Saturday, June 25, 2011

Twitter: Waste and Wisdom

I created a Twitter account in January 2009.  My first tweet was pretty typical, and largely pointless:

"exploring twitter"

My second was equally exciting:

"Set up to tweet from phone.
Find myself hoping I won't use it..."

There is a whole bunch of random waste on the internet, and I have sometimes contributed to the digital noise.

Blog Words (thanks to

Thankfully, my posts since that first day have become much more useful, perhaps because it has mostly become for me a storage-place of others' wisdom.

I am drawn to the Twitter's format which requires concise expression through its 140-character limit.  I suppose it is ironic that Twitter's Wasteland of Words reminds me that every word matters, every character counts.  Ironic or not, though, that's a pretty good reminder.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Toward Adventure

We went to Disney World two years ago while in the area for General Assembly.  Disney is built on expectations of something different, out of the ordinary, and they strive to make this true in the big things and the little ones.  They have around a gazillion employees, including many attendants for the rides.  They greet guests, help them into their seats as needed, and triple-check the safety features.  At the start of many rides, these friendly folks cheerfully sent us off with "Have a wild adventure!"  It was clearly a standard Disney phrase for their fantasy world, but it got me thinking. How much am I willing to risk for great possibility?  And is triple-checking for safety enough for me, or am I obsessively concerned with eliminating any possibility of failure or hurt even beyond that?


I wanted a souvenir of the trip, and was drawn to Eeyore.  The one I loved wasn't just the usual Eeyore; it was Adventure Eeyore.  He was wonderfully soft and had great eyes, and was outfitted for a safari.  I loved the image of this good-hearted donkey that doesn't really have a lot of hope that things will turn out, but he's geared up and ready to go anyway.

We spent a couple of days there -- enjoying friends, going on rides, watching the fireworks and parades and just generally taking in the Disney experience.  Through it all, I kept thinking of Eeyore.  I saw a little of myself in this fictional character.  And he's lovable and true, but Eeyore is not all that I am, nor all that I want to be.

Of course, being Disney, Eeyore was not the only option.  A more obvious choice of for an adventure-ready character was Tigger, the energetic and brightly-colored critter who's likely to start bouncing off toward whatever captures his attention.  There was also an Adventure Pooh, the sweet bear that worries some, but usually figures that things will turn out okay, and is usually right about that.

More than any of them, I loved all of them.  I loved them together -- three friends, very different from each other in perspective and personality, encountering the same situations in different ways, and joining together to do it.  I could see some of Eeyore in me, and some of Tigger, and some of Pooh.  I could see all of them, too, in the best groups I've been part of.  The three of them together are a great team, creating a fabulous and wise mix of optimism, caution, and hope.

And that is how Adventure Eeyore, Adventure Tigger, and Adventure Pooh came to have their home -- together -- on the bookshelf behind my desk.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sea of Faces

We went to a friend's graduation at the Maverick Center recently, arriving early to get seated and settled with plenty of time before the ceremony.  The Maverick Center is a pretty big place, and many gathered there to celebrate.  I looked around as we waited.  At first, all I could see was a crowd -- bodies moving around and arranging themselves, the mental image made kind of blurry just by the sheer number of people.

After a few minutes, though, I started to see individual people -- young adults excitedly flitting around, older folks carefully navigating potentially hazardous steps, parents guiding wide-eyed children to seats, infants resting in the arms of people who love them, generations of families finding seats together.

I'm not much a fan of crowds.  I prefer smaller groups, familiar faces, opportunities to engage in deeper conversations than "Pardon me, are these seats taken?"  But I was reminded again that a crowd is not just the sum of its parts, and it was good to be in that sea of faces celebrating collectively with people we love.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Parents

These are my parents.

Sometimes people talk like teens are always embarrassed by their parents and don't want to be around them.  Or, at the very least, that teens don't want their peers to know that they might appreciate their parents.  And there are indeed some teens who have that kind of relationship with their parents.  But I wasn't one of those.

My parents are a team, with traits and preferences that are often more complementary than alike.  Differences like that can lead to a lot of conflict, but my parents were always intentional about negotiating such things throughout their parenting so they could be united in their decisions.  In the process, they have demonstrated respect for each other and cultivated that respect in us.  Their approach through differences also helped me (and probably them) to better see and evaluate situations, and to make good decisions.  I didn't always like their decisions, but they were always loving and always fair, which made it a whole lot easier for me to follow them.

My parents were very much a part of my life during my teen years.  I was quite involved (read: crazy busy) in sports, band, and other school-related activities.  Dad and Mom came to games, meets, concerts, parades, plays, and most other things I did.  I was often amazed by that.  Their time investment often didn't seem "practical" to me.  But they came.  And, as Mom also explained, traveling to other towns -- often an hour or so each direction -- gave them important time together.

They invested in my peers, too, intentionally getting to know my friends.  I didn't find them intrusive about it; they let me have space, and didn't sacrifice their parent roles to try to be good buddies with my peers.  My friends respected them and received their presence well.

Today is Father's Day, and I am grateful for my dad.  He is a wise and kind man with a gentle, courageous spirit.  I love, too, that he treasures my mom, and that my mom treasures him.

These are my parents, and I am blessed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have a friend who collects aluminum cans.  Not to keep them, but to recycle.  She's the one at picnics trying to grab all the cans before they get put into the trash, and if folks move to fast for her to do that, she'll pull them out of the trash.  She is a sweet soul, not a militant can hoarder.  Some folks passionate about their various causes do harm to others in the process, and I wonder sometimes if perhaps they care more about having a cause than about the cause itself, but this friend isn't like that.  She does her thing kindly, gently, persistently.  She's not obnoxious as she chides us for throwing away cans.  She just has a thing about recycling.

After years of her kind and persistent influence, I finally added to our home a wastebasket that is dedicated to aluminum cans.  We have gradually gathered them and now have several bags taking up space in our garage.

In an odd way, our little recycling basket has come to matter to me.  Seeing it reminds me of little things that add up.  Like dust, the cans are small and accumulate somewhat slowly, but this slow accumulation adds up to something significant over time.  I think of the things in my life that I don't want to keep around -- mostly habits and behaviors that I am tempted to justify as small and insignificant, but which, when taken together, add up to a kind of character that I don't want to have.  The excuse that "it's just a little thing" doesn't work.

Our basket of cans matters to me, too, because these cans are to be recycled rather than just thrown out.  What could simply become troublesome waste is instead able to serve a purpose, being re-formed into something good.  Aluminum cans can be "redeemed," and so can the broken-down, used-up, troublesome waste in the rest of life.

So, I signed up for recycling.  They'll take cans, papers, cardboards, and plastics -- in other words, most of the junk that fills up our trash during much of the year.  This may be an "eco-conscious decision," and I am glad to be helping out the environment.  But it is also a symbolic decision, representing deeper realities of being human.

I'm looking forward to recycling.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Running Away

Evan Ratliff as himself
We live in a great big world, which should make it pretty easy to disappear.  Still, there are a lot of connections in this world of ours, which makes it a lot more difficult.  How hard would it be to vanish in this age of so many electronic tools and so much electronic communication?

In August 2009, author Evan Ratliff partnered with on a contest in which Ratliff would try to disappear for thirty days and anyone interested would try to find him.  The goal wasn't just to remain hidden, but to do so while still staying engaged in some of his usual activities, including a degree of online presence.  He wrote a brief account of the chase, published here.

Ratliff in disguise at a soccer game
The digital communications part is worthwhile, though this situation was skewed by a number of factors, like promising to keep some significant habits and enticing a large crowd of people to find him.  So... something to think about, but not what I find most interesting, and it's not what I'm talking about here.

For me, anyway, Ratliff's experiment speaks more to relationships than to technology.

One part of this -- He wrote about trying to "reinvent" himself, even for just a short time, seeing if he can leave the past behind and start over.  He wasn't alone in this line of thinking, as he received notes from strangers asking about the experience.  Some were intrigued as they pondered the idea of starting over in their own lives, while others were trying to understand after being "left behind" in some way by a loved one.

That got me thinking.  It is normal to wish for a new beginning, a fresh start in an attempt to escape past mistakes and old regrets.  Yet simply wishing things had been different does not make it so.  Leaving the situation without dealing with the issue means carrying the mistake forward into what may otherwise have been a fresh start.*

The idea of quietly disappearing has some understandable appeal.  Still, when it comes down to wishing for a clean slate because of regrets, I think there is a way which is usually slower, often more difficult, and consistently better -- the way of honestly acknowledging what has happened and naming the regrets, seeking forgiveness where needed, forgiving where needed, recognizing limits, determining priorities, establishing healthy boundaries, and figuring out how to move forward from there.

This can be a daunting task.  But it's got to be better than living with one's soul on the run.

*There are sometimes issues of safety which must be addressed wisely and decisively.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lemonade Stand

I was on my way out of the house yesterday morning, heading for a meeting.  The neighborhood was very quiet -- no motion, no voices, not even a breeze.  As I put things into my car, though, a little boy approached and started talking.  He was probably around three or four years old.  It took a few tries to understand him, but we were both persistent and eventually I discovered that he had a small table set up in front of his nearby house to sell lemonade for twenty-five cents.  He was asking if I'd like some.

Well, no, not really.  It was kind of early in the day for lemonade, not yet hot enough to make it really refreshing.  I wasn't thirsty.  I wasn't craving lemonade.  I had somewhere to go.  And I had just brushed my teeth.

But sometimes those things don't matter so much.

I engaged the child in conversation, learning his name and finding out (to my relief) that he was not entirely alone -- his brother was across the street by their house.  I asked the young one to retrieve a lemonade for me while I dug around looking for a quarter.

A cup of lemonade was not worth twenty-five cents to me on that morning.  But this little boy?  He brought his whole little self over to where I was and engaged in conversation.  He was intentional, purposeful, friendly.  He took appropriate risks.  When his sales plans weren't working out very well, he adapted.  A simple conversation with him was a lovely start to my day.  I am glad he lives in my neighborhood.  With all of that, it was worth every penny.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


"Clutter" is a great word, descending linguistically from clotter -- "to form clots, to heap on." Go further back in history and it comes from the German Klotz, from which we get klutz.

Doesn't that just make sense?  Clutter in the surroundings is like lumps that form in awkward, perhaps even dangerous, places, creating blockages that interfere with movement.  It becomes harder to move forward, harder to be flexible.

And it's not just about physical space.  Something similar happens in the mind and in the soul.  Without regular sorting of thoughts, events, and so forth, figurative masses form that get in the way.  It becomes more difficult to think clearly, to be fully present, to experience life fully.

Tomorrow is Sunday.  We'll go to church, spend time with people we love, take naps, read.  Along the way, we'll find our souls restored.  Sabbath is a gift, a day of blessed de-cluttering, and I am grateful.

Friday, June 10, 2011


We had a sudden and rather spectacular windstorm the other day.  The wind picked up, the roof began to creak loudly, and I went to the sliding glass door to see if there were any cows flying by.  Nope, no cows.  Just moments later, the wind settled down to a reasonable level and I headed back to the task I'd been engaged in.  That's about the time a handful of boys from our neighborhood showed up on our doorstep.  "Your fence fell over!"

Sure enough -- a 4x4 post snapped and we had a sixteen-foot-wide opening between our back lawn and the rest of the neighborhood.  Sixteen feet!  Drat.

Sirius is our aging Labrador retriever, and he's a pretty good dog, but he's not that good.  It was apparent that where I saw a gaping hole, he saw The Gateway to Big Adventure.  He wanted to go outside, often.  And I went with him, every time.  He would casually stroll toward the hole in the fence, I would bring him back, we would go inside, he would beg to go back out, and we would repeat the whole thing.  I got tired of that routine pretty quickly.

So... once I realized it will take a little while to get the fence rebuilt, I bought a tie-down cable.  We've been getting some beautiful weather, after all, so I wanted to give him more freedom to enjoy the outdoors, and to give me more freedom to not watch him every moment of it.  It's a long cable, giving the dog twenty feet in each direction.  I clipped him to it and sent him outside.  I was happy.  Sirius was happy.  Everyone was happy.

But not for long.  As Sirius started meandering onto the lawn, his rear foot landed on the cable so that when he leaned into the next step, it tugged on his collar.  He stopped, looking back toward me with his big brown eyes, seeming to wonder why I'd so unfairly limited his freedom.

I hadn't, of course.  The only thing holding the dog back at that point was the dog stepping on his own leash.  Accustomed to the limits of the leash, he assumed that any resistance he met came from me.

Made me think of how we respond as people sometimes -- making false steps and assuming the resulting resistance comes from another source, mistaking self-imposed limits for insurmountable rules, shortening our reach unnecessarily, staying too close to "home" because of little tugs backwards.

It is good to live within appropriate limits.  It's sad, though, to live within false ones of our own foolish construction.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mowing the Lawn

I like mowing the lawn. There are days when I'd rather be doing something else, of course, but I can usually appreciate lawn time.  I like being outside, being active. I like the smell of fresh-cut grass. Most of all, I like the sense of order in a world that sometimes feels chaotic.

It's just the lawn, and all I'm really doing is making the grass shorter.  Even so, I like mowing the lawn.