my self respect. There’s a Billie Holiday song, “God Bless the Child (listen here)” with these lyrics;

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
They’re crowding around your door
But when you’re gone and spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give crusts of bread and such
You can help yourself, but don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own, that’s got his own

The Struggle Is Real…Really

Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten what it’s really like to struggle. We have less money to spend on clothes or going out to eat so we’re upset. But we are not Syrians or Southern Sudanese where bombs drop on our homes every day. Most of us don’t want for food or shelter. In the most privileged country in the world, we still feel entitled to complain. This is not to take away from real problems and struggles of abuse, poverty, equality. We must fight to improve how we help and change the world.

People ask me how I raised my children to care about the world and not be materialistic. I hope I taught them to value experiences over things, to value a person and their dignity over, well, maybe anything. I have a long way to go in improving myself. I’m happy to report it’s a life long journey. I’ll let this serve as a reminder to myself to pay attention to my own ability to depend on myself and the joy and serenity that brings.

Image credit: Picture Quotes

Billie Holiday lyrics: God Bless The Child

Perfectionism Is Slow Death

“ If everything were to turn out just like i would want it to, just like i would plan for it to, then i would never experience anything new; my life would be an endless repetition of stale successes. When i make a mistake, i experience something unexpected…. when i have listened to my mistakes i have grown.Hugh Prather

When I was a young professional, someone gave me this Hugh Prather quote. I didn’t think of myself as a perfectionist but apparently I needed to learn the difference between striving for and insisting upon. The striving is good, the insisting is not. The reality is that if don’t strive for ‘our best’ (perfection?) then we are settling for something less than. Striving is good, freaking out when we’re not ‘perfect’ is not.

I’m not sure what made me think that being perfect was a requirement. That somehow if I weren’t perfect, I would be let go, fired, disliked, not respected. Worst of all, that I would myself and others down. It took me a long time to let go of control. I finally saw the correlation between wanting to control things and thinking things had to be perfect (hmm, in my case that meant it had to be done my way.)

Fortunately for me, I found wonderful mentors who helped me to lighten up and let go. To work to let other people learn and grow. Perfectionism (and wanting to control everything) is slow death… of your spirit and your joy. Let it go.

Image credit: Hugh Prather Quotes

Curiosity – Brought Back the Cat

Now that I am old(erish), I thought my curiosity about the world would decrease. After all, it’s gotten me into plenty of trouble.

When I read, “The Routine Gene – Can Productivity and Creativity Coincide?” I knew that my love of ambiguity/curiosity was alive and well. That’s because I have a high CQ (curiosity quotient). This is in contrast to my IQ (aka Intelligence Quotient) or EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Our “curiosity quotient is measured by how inquisitive and open to new situations we are. People with higher CQ, dislike routine, but embrace ambiguity and have a knack for finding simple solutions to complex problems.”

The following quote (from the article) describes my approach to routine and creativity:

“The art is finding the balance between turning everything you do that is repeatable into a well-oiled machine (call it ‘a routine’) whilst keeping all your attention and senses open for serendipity and creativity. The best entrepreneurs zip through life on autopilot where their creativity isn’t needed and bring intense focus to those areas where they can make a huge difference.” This manifests itself in various ways; I generally eat the same thing for breakfast. Steve Jobs wore a black turtle neck and jeans.

If you are bored with your work or your life, maybe you need to figure out how to up your CQ. I like to ‘feed’ my curiosity. Here are few ways that I do it:

  • Watch a movie and imagine I am the director. What would I have changed? Who would I have cast?
  • Take a walk outside and appreciate the simple complexity of nature. I look very closely at tree bark, rocks, flowers. I look at the pattern, the texture, the color and I smell everything.
  • Listen to someone talk about what they love to do. Somehow, watching and witnessing their joy and passion is completely inspirational.

How do you feed your curiosity?

Photo credit: Eugene O’Neill Quotes

Got Values? Act Like It.

Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts and Crafts - The Colors Emerge</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Photo By: SPC Aristide Lavey</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>To learn more about the annual U.S. Army Photography Competition, visit us online at <a href="" rel=&qu...

Many of us feel strongly about the values we were taught by our family. We don’t think of ourselves as bigots or sexists. We think of ourselves in the way that we hope the world sees us. Patriotic, strong.

The truth, if we are brave enough to face it, is that we all have biases built into our brains and thought processes. It takes commitment, energy, time, awareness and patience to look for them and weed them out. Some we will likely never change. I was raised in Boston by a family of liberals, going back generations. It’s unlikely that I will become conservative today. However, it is very important for me to be open to looking at the world through the eyes of my conservative friends.

I enjoyed and appreciated this post titled, “Act On Your Values, A 4-Step Method to Achieve Equal Representation.”

Since we come from a history of patriarchy, the pattern of male domination will go on and on if we don’t decide to actively do something about it. Part of the reason is that when we’re asked to suggest speakers, board members, etc., we unconsciously think of people we’ve seen in similar contexts before, and so the uneven balance is reproduced over and over again – Martin Thornkvist

Recently, I was listening to and co-grading presentations for grad students. The other teacher is male.  One (male) student introduced his group by saying, “Good morning, Mr. President…”– he looked directly at the male teacher. He did not acknowledge me or look at me throughout his entire presentation. Is this student a bad person? No. Does he hate women? Probably not. Is he following the context of his experience and of those who taught him? Yes.

The problem is that we don’t see our biases. They are hidden under layers of pats on the back, instruction, belonging, etc.

Mr. Thornkvist  has some excellent suggestions for working on this… and we all must work on this!

  1. Write down your values. It’s funny how alive and real things become when they are written on paper.
  2. Communicate your values. When you ask for help, when you are speaking, when you are going about your day; be aware of what you stand for and take every opportunity to let people know where you stand. Now you’re thinking, come on.  This is a bit much.  Is it? Do think slaves were emancipated, women ‘allowed’ to vote and own property because people thought about these things occasionally?
  3. Be stubborn. The world needs to change. Let it begin with me and you. Pick one injustice… one place inside you that makes you think… hey, the world would be better if… and start to think, act, share and communicate about how YOU are going to change.

I included this photo from the Army Photo Contest because our Veterans are in need of our help. Today — let’s think about our soldiers as “us” not them. Who do you help and why?

Photo Credit: Army Photo Contest Familymwr

Wanna Be A Teacher? Be a Student.

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I have the privilege of being a teacher. I am grateful for the opportunity and in general, I work to learn as much as I teach. Every environment (classroom, one on one, online) provides me a chance to learn because of the students. Each one teaches me something interesting and often, important.

Life is a series of learning opportunities. How we approach learning is as important as our character.

When someone is a ‘student’ – they get space to fail/make mistakes/goof up. In fact, we expect it. But somehow, when we “grow up” – that changes. We aren’t students anymore; we’re expected to be confident, aware, ‘on top of things.’

Ugh. This drives me crazy. If we view everyone as a full time student of life… who happens to be employed as a (fill in the blank), imagine how much easier it would be to try new things and learn. Failure, mistakes and goof ups would be normal, good, desirable.

Good teachers are everywhere, but good students are hard to find. Look to teach others (it makes us feel smart and important) but WORK to learn (it makes us feel stupid and weak). Hang around other students (entrepreneurs, kids, artists)… they’re full of mistakes and joy.