Monday, October 22, 2018

What do Pretzels, Colors and Smarts Have in Common?

Gellinger via Pixabay
I haven't done a Checkiday post in a while, so I thought I'd wander on over to the website to see what we're celebrating today. My three favorites? Pretzels, colors and intelligence (not necessarily in that order).

Soft pretzels always make me think of my high school best friend, Patti, a.k.a. "Pit." Soft pretzels were her lunch of choice most days, and she had a particular way of eating the pretzels. It wasn't anything weird -- just a way of saving the best for last. Not a bad philosophy of life. So today, on Eat a Pretzel Day, though I'm unlikely to go in search of a soft pretzel for lunch, I might just dig into the container of pretzel rods on my kitchen counter.

In addition to being a soft pretzel fan, Pit's one of the smartest people I know, which makes me smile at the fact that Eat a Pretzel Day falls on the same day as Smart is Cool Day. I suspect that some of my students didn't get the word, though, since six of them missed class this morning. Two had good reasons, and perhaps the other four did, too, and just didn't clue me in. Or, maybe no one told them that smart is cool. Checkiday says that "Smart is Cool Day...celebrates and highlights the importance of intellectual pursuits, knowledge and education, and is a day to strive to become smarter." As an educator, I'm pretty excited that there's a day dedicated to those things.

Another word for smart is bright, and bright is what drew me to National Color Day. The older I get, the greater the percentage of my closet contents that are black. I've always loved having a few black basics to build on because black goes with anything and is particularly fun with a splash of color. Black, white and brights are wardrobe staples for me but, as much as I love a closet full of black and white basics, I'd hate to live in a world that is black and white, literally or figuratively. I much prefer shades of gray, perhaps with bright and/or seasonal accents.

How about you? What are you celebrating today?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Feature: Age Bubbles

Are you in an age bubble? Up until a few days ago, I didn't even know such a thing existed but, the other night, as I was attempting to reduce the massive number of emails in my inbox, I came across an article in Next Avenue about this very topic.

If you're as old as I am, you might identify more with the concept of a generation gap. Or, if you're a social scientist, you might think of these groups as cohorts -- Baby Boomers, Millennials, Generation X, etc. Being in an age bubble is sort of an age group segregation -- most of our contacts are with our peers -- those in our own cohort -- deepening our understanding of the age we are in but, at the same time, limiting our contact with those in other generations. It's easy to see how this can lead to finger-pointing, head shaking and other forms of disapproval, many of which are rooted in a lack of knowledge about "kids these days."

But bursting the age bubble isn't just about reducing judgment. Increased contact with those outside our cohort can benefit us as well, broadening our perspective on the world and increasing our own shot at happiness as well.

Want to know whether or not you need to enlarge your bubble, or maybe even burst it? Check out the article and the quiz and see where you stand.

Not surprisingly, since I work with young people, I got a 10. (Yes, I'm bragging).

Can you beat my score?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

5 Things I Know about Marita's BFF

Bets. She's feisty, she's loyal, she's unapologetic. All three of these are qualities that make her just the right fit for Marita.

Here are a few more things I know about her -- things she doesn't share quite as readily with the world.

  1. She is, much to her own surprise, cautiously optimistic about this whole relationship thing with Trevor. 
  2. Marita might be ready to make amends with Holy Redeemer and all its denizens, but Bets will never forgive them for the way they treated her best friend.
  3. Bets harbors a strong sense of guilt for convincing Marita to go to that fraternity party when they were sixteen. Time and the amazingness of Charli are the only things that quell it.
  4. Her secret dream is to move to California and be a movie star.
  5. She is amazed by how good Marita is a this motherhood thing. Still, as much as Bets loves Charli, she's not sure motherhood is something she wants for herself. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

5 Things I Know About Angel Alessio

Last week, my day job took over and I dropped the ball on my Wednesday post, something I rarely do. I kept thinking I'd catch up but, in the midst of grading exams and determining midterm grades, it just didn't happen.

Luckily for me, that post focused on Angel, arguably the most forgiving of my characters. I feel a little bad because Angel's sweet nature means that people often do just what I did -- heave a sigh of relief, knowing she'll understand -- and that means that she gets taken advantage of.

And, to add insult to injury, converging deadlines meant that even though I finally got to Angel's post today, it wasn't until this evening.

Poor Angel. She deserves so much better. Luckily, she's surrounded by characters who know this and behave accordingly.

Here are five things I know about Angel.

  1. She has a good heart and sees the best in everyone.
  2. She would do anything for Spencer, Charli, Jim, her father...and Marita.
  3. She has been defined by her mother's abandonment and her father's love.
  4. Even when Jim's appeal is far from evident to everyone else, Angel can still find a glimpse of the man she fell in love with.
  5. She is overwhelmed by the love and compassion she receives from her female friends and extended family.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Feature: How to be Successful

What is success? Financial freedom? A job you love? Travel? A happy life?

All of the above?

Since we all define success a little differently, we all discover it a little differently as well. In his article in Inc., Benjamin P. Hardy focuses on how we can unwittingly create our own obstacles, making the path to reaching our goals longer and more circuitous than it has to be.

Since my freshmen have just finished discussing Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this piece was especially interesting to me, as so much of Covey is about setting priorities and building our personal and professional lives around them. I love teaching this each fall because it gives me an annual refresher and a check-up -- am I putting first things first? Beginning with the end in mind? I think this article might serve the same purpose: a check-in, of sorts, to remind me to consider the impact of small habits.

What is one step that you can take today toward your own success?

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that Wasn't
One of my favorite children's books is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, in which everything seems to go wrong for the main character who, as a result, contemplates moving to Australia. In the end, his mom tells him that "Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

Although the last couple of weeks have felt like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: The Sequel, today....

  • The tree guys were parked on either side of my driveway, making the prospect of exiting my driveway a bit of a challenge. Before I left for work, I went outside to tell them I was leaving in ten minutes and to ask them if I'd be able to get out. I got a sort of grunted yes, but by the time I left for work, they'd moved one of the trucks, along with the cones, giving me more space. Sight lines were a challenge, but clearing the trucks was a breeze.
  • When I got in the car, Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" was playing. WRVV played the whole thing (more than 7 minutes), not a cut version. That song (one of my favorites), which I rarely hear on the radio, was my serenade (okay, my singalong) on the way to work.  
  • Before class, I had a lovely conversation in the hallway with two of my female students, one of  whom said I'm "like a mom." I chose to take that as a compliment. 
  • My course slides were perfectly timed to the amount of time I had in class today, even with discussion. And my exams for the rest of the week have already come back from the printer.
  • Thanks to a marathon work day yesterday, I'm prepared enough for the rest of the week to eke out some writing time today, guilt-free. 
  • I went to a diner I rarely go to for lunch, and had to run out to the car to get a bit more money for a tip. On the way back in, I held the door for an older gentleman who was helping his wife, who was using a walker. He told me he recognized me from church. When I expressed surprise he said, "Yes. You're one of my favorite cantors."
  • Starbucks was crowded, but I found a parking spot and right after I got my drink, another of the regulars pointed out a table that had just been vacated behind me. I offered it to her since she'd been there before me, but she waved me off, so I relocated my stuff and commenced to work on this post with my laptop on a table instead of my lap.
Today -- the day that would have been my mom's 82nd birthday -- is clearly not a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, though it had every reason to be. If Mom were here, I'd just have to tell her about all of these wonderful little things that have happened today.

But, as it stands, I suspect she already knows.

Happy Birthday, Mom. And thanks for everything.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Feature: The Pros of Procrastination

Several years ago, I read a great little book on procrastination. I found it quite by accident in a local independent bookstore and I re-read (and re-investigate) its first chapter every year in my first year seminar. It's not a self-help book (though it is classified as such on Amazon), nor is it filled with recriminations. Instead, it describes what the author, philosopher John Perry, dubs "structured procrastination."

I can identify. In fact, I'm doing just that right now. I planned to read a few of the papers I have to grade (for those same first year seminar students) before I left for class this morning, but instead, I am writing this blog post. Both need to be done, but instead of doing the thing I planned to do (or was supposed to do, if you will), I'm doing something else. I'm not procrastinating by watching TV or taking a nap (although I do those things, too); I'm simply avoiding doing one thing by doing another. It feels virtuous, in a way, because I'm accomplishing something.

It's just not the thing I was supposed to be accomplishing at the time.

A recent study revealed a difference between the brains of procrastinators and the brains of doers. Put simply, we (procrastinators) have a different relationship with risk, fear and emotion than doers do, something that the researchers have attributed to differences in the volume and relationship between certain brain structures.

If that's true, structured procrastination makes a lot of sense. We put off doing less desirable tasks in order to do more desirable tasks because emotion plays a bigger role in our decisions. Case in point: I'd rather write this blog post than grade those papers so, here I am! Still, finishing this will be rewarding for me because then it will be posted and I can check it off my list. Not so for those papers; in the time I have before class, I'll only get through two or three. I can make a dent, but not complete the task.

Do you procrastinate? (Don't be embarrassed if your answer is yes -- I firmly believe that everyone procrastinates some time). While Perry's book won't provide a lot of advice on how to stop being a structured procrastinator, there are plenty of resources that will. This article by psychotherapist Jude Bijou offers eight steps for conquering procrastination and, considering the source, it's not surprising that she takes feelings into consideration.

Personally, I don't see procrastination as a bad thing, unless it interferes with meeting deadlines and accomplishing important tasks, or if causes so much stress that it interferes with someone's mental health. On numerous occasions, my procrastination has actually been beneficial, allowing ideas to simmer while I worked on something else, or giving me the opportunity to enjoy someone's company instead of keeping my nose to the grindstone. Sure, it's important to get things done, but balance is important, too, and sometimes, following the path of procrastination can leads us to some unexpectedly good places.